Notre Dame de la Garde, Marseille
|View from the Gare St Charles down le Grand escalier with the basilica on the far horizon|
Atop the highest point in the city, overlooking the Vieux Port (Old port), stands Marseille's most striking landmark, the majestic neo-Byzantine basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde.
Arriving in the city by train, your first sight of the edifice is from the top of le Grand escalier, the broad steps that lead down from the station to the city spread at its feet. From this viewpoint the basilica is a mere silhouette on the horizon, and between you and it, hidden in a cove, is Marseille's Old Port and the site of the original Greek settlement from circa 600 BC.
Descend the steps with their striking sculptures and follow the Boulevard d'Athènes until it reaches a crossroads with La Canebière, the famous road which English sailors in the early 20th century dubbed 'the can o' beer', by virtue of the large number of bars that could be found there. La Canebière leads straight to the Vieux Port, and then onwards and upwards to the 'guardian and protector of the city', the name given to the basilica by the good folk of Marseille.
|Le Vieux Port with the basilica on the hill|
|Looking out from the basilica towards the Château|
d'If, the small island on the left
Not to be missed also is the enormous vaulted crypt measuring 30.15 metres x 13.60 metres (99 ft x 45 ft) and which houses a multi-coloured crucifix dating from the 16th Century, and a sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin with its golden mosaics.