"L'art de vivre"
But Marseille’s commercial harbor adjoins 14 separate ports that together constitute Europe’s largest boating complex.
These consist of large ports like the Pointe Rouge, the Frioul and the celebrated Vieux Port as well as smaller picturesque fishing villages, some virtually unknown to tourists – Madrague de Montredon, Sormiou, Morgiou, others well frequented, most notably Vallon des Auffes.
All these smaller ports share a history, a lifestyle, an architecture and an atmosphere ideally suited to seaside leisures of both the idel and idyllic kind. These traditions find their home in the small cabins known as cabanons.
The cabanon serves as a sort of country home where families congregate on Sundays and during vacation periods from spring through fall, when the warm Mediterranean climate lets them make the most of the surrounding seascape.
As a refuge characterized by conviviality, the cabanon is widely regarded as an easygoing place to relax and to amuse oneself with no strict codes of behaviour. Between fellow « cabanoniers » there prevails a sense of community by which all are made to feel at home. Neighbors meet to drink aperitifs, play boules (the local bowling game) or cards and share tales of their cabanons...
The cabanon has a history
The cabanon is an integral part of Marseille’s heritage. It’s a tradition that began and grew during the 19th Century, a period of great growth and prosperity for the city.
Although Provençal dictionaries characterize the word cabanon as the diminutive of « cabane » (cabin), its definition can not fairly be reduced to that of a shelter, a storage shed, a fishing shanty, a hunting cabin or even a country lodge.
More than all that, the cabanon stands as the main manifestation of a vacation pastime shared by all social classes.
Having sprouted as irregulary as weeds either in the hills and, most notably, the rocky inlets known as calanques, the cabanon is generally recognized as a modest, street-level structure that, according to the refrain of a famous old song about Marseille written between the wars, is about as big as an handkerchief.
Working-class families congregate there on Sundays and during summer months.
It’s an environment where busybodies slow down and unwind. It’s secluded.
It fosters the art of carefree living, of simplicity, of good humor and love of the nature.
Though the number of these cabanons has diminished, the size of their legend and, with it, the memory of a lifestyle tied irrevocably to Marseille, endures
Even people of greater affluence take special pride in « having » (which is usually to taken to mean « renting ») a cabanon, or at the very least, spending a Sunday at the cabanon of a friend.
To know more, Marseille invites you on the road of its cabanons to discover the 1001 hidden nooks of its coastline.