Postcard from... Marseille


Click to follow
The Independent Online

It was once the Champs Elysées of Marseille, a majestic tree-lined avenue heading east from the Vieux-Port, immortalised in such box office hits as French Connection II.

But the glory days of La Canebière are gone. Yesterday the Marseilles newspaper La Provence consigned the avenue to the tourism dustbin in an article which concluded “there is nothing attractive about La Canebière”. It said that local hotels were advising customers to stay away.

Disappointed tourists are unprepared for the shabby and unsalubrious state of La Canebière, its upper reaches inhabited by the homeless, drug addicts and alcoholics, the air of its litter-strewn pavements filled with the stench of urine and beer. The tram now rumbles noisily down the avenue where construction work churns out noise and dust.

A British tourist from Brighton who asked directions for La Canebière was astonished when he was told he was standing on it. “You’re joking,” he said. Another, from  Poland, told the paper it was the first time he’d visited Marseille “and I’d heard about this famous Canebière. It’s a rip off!”

Named from the Latin word for cannabis, La Canebière was originally part of the hemp fields around the old port.