Once we had had our fill of lavender fields and olive trees (as if that’s possible!), we drove about an hour south to Cassis, a small town on the French coast (a little east of Marseilles). Cassis is built into the side of a hill, with the town center at the bottom, right next to the water, and houses perched on the hillside. We stayed at an Airbnb for our one night in Cassis (this one – it was great!), and had about a ten-minute (steep!) walk into town.
The first afternoon we walked down to the public beach, intending to go for a dip. The water was beautiful but very choppy and cold. However, that wasn’t what stopped us from going in – it was the ROCKS. This is a Very Important Tip, in my opinion: if you want to go in the water at a French beach, make sure you bring water shoes! I found it almost impossibly painful to walk or stand barefoot on the (confusingly smooth-looking) pebbles, especially when being buffeted by waves. However, other people were doing this with no apparent difficulty, so maybe I just have inexplicably tender soles.
We ate dinner in Cassis’s town center. It was good, but not our most memorable meal! If you like seafood, a coastal town is definitely a great place to be. We also indulged in gelato and crepes for dessert while strolling on the seawall.
The main reason we added Cassis to our itinerary was the calanques, and they did not disappoint. The Calanques National Park extends from Cassis to Marseille, making Cassis a great starting point to venture from. We visited three calanques on foot, for a round-trip total of about 8 miles (with some serious elevation gain). Information is a bit scarce (and often in French), so here’s the scoop in case you’re interested in going.
From where we started, the first calanque, Port-Miou, is a very easy walk. It’s mostly flat on a clear trail. It’s also not the most exciting – it’s lined with moored boats, so while beautiful, it’s not that wild.
The walk from Port-Miou to Port Pin was also very enjoyable – more uphill, but with the most beautiful water views. We started out in the morning (maybe 10am?), and by the time we got to the beach at Port Pin, there was still only one other couple there. We considered stopping to take a dip (it looked so nice!), but decided to continue on.
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The hike from Port Pin to Port d’en Vau was most definitely the hardest stretch. We were hot and tired by that point, and even when we could finally see the water of d’en Vau, it was kind of discouraging, because it was SO far down, and all I could think about was if we went down there, we’d eventually have to climb back up.
But of course, in the end, we were glad we did it. The water was cold, but we were very hot and didn’t mind, and swimming in beautiful clear water between such epic cliffs was definitely a singular experience. This is why exercise is important to me – so we can continue to explore exquisite places off the beaten path!
A few practical tips to remember: 1) Bring water and snacks. 2) Wear hiking shoes/sneakers. Yes, you’re going to a beach, but do not wear flip flops (as we saw some people doing). 3) If you’re visiting from June to September, they sometimes close the calanques due to fire danger. You can check this website to see if they’re open. 4) This is a very helpful website that we used when planning our calanques hike – lots of great information there.
Have you been to the French coast? To Cassis? To the Calanques? I’d love to hear if you found the pebble beaches equally impenetrable!!
My next and final France post: Mougins!
P.S. If you’re thinking of visiting Cassis: our friends the Terhunes love it, too, and have beautiful photos and tips from their honeymoon trip!