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on riding the vaporetto in lyon

Lyon, France has two major rivers, the Saône and the Rhône, that meet at a confluence in the south of the city. A commuter and tourist boat called Le Vaporetto goes from Vaise (9 quai Arloing) in the north of Lyon to the Confluence in the south. It makes two stops along the way, one at Saint-Paul (16 Quai de Bondy) and one at Bellecour (11 Quai des Célestins).

The two middle stops, Saint-Paul (16 Quai de Bondy) and Bellecour (11 Quai des Célestins), are convenient because they are central to Lyon. Saint-Paul is near Vieux Lyon, a major tourist destination. Place Bellecour, a UNESCO Heritage site, is no less important to tourists.

Vieux Lyon, old Lyon, is the oldest quartier of Lyon with buildings dating from the Medieval and Renaissance periods. Like Place Bellecour it is classified by UNESCO as a historical site.

Place Bellecour is the center of the the presqu’île of Lyon, the ground zero, and is the starting point for most tourists: “Four major streets start from this famous square: rue de la République, which takes you up to Hôtel de Ville and the Opera; rue Victor Hugo and rue du Plat both leading to Perrache; and rue du Président Édouard Herriot, with a concentration of luxury shops all the way to the Place des Terreaux.”  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!

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.) But wait, there’s more!

on going to les goudes on a good day

Going to the small fishing village, Les Goudes, on the edge of the calanques de Marseille is fun.

If you have a car, no problem. Follow the Corniche from Marseille to Madrague de Montredon and turn inland a bit and re-emerge on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea et voilà. You are there. Of course, you must deal with the traffic and the gas can be expensive and you might be involved in an accident because you were too distracted while looking at the Mediterranean Sea.

The adventure, however, will happen when you take buses. Three buses, in fact. It will take some planning and knowledge of the bus schedules. RTM, the public transportation application for smart phones, has the schedules.

Why bother going to Les Goudes in the first place? The panoramic views on the way to Les Goudes along the Corniche are gorgeous and vast. Secondly, you will go to eat freshly caught fish. Granted, you can order fish in a restaurant in Marseille, but Les Goudes is a small fishing village, away from the big noisy city, and picturesque, and it has some good restaurants with terraces. You might want to hike, and there are plenty of places to walk, on trails or not. You are on the edge of the calanques.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!

on julia child, fish, & the port of marseille

One of the pleasures of visiting Marseille is visiting the fish market on the Vieux Port. It is small. When fishing was a prominent part of the local economy, the market was much larger and more bustling than it is today. Several boats do go out in the early morning and return with good catches that are then sold from tables set up along the wharf.

The buyers are primarily locals, home cooks. They buy small quantities of a kilo or two. Restaurants rely on fresh catches but have sources other than the market on the Port.

In another time, the fish mongers would be hawkers as well. They would shout out the catch of the day and the prices. That does not happen much today. I have occasionally heard, however, a shout rise above the din to encourage a buy before the good bargains are gone.

Julia Child and her husband Paul moved to Marseille in the early 1950’s. They lived in an apartment next to the Vieux Port. She recounted her experiences there in her biography My Life in France. She wrote about how astonished she was to hear the hubbub below, when the boats came into the port with their catch-of-the-day. Below is the account she gave. It is quoted from My Life in France.

One evening in May, we heard a lot of excited shouting from the street below. The fishing fleet had gotten into a big run of tuna. Boats kept pulling up to the quay just outside, and until midnight there was continuous shouting and the wet Smack! Smack! Smack! of heavy fish being heaved off the boats onto the stones below, then reheaved into trucks packed with ice. While the run was on, the fishermen just kept going all day and night. It was a beautiful scene to look down on from our balcony at night—thousands of flashing silver tuna, all about the same size, slithering this way and that in blood-pinkened water under the arc lights, while big bow-legged guys in sou’wester pants and bare feet lifted and pushed with a sort of primal urgency.

I couldn’t resist, and bought a big slice of tuna, its flesh bright red. The market ladies said to soak it in vinegar and water, to avoid an overly fishy taste, which I did for five hours. The flesh turned almost white. Then I braised it with a purée de tomates, oignons étuvés à l’huile, champignons, vin blanc, and quelques herbes. Marvelous!  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!