Marseille, a little rough round the edges but ebbing with charm – this cultural melting pot has long been the centre of controversy with its crumbling facades, hints of danger and throngs of people from every corner of the globe. Yet these factors also bring beauty, color and style to the sprawling city. Perched on the shimmering blue of the Mediterranean, this is far from your average romanticized cookie cutter seaside town; this is Marseille, a city with edge, attitude and a flaring artistic temperament. All these characteristics make it a world class spot for photography tourism, enabling the adventurous to get off the beaten track and into a hidden side of France.
Its not as bad as you think
The streets of Marseille have been touted as being ravaged with crime, drugs and poverty and whilst you can catch glimpses of desperation on the fringes, the city is a thriving hub of culture, class and abundant energy. For keen photographers there is a world to capture and you will never fall short of inspiration upon the shore. From shooting hordes of locals wading into the water to old men drinking pastis on the sidewalk cafes, scores of bright walls adorned in graffiti and hidden stairwells, the city is overflowing with remarkable sights, the scent of spiced meats and a hodge podge of roof tops wrapped in vines.
Its a cultural capital
The once underdog of the French shoreline is rapidly undergoing an exciting transformation and finally the clash of cultures is to be celebrated rather than swept under the carpet. The old port is pulling out the stops and the result is dazzling with its chic and trendy bars, yachts sitting prettily in the harbour and the abandoned docks of La Joliette have been renewed and regenerated to be the heart of this cultural revival with the gorgeous latticed glass building of the Museum of European Civilizations and of the Mediterranean (MuCEM), Michelin inspired restaurants and sublime new art exhibitions. Culture vultures will find the city of Marseille a real treat and your lens will never stop for a second.
It retains its own unique character
Despite the facelift and the sweep of redesigning the crumbling fancy facades, Marseille hasnt lost touch with its roots. The city remains true to its old heart particularly in the charming neighborhood of Vieux Panier. The labyrinth like streets take you through a maze of Mediterranean pastel homes with peeling paint on the shutters, you can hear life rumbling behind the rows of tall windows and take lazy lunches beneath the bougainvillea filled courtyards hidden down a narrow alley. The markets are far from your Parisian artisan fanfare, offering instead crammed stalls overwhelming in African color and spice reminding you every second that this is Marseille.
Location, location, location
Marseille is a divine destination in its own right, particularity for adventurous photographers seeking to capture the rawness of the world, the humanity in life and the beauty of multicultural living. Yet few other destinations can boast such an incredible location as Marseille. Being only a stones throw away from the balmy beauty of the Côte dAzur, the glitz and glamour of the French Riviera makes for an incredible contrast to the gritty city. Slightly to the north you will find the sweet scented lavender fields of Provence, the fairy tale castles of Avignon and the seaside charm of Cassis with its glistening oyster dishes, peaceful coves and white cliffs set against the sparkling sea is a short drive away.
When you infuse several stunning cultures on one shoreline you are bound to get an array of flavors that take dining to the next level. Photographers need fuelling before they explore and Marseilles foodie scene is simply bliss. Bouillabaisse is the star of the show with its rich briny flavorings, freshest fish, gorgeous saffron coloring and thick wafting scent. For something lighter you can eat your heart out when it comes to truly authentic North African food like couscous topped with pearly chickpeas, summer vegetables and a succulent spiced broth. From dressy brasseries with Michelin chefs to street food ladled out in the back alley, every morsel of Marseille is sure to linger in your memory.
Jerroid Marks is Founder of Band of Light.
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