History of Provence:
It has been proven that in Provence human beings were already making their homes in the rocks and living in there in 10,000 B.C. The Greeks began to intrude into Provence in 600 B.C. and the Phoceens built Massalia Kingdom, the base of Marseille. They were trading with many cities and towns around the Mediterranean Sea and brought their kingdom a big prosperity. In the 1st century the Romans appeared in the history of this region. There were many battles and conflicts, and many different peoples invaded the Provence. Finally Massalia went under the control of the Frank Kingdom.
In the beginning of the 13th century the King of France, Louis VIII surrounded Avignon, and in 1229 a treaty was contracted in Paris. The region became the land of the King. Moreover, in 1274 the Vatican was moved to Avignon from Rome, so the city was greatly developed.
Later, people in Provence had a hard time of battles again, but in January 1974 finally the region was governed by being divided into Provence, Alpes and Cote-d’Azure.
Culture of Provence:
Many cultural heritages remain in Provence, and many artists also came and created many art works. You can name some of the artists like Gogh, Picasso, Mathis, and Cezanne. Those people were all attracted by the beauty of Provence.
La petanque (a sport using an iron ball: the picture below) and Ferias (bull fighting) are good examples to show their traditional culture, too. Especially la petanque is very unique. You see people playing “la petanque” everywhere in Marseille. There are some big competitions, too.
And they have wonderful craft work. Provence textile and earthenware (usually with prints of sunflowers or olives) are must-buy when you visit there. They are so beautiful and nice. Here is a site I found for on-line shopping;
Santon dolls (see Christmas) are everywhere in Marseille when Christmas is nearing.
People in Provence also have an accent in their French too. Compared to the Parisian accent, the Provence accent sounds more friendly because of the atmosphere of the region which is always warm and sunny.
Marseille is the oldest city in Provence which was built by the Phoceens in 600 B.C. and since then it has been in prosperity as a successful marine trader. When ships and boats were the only way to travel across the ocean, Marseille was the first place in France for Japanese visitors to arrive. Even now it possesses the biggest port in France, and the second-biggest city following Paris.
The main port is called Le Vieux Port (Old Port). There are many yachts and pleasure boats at anchor, and there are also many restaurants and cafés around the port. You can enjoy their specialty,” bouillabaisse.” And the big street which starts from the port is called La Canebiere, where you can find many shops and hotels. On top of the hill is Notre-Dame-De-La-Garde. From there you can look over the whole city. It’s a scenic point. Don’t forget to bring your camera.
Le Vieux Port and La Canebiere
Le View Port. These photos were taken in December. They have nice weather.
A church at La View Port, and Notre Dame de la Garde on the hill.
Olive trees in big pots.
Then you may want to take an excursion boat. It will give you refreshing air, too. Buy a ticket at the old port and you will arrive at the chateau d’If (If castle) in twenty minutes or so. It was built as a fortress by the King of France, François I, in the 16th century for the purpose of protecting Marseille from enemies at sea. However, it was never functioned as it was expected. Instead, it became legendary for its prisoners, both real—a rhinoceros immortalized by Durer in 1515—and imaginary—Alexander Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo. The well-preserved environment and building make the chateau d’If one of the Mediterranean’s most outstanding sites.
After studying the ghost castle, or you can say “a prison,” go back to the boat again, and you will reach Iles de Frioul (Frioul Island). This island was occupied by the Germans during the World War II, but Marseille City retrieved it in 1971. There are not many sightseeing points, but the nature here is preserved intact. My favorite point is a small inlet where people enjoy swimming in summer. It’s very quiet and peaceful.
Chateau d’If and Ile du Frioul
If you are interested in the history, you should visit Musee d’histoire de Marseille which is located in the department store, Centre Bourse. On the ground floor they show some old posters and articles about Savon de Marseille. Marseille is also famous for its soap which is made from olives. When you go downstairs, you will find a bigger space for more historic items and learn how old their history is. There is a replica boat too, and it shows how people were sailing before, and some mummies tell you how the life was at the ancient time. It’s surprising that such a museum exists in the department store.
The entrance is located in the department store, Centre Bourse.
The ruin was found when the department store was built. Now it is preserved as a park.
There are many shops, cafés and restaurants around Le Vieux Port. If you are a fan of soccer, there is your kind of café, called L’OM cafe. Marseille is also known for its big soccer team, L’OM.
L’OM cafe (left). Zidane is from Marseille too (right).
Speaking of eating, you can’t miss bouillabaisse. It is the specialty of this city. For your information, I’ll give you some good restaurant names.
MIRAMAR It is located at Le Vieux Port. They say it is the best restaurant for bouillabaisse.
MICHEL another recommended restaurant for bouillabaisse.
Le Petit Nice PASSDAT This restaurant has the best view of the Mediterranean Sea.
Le RHUL This is one of the most beautiful and famous hotels in Marseille.
And don’t forget to visit their beautiful Mediterranean Sea. Here are some photos I took in “December.” Yes, it is possible to sunbathe there in winter! (If you are lucky)
The sun was shining in the sky. I saw many people lying on the beach on Christmas Day.
Rich people are looking down at the Mediterranean Sea through the year.
I don’t know what he is doing there, but he was there.
Seeing the sunset, we had refreshing drinks. (grenadine)
This is the panoramic view of Marseille from Luminy Woods.
There are several hiking courses there.
It is difficult to find a souvenir shop in Marseille somehow. The one I found near the port had Provençal goods.
Les Baux Provencaux
2 Place Gabriel Peri — 13001 Marseille
04 91 91 71 25
I bought luncheon mats and towels.
The design always reminds me of Provence and makes me feel warm, even though I’m living in Paris.
Or you can do online shopping! I found a cool website for Provence lovers.
One more thing I’d like to mention here is Cassis and Calanques. Cassis is a typical small fishing port in Provence. There is an old saying; Even if you’ve been to Provence it’s almost like you’ve seen nothing if you haven’t seen Cassis. “Calanque” means an inlet with a nice calm beach surrounded by rocks.
I hope you will have a chance to visit Provence someday. It is not only Paris, but many nice places around. Maybe much more exciting than Paris. Nice weather, nice air, nice food, and friendly people.