“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.