While living in Paris as an undergrad, I bought a train ticket to Marseille on a whim. It was a weekend trip, and I didn’t take anyone with me, nor meet anyone there -- no plans at all.
The countryside passed in sweet silence on the 3-hour TGV ride. I was happy to be away from my tiresome roommate and busy school schedule, but wondered with pangs of unease what I would do, alone, in a foreign city with (very) little cash.
Before knowing that I would climb up the limestone outcrop to Notre-Dame de la Garde, stroll along the Old Port with a new British friend from my hostel, learn the secrets of filleting fish at harbor-side Marché aux Poissons, or get hopelessly lost in a maze of backstreets in the Arab quarter, I arrived at the Marseille Saint-Charles train station with a backpack and a few packets of applesauce, the city bathed in a soft golden hue, opening before me.
Great Marseille hostel: Vertigo Vieux Port, 38 Rue Fort Notre Dame, Marseille, France; 04 91 54 42 95