The problem with being a romantic is you fall in love all the time. Not with the opposite sex - I have after all, Arlette, my wife and best friend who defines, for me, the best there is in the opposite sex. No, my problem is that I fall too easily in love with a small town and immediately start to imagine a new romantic life there for me, Arlette and, of course, Capucine - even to the extent of researching real estate ads for a little pieds à terre.
My latest love? Cassis. I was hungry for a good bouillabaisse and everyone told me you have to go to Marseille if you want a real one. I was skeptical because I have had an excellent bouillabaisse at my brother-in-law's in Nice (he being a cordon bleu), but I was up for an adventure so I asked Arlette if we could go to Marseille for dinner. Marseille?, she replied. Why would you want to go to Marseille when you could go to beautiful Cassis, right next door to Marseille?
Not knowing Cassis, but trusting Arlette's taste, we decamped for Cassis, little more than an hour and a half's drive by the autoroute.
|Cassis harbor with Chateau de Cassis above|
My first coup de foudre was twelve years ago, when I first saw Arlette. Since then I have had several - always some adorable little village, where I am captivated by the feel of the place as much as by the buildings and people. Cassis is a coup de foudre, with a relatively small old town surrounded by more modern housing and chateaux on the hills - the hills that serve to isolate the village and its petit harbor. The focal point of the town is the harbor and it is lined with good restaurants and cafés. I asked around for recommendations on a good bouillabaisse and was given the same three names by different people. Out of the three I picked the restaurant with the best table on the harbor with the Chateau de Cassis as a backdrop.
Arlette and I both felt the same vibe in town - it was laid back, despite being the height of the tourist season and despite being relatively close (20km) to the much larger city of Marseille .
After dinner, we walked the streets, many of which are made of polished off-white stone, not unlike marble. Arlette patiently explained to me that the stone from Cassis is famous, quarried there since antiquity. The masonry for the quays of the large Mediterranean ports (Alexandra, Algiers, Marseille, etc.) as well as the base of the Statue of Liberty originated from Cassis.
But Cassis is also known for its spectacular cliffs and dramatic coves., Les Calanques. Everyday you see groups of visitors, clad in hiking boots, setting out to reach some of these remote coves with bathing suits and picnics in hand. It is spectacular, and if you don't want to hike, take a boat tour from the village's harbor. The Cassis Calanques are among the most beautiful on the mediterranean Littoral.
The next morning at 5, Capucine and I snuck out of our hotel room for a romp around town. It was magical to have the streets all to ourselves. An hour and half later after checking out all the boats and beaches, we returned to the hotel to wake Arlette up and go have our breakfast on the terrace - wonderful! Oh, and the bouillabaisse? The dinner setting was marvelous, but the bouillabaisse that Jean-François (mon beau-frère) makes is much better.
Where to stay, different options and prices:
Les Roches Blanches
Le jardin d'Emile
Hotel de la Plage
Le Clos des Aromes
Two good restaurants:
Le Chaudron - 4 rue Adolphe Thiers - 04 42 01 74 18 - Spécialités provençales
Chez Gilbert - sur le port - 04 42 01 71 36 - Bouillabaisse, spécialité poissons