Bonjour France!

A few weeks ago I embarked on my first of many trips of the year, paying a visit to a friend in Marseille and travelling to Bordeaux. Like most Brits, I have been to France a fair few times, about 7 different places across the country I believe, and can owe most of the visits to either Disneyland or School trips. However, Marseille and Bordeaux was new territory for me. Other than an overdue catch up with my friend, I also visited to experience different culture and student life, part of my on going projects for this year. All in all it was a great start to my string of travels, and the weather in the sunny South was definitely a winner, haven’t been able to say I was on the beach in February before!

Before heading to Marseille I was informed of various negative stereotypes about the place,  being not so safe, and dirty. However, not wanting to judge the place before even stepping off the plane I ignored all of these and I am glad I did. It was a beautiful place, very pretty, warm and had a lot to offer. I can imagine during peak tourist season it gets very crowded, but going in February prices were cheaper and the place felt very laid back.

Having friends all across the world sucks when it comes to going home and most people are somewhere else, however when it comes to travelling its the best thing that can happen. Getting a tour guide who shows you all the best parts of the city, whilst avoiding overpriced tourist traps and gets you exploring and living like a local is way better than any other way of experiencing a place.

Local fruit and veg market

What stood out to me at first was how many older people there was, when I have a preconception that it was a very student populated place. And while this is the case, it doesn’t strike me as a student city. This is in part due to the fact the campuses are out of the city in the mountains. In a way, it can be said that Marseille is very versatile, accommodating students, people headed south for a quieter, more relaxed lifestyle, and tourists.

I also noted how it seemed more Mediterranean than French. While there was no mistaking that I was in France, it felt different to other places I had seen in France. There was the relaxed, holiday vibe that was inescapable. True the weather played a big part in this most likely, but that just goes to show the difference a bit of sun can make.

If planning a visit, I would highly recommend taking a trip up to the Notre Dame de la Garde to view the sunset, as its absolutely beautiful. You can walk it up the hill but its quite steep and a long journey, so best option is to get a return ticket on the bus for just a few euros. On a side note, I didn’t realise until this trip that most churches in France are called Notre Dame, which translates to Our Lady. I thought it was just the name of the iconic church in Paris.

Sunset from Notre Dame de la Garde
Sunset from Notre Dame de la Garde

Onto Bordeaux! The cheapest route was flixbus overnight. We departed Marseille around 11.50 and pulled into Bordeaux at around 8am. A long but fairly comfortable journey sleeping. When in Marseille we stayed at an Airbnb. I was apprehensive about it, as it was just a room and not an entire place, but the stay could not have been better. We had a amazing hosts, who were super helpful and welcomed us with teas, coffees, snacks and visitor information. Probably the best Airbnb experience I have had so far.

Bordeaux itself was interesting, but I think we went at the wrong time of year. One of the main attractions, the Mirror D’eau, was closed for the season and it was very quiet. In peak season when you can travel out and see Bordeaux’s famous vineyards it would be amazing, especially for a wine lover like myself. If we stayed longer than the two days we was there for I think boredom would have set in.

Where the Mirror D’eau is when its turned on for the season

If you are planning a trip to Bordeaux, I would recommend trying to stay in the Airbnb we had if you want to go down that route. Contact me for details! I would also recommend going a bit later in the year when the city is a bit busier and there is the options to see the vineyards. I would highly recommend the Darwin Eco-Système, its a vibrant eco friendly community that contains a thrift shop, cafe, foodshop, skate parks, multi use venue and accommodation. I would also recommend a visit to the market, Marché des Capucins to experience some local lifestyle.

Marché des Capucins
Skate Park at Darwin Eco-Système

One bit of advice that is relevant no matter where you are going on a city break, check out the city bikes! I used them for the first time in France and it makes a big difference, letting you go explore further, and biking is more fun than walking. Most of the time its just a few euros hire for the week or a few days, as long as you check into the bike stations every half hour or less. Only catch is you need at least €150 in your bank as a safety deposit.

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