Just had a day in Marseille and the MP2013 programme has been having, I think, a really positive effect. For a start, the Vieux Port area is looking so much clearer and more inviting. Mind you, last time I was there we were all walking on planks across a building site; but it was worth it. There is a super big open area for pedestrians, well paved, and today there was some live music alongside the traditional fish market.
March will see the opening of the Funny Zoo. The traditional zoo at the Palais Longchamp closed 25 years ago, ending over one hundred years of existence. Apparently it was a favourite outing for families in the town. But the buildings and kiosks have been kept and will be reopening with some brightly decorated new inhabitants – a pink elephant, a red bear, a green camel and so on. Sounds fun. Anyway some of the animals are already at large in the Vieux Port area…..
Very close to this is 30 Rue Pavillon where you can find a new little resto britannique ‘Kitch’N Rock’ which offers fish and chips, burgers and l’authentique breakfast anglais each Saturday (or in the week if you are desperate for bacon and eggs!). The genial French proprietaire says he is a true Marseillais (family from Naples); he used to run a clothes shop called London Calling. This involved frequent trips to England hence his new foray into English food. The chef is Mick from Millwall and you can’t get more authentic than that! Open 9-19hrs daily exc Sunday.
A quick ride across the Vieux Port on the solar-powered ferry took us to the Pavillon M, very much worth a visit. It’s a temporary building next to the Hotel de Ville – it has a roof-top terrace which is where all the TV broadcasts have been coming from – great backdrop of La Bonne Mere.
I thought Pavillon M was simply a ticket and info office for MP2013 but it is much more. Its remit is to help people understand Marseille and there are numerous individual areas where you can trigger off a short film on various facets of life in the city – L’OM, hip-hop, cooking, its history,the destruction of the Vieux Port in 1943 etc…. There are also booths with chefs running through local recipes like panisses and aioli. There’s a fascinating big moving graphic of the town morphing from a tiny Greek outpost through the centuries to the sprawling mass it is today – and there’s a 3D cinema to give even more reality. Loos too. Open daily 10-19hrs.
Off to the docks next and here is a work in progress if ever I saw one. It’s going to be great and already there is a beautifully paved esplanade for walking along to La Joliette and to the ships beyond. MUCEM with its ‘concrete lace’ signature is going to be stunning. And there is work apace on the big new shopping area near the Cathedral, all designed to cater for incoming cruise ships. However, it’s all a building site right now and I was just sorry it wasn’t all ready for the kick-off of MP2013.
J1 however is ready and an interesting transformation of an industrial site. It’s basically a large gallery with café and book-shop built right along the top storey of an old ship terminal/jetty (I think) which juts right out to sea. How many galleries can boast a view like this?
It is a fantastic space and I did enjoy the photography displays. Especially ‘Landscapes’ which is the result of MP2013 launching an appeal for photos on the theme of ‘Living in the Midi’ – they received over 5000 and these are being sorted to tell the people’s story. Some excellent pictures and you can still contribute on www.mp2013.fr/chercheursdemidi/. The professional photographic sections are also quite personal, story-based, and stimulating. I would really recommend this to anyone trying to improve their own photography – I think older kids would enjoy it too. English translations given.
On you walk, on and on, further out to sea, and finally there is an exhibition called ‘Méditerranées’ about which I can tell you nothing. Because when you get there, they tell you that you can’t get in without a ticket and that you have to trek all the way back to buy one at the entrance. By this time, I was tired and had a sense of humour failure. Why not sell tickets right there or at the bookstore next to the exhibition? Did I miss some signs? A lady in the lift told me the expo was ‘magique, féerique’. So I will go back when not tired…..soon in fact. J1 is open daily 12-18:00hrs. It’s a 10-15 minute walk from the Vieux Port or you can use the metro to La Joliette.
Bottom line – visiting Marseille is getting better and better, and will be wonderful when the 3 new museums and the renovated Musée des Beaux-Arts finally open their doors.