We only had half a day to enjoy before we had to have a final meal and get ready to catch the train back to London. My brother Andrew didn’t even have that as he was flying home and had to leave after an early breakfast to catch his plane.
Susan and Mary opted for a stroll around the Old Port while Patricia, Mrs Tootlepedal and I took the opportunity to visit a site so close to out hotel that we had perhaps undervalued it as an attraction.
It was the Musee d’Histoire de Marseille, situated on the site of the old Roman harbour of Marseille. It has a rather uninviting entrance in the middle of a shopping mall which might explain why we hadn’t visited it earlier but it was a case of better late than never.
When we got inside, the lady at the desk explained that there were two exhibitions, a temporary one of French underwater archaeology and the permanent one. They were quite expensive at eight euros for one and ten for the other so we were considering which one to choose when she rather peremptorily demanded to see our passports. She returned them with a smile and told us that on account of our great age, we could, if we wished, see both exhibitions for five euros. We took up her offer.
The underwater archaeology was very interesting if in a rather gloomy and windowless space so it was a relief to come into the permanent exhibition which was in the lightest and airiest museum that I have ever been into.
The exhibits were well laid out with plenty of space and any amount of helpful information available (through English language headphones if required).
I spent too much time looking at the exhibits to take many photos but here is one of a Roman boat unearthed in the harbour during building works.
The helpful commentary told us that this came from a time when boats were sewn together and directed our attention to the row of holes along the edges of the planks that would have held the ligaments in place.
We spent so much time looking at the earliest section of the museum…
…that we didn’t get to the second floor and went out into the Garden of Vestiges beside the museum to see the old harbour.
There were not a lot of physical remains. The picture above is all that is left of the ‘magnificent Italian Gate’ and the remains of the main road from the harbour through the gate and into the town were not awe inspiring either…
…though it is always interesting to think that you are stepping on the same stones that were walked along so many years ago.
There were useful boards in the garden…
…and the old harbour itself is very clear.
It was abandoned when it silted up and the new port (now of course called The Old Port) is just down the road.
It really was close to our hotel….
…which is the utilitarian brown building in the background. The museum’s dull exterior gives no hint of the pleasures within. The hotel was very good too.
We left the garden and walked down to the Vieux Port. During our stay, we had remarked on how few seagulls there were about. I don’t know if the powers that be have actively discouraged them or whether there just aren’t many about for natural reasons but this was my first opportunity to catch a flying bird (or two) on our visit.
After a last look at the port…
…we sat down to our last meal…
…and then got ourselves organised for the trip to the station….
…and caught the train back to London.
I had no idea what to expect from Marseille but I was more than happy to have been there and will willingly go again of the chance arises. The town is beautiful and the people unfailingly polite and cheerful. Of course the wonderful weather helped a lot too.