FERRYING IN '15 21st June
Sunday 21st June 2015
We are due to arrive in Marseille at 8 a.m. on board JEAN NICOLI so there was ample time to start the day with the ship's enjoyable Buffet Breakfast Menu as we approached the port. On our way into our berth we passed two cruise ships: COSTA DIADEMA and RIVIERA, which had already arrived at their berths.
Once off the ship we had to take the ferry shuttle bus (free of course) to the terminal building to decide our plans for the day. We decided to be proper tourists so strolled along the dual-carriageway boulevard on the sea-side to enjoy looking at the pictures on the fencing. The local authorities have been building things here for years, but it now seems that they may have nearly accomplished what they planned. The pictures showed things in 1995 (in black and white) and now in 2015 (in colour) and they were quite a contrast. It was amazing to look around and see no building sites or traffic chaos because of diversions - certainly down here at the port area - but of course it was different just a mile behind us, in the city.
Decisions made, we took a number 60 local bus to the church of Notre Dame de la Garde, up on the hill above the city. The golden statue was eye-catching in the bright sunlight and we enjoyed looking around the ramparts and then inside the church. Outside the views were panoramic, looking towards the ferry port and cruise ship terminal, or towards the Isles du Frioul just outside the port.
Another air-conditioned number 60 local bus took us back down to the city and the Vieux Porte where we wanted to catch a pleasure craft to take us out to the Chateau d'If.
We were soon on our way out to the island, on board AIGLON 3, which is where the novel 'The Count of Monte Cristo' was set by French author Alexandre Dumas, and where many people were jailed in previous centuries. My friends enjoyed ice-creams in the cafe grounds whilst I enjoyed little shortbread-based sables aux dattes with vanilla ice-cream, specially created by the proprietor. The tour of the Chateau was interesting despite the heat and the many steps to climb but the views from the ramparts were worth it. I had happy memories of my first visit here when we saw a dinosaur's descendant - well, it was a tiny lizard, but my mind could imagine its ancestors...
We took an afternoon ferry back to the Vieux Porte, marvelling at a few people swimming in the entrance waters but also envying them I suppose.
A nearby bar supplied Earl Grey tea or cool drinks, and then we were ready to take another local bus number 82 along the boulevard towards the ferry terminals. By this time the Mistral had died down so the sun and tiny breeze were very pleasant.
Tonight we are due to sail on the ro-ro passenger ship PASCAL PAOLI so we were keen to check in and get on board. She was built in 2003 in France, at 35,760 gross tons, so was much bigger than our previous ships. She sails regularly between Marseille and Bastia in Corsica and this is our itinerary. Instead of cabin keys, we had individual cabin cards with a 4 digit code printed on them, and these codes had to be used on the small keypad beside each cabin door handle to gain entry. One surprise in the bathroom was a hairdryer, which is a rarity on the older ferries.
We sailed at 7 p.m. in hot sunshine from Marseille,
Again we passed the Chateau d'If, and also that amazing building on a neighbouring island that looks just like the bow of a ship. What a fun design. The Bar was open and we joined other passengers enjoying a pre-dinner drink, whilst we listened to a two-piece band playing some music.
The stern Restaurant was a lovely location for dinner, despite the stern ramp being rather noticeably in the view, and the service was rather casual but the food and wine were good value for money. We spent time on deck afterwards enjoying the last views of the mountains as the sun gradually went down. On our port side we could see two of the Sardinia-Corsica Ferries (MEGA SMERALDA and MEGA EXPRESS FOUR) heading into or from the port of Toulon.
MEGA SMERALDA will be following us all the way down to Bastia, although at a slightly slower speed, which is fortunate as she is our next sailing tomorrow morning from Bastia. Our arrival time tomorrow on board PASCAL PAOLI was originally to be 8 a.m. which made the connection with MEGA SMERALDA extremely tight, but there was an on board announcement that the arrival time in Bastia would be 7 a.m. That is a great relief! The sea was calm and the light beautiful as we watched sunset from the upper decks.
Ships seen: Riviera, Zenith (Bleu de France) of 1992, Costa Diadema, El Djazair II, Methania, Mediterranee, Pascal Paoli, Corse, Kalliste, Jean Nicoli, Girolata, Aiglon 3 - the little cruise boat for the Chateau d'If, Mega Smeralda, Mega Express Four.
To be continued...