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Sunday July 10, 2005

       I woke up at 8:15 and fell back to sleep from 8:45 to 10:10, when I finally got up. It was Sunday once again so back into my rain gear to run to church.  I knew there was a big cathedral across the port and it might be a nice run to get there from here.  I ran north and then turned left around the harbor past the restaurant we were at last night.  Then I headed south looking for the huge steeple of the church but did not see it anywhere.  See how easy it is to see it from the hotel, but when walking along that wall along the water, I could not see it anywhere.

         I ran up one street than another and then finally gave up and went all the way around the last bend (by the conical tower above-left) and as I turned the final corner, there it was in all its glorious splendor.  Amazing how it could hide behind those buildings.


        Inside was even more impressive, but as you can see it was totally empty.  I walked into Notre Dame De Major at 11:00 looking for the Mass but the whole place was empty and I figured I had guessed the Mass times wrong.  So I decided to start photographing this beautiful basilica.  The photos progress from left to right as I got closer to the altar.


        The unusual pieta was particularly impressive and gripping.  It reminded me of Bernini's work in Italy.  Hard to believe it was made of stone.  Again the contrast between no flash (left) and flash (right) - each has its pluses and minuses.


        Even the ceilings appeared new and spectacular (below-left).  As I walked to the right side of the huge basilica, I discovered a little side chapel (below-right) where there were people seated and I could hear a priest speaking in French.  I looked for a few minutes and then realized this was a baptism for some babies.  As I waited I discovered it was also a general Mass as well.  So I stayed and attended the Mass.  This turned out OK after all.



        After I left the church I figured that I shouldn't have to go all the way around like the way I came but instead I could head straight across the hill back to the port.  As I started walking I didn't like the skinny little vacant streets I was going on.  This is Marseille after all.  When I came to a corner I went up the street where there were women walking and didn't go on ones where there were only men.  I probably had nothing to worry about but I decided to play it safe.

        All of a sudden I came upon a building complex called Vieille Charit� (Old Charity) and it looked like they were having a special art display because there were many people milling about (of course I couldn't read the big sign in French).


        I decided to go in a buy a ticket.  I told the lady, "senior", and she looked at me with incredulity so I responded "merci beaucoup" (thank you very much for the compliment).  As I went to pay her she told me "senior is free."  So unabashedly, I took the free ticket and got into the long line waiting to get into the first exhibit.  I should have skipped it and went to the second one with all the good stuff but I didn't know any better and didn't want to lose my spot in the line I had gotten in.  They had many wonderful works of art by Renoir, Rubens, and van Gogh and they were very strict and watchful about photography or video and my results were much poorer than usual.  It was impossible to get the famous ones - they were watching me like a hawk and constantly telling me to put my camera down.  This is all I could get.




        At 12:30 I exited the last exhibit and decided to have a cappuccino in their little courtyard which was very nice.  There were many people there; out for a Sunday do.

        Marseilles is France's primary port and its oldest major city.  With a population of over 800,000 people it is vying with Lyon as the number 2 city in France.  The city is centered on it fabulous port which is guarded on each side by Fort St-Jean and Fort St-Nicolas (below).


        People have lived here for 2,600 years and the mixture of people is the most varied in France.  The major boulevard is La Canebi�re (canabis walk) a broad street that stretches from former hemp fields down to the port where the hemp was made into rope.  Below is the tunnel you come out of under the Fort to get to the city.  Little Smart cars are all over the place.  The winds that blow through Provence are called the Mistrals which are similar to California's Santana winds, hot and dry.


        As you can see they named this tour boat the Mistral and it takes you on trips to the surrounding islands and also to Cassis.


        Here are some classical restaurant boards you see out front.


        At 1:15 I made the very long walk all the way back to the hotel taking a few pictures of the harbor and the city buildings on the way.



        It took me almost a half hour to walk back and when I got back to the hotel I asked for the manager to tell me what they had found out about the dent in our car.  Christian sat me down and had a very serious discussion with me about the results of their thorough investigation.  He told me the valet that parked it had noted on the valet slip that the dent was already in the car but they had lost the ticket and asked me if I would believe him.  He could have been covering up but for some reason I decided to accept his explanation.  I told him it must have happened in the St-Tropez public parking lot.

[I later looked at photographs I had taken of the car and the dent was there all the way back to Flayosc (Left) and Fr�jus (Right) which means it probably happened in the parking lot of the hotel in Draguignan.  I felt a little foolish when I saw these photos.]


        I then asked him if there was some way I could get on to the internet without paying their outrageous fees.  He gave me a code to get on for 24 hours.

        At 2:15 I ran upstairs to my room and got online and downloaded Rush, did my AOL email, and uploaded the website.  I was really cooking.  And since we were now "Favorite Guest" status we were entitled to late checkout which can be to 4 PM.


        After I was done with everything, I packed my bags and checked out of the hotel at 5:00.

        The car was out of gas again so we filled up at an Italian AGIP station and it cost $5.65/gal.  We set the GPS to help us climb to the top of the big hill to visit the famous Basilique de Notre Dame de la Garde church.

        The city has two major cathedrals and they are both named Notre Dame.  It was incredible.  We had fantastic views of the entire city.  Here they are from all four sides, the first shows the Vieux Port area.

        Here is a zoom in on Vieux Port with all the boats lined up

        The basilica itself is not huge but its position at the top of this hill made it seem majestic.



         The climbing to get up to and then into this place was very strenuous for both of us.


        The damage outside from shelling during the liberation of the city during World War II is still evident.  The signs describe it in four languages; French, German, Italian and English.


         Once inside, I realized Georges was right about it being quite small, but it was very nice.  A Mass was going on so we didn't tour the whole place.  The ceiling was quite beautiful with its multiple domes.


        It was nice to see this Italian Del La Robia piece.  The statistics listed on the sign are: Hill 485 ft, Ramparts 43 ft, Tower 135 ft, Pedestal 41 ft, Statue 37 ft 11 tons and Wrist 3.6 ft.


        At 5:45, we then drove down and found the real Corderie Blvd (below) and then headed out of town at 6:00 to our next destination, Aix-en-Provence [EX-on-Prah-vahnse].


        Marcia drove the 20 miles north in the rain and we arrived at 6:30 to check into the  Mercure Grand Hotel Roi Ren� [24 blvd du Roi Ren�, +33-04-42-37-6100].


        After unpacking, I immediately went down and had a cappuccino at the hotel patio and did photo downloads.  Marcia joined me and we enjoyed our first free glasses of champagne from our Accor Favorite Guest card.  We then decided to head out and explore the town and look for someplace to eat.  We were told to head for the main street called Cours Mirabeau, which is only 3 blocks away.  This is the city of Cezanne and they have these medals in the sidewalk leading you on the "Walk of Cezanne".


        Mirabeau is a wide long street and at one end is the statue of an ancient king and at the other is a huge fountain in the center of a traffic circle.  All along the street are many places to dine outside.  We even found France's answer to McDonalds, called the Quick Burger.  We finally went off Mirabeau and explored some of the side streets where there were more restaurants.




        After having a difficult time picking one of the many eateries, at 9:30 we sat down for dinner at Chez Jo [59 rue Espariat].


        We started with San Pellegrino and a house ros� (Chicoulon).  For dinner I had a pizza margherita (not so great) and fettuccini carbonara (so so) and Marcia had cotelette Milanese with spaghetti sauce which was okay.  It was a neat place to eat but this wasn't one of our better meals.


        As we walked back to the hotel, we tried an ATM and discovered that our credit card wouldn't work.  We went back to the hotel and then got a call from Kaylin.  It was wonderful to talk to her and the family.  It made us a little less homesick.  I got to bed at 1 AM.

KJH                                                             Go To -> NEXT DIARIO #23 

Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD


Aix-en-Provence, France

 011-33-66-602-3431 KJH

 011-33-66-892-7343 MH

Sent 9-16-05

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Copyright 2010    Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD