By Wendy VanHatten
When we are ready to travel again to France, we will be heading to a favorite destination. Here is a little more information on this gem of the Cote d’Azur.
St. Tropez is beautiful. No doubt about that. It’s also crowded much of the year. After all…it is the south of France.
Want somewhere different? A town with just as much character, maybe more, and a relaxing feel to it? How about Cassis? The town…not the fruit.
Is Cassis the most beautiful town in southern France? The French poet, Frederic Mistral thought so. He apparently said, “One may have seen Paris, but if one has not seen Cassis, one hasn’t seen anything.” I agree.
Yes, the pastel-colored houses that practically tumble into the clearest, turquoise blue water certainly have something to do with that claim. If you like looking at yachts, your eyes will be overloaded with those crowding the harbor. Charm oozes from every cobblestone street and alley with shops, bars, and cafes beckoning to you.
Along the harbor, sidewalk cafes line their chairs for you to take advantage of the views from dawn to sunset. Pebbly beaches encourage you to lay down your towel and head to the azure water…with or without your top.
But wait, there’s more. Look up to the centuries-old chateau. It’s been around since the fifth century. As you can imagine, it’s seen more than its share of wars, owners, and history. Now a hotel within the castle, it sits overlooking the harbor.
Even more imposing is the Cap Cannille, the highest point in France, which hovers above the entire area. Driving to the top via steep, winding, sometimes narrow roads with no guardrails, the views were worth the trip. As far as I could see, that impossibly clear, turquoise water stretched on and on as it met the sky. Below, the town of Cassis huddled in the amphitheater-like, carved-out bay. Fishing boats and yachts dotted the water, looking so small from out high vantage point.
On the far side, we could just glimpse the rocky inlets of the Calanques, the fjord-like inlets carved by streams coming through the limestone cliffs. If hiking is your thing…take some time and see these beautiful, eco sites up close. It’s worth the effort.
Even though French is spoken more than any other language here, we were able to communicate quite well with our less-than perfect French. Everyone was friendly and appreciative that we tried!
This is also one of France’s outstanding wine producing areas. It was one of the first three French wine regions to be classified as AOC in 1936. Tasting wines, mostly whites and roses, it was evident why this area is special. Vines tumble down the often-terraced hillsides, digging their roots into rocky soil, creating special grapes for fabulous wines. And, believe me, they are special.
If You Go: Cassis is about a 30-minute train ride from Marseille. It’s also about a four hour drive from Nice, along some of the most beautiful coastline in the world.