One of the many benefits of coming to a place for a second (or third or fourth) time is that you have the chance to see and do things you weren’t able to the first time around. As well as discovering more of D’s hometown, I also got to spend a ridiculous amount of time near perfectly blue water- sorry not sorry for inundating you all with beach saturated photos. But seriously, can you blame me?!
There’s a small string of islands off the coast of Marseille– you can see them from above here– called the Frioul archipelago, and you can take a ferry there from the Vieux Port of Marseille. The boat stops first at Chateau d’If, which is most famous as the site of the prison where Edmond Dantes was held in Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. D didn’t seem super keen on going to the castle, however, and I really wanted to go to the beach, so we continued on to the Frioul port, disembarked there, and headed in the direction of the Île de Ratonneau.
There are multiple islands in the archipelago (four to be exact) and the two largest, Ratonneau and Île Pomègues, are connected by a man-made embankment that creates the port. The ferry drops you off on Ratonneau and the most easily accessible attractions are on this island, but if you prefer a more rugged landscape, you can check out the calanques on Pomègues or the organic sea bass farm, the first of its kind in the world.
TIP: The ferry company that runs to the islands is called the Frioul-If Express and you can buy tickets either online ahead of time (and skip the queue) or just get them at the ticket office by where the ferry docks. You can buy tickets for the Frioul islands, the Chateau d’If, or both- regular prices are 10,80€ for one or the other and 16,20€ for both. Click here for the ferry schedule in English, and note that there are fewer stops at the chateau than to the big islands.
After a short trek, we found ourselves standing on a road overlooking a blue lagoon beach- the Calanque de Saint-Estève– with a view of Marseille and the Chateau d’If to our right. It was pure paradise.
TIP: There is a little train-like shuttle that runs between the port and the hôpital Caroline during the months of July and August, but if you want the really amazing views, the walk is less than 45 minutes (this is an estimate, I stopped so many times along the way to take pictures that it took way longer than it should have) and only uphill part of the way. I did it in flip-flops with a beach bag and a camera and had no trouble!
L’hôpital Caroline is located on top of the hill just past the Calanque de Saint-Estève and is a 19th-century hospital primarily constructed for the quarantine of sailors with yellow fever, to keep the disease out of the city.
A couple hours and some rather unsuccessful tanning time later, we decided to hike up to the ruins of the Fort de Ratonneau on the port side of the island. It was nowhere near as difficult as the hike in the calanques of a few days before, thank goodness, and the view was completely worth it. Not only that, but the fort was used by the Nazis in German-occupied France during World War II, and is in such disrepair because it was heavily bombed in the liberation. The whole thing was seriously cool.
Of course, anyone who knows me knows that I just loved having the opportunity to go on a boat. All thanks to my sweetie for the photos of me and for taking me on this adventure 🙂
À bientôt !