Cassis, France – located on the Mediterranean coast – was our last stop during our side trip to Provence. Cassis is located about 30 minutes Southeast of Marseille, another port village in the South of France. But where Marseille is a large, gritty, commercial port, Cassis remains a small, colorful tourist site, complete with a sandy coastline, an array of Provincial shops and restaurants, and towering fjords.
After a two hour drive from Avignon, we arrived in Cassis around lunchtime. As you enter the city limits, the road begins to narrow, winding downward toward the coast. With Cassis’ popularity with locals and tourists -combined with the beautiful weather – parking was a serious challenge. We ended up parking 2 miles (yes, 2 miles!) away and walking 30 minutes to the city centre.
Cassis’ most notable attaction is its rocky fjords or calanques, which are best seen by boat. We purchased tickets for a 45-minute boat tour and then sampled amazing chocolate and caramel gelato while waiting eagerly for our boat’s return to the dock. The boat ride was well worth the $15 as it took us through the major areas of the calanques and near the beaches. One thing about France, especially the Mediterrean side of the country, that slipped my mind was that their beaches are often clothing optional. Crazy! Even from a boat tour, the nudists were easily visible to tourists, as if they were going for the shock value. Definitely a memorable event with the pictures to prove it!
Back on land, we lunched at a waterfront cafe perfect for soaking in the sun and people watching. We were also pleasantly surprised to find more Spanish/Mediterranean style items on the menu, a nice break from the heavier, creamy French dishes. After lunch, we perused the shops, looking for traditional Provincial linens, lavendar soaps, and tasty sweets and chocolates, picking up a few along the way.
Packages in hand, we headed uphill for our 2-mile walk to the car and to our 2 hour drive back to Avignon. Although getting to the coast from Avignon has its challenges, the end result of seeing the fjords and colorful coast up close is worth the effort. This adventure was easily one of the highlights of our trip and one that I will never forget. But next time I visit Cassis, or anywhere on the Southern coast of France, I’ll keep in mind that the locals are not shy, and that clothing and modesty are optional.
Next stop – our final two nights in Paris!