Winter is here for a few more months, and it’s the rainy season in Northern California. The rain is at first charming, but then quickly becomes dreary. While I await the warmer weather of spring and summer, I recall the day trip I took to the seaside town of Cassis in the south of France in September where the sun shined on one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen.
To get there, I booked a 25 minute van ride with a small tour group that left from the center of colorful Aix-en-Provence. We had a great guide who shared regional stories and historical facts along the way.
If you’re looking for seaside charm, captivating Cassis southeast of Marseilles checks the all the tourist boxes (which explains why it’s so crowded in summer). I visited in September so there were less people present, and of all the excursions I enjoyed while in France, this stop ranks high as a favorite.
Cassis is a tiny yet popular town on the southern coast of France. When I stepped out of the van I had to catch my breath, it looked at first like a movie set and not a real place at all. It’s so perfectly charming with its harbor filled with boats, and the quaint shops, cafes, and beautiful beach.
Wander the cobblestone streets and back alleys up and away from main street on the harbor and you’ll find less tourists, which is where I spent an hour meandering while lunching on a savory takeaway crêpe from a local vendor.
Two locals paused to notice me, the solo female tourist with her backpack and camera trying her best to be incognito but obvious to them I’m only there for the day. They stare for a moment then go back to their conversation in rapid French, and as much as I try to eavesdrop, I can’t keep up since my French is rudimentary at best.
In the port you can take a boat ride from any of the willing captains at the docks out to see the famous calanques (rocky inlets) along the shore where you’ll also spy fisherman and the occasional skinny dipper (don’t blink in the video or you’ll miss them) ;)
My boat captain spoke only French and handed me a pamphlet in English of what I was about to see on the ride. I could tell from his weathered face and bright blue eyes that winked at me that he’d been giving this tour forever. He apologized that the tour was in his spoken language, but I preferred it that way, it added to the adventure. The clouds conveniently parted for the boat tour so fortunately we could see the details of the crags.
Before returning to Aix, we headed up to the top of Cape Canaille. Stepping out of the van I was greeted by an amazing (yet petrifying) view of Cassis from up above. There are no barriers up at the Cape like we’d have in America and no signs reading “proceed with caution, deadly cliff ahead”. It’s just assumed if you traipse too close and fall, too bad for you! I stayed back from the edge but loved looking at the beautiful view of the coast below.
There are plenty of other things to do on a daytrip to Cassis, but be aware, in summer it’s extra crowded with tourists and French people on holiday.
1) Dine in one of the seaside cafes and people watch the passersby.
2) Visit any of the dozens of local shops for artisan goods.
3) Visit the Château de Cassis, a fortress that once protected the town.
4) Hike the trail along the calanques for an amazing sea view (it takes several hours) and drop down to the hidden beaches for a swim.
Below is a 90 second video to give you a feel for the seaside town and a peek at the calanques on a boat tour. Enjoy!
P.S. If you’re curious about the compact camera I use to shoot images and video when I travel, I link to it here.