Marseille is the third biggest city in France, but it is more famous for having the biggest port in the country. Running a marathon here gave me the opportunity to see this Provencal city up close and personal.
Our Ryanair flight arrived at the MP2 terminal of the Aeroport Marseille Provence before 9:00 AM. We were surprised to find that Marseille has immigration control and we had to show our passports. No other French city we have visited in the past had this checkpoint. Is this is part of a new security check or border control system?
We walked to Halls 3 and 4 to board the airport shuttle for the main train station Saint Charles. The shuttle leaves every 15 or 20 minutes and takes 25 minutes to reach the city center. From Saint Charles, we took the metro line 1 in the direction of La Fourragere. After two stops, we were at Vieux Port. We paid 18,20 euros in total to include airport shuttle and metro tickets.
We made a beeline for the Hotel de Ville or the city hall to show my medical certificate and claim my bib for the Run in Marseille Marathon 2016. All French marathons require a copy of a current medical certificate that specifically states the athlete has no contraindications for participating in running competitions.
The marathon pavilion was in front of the city hall. It is also where the finish line is located. The goodie bag consisted of the race T-shirt, a bottle of water, two mini packs of Haribo gummies, a Deloitte Consulting sweat band, and a variety of discount coupons.
Vieux Port, or the Old Port of Marseille, is shaped like a sideways horseshoe. The Vieux Port metro is in the toe area and the Hotel de Ville in the upper quarter. After claiming my bib, we walked to the lower quarter area to get to our hotel Radisson Blu Hotel Marseille Vieux Port.
We were upgraded to a business suite facing the port. The suite was not ready for us yet so we decided to get something for breakfast. We ate at the Italian restaurant Delarte by the metro exit.
We explored a little bit of downtown Marseille for the afternoon. Vieux Port is still an active fishing port and the fishermen were selling the fresh catch of the day.
My favorite makeup store Sephora called my name as we were walking around the shopping area and I couldn’t resist playing with her new stuff. Richard parked himself in the makeover seat while I sampled and tested face products. We walked away with just a small makeup purchase.
Richard’s brother-in-law owns a big boat in Ohio and we know he would love looking at the boats in Vieux Port. Richard checked out some of the nicer ones before he found a boat he thinks will be in his price range if he ever decides to buy one.
We stopped at the supermarket Monoprix to get bottled water and yogurt and went back to the hotel to unpack and relax a bit.
By early evening, we were ready for dinner. We looked at the menus of several restaurants before we settled on one with shabby chic interiors. We were in Marseille so of course we had to try the authentic Provencal cuisine! Richard ordered the traditional fish stew, fisherman’s bouillabaisse. They fry the fish first before they put this in the stew. I was carbing up for the race so I ordered the seafood pasta.
Richard likes salmon but is not much of a fish eater. The local bouillabaise is probably an acquired taste. We switched plates and polished off the meal with a bottle of the local Provencal wine.
The race was on Sunday morning. By 7:00 AM, the last of the runners had boarded the buses at Vieux Port and were transported to the start line 25 minutes away at Les Goude. They were giving away Zurich plastic raincoats for the cold weather and I was able to snag two! When we arrived at Les Goude, people were milling about or staying warm at the cafe cheekily named 2000 Lieues Sur la Biere. The cafe and the race organizers offered free continental breakfast for the runners: breads, jams, and coffee. Very nice and thoughtful indeed.
Less than a thousand runners toed the line at 8:00 AM. Much like the Nice-Cannes Maritimes des Alps Marathon, a big part of the route was beside the water, providing a calming and meditative scenery. There was plenty of volunteers at the refreshment stations. They offered water, bananas, oranges, dried apricots, and sugar. They did not offer sports drinks.
This marathon is only on its third edition and has lots of potential. It was very organized with the spectators very encouraging. The course has a part where we ran two loops. It was at this part where two men checked on me. They both started talking in French so I said to both: “Parlez vous anglais? Je parle francais un peu.” (Do you speak English? I speak French a little). The first guy ran with me for a while and asked me if I am okay and if I needed anything. I said no so after a while, he ran faster and caught up with another runner probably to ask the same thing. The second guy was on a bicycle and told me he saw me before and asked me if I was in my second loop. I said yes so he replied okay and wished me luck.
Both loops passed by our hotel so Richard took photos of me on my first loop from our hotel balcony and was waiting for me at the finish line when I called him to let him know I was close to the end.
The finisher’s medal is beautiful. It was designed like a stopwatch with accents of Provencal blue. The organizers gave the finishers lots of goodies too. Aside from my medal, they gave me two pairs of running socks, 3 bags of chips, water, a flavor concentrate for the water, and a big Haribo happy box. They probably would have given me more goodies if they saw I could still carry more but I couldn’t.
We stayed an extra night in Marseille. We walked back to the hotel to clean up and take a quick nap. We woke in time for the 7:00 PM Palm Sunday mass at the nearby Eglise Saint-Ferreol les Augustins. It was an hour and a half long concelebrated mass with four priests and the auxiliary bishop of Marseille. We stopped at Delarte again for a chicken pizza dinner before returning to the hotel.
We woke up late on Monday morning. After a leisurely breakfast, we stopped at the rooftop grill bar so Richard could take photos of the views. We started our journey back to Brussels in plenty of time.