#888. Meet Up in Marseilles

By Dallas Thomas | News

Aug 09

Marseilles has been a place of mystery and intrigue to me for years. I’m not sure if it came from movies depicting the Marseilles of old (and in some areas still this is the case). The images and atmosphere were always as scary, crime ridden and of a dangerous city. And yet beautiful, given its location on the crystal clear Mediterranean Sea.

The Meet Up was with the Hassie King of DS Pascal and his charming wife, Lise. It’s always a treat to be shown around a new city by a local.

As you can imagine street art and steps abound.

Also old buildings and the odd church can be found.

Open doors can be inviting to walk in and to look behind the scenes. We found, that particularly in Marseilles, it’s always handy to have someone around who can speak the local language when questioned “What are you doing in here?” The shots were worth while.

I must add the day was rather warm our walk lasted 4 hours. We were taken to places where visitors would not normally visit. Pascal advised not to come back here after dark in a few of those places.

The modern mixed with the old along the waterfront provided some great opportunities to put our artistic abilities to work.

Late afternoon light over the harbour was a delightful way to finish our brief excursion around some of the Marseilles waterfront.

Thanks Pascal for being our tour guide now over to you.


Pascal adds


One of the delights of a blogger’s life is to finally get to meet people you’ve exchanged a lot with via comments or email. Dallas and I had already been introduced by match-maker Philippe on gonad-threateningly cold morning in Paris. This time was warmer and Dallas was accompanied by Anne, whose charming character Philippe had copiously enthused about, and rightly so. It was a lovely afternoon.

Our two ladies chatting

Do you ever shoot with your spouse ? Mine has the photographic patience of a nat (Anne seems much more involved, just sayin’), so I’m always running after her in between shots 😉 It was great for her to have a companion to talk to and for me to not have cramps in my legs after 10 photos. Dallas and I had all the time in the world to chat shoot and bond.


It was a scorcher, that day. We walked by the formerly dangerous docks in a gentrified area on the verge of becoming luxurious, but where the appeal of ancient buildings still remains. For how long, no one can tell. The docks are an area where the old and the new seem to coexist in great harmony, so let’s hope developers don’t spoil the broth for all.


Our walk also took us to an older part of town called Le panier, which I wrote about in the past. The area is famous for a low budget TV soap that took France by storm a few years ago and (I think) is still going strong (Plus Belle la Vie). The area is full of old narrow streets designed to bring the cooler sea air up a hill in the days before aircon. It is also home to one of my favourite churches called La Major and an ancient hospital turned massive art gallery.


Not unlike a polar opposite of English cricket, Sun stopped play on several occasions. Refreshments became a vital necessity, but we managed to crawl back along the view port to our original meeting point under Norman Foster’s contribution to the city’s art/architecture scene.


I’d really love to organise a workshop in Marseilles. This barely scratches the surface of what is on display. The variety of scenery is huge and, while there are some areas I really wouldn’t recomment at night, most of the killings Marseilles is notorious for happen between rival drug gangs in non touristy areas. This may not sound very reassuring or tempting. But it a small price to pay for visiting a city that still feels edgy and has a lot of non-globalised content to offer. Anyone tempted?


So, thanks a lot Dallas and Anne for putting up with us 😉 I hope you can show us around Sidney Sydney one day 🙂


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  • Sean says:

    Ha ha buster – I hear you. We are both in violent agreement, on this point: “… Do you ever shoot with your spouse ? Mine has the photographic patience of a nat …”

    Now onto other things. In regards to this place you call ‘Sidney’ – where is it exactly? By contrast I know of a Sydney, in OZ 🙂

  • ferdhart says:

    Beautiful photos . . . Tempted!

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    What? What ever happened? What R U 2 on about?
    When I read this post I thought I’d leave it for a few hours, and give the rest of the mob a chance 4 1st bite at the cherry tart. Oh well.
    Rule 1, all wives are the same – rule 2, all husbands are just as bad. So I guess we’re all stuck with being skewered for burning up good shopping hours, mucking around taking photos. Or find some other pastime. Which would probably get us into just as much trouble.
    It’s why I never take a tripod with me, on trips to Europe – they’ve been banned. So I’m now working on how to shoot with a [much] higher ISO instead. I can envy those of you who can – but tripods are off limits, once the expedition involves the pair of us travelling together.
    Bad move, telling me what I can’t do – I’m bound to find some way to retaliate – “to find”? – hang about a bit, I already did!
    Revenge followed swiftly – cartoon photos of me started circulating among her friends and family – acting the innocent didn’t suit her, since there was nobody else present who COULD have taken those photos!
    But with age comes wisdom – you lose your hair, your teeth fall out, your legs fall to bits, but you get wisdom. Too late to be helpful, but it comes in handy when you’re under siege. And I’m there first, cuz I’m 11 years older than she is. So today I’m riding high – our anniversary, and I did everything right!
    Still no exemption for carrying a tripod, but I’ve been promised a trip to Prague, Český Krumlov and Budapest. That’ll do.
    Dallas/Pascal – Marseilles was not on my bucket list – not after sitting next to an OM fan, in a cafe near the Albi railway station, while I was wearing a PSG T-shirt. Not my brightest idea. A bit like wearing an Inter or Milan T, walking around Naples! I’ll happily go back to Prague, and on to CK & BP, instead. And rely on you guys to provide me with countless shots from your next 14,000 photos, which I presume will all be taken in Provence and around Marseilles?
    The final photo puzzles me – what are all those lines across it, and where have all the missing heads gone? 🙂
    I’m also puzzled by the dog shot – weren’t you suggesting we have to find ways to avoid shooting tourists? – and here’s a shot of a guy from East Harlem’s Graffiti Wall of Fame, who’s brought his dog to keep him company? Oh I see – it’s to tie it in with the domestic graffiti in the opening shots. 🙂

    • pascaljappy says:

      Well, football fans aren’t our fanciest product. Some are a laugh and lovely to be around, while others, well … In Albi, you were in neutral territory. It would have been asking for (major) trouble to wear that in Marseilles, a tripod wouldn’t have been enough to fight off the crowd. But in Albi, he shouldn’t have lost his marbles.

      Tripods. I used to dislike them a lot. Not so much now and I’m thinking of using them even when one isn’t strictly necessary. The lack of IBIS and, more importantly, of in-camera noise cancelling, makes it obvious how much information we are throwing away by not using them.

      For what it’s worth, you’re missing out by skipping Marseilles. Not everyone is a football infued dickhead in the area. And there is so much to see 😉

      Pete, I don’t often censor comments, but I altered a word in yours. You’ll probably guess which one. That could get you in me both in serious trouble, even though you were making a cultural reference, not insulting anyone. Sorry.

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        Feel free – can’t think what I said, that isn’t there, but I respect your judgment – I do rattle on at times, and I’m bound to slip up from time to time.
        The OM fan spent half an hour warning me off his turf – instead of admiring the sights of Albi. He left me with the impression Marseilles isn’t safe for tourists, which is pretty much the same message Italians have been giving me for half a century, about travel south of Rome. Probably not true in either case – you certainly seem to survive Marseilles!

        • pascaljappy says:

          Yeah, Marseilles is lovely and quiet in 95% of places. Just stay out of the other 5%. Just like Paris, London or any other major city, for that matter. It happens to be a port, and an entry point for drugs. Corsican and Russian gangs duel it out and people get killed. But, as far as I know, only one innocent passer by got killed. One is more than enough, but it’s statistically nothing in a city of millions. My daughter is currently traveling alone in Brazil and that worries me far more than knowing she’ in Marseilles. And when you think if the constant killings in the US, that’s scary too. At least, it’s easy for me to stay away from drug lords. Not so easy to avoid a moron with a legal gun.

          The thing is it’s being gentrified and I’m not sure any of the interesting vibe will still be around in 10 years time, when the promoters have had their way. So I’m encouraging people to visit now.

    • Kristian Wannebo says:

      Jean Pierre,
      when in Budapest, look for the small local restaurants, and don’t forget to try Halas gulyás or Székely Gulyás.
      And enjoy the pastry!

      The strange architecture of the Halászbástya (Fisherman’s Bastion) might interest your camera – even without tripod, 🙂 .

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        It certainly does – the camera is trembling with excitement, at the prospect, already!
        And gulyás arrived on the table here roughly the same time as garlic, decent appetising salads, pasta that wasn’t made in tins and resembled “food” instead, cappuccino and other delights from espresso machines. Growing up in the shadow of World War 2, we experienced a culinary revolution, here. I’d love to see it happen all over again – my wife’s satirical photos of me include multiple shots of an ape-man drooling in front of a fromagerie, or in front of a fruit & vegetable shop.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Just exactly what HAS happened to that last shot, in the square, with the tall stainless steel columns? The lines across it puzzle me.

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