We could call Marseille a “true immigrant city” with a “vibrant local culture,” but we prefer to think of it as the Tijuana of France. A Tower of Babel, produced by the train-with-cut-brakes that is globalization, this (in)famous port town is the stomping ground of sailors, backpackers, mobs of immigrants, and (we suspect) unsavory characters involved in the import-export business. Expect color, chaos, and a lingering smell of trash. The city is most famous for its dense North African population, and parts of the city are more akin to Algiers or Fez than southern France. People from throughout the Mediterranean converge here to barter and argue loudly with each other in the downtown. Tourists generally observe them from behind the plastic windows of the dinky tour buses. Located in the center of Provence, Marseille is an ideal home base for visits to the calanques along the coasts, or to the Provencal cities of Avignon, Arles, or Cassis. This is not the prettiest town on the French Riviera, but it hosts the closest train station to the prettiest towns on the Riviera. Avoid certain neighborhoods, and schlep it to the sweet smell of lavender only an hour away.