Discover Marseille - Photograph the Calanques, Port, Pannier and Pagnol

I am not in Marseille on a photography tour or on a magazine or corporate assignment.  I am simply spending a weekend visiting friends who are not photographers or even keen on photography! I am about to re-discover it’s “calanques”, (creeks in English) and the village within the city of La Treille. 

Marseille is only 31/2 hours from Paris on the TGV.  It has a lot to offer the tourist and the keen photographer.   Apart from the glorious, shimmering extremely picturesque ‘Vieux Port’ and the pretty winding streets of the old ‘Pannier’ neighbourhood high above it, Marseille offers a diversity that is irresistible.

 Les Docks, Marseille

Les Docks, Marseille

Saturday morning we take a walk around the Joliette, which are the old Marseille docks which have been transformed into very swish shops, cafés and restaurants There are several covered courtyards with different themes, offering interesting architectural photography particularly if you are not rushed along.  Nearby, new buildings have popped up since my last visit so this is particularly interesting for those interested inarchitectural photography.

It’s a gorgeous sunny day so we leave the docks, pile into the car and head out towards the famous calanques to the east of Marseille.  We park the car and begin walking up the steep path that leads to Morgiou, as the calanque comes into view I stop and take photographs, it’s a perfect bay with little boats in the harbour, a picture postcard. It’s getting hot but we continue upwards which affords us a view of Sormiou.  There are great landscapes to take here.  We scramble down and decide to take a swim, it’s too inviting!

I snap a few more pictures of the boats, high in colour against the deep blue of the ocean and decide that perhaps I might have to stretch to the Fuji telephoto lens.  Surely it can’t be as heavy as the canon equivalent, can it?  I bring a lot of equipment on commercial photography shoots but these days there are marvellous lighter alternatives, such as smartphones with clip on

Back to the car park and our next stop is Gouddes.  From there we walk up a rocky pathtowards the Baie des Singes. More great landscapes with jagged rocks, a deep blue ocean and yachts, kayaks and snorkelers offering a splash of bright colour.  The bay itself is tiny, a strip of sand with crystal clear water.  It is the end of the afternoon and we watch dinghies full of divers alighting at the landing strip. The traffic on the way back is fierce so Claire decides that tomorrow she will show us another face of Marseille.

 Village of La Treille, Marseille home of writer Marcel Pagnol

Village of La Treille, Marseille home of writer Marcel Pagnol

It’s Sunday morning, we’re back in the car and as time passes we imagine we have left Marseille but are assured that we are still there.  As we climb up and turn a corner a typical ‘provençal’  view comes into focus. We have arrived in La Treille, a quartier of Marseille made famous by Marcel Pagnol, the French author who wrote, amongst many others Manon des Sources and Jean de Florette, both made internationally famous by their film adaptations.

We park the car and walk up the steep hill, and engraved on the first wall is a short text of Pagnol’s with his photo.  The pretty church is right opposite our destination, a restaurant with a terrace shaded by a magnificent plane tree overlooking the valley below.  I feel as though we are in a tiny provençal village in the middle of nowhere, it is hard to believe that this is still Marseille.  I snap a couple of pictures of our pretty plates of food under the dappled sunlight.  Several glasses of rosé later and we explore the few streets before returning to the bustle of the city.

I have less than 2 hours before I need to leave, and Claire asks me if I would like to go anywhere to takes some photos.  “You’ve been very good” she says, “but I can see you looking at your camera all the time!”.  The old port and the stunning museum are chock-a-block with people, making photography an almost impossibility so we head towards the Pannier which I have photographed a zillion times already but it never disappoints.

I would love to go to the northern districts and photograph the immigrant areas but it is not a wise idea without a contact.  There are plenty of opportunities for street photography in other safer districts.  Marseille will never disappoint a keen photographer and delight a tourist.