Marseille, France

Drenched in sunshine on the southeastern coast of France, Marseille is part gorgeous, part gritty, and entirely alluring. Its crush of orange-topped buildings and twisting pathways take a seat beside a swath of Mediterranean blue. It is scrubbed in winter by Provence's infamous Mistral, the aggressive wind that leaves a fresh climate when it passes.

Humans have been living in Marseille, possibly France's oldest city, for nearly 30,000 years. It went from a Phocean trading port to a Roman property to a port controlled by varying European powers. It became a part of France in the late 15th century and went on to become an important player in the 19th century maritime trade.

Port of Marseille, FranceFishing boats bob lazily in the Old Port section after having hauled their catch in early morning. The local specialty, bouillabaisse, pays homage to the fisherman's craft. A massive stew of Marseille seafood, bouillabaisse marries such tastes and textures as octopus, John Dory, scorpionfish, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic and saffron.

Churches are plentiful in this seaside location. In fact it is home to Europe's oldest house of Christian worship, the Abbey of St-Victor, which holds a procession of the Black Madonna every Candlemas. The massive Cathedral of Sainte-Marie-Majeure, easily recognizable by its central dome and accompanying domed towers, is the seat of the Archdiocese of Marseille. Peering over Marseille from a point 532 feet above the city is Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, a basilica in the Roman and Byzantine styles made from a stunning bicolor combination of bricks.

It is easy to see how Marseille's saturated golds, aquas and emeralds inspired Cezanne's landscapes. Its rich culture and stunning views have proved as a muse for other creative names as well; the city can claim such famous sons as Valere Bernard and Andre Roussin.

The Stade Velodrome is home to Olympique de Marseille, the local football club which is enormously popular. Other sports that enjoy notoriety in the city are sailing, power boating and rugby. There are several golf courses as well, for those who like to tee off where the weather is often spectacular.

Marseille Provence is the city's international airport, which hosts travelers from all over the country as well as from other points in Europe and in North Africa. France's high-speed train, the TGV, has a main terminal station in the city as well.



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