Sunday, June 26, 2011

Delightful Cassis by the Sea

One small town I fell in love with is Cassis, on the sea.  The sea has been a favorite place of mine since I saw it for the first time when I was 18.  The Mediterranean is exceptional.  Who would imagine that such a massive body of water would be so clear and clean looking.

The dockside is lined with delicious seafood restaurants.  Many are quite pricey, but if you dare to wander down a back street, many wonderful restaurants exist there also and they seem to be frequented more by the locals instead of the tourists.

The magnificence of Cassis is the calanques, long, narrow inlets eroded from the limestone cliffs of the Gardiole.  You can walk along the top of the cliffs, several hours round trip, or take the boats, as we did.  It was a beautiful tour along the cliffs.  The day was perfect...actually, probably the most perfect day we had all trip.  Not saying the weather was bad, but some days could have been better.

The Massif des Calanques
"The Massif des Calanques stretches in a mostly continuous line from east to west. It is the result of erosion due to several factors: the sea, the heat and perhaps most of all, the winds. The sea played an important role when, several million of years ago, the massif formed by sedimentation at a time when the area was completely submerged. Then, as the sea withdrew, it left behind very hard and 
View from the Massif des Calanques, France
 View from the Massif des Calanques (Click photo to enlarge)
very white limestone. Indeed, the water level was about 400 feet lower only 10,000 years ago. As it went back up again, little by little, it ended up forming small islands and creating little inlets some of which are eroded very deeply into the rock. These are the beautiful "calanques" that we see today. While the near absence of tides in the Mediterranean limited the importance of marine erosion, the heat on the other hand has always played an important part. Just imagine a massif heated by the sun's rays 320 days per year, a place where between the months of June and August the sun shines more than 15 hours a day. It is easy to see how the relief of the hottest and driest region of France evolved from the combined effects of the sun and the wind that blows quite strongly at times."

Because of all the limestone cliffs in the area, there are not many vineyards.  However, the wine produced in the Cassis area is highly priced.  The light, fruity white wines go beautifully with the seafood and bouillabaisse.

Just by chance, we came upon one of those off the street restaurants for lunch.  "Restaurant Le Bonaparte" was a lucky find.  Above, I had mussels in wine sauce and The Trout had a salad with bacon.

The special of the day was scallops, sole and red fish in olive oil.  Outstanding!!  Along with this was ratatouille and roasted potatoes.  We also each had a glass of Cassis white wine, which we enjoyed.

Of course...dessert.  Strawberry cake with pudding and whipped cream.  Oh, yes!!  After dinner, the owner treated me to a glass of cassis liqueur and The Trout had a drink of cognac.  It happened to be mother's day in France, so as we left, I was presented with a red rose.

We went back a few days later for the bouillabaisse.  It was made the traditional way for this area.  We enjoyed it, but it was not the best we had ever had.  They brought out the fish to show us how they had been marinated overnight in saffron.  We then had a bowl of the broth with potatoes as the fish was cooked in the remaining broth in the kitchen.  It was not a pretty dish, but it was fulfilling.  


  1. What a lovely village Susan. We like off the beaten path restaurants too. I find that when you approach a restaurant and people are all speaking English, it's probably a tourist spot.

    How fun to be treated to a liqueur by the owner. Getting to know the locals is half of the fun, n'est pas? Looking forward to more of your French adventures.

  2. I'm enjoying your trip very much. I would, however, have enjoyed it more sitting down to that bowl of mussels!!


  3. I'm enjoying your trip so very much, Susan. I love to try different area dishes and there are always those that stand out and those that don't. The mussels would have been my choice too.

  4. I'd love to take that trip into the inlets and look waaay up toward the top. Like you, I enjoy searching for a restaurant, keeping in mind that here at home we always advise people away from the main streets and into the smaller streets for a richer experience.

  5. I so enjoy that you are bringing back great memories. What fantastic photos!
    Don't they have the Best moules et frites in the world.

  6. A beautiful village! I'd love to see it someday, but in the meantime, thank you for letting us see a bit through your eyes........

  7. Love this post. I have to say we usually go for the back streets where the locals go. The food is usually the best and much cheaper than the touristy places. We have a favourite close by to here, 6 courses including wine for €11,50. Diane

  8. What a treat! Oh how I would love to visit Cassis, just gorgeous. Thanks so much for sharing.

  9. Such a gorgeous place! Those cliffs are so beautiful.

  10. Susan, I went back and reviewed several of your writings that I missed, enlarged each photo and kinda felt like I was there walking the streets. Lovely posts and oh, that seafood!

  11. Such a beautiful town. The cliffs are just magnificent. How wonderful to be able to see your travels in this gorgeous part of the world and to wonder at the luscious food too.

  12. Charming, Susan! The way to find the best places is to wander. How lovely that you were given a rose on their Mother's Day AND the after dinner libations.
    Am enjoying your trip so much!