MARSEILLE 2014 – CREATIVE CITY!

There are always a good number of events occurring throughout New York City during the week leading up to and including the annual Bastille Day celebrations. While most people focus on the Sunday street fair on East 60th street adjacent to the Alliance Français, there are plenty of other noteworthy cultural and gustatory happenings to enliven Summer in the city. One of these is the afternoon-long petanque tournament on West Broadway, which took place outside Cercle Rouge restaurant on Friday, July 11th. In addition to Cercle Rouge [www.cerclerougeresto.com], other sponsors for this and related events were local bistros BarTabac [www.bartabacny.com], Clarkson Bar & Restaurant, [www.clarksonrestaurant.com] Café Noir [www.cafenoirny.com], Jules Bistro [www.julesbistro.com] and LeSinge [www.lesingevert.com], as well as the Forgeois Group (parent company of the aforementioned restaurants), Ricard [www.pernod-ricard.com] (which was giving away some terrific white hats all day), the City of Marseille Tourism and Convention Bureau [www.marseille-tourisme.com] [www.resamarseille.com], Aéroport Marseille Provence [www.flyprovence.com] and XL Airways [www.xlairways.fr] – the latter entities teaming up for a raffle wherein one lucky attendee won a trip to the south of France.

It’s been over thirty years since my last visit to Provence, and I believe I’m overdue for a return. My host on my last trip to Marseille was a correspondence friend, who made certain to show me the city from the perspective of a native. After a drive around the Old Port and the Corniche we took in a meal at a restaurant where I fondly remember experiencing the finest bouillabaisse I’ve ever had; a specialty of the region, the dish takes full advantage of the diversity of seafood available in the Mediterranean waters of the region – and any visit to the city would not be complete without strolling the opulent fish and fresh produce markets there. It was also my good fortune that upon mentioning to my friend how my university studies included architecture, she offered to take me to Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation – the signature apartment building exemplifying his philosophy of ‘La Ville Radieuse’ – where some friends of hers happened to live. Corbusier advocated replacing the ground space taken up by any building with an accessible roof where people could enjoy the outdoors, and on the day we were there our trek atop the structure was illuminated by a typically sunny day, the sky a brilliant blue reminiscent of the uniforms worn by the local football club, Olympique Marseille (which itself occupies an architectural wonder, the Stade Vélodrome).

While Marseille may be the second-largest city in France, it is an ancient settlement among those ringing the Mediterranean, a major city “with 26 centuries of history but also in the process of radical transformation.” As the European Capital of Culture for 2013, and also the winner of the Urbanism Academy of London’s ‘European City of the Year Award 2014’, Marseille is a venue with many interesting events taking place as the year progresses. In September alone there will be the Juris Cup regattas, the Wind Festival, the Marseille International Fair, Marseille Marathon, and the Marsatac Festival, in addition to European Heritage Days, wherein there will be free admission to all local museums and monuments. The great number of the latter – the city guidebook lists 25 museums – showcase the considerable history of the city and the area, with an emphasis on art an anthropological displays. These include The Marseille History Museum; the Roman Docks Museum; the Marseillaise Memorial Museum; the Marine and Aeconomy Museum; Arts and Crafts Museum; Préau des Accoules; Vielle Charité Museum; Espace Culturel J4; MuCEM; Le musée Regars de Provence; La Villa Méditerranée; and the Motorcycle Museum among them. For travelers with a taste for outdoors adventures, there’s plenty to recommend the region, both with regards to land journeys within and around Provence, and abundant opportunities for aquatic activities such as snorkeling, swimming and boating.

As part of the Bastille Day festivities, flyprovence.com was promoting a number of tourism packages taking advantage of the 2 weekly flights direct from New York to Marseille via XL Airways France. These include ‘City Break in Marseille’, a 3 day/2 night excursion; ‘Overlooking the Sea’, a duration of 4 days and 3 nights; ‘Enjoy the Calanques National Park’, also a 3 day/2 night journey; and ‘Discover Marseille Provence region’, which includes an exploration of the surrounding area (Arles, Avignon and Saint Tropez), and is a duration of 7 days and 6 nights.