Marseilles is France's second largest city, home to about a million people. It is at once the oldest city in France, being founded by Greek sailors about 600 BC, and the most mysterious. It has had a long tradition of being home to the Corsican Mafia and various criminal outfits. Yet, it has a certain charm which appeals to those who are not easily put off. Notre Dame de la Garde is the Church that sits upon the highest hill in the city, and can be seen by seafarers for miles. It is not large inside, but impressive and is a special favorite for sailors.

Marseilles has a fine and large harbor, which undoubtedly explained its early founding. In the harbor is Isle d'If, a small island on which sits a castle. Excavations show that the island was inhabited at a very early date, and foundations of a fortress date from the Greek period when the city was known as Masilia.

We spent the day we had travelling outside Marseilles to Provence. Our first stop was at Aix en Provence, well known as the "City of Arts." It is a bustling community, home to several universities and arts schools. The Great Fountain sits at the lower end of Cours Mirabeau, a wonderful tree-lined avenue with sidewalk cafes and small shops on either side. Aix was founded in 122 BC.

At the opposite end of the Cours Mirabeau is a market. Fortunately for us, we arrived on market day, when the streets were crammed with individual stalls selling all sorts of goods. Diane took the opportunity to buy some Provencal table cloths and other items for the folks back home.


Next we came to the village of Les Baux de Provence. This little town, located in the Alpilles - a very rocky range of mountains in southern France - is striking. It is famous for its cliffs and rock outcrops. The word "baux" means "prominent cliff" in the celtic-ligurian language. The element bauxite was first discovered here, and the little town gave its name to this substance used in making aluminum.

The history of the area is very deep and not well understood. Ancient peoples lived here because of its natural defenses. The Romans occupied the area and many remains have been discovered. In the Middle Ages, from the 9th to the 15th century, a single family reigned over the region. They were known as the Baux family. Les Baux passed from independence to the County of Provence in 1426, and then became a part of France in 1481. The narrow rocky streets today provide a place of great interest to tourists.


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