July/August 2015 JUST FOR CANADIAN DENTISTS 17
t r a v e l a t h o m e
la vie sur la mer
Vieux Port of Marseille
(below) and Château d’If.
t r a v e l t h e w o r l d
from Paris to Provence and back again
STORY + PHOTOGRAPHY BY BARB SLIGL
18 JUST FOR CANADIAN DENTISTS July/August 2015
he sea thrums to my
right. A soft breeze tries
to chase away the day’s
intense heat as the still-
strong sun dips closer to
the horizon. The Plage
des Catalans is like a
colourful Pointillist paint-
ing, a jumble of local
Marseillais enmasse on
one of the city’s two natural beaches. Other
than this sandy crescent, it’s a rocky embrace
with the Mediterranean around Marseille.
I’m walking along Le Corniche, a seaside
road atop the rocky ledge of the coast. Cafés
and eateries are carved into the cliffs, bright
lounge chairs perched just above the beckon-
But I turn the other
way, away from the blue
and down a set of narrow
stairs between charm-
ingly crumbling buildings.
It doesn’t look like I’m going
anywhere until a sharp corner
reveals a scene that’s almost cli-
ché in its French-ﬁshing-village cha-
risma. I’m now in Vallon des Auffes, a tiny
harbour tucked behind a bridge and packed
with boats. Vallon means “small valley” and
auffes is a grass that was once used to make
ﬁshing ropes and nets. It’s like another dimen-
sion in this pretty port, with locals gathering
around the water, sipping glasses of rosé and
pastis, en plein air. Yet this enchanting scene is
within walking distance of the Vieux Port or
Old Port in the centre of Marseille. Consider
me charmed. Mais,biensûr!C’estProvencesur
la mer. C’est France.
My dinner here, at Chez Fonfon, a long-
standing restaurant in Vallon des Auffes,
matches the scene. C’estparfait. Colourful
cigales or cicadas adorn the wall alongside
old photographs of local ﬁshermen and past
guests and a quote by French writer Alfred
Capus, “La bouillabaisse,c’estdupoissonavec
dusoleil.” Indeed. The word “bouillabaisse” is
itself a mash-up of “boil” and “simmer,” and
the classic French stew is a hearty mix of
saffron, parsley, garlic, olive oil, tomatoes and
Mediterranean ﬁsh that’s served with pota-
toes, croutons, aioli and rouille mayonnaise.
But on this balmy summer night I have
rounds of bread
and rouille. And,
oh, there’s nothing
like French bread…
Of course, on the coast
(and steps from a still-working
ﬁshing village in the heart of Marseille), the
seafood doesn’t disappoint either—nor does
that blue yonder, the Med itself.
The next morning, charming Frenchman
(is there any other kind?) Yannick Long takes
me out on his boat—a traditional pointu style,
the pointy or notched ﬁsherman boat of the
Med. We sail right out of Vieux Port, the central
and ancient meeting place of Marseille, where
ships have docked for some 26 centuries—
since the Phoenicians came here in 600 BC.
The port is sandwiched between two rather
impressive forts, Fort Saint-Jean, dating back to
the 13th century, and Fort Saint-Nicolas, built
by Louis XIV in 1600. The Palais du Pharo, built
by Napolean III, also looms large on the hill
that separates the Vieux Port from the sea.
All the surrounding and somewhat
overwhelming history of this place is playfully
alleviated by a new installation at the far end
of the port. L’Ombrière was built to coincide
with Marseille’s turn as the European Capital
of Culture in 2013, and is a mirrored piece of
art-cum-pavilion by Norman Foster that’s
become a modern meeting place abuzz with
street musicians, tourists and fun-loving locals.
Inland from here is the old and appropriately
named neighbourhood of Le Panier (the
basket), where narrow, meandering streets like
Rue des Cartiers (named for Marseille’s famous
tarot card makers) lead to spice- and soap-
ﬁlled stores (with Marseille’s iconic square
blocks), food vendors and markets.
An even more stunning juxtaposition of
old and new is the MuCEM building, a lacy
or leafy box that’s connected to Fort Saint-
Jean by a vertigo-inducing bridge over the
turquoise water. Designed by Rudy Ricciotti
and Roland Carta, the perfect square is a
“vertical casbah” enveloped by the foliage-
like brise-soleil or Mashrabiya. The MuCEM
(Museum of European and Mediterranean
IF YOU GO
For more on Marseille:
the Mediterranean coast is inland
Provence, where lavender fields bloom
and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence beckons.
Regions like the Luberon offer wineries,
bike tours and a factory and museum visit
of iconic soap and skincare purveyor
L’Occitane en Provence. It’s fields,
vines, Alps + Med—all in the south of
France. tourismpaca.com +
t r a v e l t h e w o r l d
Vallon des Auffes.Along Le Corniche.
t r a v e l t h e w o r l d
Classic Marseille fare, sardines,
and the neighbourhood of
Le Panier (right).
Marseillais selling his wares.
L’Ombrière. Marseillais Yannick Long.Chez Fonfon.
Marseille soap and
the MuCEM (right).
20 JUST FOR CANADIAN DENTISTS July/August 2015
t r a v e l t h e w o r l d
la vie dans la ville [à Paris]
Civilizations) also opened in 2013, along with
the spectacularly cantilevered-over-the-water
Villa Méditerranée and the Musée Regards de
But back on the water, Yannick guides his
pointu between the old Palais du Pharo and
the new MuCEM and out into the blue. Soon,
he’s pointing out yet another architectural
marvel, the Château d’If of TheCount ofMonte
Cristo fame, rising out of the water on one of
the Îles du Frioul. He cuts the engine in the iso-
lated cove of another island in this archipelago,
lets down his hair, takes off his shirt and
dives in…as the Marsaillais do on a hot and
sunny day on the Med. I follow the charmant
Frenchman’s lead (biensûr!).
Swimming in the water, I think of a line I
once read that’s stuck with me: the blue I’m in
is blue the way water is wet. It’s all-encompass-
ing. There’s no other way to describe such an
innate, primal blue. I ﬂoat effortlessly—there’s
no work involved in keeping buoyant in this
saline paradise—and my Frenchman (as I’ve
come to think of Yannick) points out forma-
tions in the rock. Stubby, column-like holds
carved out of the cliffs are ancient bollards and
remnants of Marseille’s marine history. In his
singsong French (the Marseillais have a lovely
lilt to their already lovely French accents), he
tells how at one time, centuries ago, there
were so many ships anchored in these waters
that one could walk all the way back to the
Vieux Port from here simply by walking from
boat to boat. Formidable.
Floating and gazing upon the bollards
and arid beauty of the îles des Frioules, I think
of Edmond Dantès on the Château d’If and
how, yes, although that rocky atoll and isolated
ediﬁce was once a prison, I couldn’t think of a
better place to be held captive.
+Fly to France direct—from coast to coast.
In addition to weekly flights to CDG from YYZ
and YUL, Air France has added YVR to the mix.
YVR TO CDG This summer, Air France
offers five flights a week, and will continue
year-round with four and then three per
week. STOPOVER IN MRS All fares
allow a free stopover in Paris, so you can visit
Paris and Marseille—or one of the other 38
French cities Air France connects to.
ADD ANOTHER If you want to add
another French city to the mix so you can
experience even more of Provence via Nice,
for instance, the additional fare is minimal—
about $25 CDN. CODESHARE Not in YYZ,
YUL or YVR? Air France has codeshare flights
with WestJet that make flying from anywhere
in Canada trèsfacile. airfrance.ca
3 NEW WAYS TO EXPLORE THE CITY OF LIGHT
You’re doing a stopover in Paris because, c’est Paris, and even
though you’ve been here before you can’t not visit again, whether it’s
for three weeks, three days or a mere 36 hours. Here’s what we’d do
if we had time for just three adventures in one of our favourite cities.
1 GALERIES LAFAYETTE Head to the top floor of the iconic
department store, serving up haute couture in its
flagship building since 1912. On your way to the
seventh floor of the Lafayette Coupoler,
browse designer brands, catch glimpses
of the glass dome and stop at the
Galerie des Galeries for the Idées
Multiples exhibit. Cerebral and chic.
Then, on the rooftop terrace, gaze
at the Opera Garnier and Eiffel
Tower. It may be the best gratis
view over the rooftops of Paris.
2 LE VRAI PARIS Paris’ 9th arrondissement
includes South Pigalle or SoPi, the undiscovered
neighbourhood most Parisians probably want to
keep that way (it’s also been cheekily referred to as
BoBo for “bourgeois bohemian”). Tucked in the centre of Paris, just
south of Montmartre’s busy streets, are local hipster hangouts—cafés,
bistros, fromageries, gastrothèques and hidden courtyards. To get
the insider scoop on what’s been called the new Marais, take a tour
and have a beer with Guillaume Le Roux (yet another charming
Frenchman; far left), who lives in SoPi and whose blog “716” or “sept,
un, six,” which sounds like “c’est ainsi,” is a phonetic play on the
French saying, “that’s the way it is.” levraiparis.com
3 ParIS autHentIC tour the original Marais in a classic Citroën
2CV (“deux chevaux” or two horsepower) convertible with another
vrai Parisian, like Eric Falce (near left), who drives while he regales you
with anecdotes. He dubs this experience Paris insolite or the unusual,
non-touristy side of Paris. And super fun. en.parisauthentic.com
MORE For more on Paris go to en.parisinfo.com. — B.Sligl
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