o! cours julien, how do i love thee? or on love at first sight
Some years ago when I had visited Marseille for the first time, I happened on Cours Julien. It is in all the guide books on Marseille, and if it is not, I would throw away the book. I had not been to the Office de Tourisme nor had I consulted a Fodors Travel Guide or a Michelin Guide Vert. I had simply wondered about and walked up a street that looked interesting and found myself in Cours Julien.
Ça a été le coup de foudre. It was love at first sight. Je avais tombé amoureux de Cours Julien. OK, maybe, just maybe, I am exaggerating a bit. Let’s say, j’étais en plein de joie de vivre when I saw Cours Julien for the first time. Since then I have returned several times.
Since that first visit, I have looked at guide books and have spoken to people in the tourist office and to the French friends who know Marseille. All tell me that Cours Julien is wonderful, and that it would be a shame not to explore it and the colorful streets that are perpendicular to it.
There is an adventurous way and a less complicated way to walk from the Vieux Port to Cours Julien. The less interesting route is from the Vieux Port up La Canebière, the large boulevard that cuts northeast through the old quarter. Go as far as Boulevard Garibaldi, where you will turn right for a short distance, and then veer left on rue des Trois Mages and soon you will see streets for Cours Julien on the right. You will walk up a short hill. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
Another route, more adventurous, follows some streets through an impoverished area–rue d’Aubagne–where two buildings collapsed last year killing six people. (It is not dangerous, Do not be afraid.) (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
From La Canebière turn right on rue des Feuillants, and you will soon find yourself in the otherworldly market, Marché des Capucins. After circling the market, return to rue des Capucins, which is perpendicular to the Marché des Capucins and walk slowly through it. It is again another world. You are in Marseille but not. Maybe you are in Tunisia. Turn left on rue d’Aubagne. You will walk past the location where the buildings once stood (2018). Today (2019) there is a gaping hole. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
You want to walk up the stairs on rue Estelle to reach Cours Julien. You will turn left on rue Estelle and cross a bridge over a roadway. Graffiti and wall art will surround you. Assault you. Dwarf you. As you ascend, you want to turn once in awhile and look back and down. Don’t forget the photo ops. At the top of the steps, turn and pause a bit before entering Cours Julien. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
I try to go to Cours Julien on a Saturday or a Sunday when the sun shines. The locals come out to play and eat and drink. A band might play. There could be a market at one end. As you walk away from those steps, you will see a couple of cafés and terraces where you can order a coffee, a beer, some wine, or better yet a pastis. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)