Catching up on Europe posts?
Friday night, we had decided to take a day trip to the coast; so, Saturday morning we got up early to stroll the large weekend farmer’s market in town before hopping on a bus to Marseille. After leisurely making our way to each vendor at the market and grabbing a savory spinach and chevre crepe to go, we walked to the bus station and got on the bus with daily commuters for a quick 30-minute ride to the bigger city of Marseille.
As soon as we arrived at the large bus/train station in this unfamiliar city, my anxiety started to creep up and it unfortunately decided to hang around for much of the day. For this reason, I did not enjoy Marseille as much as I probably could have. It was a busy place, and noticeably dirty. For some odd reason – despite already spending time in Paris and Aix – the fact that I was a virgin foreigner got to me, and I felt so so far away from home. Mom and I walked the mile or so from the station down to the harbor where we were told we could purchase tickets for a boat tour of Les Calanques. The next tour didn’t leave for a couple of hours, so after buying our tickets, we sauntered by the water and endless row of outdoor restaurants. Seeing as it was Saturday, equal parts families and tourists populated the streets.
Once we boarded the cruise boat, my anxiety started to fade. I was on the Mediterranean for heaven’s sake — pinch me! We spent the next two-ish hours on a windy boat ride to see a coastal landmark of Southern Provence.
The magnificent calanques (“fjords”) of the Mediterranean coast are an essential highlight of any tourist trip to Southern Provence.
A spectacular series of looming white limestone rocks scored through with deep valleys, they’re the backdrop to a unique ecosystem, colourful fishing villages, peaceful creeks with intense, clear turquoise water and a wide range of sporting activities. The calanques (pronounced “kalonk”) extend for almost 12.4 miles south-east along the coast between Marseille and Cassis. [source]
The boat trip was uneventful, yet entirely relaxing. It was hard to hear the guide talk (in a handful of different languages) over the speaker, so we simply enjoyed the smooth ride, the turquoise water, the blue sky, the sailboats, and the adventurists. As you’ll see in the photos, there were hikers, kayakers, stand-up paddleboarders, dare-devil rock climbers (!!), sun bathers, and beach bums. Hard to believe this was the end of September!
If I were to visit again, I would love to hike the trails along the water to one of the secluded beaches and soak up some sun in my bikini. Wouldn’t you!?
By the time we departed the boat, it was early evening and I had still had no interest in exploring Marseille (sorry Mom!), so we got on the next bus “home” to Aix. A day of snacks had us salivating for a full-on French meal, as it would be our last dinner in France after all. We moseyed up and down the cobblestone streets, perusing the menus of various restaurants as they set-up for their Saturday night dinner crowds. We settled on La Tomate Verte and a made a reservation on the spot with a young gentlemen who spotted us eyeing his menu from the back of the house. Since Europeans eat late (in comparison to Americans), we wandered down the street to another restaurant for a drink. I slurped down a mojito in five minutes flat; I needed it after fighting nerves all day.
We thoroughly enjoyed our last French, bistro-style, dinner at “The Green Tomato”; perhaps it was the adorable wait staff (polite, young 20-something, sophisticatedly-dressed men) that was the icing on the cake.
That was Southern France (Aix-en-Provence + a day trip to Marseille). I’d go back to the French coast in the blink of an eye, I would I would.
Up next: Italy, Switzerland, and Sweden!
Ships in the harbor – Marseille, France
French architecture – I can’t even!
Sailboats on the horizon
That color though!
Hikers + kayakers
SUPing in the sea
Do you see the climbers!?
More crazy climbers!