The village of Cassis keeps pulling us back.
We’ve visited by ourselves, with Kathy’s sister and with my cousins. This weekend we’ll return with my brother. There’s good reason. The village itself is a great place to relax, to enjoy a meal of fish straight from the sea, to sip the region’s excellent white wine or to sit on a Mediterranean beach that actually has sand (some, such as the beach in Nice, do not).
But Cassis offers a lot more: magnificent views from the cliffs nearby of the Mediterranean and the village itself, a chance to hike high above the sea, and an opportunity to explore the inlets or calanques along the shore by boat or by foot. For the vistas above the village, ask at the Tourist Office where to find the Route des Cretes that joins Cassis and the city of La Ciotat. Be prepared for a breathtaking, if sometimes harrowing, drive up.
If you start from the Cassis side, the third pull-off provides the best view of the village far below, of rock climbers who like to descend and scale the cliff there, and of the jagged cliffs further up the road. It’s also possible to park here and walk for several miles as we did seven years ago. The trails are well-marked and not too rugged. But again, this isn’t for the faint-of-heart — or the strong-of-heart with a bit of vertigo.
In the village, you’ll have a string of restaurants along the harbor. We’ve eaten excellent fish lunches at two. La Vieille Auberge is a bit more elegant but also a bit more expensive. It’s $33.50 fixed-price, three-course lunch menu includes three sizable courses and without question will serve as your main meal of the day. La Poissonerrie is a bustling place with outdoor seating and delicious fish plates. Though you can order a la carte here and pay a bit less than at La Vieille Auberge, you’ll pay as much or more if you get three courses.
Afterwards, on a sunny day, I’d recommend one of the boat tours of the calanques, the inlets from which limestone cliffs rise upward from the water. You can pay for a tour of three, five or eight calanques. We took the middle tour, visiting five. It lasts 65 minutes and costs about $26.50. It’s nice to get out into the open sea a bit — the three-calangue, 45-minute version doesn’t offer as much of this and costs only $4 less — so I’m glad we chose to go a little further.
Aside from the sheer pleasure of boating on the Mediterranean, the ride will take you past some fascinating rock formations — windows through the rocks to the sky, thumb-shaped outcroppings, and the outline of a camel, among other figures. But be forewarned. Mooning the tourists on the boats seems to be the local rage this year. Pictures are not required.
It’s also possible to walk along the calanques from Cassis, something we plan to do with visitors from Bern, Switzerland, in a couple of weeks. We’ll carry a lunch and, presumably, join he sunbathers on the secluded, sandy beaches — those sunbathers, that is, who keep their derrieres planted firmly in the sand.