Immersed in the world of Marcel Pagnol

A Thursday in the village of " La Treille"

Going to visit la Treille gives you the feeling of leaving Marseille. However, on that Thursday morning, I only took a RTM public bus from la Timone in order to reach Marcel Pagnol’s village full of memories. Because, today, I have decided to learn more about this neighbourhood and about this author whose name is undeniably associated with Marseille.

Published on 16 October 2020

The appointment was scheduled at the ending of the 12S bus. Brigitte, our guide, is already waiting for us signalling her presence handling a small Tourist Office coloured panel. Great, I’m at the right place! Chattering and Waiting for all participants to arrive, the little company then sets off on the path of young Marcel Pagnol’s memories and his filming locations.

During the walking tour, surprising neighbourhoods far from the sprawling city strike my vision. La Treille village is indeed countryside in the metropolis. Along the way, a stop at the Marseille Canal is a testimony of how important the arrival of water has been for this area. With the diversion of the Durance river both irrigation and current water enabled Marseille to develop as a modern city in the mid 19th century.

Thankfully, I did well to wear flat and comfortable shoes, as advised when booking the tour. As a fact, Brigitte takes us on a route all uphill!

The visit first starts with a long lineage. Entering the cemetery one can discover Marcel Pagnol’s beautifully flowered and decorated tomb. As leaving, I can also admire the whole scenery, a panoramic view embracing the Saint Cyr mountain and the neighbouring Barasse, once the final stop for traffic cars. From there young Marcel Pagnol and his family used to set out on foot and climb up to La Treille. I’m walking in his footsteps.

Despite all malls and commercial activities spreading around, La Treille has remained a quiet sheltered, and hidden place. Like a dead end, one has to come to it.

Marcel Pagnol's friends

We now arrive in the heart of the village. The front church bears the commemorative plaque of David Magnan, nicknamed “Little brother of the hills” by  Marcel Pagnol. He was also known as ” Lili des Bellons” in ” La gloire de mon père” novel.

I am completely immersed in the poetry of the place and the world of Marcel Pagnol. Manon’s famous fountain in the square, the Cigalon restaurant,  ruins of the circle and its tree-lined square, the villa Pascaline where M. Pagnol wrote… Brigitte ingeniously alternates between storytelling and reading extracts of his work to immerse us in the past. This is a journey for memories. Of course, I had images of Pagnol’s movies in mind but the magic of this guided tour allows me to see them and live them as for real.

The hike ends at the top of a long and steep ascent facing little Marcel’s holiday home, « la Bastide Neuve ». This is the « gate of desert », foothill of the Garlaban.
Two options now: the first one, continue the walk but I wish I  had more water to quench my thirst and a snack to settle down and picnic somewhere in the garrigue! Soaking up a little more of that place under an olive tree or a pine tree will be for another time.

Another option is to go back down to the heat of La Treille to sit under the large plane trees shadowing the terrace of « Le cigalon restaurant ». There I can taste headless arks (beef paupiettes) and enjoy the experience of the authentic Marseille neighbourhood.

“A powerful perfume rose like a cloud and wrapped me. An unknown odour with a dark and strong smell blossomed in my head and penetrated all the way to my heart. It was thyme, which grows in the gravel of the garrigues”.

La Gloire de mon père, Marcel Pagnol