Marseille, France!

Out of experience from the previous day, we had decided to leave the ship earlier today. We had already picked our points of interest in Marseille, the night before. The kids and I were heavily jet lagged and would stay awake till late. The kids engaged themselves in the various activities offered by the ‘Kids and Teen Club’. They would come back to the cabin later at night . Thank goodness to late night pizza…..they would mooch off the Pizza station. 

The ‘Kids Club’ is dedicated to children aged 3 to 6 years and 7 to 11 years respectively. There was a ‘Young Club’ that catered to 12 to 14 year olds and another club called as the ‘Teen Club’ that offered a range of activities for 15 to 17 year olds. Guests taking part in the excursions had the option of leaving their kids in their clubs, where the kids would engage in a variety of programs planned for them. We of course, had the kids with us on all of our excursions. Zain helped us a lot handling the camera, while Ozy lugged the bulky bag pack, that had everyones sunglass cases, the camera case and maybe some pepsi and water bottles.

Abbi and Manjli ammi would normally rest for a few hours after coming back from the excursions, which worked very well. It would give them a break and fuel them up for more fun. I was rather impressed by their enthusiasm throughout the trip. 

Today, was day 3 and excursion no. 2! Everybody knew the drill. All of us presented our MSC Cruise cards as we exited the ship. We stood in the line for taxi and was pleasantly surprised to see how it worked in such an organized manner. The taxis were all parked in a different area. On our turn we told the guy, in charge there that we need a taxi for 6. He conveyed the message over the radio and soon there was a nice 6 seater mini van approaching us!

Our first stop in Marseille was ‘Notre Dame De La Garde’.(not be confused by the famous ‘Notre Dame Cathedral’ in Paris!)

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris in 2009!

Notre Dame de la Garde

Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica: is a big church that sits on a hill and overlooks the entire city of Marseille. Notre Dame de la Garde (Our Lady of the Guard) is traditionally regarded as the guardian and protectress of the city. The Basilica serves 3 purposes- as a lighthouse, as a fortress and also a sacred place for pilgrimage.

At the top there is a statue of mother Mary holding baby Jesus. 

 We initially thought it would be a bad idea to have Abbi walk up the stairs, but to our pleasant surprise we found an elevator inside the church that took us up to the top most level of the building. Up there we had the most breathtaking views of the city. Tanvir immediately came back to bring him upstairs. In the meantime, Abbi had made friends with a bunch of Santa Clauses and was posing  generously for pictures with them!

View of Marseille from Notre Dame de la Garde

Chateau d ‘If: From the church we had the most amazing views of this fortress, which was later turned into a prison. It is located on a tiny island called ‘If’.The Chateau is a 3 storied square. I was instantly reminded of the famous ‘Alcatraz’ in San Francisco, California. Apparently it was an ideal prison where political and religious detainees were kept.  We spent about an hour or so  looking and walking around the church and of course taking pictures. We then took a bus to take us back to the city center.

Chateau d’If

Vieux Port: From the city center we strolled to the famous Vieux Port. It is the old harbor and is said to be buzzing in the summers with fisherman selling their stock.

Vieux Port

Thankfully, it was winter and although there weren’t as many fisherman as they say, they have over in the summers, the place was rather stinky! Ironically it was pretty! 

Fisher man @ Vieux Port

We did stop and take a bunch of pictures and was thrilled with joy, when my camera zoom lenses captured what I was just craving for. It was a Christmas market! Europe is famous for its Christmas markets. I remember from our trip to Dusseldorf, Germany in 2007, we really enjoyed the magical and glittering illuminations of such a market. It used to be bitterly cold and we would bundle up the kids and ourselves to stroll around there for hours!

Tanvir and Zain at the Christmas market

Thank goodness, it was not so cold in Marseille. Although, we missed out on the beautiful lightings at night, as we had to be back in the ship by 5.30 pm. The Christmas shops in Marseille offered varieties of wooden toys, ceramics, traditional Marseille soaps, sweets, cookies and chocolates.

Wooden handicraft

Handmade Jewelry

Macaroon shop


My favorite had to be this little macaroon shop in the corner. There was an elderly french gentleman sitting in the shop. I tried to talk to him in English and he  didn’t seem to know much English, but communicated very well without saying a word. I thought he was very cute. Ozy agreed with me. We did give him some business. Bought a dozen macaroons from him! He had a variety of them. Ozy’s favorite was coconut while I enjoyed the pistachio flavored. Being the fashionista of our family, Zain spent more time looking for mufflers and caps.

Tanvir reminded us that we had to make one more stop before heading back to the ship. So we walked back to the taxi stand and found a nice 6 seater taxi. The driver agreed to take us to our last stop, ‘Palais Longchamp’ and then drop us back to the port.

Palais Longchamp: It was built in 1869 to commemorate the arrival of the canal water to eliminate an acute shortage of water since the 16th Century. It houses the city’s museum of fine arts and Natural History. 

Palais Longchamp

It is famous for its fountain and park. Unfortunately, the fountains were shut as there is some major renovation going on. It was covered in scaffolding and tarpaulin. It was still worth stopping for pictures.

One of those rare pictures of all of us!

After our last stop at Palais Longchamp, our driver took us back to the port to board the ship. We enjoyed the drive back as we drove through the narrow streets with trams running in between them. It instantly reminded me of Calcutta.

Notice the tram approaching!?

The ship was indeed our home (at least for as long as we were cruising.) The long walks around the new cities would make us tired and getting back to the ship would relax us instantly. After a usual round of bingo, that evening we dressed up for dinner. It was Informal tonight!

Dinner at the Villa Verde