Cassis: The Charm of a Bygone Era

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“He who has seen Paris and not Cassis has seen nothing.”—Frédéric Mistral; Provençal writer and poet and 1904 Nobel Prize winner in literature.

In just under two hours from our peaceful Vaucluse department in Provence, we arrive at the top of Cassis. Upon exiting our car and breathing in the fresh sea air, we realize that we have arrived at a special place. Our first thought is ‘Why haven’t we come sooner?’ As we make our way down to the village, we are swept away by a sight we did not expect— charming villas surrounded by cascading flowers and cliffs towering over the lapis-blue sea. This characterful fishing port indeed has the charm of a bygone era, a place of refined elegance by the sea.

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Having just the day to get a taste of Cassis, we planned to hike the calanques, beautiful fjord-like inlets carved into the limestone cliffs. Our goal was at least to hike to the second calanque, called Port Pin, to swim in the gorgeous sea. Starting at the harbor, where we could have just enjoyed the beauty there and been fully satisfied, we started our walk to the first calanque, Port Miou. Now this was supposed to be just a 30-minute walk from the harbor. But being the geniuses that we are, we somehow got off the route and didn’t make it to Port Miou until an hour and a half later on a sultry day of 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35°C).

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Nervous to continue on one hour more to the second calanque, Port Pin, because of ankle and foot issues, we had to turn back. Next time, the plan is to drive up the Route des Calanques from the harbor and try to find a place to park on a side street not far from Port Miou or in one of the car parks mentioned on the Calanques in Cassis site to save time. It was disheartening to have to turn back, especially as we saw a large group of “older” ones returning with their hiking boots and walking poles.

Nonetheless, we went back to the harbor and relaxed with a plate of moules-frites as we watched some locals enjoying a game of boules. This is the type of scene that speaks French village to me and just charms my heart.

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The inner streets of Cassis are well worth exploring as they are filled with high-quality shops and restaurants with a bit of an Italian flair.

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We have seen Paris, and now we have seen Cassis. A place we hope to return to again and again.

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À bientôt!