During the past few months, I have very often visited Gemalto in Gémenos or La Ciotat. I didn’t like it much, since it kept me away from my family. However, although I am very happy right now in Sophia Antipolis and don’t want to move from there, I was born and raised in Marseille, and these evenings by myself gave me the opportunity to get back in touch with the nature around it. So, in this post, here are a few tips and tricks about visiting Gemalto in Gémenos. Another post about La Ciotat will follow.
The first thing to know is that it is much better to have a car when you visit Gemalto, because the sites are in industrial zones, and staying there will not be fun at all. I will not cover here the hotels in these areas, because they are way too depressing.
Staying in Gémenos
In Gémenos, the best place to stay by far is the Hostellerie de la Source. It is a very nice independent hotel, in a wonderful surrounding, and very nice tenants. The pool is very enjoyable, and the conteinental breakfast they offer is just perfect, at least for me. Some may be annoyed by the fact that they don’t have a restaurant, but I see this more as an opportunity to get out of the place and be active.
If you stay there, there is a restaurant at the entrance of the Gémenos village, Chez Marius. I really liked it, with good, simple meals, and a wide variety to choose from, including grilled meat and pizzas; also, they offer a 25€ 3-course menu that can be fully satisfactory.
Other restaurants that I liked in Gémenos include Le Clos, on the road from the village to Gemalto, on your left after the schools. A very nice place, with great pizzas. If you take the menu, and especially if you start with a pizza as first course, be ready to leave with a full stomach… I also tried the Bar Ideal (with a big sign reading “Goûtez la Provence”). I am not sure that everything they serve is good, but their aïoli was just great, with snails and mussels in addition to the traditional cod and vegetables. If you don’t fear garlic, their terrace is a nicce place to be in a spring or summer evening.
If you want to adventure outside of Gémenos, the Hotel du Parc offers a good restaurant (I haven’t tried the hotel, but the location sure looks nice), with reasonable prices.
Finally, if you are more into luxury, the Relais de la Magdeleine is a very nice restaurant, pricier than the others I have mentioned so far. I haven’t tried the hotel, but it should be nice.
Hiking around Gémenos
One of my favorite activities around Marseille is to go hiking in the small mountains surrounding the city. If you stay at La Source, you are quite likely to have a straight view into the Garlaban, which is famous (at least in France) for the Marcel Pagnol youth memories. Here is a hike up the Garlaban. Be careful, because it’s a bit long, and it took me over two hours of walking. Also, there are a lot of rocks on the trail, so good shoes are a good idea. I did this hike in the evenig of June 21st (the longest day), and ended at night, just in time to go to the Fête de la Musique in Gémenos. The view on top of the Garlaban is just wonderful, and definitely worth the hike.
On the opposite side of Gémenos, there is the Sainte-Baume mountain. It starts with the Vallée de Saint-Pons, which is a wondeful valley, with a small but powerful river in the middle. I did a hike through the valley and started climbing a bit from there. This is a wonderful hike, because itstarts with the lush valley, and then leaves it to climb for a while on the mountains, with the bushes of the maquis.
Another possibility is to drive up the mountain, to get better views. If you follow the road, you will get to the top, and then you can climb up to “The grotto” which is a catholic sacred site. I haven’t done this hike, but it is a really easy climb). Instead, I tried to climb the Pic de Bertagne, which gives its name to the street on which Gemalto is. This hike didn’t turn out well; halfway in the climb, I noticed fresh wild boar traces, heard a few boar noises, and decided that, alone, at dusk, it wasn’t worth it. I turned around, and climbed of the other side of the pass, to take my picnic sitting on the border of the mountain, which saved the hike. On the way back, I took a look at a path going down on the other side of the mountain, until night got me back. This basically show that, at the Col de l’Espigoulier, there are many options, and all of them are nice.
I hope that these little suggestions can help a few people have a good time around Gémenos, and enjoy the nature. This area is nice around all seasons, although the end of Spring is a really nice time to visit, especially with the long evenings.