We finally get to our next destination, Marseille. We go on a walking tour of downtown starting with the Old Port which has been an important port in the area since 600 BC when the Greeks used it. We walk up the famous Canebiere Street which used to be home to a number of Cannabis farms from the middle ages up to the 1930s. Today it’s a kilometer long street lined with shops, restaurants, and local art dealers. At the end of the street is the lovely Longchamp Palace, which was originally created to celebrate the building of the Canal de Marseille.
After exploring Longchamp Palace and the botanical garden and former zoo turned decorative exhibit and the astronomical observatory, we walk across town and up a steep hill to the Notre Dame de la Garde that towers above Marseille. This 19th century net-byzantine church was built in the 1800s, replacing one that stood here since the 13th century.
While in Marseille, we take a day trip to Arles to see the ancient Roman amphitheater that was built in 90 AD. Then we drive a little ways out of town to the ancient Abbaye de Montmajour and explore it’s many chambers. Then we drive south towards the coast to see the tropical Camargue Wetlands which is home to over 400 bird species, including the colony of European flamingos.
The next day we take a day trip to Avignon and walk across the famous medieval Pont d’ Avignon that almost spans the Rhone with its stone arches and tiny built-in chapel of Saint Nicholas in the center. While in the city center, we explore the Palais des Papes, the medieval Gothic palace that was home to many historically famous Popes. Next door is the Avignon Cathedral which was built in the second half of the 12th century.