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.
Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde
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.) But wait, there’s more!
April arrives and the wind blows. It is the weekend. It is Easter. The Med Sea is nearby. And the lunch hour(s) in France can be two hours long. It is a perfect confluence of events for kitesurfing.
Antibes has three beaches, and two of them are wide and open and one in the middle is the most popular for kitesurfing. I believe there is a kitesurfing school and club in Antibes.
I have yet to see a woman kitesurfing in Antibes.
On a good day, the word has spread and dozens will be on the water at the same time. How they manage to avoid one another and not tangle their lines and chutes is unclear.
Crowds gather along the beach. Cameras are ready. Kids play in the sand and make sand castles. Some are there for the holiday weekend and want to catch as much sun as they can.
However, the stars of the day are the kitesurfers.
Because the surfers prefer the bays, croissant-shaped, and not the open water, spectators can watch from various points. They like to glide toward the shore, dramatically turn or launch into the air before circling around again and leaving. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!
If given the choice—either, or—where would you choose to live? Paris or Marseille? Some might balk at choosing from those cities.
Paris, for some, would be crossed off the list because 1) everyone wants to live there, so why go there; 2) one has visited Paris enough to know that other cities and villages are a better choice—Peter Mayle settled in Provence, for example; 3) one has Paris, the city, and then what?
Marseille for others would be a ridiculous choice: 1) too many people live there of African and Middle Eastern descent; 2) it is too dangerous; 3) the mafia controls everything; 4) it is not Paris; 5) ?.
I have often wondered where I would live. For a long time both cities, Paris and Marseille, have thrilled me. I have spent long periods of time in Toulouse, Lyon, and Montpellier as well. The number of villages where I have explored are countless.
« J’adore Marseille. » I say that to my landlord in Marseille all the time. Something has surprised me and my response is often, « J’adore Marseille. » I am seldom surprised in Paris. I don’t say to my Paris landlord, « J’adore Paris. » I am not sure she would appreciate the comment. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!
Have you wondered what it would be like to fly a paraglider? Have you watched a hawk making circles and imagined what it was seeing? When I was younger, I wanted to be Superman so I could plunge from the sky and then dart up, here and there, high above the ground.
I am not sure I would want to skydive. I don’t want to jump from a plane and then depend on the chute to carry me safely back to earth. But that crazy decision would permit a descent that I could control, somewhat. I would be high in the sky, and I could watch the toy houses and the Hot Wheels cars become too big. I could learn to manipulate the parachute cords, so I could move about, somewhat.
Another possibility would be more simple and less dangerous and, I am sure, would be less expensive. I might drive a car up a long, windy road to a village perché, high high in the mountains, park it, walk a short way to a wall that would keep me from plunging to my death should I become a bit woozy from a tad bit of vertigo. From the edge of the wall, I could then gaze down and far away and not worry about flying anything or pulling the wrong cords.
Gourdon is a village perché that offers extra-ordinary views from high up. It sits on a promontory about 760 meters above the Mediterranean Sea. From the edge of the village, one can look out over the valley of the Loup River, but gaze down as well, straight down, a precipitous drop, without fearing of losing ones way. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!