Since it was Labor Day and we are Americans, we wanted to do something beachy for the last weekend of summer. After looking at places we could get to quickly and by train and reading blog posts about the area, we settled on Cassis.
To get to Cassis you take the TGV to Marseille (which takes about 3 hours), then a local train to Cassis which is only 20 more minutes. Francesca, the owner of our bed and breakfast, picked us up at the train station and showed us around L’Avila. Staying at L’Avila was the best decision we could have made. The room was spotless, we had a great view, a lovely pool and the location couldn’t be beat. Armed with lunch recommendations from Francesca and her husband we headed into town and ate at a restaurant right on the beach. The food was fresh, but the view really couldn’t be beat.
After lunch we headed to some of the more out of the way beaches. If you walk up the hill towards the Château, you pass vineyards and small stairs that lead you down to secluded (but slightly crowded) coves. After exploring a few of them (and falling on some rocks—they’re so slick!) we settled into one that had a little beach bar where we bought some cold water and set out out cangas. Between the needle-like pine needles (sharper than any pine needles I had ever come across) and the uneven rocks, to say we were uncomfortable would be an understatement. But we were still able to take a quick nap since we were exhausted from our 6:30 wake up call. The water was beautiful but very cold, which didn’t stop Robert but kept me from submerging my head. When the cove became shady, we headed back to our room to shower. Dinner was at À Table, a market to table restaurant on a lively side street. We had the best rosé (which is the only drink I ordered in Cassis) and a delicious meal before heading back pretty early.
The next day we woke up to the best breakfast (two types of bread, homemade jam, butter, warm muffins, fruit salad and a smoothie!) and headed to the Calanques National Park. We had been warned that the park would close at 11 a.m. due to fire risk, but because we stopped to get a sandwich and took a long route to get to the park, we didn’t get there until 10:49! We were able to walk in, but were told to turn around quickly. We kept walking, though, expecting that someone would turn us around farther down the road (Francesca had told us this was fine), but no one did. We hiked from the first calanque to the second with ease and took a quick dip in the water.
Then we continued on towards the third calanque. At this point we were feeling the heat and realized how little water we had on us. We also got lost a few times and it seemed like we would never make it. When we finally got close we saw a sign warning of wild boars. I started freaking out a little (ok, a lot) and then I saw them. Three of them! When we tried to go around them, we realized that we had made it to the beach! There were lots of other people around (all kayakers) and the boars were more like piglets. They were actually kind of cute.
We hung out, went in the water (it was freezing, as usual) and ate our sandwich (and kept it away from the boars) before some park rangers showed up (in a car! I had no idea this place was accessible by car!) and kindly told us to head back. We were thankful they were so nice so we started heading back as fast as we could and…got lost. I started freaking out (naturally), but long story short we found our way. If you ever plan on hiking the calanques the thing to keep in mind is that the path is actually well marked when you’re on it, but it’s easy to go off it. The secret is to turn around if you go more than two minutes without seeing a marker (we were following blue markers on the way there and red and white on the way back). The way back (the red and white path) was so much easier and we made it to the second calanque in no time. We decided to take a dip and the water was (finally!) not that cold. We were eager to get back and get some water though, so we didn’t stick around.
Back in town we got some gelato and then hung out at the pool until dinner time. Dinner was at a more touristy restaurant on the pier. Our dessert, speculoos tiramisu with salted caramel, was surprisingly great! We followed that dessert up with some more dessert—a crêpe from the Grand Marnier shop—and more rosé from a Spanish bar. We happily walked back to our hotel, sad that we would have to say good bye to this town the next day.
If you go: I can’t recommend Cassis enough—you get the French provençal small town feel, but always have lots to do. If we had more time there we would have loved to hike Cap Canaille, visit wineries and maybe even take a tour of the calanques by kayak (less fire danger and no getting lost there!) I also can’t recommend L’Avila enough and you have to stay there if you go!