Nestling between Cap Canaille and the calanques, Cassis is a picturesque fishing port with a busy harbor, inviting beaches, colourful buildings and plentiful greenery. Located in the department of Bouches-du-Rhône, about 12 miles east of Marseille on the Mediterranean coast, Cassis is one of the smaller jewels on the Côte d’Azur.
[Related article: Cassis and the Calanques: Exploring France’s Mediterranean Coast]
Composed of reddish and ochre-coloured sandstone, Cap Canaille– the tallest coastal cliff in Europe at 1293 feet– dominates the landscape. This rocky formation changes colour, as does the water lapping at its base, depending on the weather and time of day. Perched on top is an immense château-fortress daring from 1381 and now privately owned.
The calanques, narrow inlets framed by steep limestone cliffs, can be visited by boat or on foot. Tickets for boat tours are available at the harbour and last from 45 minutes to several hours depending on the number of calanques visited. There are 24 calanques strung along the coast between Cassis and Marseille, and the views are breath-taking.
A hike from Cassis to the closest calanque, Port Miou, is a fairly easy walk that takes about an hour one way. One of the trails, named after Le Petit Prince, leads out to a view of Cap Canaille where a marker is posted in honor of the story’s author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
In 1944 Saint-Exupéry flew reconnaissance missions for the allied forces. On July 31 his plane disappeared just off the coast from this magnificent point of land. Years later debris from his aircraft was found, and this marker was erected in his honour.
We based our stay in Cassis at the 3-star Hotel de la Plage Mahogany in a corner room on the first floor. The hotel sits on a small hill, faces the water and has access to a private beach. Our room was spacious with a large private terrace complete with lounge chairs to take in the panoramic views. With the door ajar, we listened to the soothing sounds of waves lapping the shore below. Not many hotels have such an excellent situation. A five-minute walk took us into the town with its many choices for dining, shopping or exploring. The hotel also has a restaurant and offers spa services.
Once the car is parked, Cassis is a pleasure to navigate on foot. There are lovely gardens and architecture to admire. There is a weekly outdoor market, wine tasting of local wines, museums and art galleries. People, boats, cafés… it all makes for a festive atmosphere and a visual feast you won’t want to miss.
Hotel de la Plage Mahogany: Plage du Bestouan, 19 Avenue de l’Amiral Ganteaume
13260 Cassis. Tel:04 42 01 05 70. Rooms from 145 euros/night.