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  • gloria139

I visit Marseilles, Aix and Cassis … with a pretty great travelling companion

I feel like I could live in Marseilles.

I know ... I say that about many of the places in Europe I have visited. But the French port city has such a wonderful, magical vibe, while also being super down to earth and casual.

I asked the cabbie who picked me up from the Poesia to drop me at the hotel I had booked in the Vieux Port area. Of course he left me and my many heavy bags in the wrong place. Of course I lost my phone - my lifeline to the world - in the process of getting my extensive kit to the right place. Fortunately I found it again 10 minutes later lying on the ground where it had fallen.

It was the only way I had to communicate with my daughter, Devon, with whom I planned to spend the next week and a bit in France and Portugal.

I found her in the Vieux Port and there were hugs and tears after four months apart - probably also some residual emotion after leaving the ship.

We had lovely burrata salad at a shady patio and then wandered the city a bit before going separate ways to unpack and wind down.

Then we met again at 7 pm for Pastisse before heading to an elegant seaside restaurant we booked online last Thanksgiving (as we were looking forward to this trip) called L’epuisette ... where we understood we could get bouillabaisse which is a specialty of the region.

The restaurant was airy and lovely with windows overlooking the water on two sides. I was forbidden by my dinner companion from hauling out my iPhone and taking pictures. She likes to follow social conventions.

But we misread the menu and did not get the intended soup. Instead we were treated to an eight-course fish and seafood meal which was completely extraordinary in both appearance and taste.

The next day, we took the city bus to Aix en Provence which is a wonderful town, founded in the second century BCE by the Romans, that maintains a fabulous medieval flavour.

We wandered through the narrow and mostly cobbled streets and stopped at the cathedral which is small but dates back to the 1100s CE and houses a large collection of religious art from the intervening centuries.

Then we found an outdoor cafe where we had lunch that included escargots and champagne.

On day three, we took the bus over winding roads along the French coast to the seaside village of Cassis. We had a delicious lunch at a restaurant that overlooks the harour.

Then we strolled the town - more cobblestones.

We watched as men played boulles in the sandy pitch of the town centre.

And then we took a boat cruise out to see the Calanques, which are multiple steep-walled inlets in the limestone coast of Southern France.

There were people enjoying the beautiful Sunday afternoon in almost every cove.

Back in Marseilles, we looked in vain for a creperie - we were both wanting galletes for dinner - and eventually settled on a pizza place in the Vieux Port - pizza is another Marseilles specialty.

The town is one of the oldest in Europe and it has a wonderful well-worn feel to it. I see it listed on some websites as being crime ridden, but the people I met were super friendly. And I can really picture coming back to spend more time here.

The pizza was followed by a night of no sleep because we had to get to the airport at 3 am for a 5:30 flight via Ryanair (an experience in itself) to Lisbon and then a transfer to the sea town of Cascais.

We were tired ducks on Sunday.

It is very good to be enjoying this beautiful part of the world.

My head does drift back to the ship and my friends and the things I did over the past four months. But I am also happy to be on terra firma and staying in a place for more than a day.

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