I’m writing this from the Med. From a little beach called Port D’Alon. We found this idealic spot by chatting with the manager of the hotel we stayed at last night in Le Ciotat. That’s the best way to find your way around; chat with the locals.
As I lay on the pebbly beach sobering up after sharing 2 carafes of rosé and eating a beautiful fresh salad for lunch I feel as happy as a pig in mud. Ok, the little beach is a little crowded but that doesn’t bother us and it IS the month people in France take their holidays. Imagine how busy the more popular and well-known beaches are on the French Riviera at this time! The French families have come here to relax in the way they seem to have mastered as a way of life.
X marks the spot! I’m guessing you’ve have to get here early to grab this perfect balcony!
Yesterday we’d been on a boat from LA Ciotat to Marseilles to see Le Calangues and we’d pulled into little coves such as this and envied the people that were there. Many little coves are accessible by boat only or after a rugged hike over steep rocky terrain. We were determined to find one that we could reach by car. And we did.
La Ciotat is where we chose to overnight on our visit to the Med. It’s one of the three ports from whence boat tours of Le Calangues depart, and visiting Le Calangues was our aim. (The other two ports are Marseilles and Cassis).
As well as being a city with a colourful maritime history La Ciotat claims to have the oldest movie theatre in the world. The first public showing of a Lumieres Brothers movie was held here in 1895 and was a 50 second movie of a train arriving at the La Ciotat station. Apparently much of the audience ran screaming from their seats at seeing a train rushing towards them.
In the 20th century La Ciotat was one of the most important shipbuilding centres on the Mediterranean until its naval shipyards closed down in the 1980s. They’re still building boats here and I spotted mine as we were leaving the harbour. (Mine’s the black one, not the white one).
The boat tour to Le Calangues lasted 2.5 hours and it was wonderful to be on the water. The coastline is spectacular. Later, back at our hotel we questioned the manager who spoke and understood English quite well, on where we might eat that was popular with the local people. We didn’t want to be in the very touristy area of the port. He told us of two.
The restaurant we chose was run by a grandmother who organised one set menu each night. You get to eat whatever she chose to provide for that evening.
It was a great choice. Down a very narrow alleyway leading to the port, was a delightful family restaurant. Tables were set up in the alleyway for those preferring to eat outside.
The food was typically home-French-cooking; fish soup to begin with, served in a casserole for both of us to share from our table. Accompaniments included toasted baguette slices, fresh garlic to rub onto the toast, freshly grated cheese to sprinkle into the soup, and an orangey coloured butter (which I didn’t try). The soup was fishy and very tasty.
Next came a plate of veal cooked in a casserole (extremely tender), mixed vegetables that included aubergine, courgette, tiny mushrooms, carrots and pasta.
Donie had cream caramel as desert while I had the cheeses.
We spent a couple of hours over dinner, drinking, eating, and in general having a wonderful evening and all for less than 40 Euros between us. Had we walked another 10 metres to the port, which was busy with holiday makers, we would have paid twice as much and not connected with the local people.
Likewise with our day at the beach today. Had we not inquired with our local host, we would likely have been restricted to the bumper-to-bumper traffic, trying to find a spot to park our car, then somewhere to park our bums on a beautiful but crowded beach on the Cote d’Zur.
A visit to this part of the Cote D’Zur wouldn’t be complete without a look at Cassis.
Cassis is a small fishing port, tucked between two exceptional natural sites (the celebrated Calanques and the majestic Cap Canaille) and about 15 Kms east of Marseille. The beaches are sandy and there’s a large sloping rock between two of them which is popular as a nudist beach. (We didn’t go there).
The harbour is chocka block with boats, the majority of them for touring Le Calangues or other leisure activities. But there are still quite a few fishing boats, built in the style of the pointus; pointed at both ends with a high post on the bow. You might spot some of them in the picture above.
The pavements of the town are laid with Cassis stone, quarried locally. (Cassis stone was also used for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty – now there’s a good question for your next game of Trivial Pursuit!) .
Right at the entrance to the harbour is this gorgeous old (1381) chateau-fort, the Chateaux de la Maison des Baux. It’s privately owned (gulp) and not open to the public.
After two great days on the Mediterranean, we headed for the hills. Back home. Back to our little village, Cotignac.