Tue May 8 – Notre Dame de la Garde
Disembarked about 0815 after grabbing a quick breakfast at the Park Café on our deck, and caught up with our tour guide, Remy and 2 other couples. Drove through Marseilles, the oldest city in France and founded in 600BC, to the oldest Catholic church in town, which was designed like a fortress. On either side of the main alter were shrines with dozens of martyr relics displayed with the names of the saints they belonged to, including an entire front skull. Got back in the van and drove along the water to an arch, a memorial to those who came to France to help it fight the Germans in the two world wars. Across the street we found we were overlooking a picturesque, little fishing village harbor up against the limestone walls crammed with boats and many-colored houses. Drove up to the Notre Dame de la Garde, the cathedral perched at the top of the highest point in the city. A Roman fort at one time, the cathedral overlooked the entire harbor and islands, including the Count of Monte Cristo prison island below. During the world wars, the Germans occupied it and fought the French Resistance there. Bullet holes and shrapnel damage can be seen all over the façade and walls. Spectacular church with paintings of WWI fighters doing battle, WWII bombers dropping bombs, crashed airplanes, and ships at war from all eras.
Back in the van, we drove up and over the mountain range northeast of the city to Cassis, and up to the top of the highest cliffs in Europe. The view down on Cassis and the bay it sits on was awesome, and the wildflowers were in full bloom. Like Broken Hills trail, except 10 times higher up with a better view. We then drove down to Cassis, which is a fishing and wine & olive oil making village, for lunch and free time to wonder about. Then drove back to the ship. Dinner with Tom & Linda in the Deck 4 dining room with out favorite waiter, Ivan from Mexico, and assistant, Yulin from China. She is just too cute and funny not to love – a cross between Lucy and Alison, maybe. Following that, we took in the Aqua Center show featuring high diving, slack rope artists, aerials, and choreography, all in, on or above the water. We ended up in the Schooner Lounge, a piano bar 2 decks below, listening to pretty good singer before calling it a day.