look, it is bonne mère, the basilique notre-dame de la garde
She who governs the roads of the sea,
Who shines above the waves and the sun,
The giantess standing behind the blue hours,
high gold inhabitant of a long white country,
Christian Pallas of the Gauls. –Valery Larbaud
I hastened to go up to Notre-Dame de la Garde, to admire the sea bordered with the ruins the laughing coasts of all the famous countries of Antiquity. –Chateaubriand
Stand any where in Marseille and you will probably see the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde. There is no escaping its presence high on the hill. In this respect, it is much like the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
As a popular tourist destination, it offers a spectacular 360 degrees panoramic view of Marseille and the Mediterranean Sea.
One can choose many ways to go up the hill: public transportation, ie the city bus; the small tourist train; the tourist bus; and walk. I take the #60 city bus from the Vieux Port. To descend I enjoy walking down, choosing a different direction in order to see an unexplored part of the city.
It takes a little planning, but one can climb to the basilica via some neighborhood streets and via a path that approaches from the side that faces the Vieux Port. A decent digital map, such as Google maps or ViaMichelin, can help navigate some of the alleys and side streets. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
During the middle ages, steeples on village churches helped travelers orient themselves when they traveled. One need only to spot the steeple that towers above the trees to know where to go.
The basilica is not needed for direction today, of course; but as I have pointed out, one need only to see it to understand that Marseille is ever present and all around. I have actually used its position to walk from one side of the city to the other. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
The view from the perch where the basilica stands is spectacular. Inside is also thrilling. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
Inside are gorgeous, grand arches that support and decorate the basilica. Unlike many cathedrals, which are gray, the Basilique Notre-dame de la Garde is painted and gilded in vivd colors.