“Qu’a vist Paris e noun Cassis a ren vist.”
“He who has seen Paris and who has not seen Cassis can say … I have seen nothing.” Frédéric Mistral (1830 – 1914)
I had taken the short train ride from Marseille to Cassis, a small seaside fishing village, over twenty years ago. It was a sunny morning when we boarded the train and hopped off at the St. Charles train station, a 2-3 kilometer walk to town. If I close my eyes, I can picture the lush verdant greenery of the rugged countryside of Provence, the brilliant blue seaside and the reddish-orange terra cotta tiles of the rooftops. I also remember the beautifully colored buildings and boats of Cassis and how magical a place I had found. Would her colorful, playful buildings still dance atop the turquoise sea?
Like many places in the world, I never believed it would take me twenty years to get back. But sometimes life gets in the way and keeps you busy. As I road the bus from Marseille to Cassis, over twenty years later with my sister and mother, I wondered and desperately hoped, “Would it be the same”?
So often memories are nostalgic for a reason. Things change. Places get discovered and sadly get spoiled. Would Cassis have the same fate as so many other beautiful places in Europe? Would it be lined with tacky t-shirt and souvenir shops taking all of her beloved charm away? Would it be overcome with tourists pushing and shoving for a table at an outdoor cafe? I would have to wait and see.
As our bus pulled into the outskirts of Cassis, my heart began to flutter in nervous anticipation for the beauty that await. What I would soon discover is that Cassis remained as captivating and beautiful as before. Cassis had thankfully remained for the most part the same: A gorgeous gem of the Mediterranean Coast and Provence. A best kept secret. A child at play with a touch of grace.
As we walked along tree-lined streets into town, I snapped away on my camera. Cassis was as perfect and quaint as ever and remarkably had escaped being spoiled by over-development and tourism despite the fact that tourism is one of this tiny fishing villages largest asset. Thankfully, there were no Starbucks, McDonalds or ugly souvenir shops in Cassis. Just simple beauty and color that reminded me of an impressionist painting by Matisse.
There is a labyrinth of colorful streets that winds you back to the narrow little harbor of Cassis. Take your time. Marvel in the delights. There are plenty of lovely shops and boutiques to whet your appetite, offering local wares such as provencal soaps, lavender and handicrafts.
As we entered Cassis, all the beautifully decorated french windows captured my heart and took over my camera! I had to slow down my pace and click away.
As you walk further you come to the most beautiful part of all of Cassis. Wedged between the rugged rocky coastline of the Mediterranean Sea, lies the spectacular seaside harbor, the crown jewel of Cassis. Beautifully colored buildings in hues of pastels line the harbor and picturesque fishing boats rest calmly in the azure sea. Restaurants, cafes and shops grace the landscape and you could easily spend an entire afternoon sitting happily in a chair watching the world go by and sipping a glass of Vin de Cassis.
As you walk along the sides of the narrow harbor, where the tour boats to the calanques await, the most stunning view of Cassis can be found. Do the playful colors of the buildings dance atop the turquoise sea? Judge for yourself.
Cassis is also known for her lovely beaches and is a launching off point to Les Calanques, a series of gorgeous inlets formed where the chalky-white jagged cliffs plunge into the aquamarine sea. Most people visit Cassis taking in her beauty, shopping and fabulous outdoor dining before or after heading off to visit the calanques.
After a wonderful visit with a trip to Les Calanques, I snapped this last shot of Cassis. Would I go back? Yes indeed. But hopefully it won’t take me another twenty years to return!
Train: You can take the train from Marseille to the tiny Cassis station St. Charles however it is located about 3 or 4 kilometres from the Port of Cassis. Visitors arriving by train can either take a taxi into town or enjoy a long but pleasant walk along a tree-line pathway.
Bus: You can take the metro to the stop Castellane and jump on the bus (look for sign that says “Cassis”. It is about a forty minute ride on way and takes you within steps of the entrance of Cassis. There are beautiful views along the way as well.
For more detailed information, check with your hotel or the tourist office in Marseille.