It’s still winter and rainy season in Northern California for a few more months. The rain starts out beautiful but rapidly turns gloomy. I go back to the day excursion I went to the coastal town of Cassis in the south of France in September when the sun shone on one of the most picturesque sites I’ve ever seen as I wait for the warmer weather of spring and summer.

I reserved a seat on a 25-minute van trip with a small tour group that departed from the lively Aix-en-Provence city center. Our tour guide was excellent, telling us local lore and interesting historical information as we went.

The charming Cassis, southeast of Marseilles, ticks all the touristy boxes if you’re searching for beach charm, which is why it gets so crowded in the summer. Since I went in September, there weren’t as many people there, and of all the excursions I took while in France, this one is one of my top favorites.

The small but well-liked town of Cassis is located on France’s southern coast. I had to stop and catch my breath as I got out of the van since it appeared to be a scene from a movie at first and not a genuine location. With its boat-filled harbor, tiny shops, cafes, and lovely beach, it is so incredibly delightful.

You’ll find less tourists if you explore the cobblestone lanes and back alleyways that are up and away from the harbor’s main drag, which is where I spent an hour strolling while enjoying a wonderful takeaway crêpe from a local seller for lunch.

Two locals stopped to look at me, the lone female traveler with her backpack and camera who was trying her best to blend in but was obviously there for only the day. They pause for a moment before continuing their talk in rapid French, and despite my best efforts to listen in, I am unable to keep up due to my limited knowledge of the language.

If you want to visit the famous calanques (rocky inlets) along the shore, you can hire a boat from any of the willing captains at the docks in the port. You’ll also see fisherman and the occasional skinny dipper (don’t blink at the video or you’ll miss them) there.

My boat’s skipper, who could only speak French, gave me an English-language brochure on what I would be seeing on the trip. He had been conducting this tour for a very long time, as evidenced by his worn-in face and his twinkling brilliant blue eyes. He expressed regret that the tour was conducted in his own tongue, but I found that it contributed to the adventure. For the boat cruise, the clouds nicely parted, allowing us to glimpse the crags’ finer intricacies.

We made our way to the summit of Cape Canaille before heading back to Aix. When I got out of the van, I was met with a spectacular (and terrifying) aerial view of Cassis. At the Cape, there aren’t any obstacles like there would be in America, and there aren’t any warnings like “approach with caution, fatal cliff ahead.” It’s just considered that if you walk too closely and slip, it’s your fault! I stood back from the edge but adored admiring the stunning coastline below.

There are many additional things to do in Cassis on a day trip, but be advised that it gets very busy with visitors and French nationals on vacation in the summer.

1) Enjoy a meal in a café by the water while observing the patrons.
2) Shop for handcrafted items at any of the several neighborhood stores.
3) Go to the Château de Cassis, a former fortification that guarded the town.
4) Spend many hours hiking the trail along the calanques for a spectacular sea view, then descend to the undiscovered beaches for a swim.

You may get a sense of the beach town and a glimpse of the calanques on a boat excursion in the 90 second video that follows. Enjoy!

P.S. I’ve included a link below if you’re interested in learning more about the small camera I bring with me when I travel.





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