Marseille has newest park in France, fabulous hotel, bouillabaisse

The Notre Dame de la Gard basilica, which guards the Marseille harbor, was the view from my room at the new Intercontinental. Hotel.

The newest national park in France is near Marseille, one of its most densely populated cities but is so remote that access to some areas is by hiking or by boat.. In fact the Calanques National Park was formed just last year, preserving not only unique flora and fauna but a cave occupied by humans in 27,000 B.C. My visit to the Calanques by boat was a highlight of my recent trip to France, even though some of my fellow passengers became quite  seasick in reaching the rugged limestone outcroppings along the Mediterranean coast by boat.

Marseille is just three hours from Paris aboard the high speed TGV train, with tickets arranged by Rail Europe, one of the best ways to plan a trip across this wonderful country.

This fresh sardine pizza with its crunchy shredded potato crust was just one of the delicious meals I enjoyed in France.

I was privileged to be able to stay at the brand new InterContinental  Marseille- Hotel Dieu opened just this past summer after being built the past 8 years on the skeleton of an old hospital built in 1188.  Because workmen kept  turning up artifacts from even earlier times, its construction took many years longer than had at first been anticipated. Founded 26 centuries ago at a critical transportation point on the Mediterranean, Marseille is by far the oldest city in all of France. So finding artifacts from the past is by no means unusual.

If you missed the Nov. 9 Travel section you can reach links to all the stories through this blog.

I also blogged about various aspects of the trip and right now am writing stories for next month’s travel section, which will include Aix-en-Provence and Arles.

Learn why the mistral winds in Marseille  are part of the reason it’s become a soap making capital over the centuries and come along with me to a place where you can make your own soap.

Join me in sampling bouillabaisse in Marseille at the edge of sea where the fish used to make it had been caught just a few hours before. Then check out the bull stew I ate in Arles, where bulls are not killed in the twice annual bullfights but live long lives before becoming meat for stew.

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