Explore the exciting city of Marseilles, France
Founded in 600 BC by Phoenician Greeks (then known as Massalia), Marseille has grown into what is now the second largest city in France and the largest commercial port in the Mediterranean. This exquisite and aged city has a lot to offer any visitor.
The somewhat romantic nature of the city is reflected in tales of its' founding. It is said that Phonician Greek by the name of Protis arrived in the Bay of Marseille wanting to establish entry into Gaul. He arrived donned in his best garments and bearing gifts, intending to ask the King of the Celtic Ligurian tribe inhabiting the area to give him land to start a city.
On his arrival, he discovered that a feast was being held where the Kings daughter would choose a husband by handing him a goblet of wine. He attended the feast and the Kings daughter was captivated by his beauty and chose him for a husband. The land that is now Marseille was given as a dowry.
Since then, Marseille has seen twenty-five years of history - making it the oldest of the great cities of France. It has seen wars and plagues, become a centre of Greek learning and profited from the crusades. Today, the magnificent city continues to be a bustling and lively metropolis. If you are fortunate enough to visit this place of beauty, you might start your trip at the old harbour. The current harbour is the same that was first established here in 600 BC and it bears a strong sense of history and charm.
Also of interest to most foreigners is the Château d'If. Originally built on the Island of If as a fort to be used in protecting the bay, the fort was converted to a state prison around 1580 due to its inescapability. For most, it would appear that life in the prison was fairly dignified - prisoners were allowed to walk around the castle walls at leasure and to enteact with each other. However, more severe punishments were also executed within the castle walls. The Château d'If is famous for its' mention in "The Count of Monte Cristo" a famous novel written by Alexandre Dumas'. It was in this prison that the character of Edmond Dantes was allegedly wrongfully imprisoned and from which he was the only 'person' to escape. The story has been filmed many times over and the gloomy Château on the Island of If features in almost all of them.
Other buildings worth a visit are the Notre Dame de la Garde - a 154 meter high building with a fascinating history, the Unité d'Habitation de Marseille built by the famous architect Le Corbusier and the Calanques which are an impressive array of rocks and mountains with caves leading deep down under the sea. Marseille is so wonderful it simply cannot be forgotton easily.