The Bar de la Marine, MarseilleThe iconic bar of Marseille, the Bar de la Marine on the Old Port was the setting for Marcel Pagnol's famous trilogy, Marius, Fanny and César.

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These bittersweet, romantic dramas tell of the love affair between Fanny, a shellfish seller on the Old Port, and Marius, the bar-owner's son, who impregnates her, then runs off to sea.

Noisy card games are played (view the classic scene from Marius here), much pastis is drunk, the sun blazes while the sea casts its irresistible spell and the vibrant, warm maritime community helps Fanny overcome her problems.

Pagnol was born in nearby Aubagne and made his name when Marius was first performed at the Théâtre de Paris in 1929. No wonder that the stories are suffused in nostalgia for his Southern homeland.

Debate swirls around the question of whether the current Bar de la Marine is the trilogy's authentic location. It's clear from the original drama that the bar was near the Place de Lenche in the Old Town - that's to say on the opposite side of the Old Port.

In the 1931 film of Marius, directed by Britain's Alexander Korda, the interiors were shot in a studio, though the exteriors seem to have been filmed close to the current location on the quai du Rive Neuve. (The actor-turned-director Daniel Auteuil has re-filmed Pagnol's trilogy, but his version too was largely shot elsewhere or in the studio.)

Detail of the zinc counter at Bar de la Marine, MarseilleThe real Bar de la Marine - heavily disguised - does, however, figure in scenes from Richard Curtis's 2003 rom-com, Love, Actually.

Today the still-atmospheric bar with its traditional zinc counter (detail pictured right) commemorates this history

It's decorated with photographs of Pagnol, the historic ferry boat (which also plays a central role in the Marseille trilogy), and celebrity clients like the comic actor Fernandel, as well as nautical maquettes and paintings.

Alas, the little ground-floor urinal, which must have been watered in its time by many a distinguished customer, has been ripped out to make way for a store cupboard.

Outside, the invariably crowded terrace tables are a magnet for a hip local crowd by night. There's a plat du jour at lunchtime and snacks in the evening.

Where: 15 quai de Rive Neuve, 13001 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 91 54 95 42‎.

 

 

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