20 September 2015
Marseille, France: The Second City

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Marseille is the oldest city in France, and the country’s second-largest city population behind only Paris.

This is very much a working city: it is France’s largest commercial port.

Out in the Bay of Marseille is the Frioul archipelago of four islands. One of those, L’ile d’If, is the location of Château d’If, made famous by the Alexandre Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo.

There have been settlements in this area for almost 30,000 years.

The city of Marseille was founded about 600 BC as a Greek trading port; it was named Massalia. It became a link between inland Gaul and Rome, importing wine and other goods and exporting agricultural items and slaves to Rome.

Skipping forward, in 1792, Marseille sent 500 volunteers to Paris to support the French Revolution.

The song they sung on their march from Marseille to Paris, a call to arms that became known as La Marseillaise, is now the national anthem of France.

For many visitors to southern France, the gem is Aix-en-Provence, about 20 miles north of Marseille.

And on this glorious Sunday morning,  with a hint of autumn in the air,  I returned to Aix with guests.

The settlement of Aix or Aquae Sextiae was founded in 123 BC by the Roman consul Sextius Calvinus.

Aix flourished after the 12th century, when, under the houses of Aragon and Anjou, it became an artistic center and seat of learning.

Aix-en-Provence is situated in a plain overlooking the Arc, about a mile from the right bank of the river.

The main thoroughfare is the beautiful Cours Mirabeau, planted with double rows of plane-trees. It is bordered by fine houses and punctuated by decorative fountains.

Aix Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur d’Aix) is built on the site of the 1st century Roman forum of Aix.


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Built and re-built from the 12th until the 19th century, it includes Romanesque, Gothic and Neo-Gothic elements, as well as Roman columns and parts of the baptistery from a 6th century Christian church.


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Text and images copyright 2015 by Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.