A morning session at the

Discovery of the village of 'l'Estaque'

When you discover Marseille for the very first time, you often focus your visit on the highlights of the city centre. However, outside the city centre, only a few minutes away, some locations not as famous, are really worth it! L’Estaque is a neighbourhood often unknown to the people of Marseille, themselves. It is not only a fishermen village with a few stands selling chichis and panisses. This little flowery village is full of secrets!

Published on 15 October 2020

My visit to l’Estaque

Saturday morning, 10 am, I’m arriving at l’Estaque. Although born in Marseille, I have never come here and I’m excited to discover the place. This neighbourhood of Marseille has always been a further suburb to me, where we can try the famous « chichis » (provençal churros) and panisses (savoury chickpea fritters).

But the guided tour of this morning has changed my mind. 

Our guide, Jean-Marie, also nicknamed « le Tchatcheur » (the chattering man) from l’Estaque introduces himself like an actor rather than a proper tour guide. We start our walk from the local Tourist Office where Jean-Marie takes time to share the history of the village by reading poetry. Then a little path leads us gently upwards to the Heights.

And its flowery lanes

We stroll between magnificient flowerbeds lighting up the streets and the atmosphere (the sun is not out today, quite an unusual day in Marseille !).  This Marseillais by adoption comments on the façades the street names and the link between time and places. This guided tour turns into a play where all participants are becoming actors! The anecdotes are numerous, funny, and sometimes surprising (Have you seen the hidden lion in l’Estaque ?).

Up on the esplanade facing the church, the view from there is breathtaking! To the East, we can see the ‘Côte Bleue’ (Blue Coast) starting from the West of Marseille and spreading out away to Martigues with a succession of beautiful coves and sandy beaches. To the West, the entrance of Marseille with famous buildings such as ‘Notre Dame de la Garde’ basilica and CMA-CGM tower remind us we are still in town.

The more walking, the more diversity, and richness to discover in the village, due to an unconventional history. I am so glad to learn more of it in such a playful and poetic way. However, an idea has been running in my mind since I have arrived at this place: « I won’t be leaving without a few panisses for my aperitive ! ». At the end of my visit, I walk straight to one of the cooking carts to get them. Luckily, the sun is shining, what else would you ask for ?

When the air is clear, you can see the grey jetty of ‘la Joliette’ from ‘l’Estaque’, with the slender masts of the ships in the port. Then, behind it, building facades appear among pockets of trees. It is the chapel of ‘Notre-Dame de la Garde’ standing tall, whitening the sky.

Emile Zola
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