The small, picturesque Mediterranean town of Cassis, about 40km south of Aix-en Provence, has maintained a certain gentle authenticity, unlike some of its more grander neighbours along the Côte d’Azur. A long time favourite destination of the French, with its gaily coloured boats and tall, shuttered buildings, a sparkling water front and gently sloping sandy beach. Surrounded by the dramatic cliff tops of the nearby Les Calanques de Cassis, which the region is famous for, these narrow, finger like forges that penetrate the rocks, mostly only accessible by boat.
Cassis on a bustling Saturday by the quayside.
Shops and restaurants spill out onto the streets along the crowded quayside, the warm, spring air is peppered with voices. Shrill, persistent children excitedly urging their parents to hear them “Maman, Maman, Papa, attention!” Couples muttering and nudging each other as they point things out to one another, strolling along in the relaxed easy manner of lazy sun-drenched afternoons. Sipping a local chilled Bandol rosé, we wait for our friends arrival, dreamily people watching. Everything seems enthused by the much anticipated promise of warmer days, coats have been shed and boots mostly replaced. An array of brightly coloured cotton scarves catch the breeze as men and women alike parade a twirling twist of fabric round their necks, so delightfully European! Restaurants drag out their parasols and shuffle chairs, anxious to accommodate their newly expanded clientele, grateful that a more lucrative business period is about to begin.
Later, when the Cassis castle is bathed in a golden sunlight, having lunched, shopped and generally wandered, we find ourselves seated again, admiring the view, another glass in hand as the daylight just starts to dwindle.
Cap Canaille – the tallest rock on the Mediterranean, becomes a warm golden red.
Our journey back takes us through the vineyards of Les Castellets and Bandol.
We revisit the charming medieval village-perché of Les Castellet, where the house I admired in the autumn, adorned in deep shades of burgandy now waits expectantly for the same creeping vine to burst into colour again.
Just outside Aix-en Provence, it is just possible to capture the hills around Saint Victoire, a favourite of Paul Cézanne, after the sun has tipped her hat and made her final smile of the day.