I have recently been on an excursion to Marseille. It is a little less than two hours west of our Olive Farm in the direction towards Spain. Marseille is an ancient harbour city set right in the middle of the stretch of Mediterranean that fringes the south of France. I have written at length in my two travel books, The Olive Route and The Olive Tree, about the birth of Marseille which at that time – 600 BC – was christened Massalia. Massalia was founded as a trading post by Phocaeans, Greeks settled in Asia Minor. Their name came from the small harbour city Foça, which today is a pretty, rather sleepy little town on the Aegean coast in Izmir Province, Turkey.For me, one of the important facts about these Asia Minor Greek traders is that they brought with them the knowledge and the trees to begin the first olive farms and olive oil production in France. Olive oil was a cornerstone of their diet, also used for cosmetics and as a health product. The legacy of that knowledge can be seen everywhere today.
La Rade, which includes the Harbour area, some neighbourhoods of the old town and a small archipelago, has been on the UNESCO Tentative List since 2002, waiting to be given World Heritage status. I am very surprised that it is taking so long. It is a truly magnificent area and leaves you in no doubt about the importance of this city and its colourful and multicultural history.
Marseille is a city with a long and colourful history and much of that history has come about because it is such an active port city. On this recent visit, I spent my days walking the hilly streets, taking photographs, visiting old buildings and generally imbibing the lively atmosphere of the city.
I spent a morning in Le Panier district, which is rich with both history and twenty-first century living. It is the oldest quarter of the city and quite hilly so you will need good footwear. I was heading, in a very leisurely fashion, from our hotel down at the Quai du Port towards La Vieille Charité, which I had never visited before. It is worth…