Out of the many memorable moments during this trip, if I had to choose three of my favourite places, they would be, in no particular order:
- Gorges du Verdon
- Cassis (and the Calanques)
You may ask why these three places. For me, they all capture nature at it’s finest. I appreciate architecture and could walk around castles, stately homes, cathedrals, etc., all day long. However, I prefer the architecture of nature and each of these places demonstrates its beauty in its own unique way.
Cassis was also recommended to me, but I almost didn’t make it. I struggled to find somewhere to stay close to town and I thought I may have to give it a miss. Fortunately, I did manage to find a campsite that met my requirements. Camping Les Cigales is a decent campsite, it was, as one would expect, fairly empty and is only 1km (uphill) from the centre of Cassis.
The moment I walked into Cassis, it all made sense. It has the feel of an authentic fishing village, although there are also many tour boats here. These are used to take tourists around the calanques. The town is dominated by the port, which is lined with bistros, restaurants and shops, and the Chateau de Cassis. The chateau is built on a cliff overlooking the town and currently operates as an hotel. The beach, Plage de la Grande Mer, sits between the port and the chateau’s cliffs. To the east of Cassis the ochre coloured Cap Canaille, which is renowned to be the highest sea cliff in France, presides over everything.
Cassis is popular for its calanques; these are narrow inlets, bordered by high cliffs, filled with turquoise water and home to wildlife and flora alike. It is possible to hike from Cassis to several of the calanques. Calanque Port de Miou is the closest and is used as a natural harbour, Calanque de Port Pin and Calanque d’en Vau are a much harder trek. I decided that I could cycle to Calanque d’en Vau, a distance of a mere 5 km.
The wisdom of hindsight is a wonderful thing. I reached Calanque Port de Miou without any difficulty, but as I moved onward, I started carrying the bike more than it was carrying me. I ended up scaling what felt like cliffs with it on my shoulder. In the end, I ditched the bike, and not without good cause as the final descent to Calanque d’en Vau was difficult enough without the added burden. I later found that it is possible to cycle to Calanque d’en Vau, but it’s better to take the D559 from Cassis before dropping down towards Calanque d’en Vau. But be warned, there are some steep climbs on this route.
Regardless of the difficulties I encountered, I loved every second of my expedition to the calanques, the sights are well worth the effort it takes to reach them. Although, for the less energetic, you could always take the boat tour.
I could have stayed longer in Cassis, but I had an opportunity to visit Aix-en-Provence and nothing was getting in the way of that…