Via the magic of the internet, we'll combine Days 3 and 4 in the south of France. Largely because Day 3 was mostly uneventful, unless you consider Noah's Ark-esque rains in one of Europe's sunniest regions eventful.
A comfortable train ride from Avignon to Marseilles takes you through rolling hills and meadows and quaint small towns, as you can plainly see here:
Arriving in Marseille to a beautiful train station - modern on the inside, old-fashioned on the outside - some two hours later, you're greeted by a helpful information center and get pointed in the right direction to your hotel.
It's on the 15-minute walk to hotel that you get a sense that Marseilles (* you'll see various spellings, avec ou sans "s" - so we'll go with both here to appease both the s and non-s camps) has fallen on some tough times. It is one of the poorest large cities in France, and you can feel a bit of the edge when walking around, especially at night.
Still, it is France and that means there are some very nice-looking buildings, some great cafes and a bustling street market, mostly all centred around the Vieux Port. The trade-off: you lose Paris' polish for friendlier people in stores and restaurants in Marseille.
A meandering 30-minute uphill walk (you can also take the bus or a trolley from the Vieux Port) takes you to a stunning church called Notre Dame de la Garde, with a bona fida how-the-&%#*-did-they-do-that monument as it's crown jewel. It's a huge gold statue, weighing 9800 kilos and standing 11 meters high on top of a tower. It was erected in 1870. The entire site started as a small chapel in the 1200's.
The trolley from the Vieux Port to the church
Irrespective of your denomination, this is well worth the trip for the 360-degree views of the city and the ocean in addition to the impressive church.
Overall, Provence lives up to its sterling reputation. Oui, it can be a bit too touristy, but with any kind of patience and with an appreciation for the sights and tastes and smells, one can easily overlook the tourist hordes and be charmed a hundred times in just a few days.
Le hotel elevator