Wednesday, September 2, 2009


France's Mediterranean coast is regarded as one of the top vacation destinations in the world. The rich and famous have long realized the charm of the Riviera. The azure colored sea, sunny skies and picturesque coastal rock formations paint the perfect setting for relaxation. Larger cities like Cannes, Nice and Monaco provide the services and nightlife demanded by more active travelers - but for a price.

On short notice, it was impossible for us to find an affordable hotel in any of the major coastal towns. In the end, we settled for a room in Aix - just 20 minutes from the coast and the town of Cassis. Though not technically considered part of the traditional Riviera, Cassis offers the quintessential Mediterranean experience.


Our first glimpse of the city came as we emerged through a coastal mountain pass. From high above the city, we could see the landscape transform from cliffs to village to beach to harbor. Perched above the city was an old castle that now appeared to be an extremely high-end resort. We followed the winding road through some vineyards and into the busy vacation town. Parking, as usual, was a challenge. But soon enough, we were on our way to the Côte Azur.

Our first stop was to get tickets for a boat tour of the nearby calanque. These narrow inlets reminded me of the Norwegian fjords. Our 45 minute boat tour took us to three calanques. In most cases, the inlets were carved into the limestone through several centuries of erosion. However, we learned that one of the calanques was actually the result of mining activities that continued until relatively recently. The highlight, however, was the view of Cassis and a huge muli-hued cliff face from the sea.


Like most of the Riviera, the beach in Cassis is rocky. It's extremely uncomfortable to walk along barefoot, and most people bring a special mat to lay on. We hobbled to the water and tip-toed in. As warm as the water must have been, it seemed shockingly cold after standing in the hot sun. We also noticed a very quick drop-off. This experience was quite different from the sandy beaches that we used to go to back home in the Thumb of Michigan.


View more of my photos of Cassis on Flickr.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License
This work by Ken Maschke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.