The late teens never look as good on anyone as they do on the French. There’s a certain Gallic "I don’t know what" about that last stretch of youth which fosters a little relaxed recklessness. Marseille, the port city on France’s Southern coast, might best embody those teenage years. It’s there that we recently found ourselves wasting our days on rocky cliffed beaches, every cigarette smoked near us having a whiff of hash, every hour moving slower than the last as fishermen shut down their market stalls, as strains of French hip hop played in the distance.
While the city’s Greek and Roman history can’t be escaped, even if interspersed with buildings by Corbusier and Zaha Hadid, we couldn’t help but notice the shadows cast across the city by two of our more contemporary favorites, Zinedine Zidane, who was born there, and Rimbaud, who died there. Between the two of them, it’s as if the city has been imbued by both grace and brutality. And with that in mind, the beauty of Marseille begins to emerge more fully. You’ll see it yourself in slouchy glares, daring you to take a ride on the back of a motorbike. You’ll notice it in wine-stained pouts that beg to be French kissed. If Paris is a princess, than Marseille is a punk, rough around the edges, endlessly beautiful, and forever young.