When I first started planning our trip for the South of France I was torn whether we should try to visit both the French Riviera and the Provence region. Worried that we would be trying to cover too much territory for the amount of time we had, I crossed the French Riviera off the list.So you can imagine my excitement when I read about Cassis (pronounced Kah-see) a little town 30 minutes east of Marseille (where we were flying into) that was dubbed the “poor man’s St. Tropez” but was supposed to be every bit as beautiful. Perhaps we were going to get a little taste of the French Riviera after all!Our flight form London to Marseille got in late at night so we stayed at a hotel by the airport. The next morning we picked up our rental car and set out to visit Cassis.Somehow the navigator (me) got confused about the exit we were supposed to take and accidentally directed us into downtown Marseille. My bad! We were just getting our sea legs for driving in France and downtown Marseille was the equivalent of getting thrown in the deep end! It was full of crazy drivers and streets built for clown cars. At one point a road became too narrow for our car to fit through and the only way to get out was to put the car in reverse. It wouldn’t have been so bad if other cars hadn’t come up behind us. My job title went from navigator to traffic director. Like I said, my bad!:(
I’m sure Marseille is a lovely city (we had actually planned to visit on our last day, that is before our little detour). Below is a photo I took from the car window. I figured it probably wasn’t the best time to ask Mike to pull over so I could get a better picture!:) I don’t want to scare you away from driving through the city, but if you aren’t comfortable with Boston-like traffic and narrow roads you may want to train in from the airport or from Aix-en-Provence instead.
45 minutes and a few bad words later we were back on the freeway and headed to Cassis. When we arrived the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and the town was pastel perfection! Whoever called this town the poor man’s St. Tropez seriously needs to visit again. It is a town worthy of a much better nickname! We sat down at a restaurant on the waterfront and split a Provencal pizza. We were surprised to see how much Italian influence there was on the menus at the restaurants around here. Not that I’m complaining!:)And since it was September we ordered mussels. I recently learned that you only order shellfish in months that have the letter “r” in them – thanks, Em! Not sure if this is an old wives’ tale, but I’m sticking to it! The mussels were prepared with Pistou sauce and breadcrumbs – which is basically pesto without the pine nuts. They were très bien and I highly recommend trying something prepared with this sauce! And finished off with ice cream! Cassis is also known for Calanques which are limestone inlets with hidden beaches. You can get on a boat or walk to see them. Definitely worth checking out. Cassis is a gorgeous little town and the perfect place for a day trip. With the close proximity to both Marseille and Aix-en-provence, it is a nice change of scenery if you’re exploring the hill towns in rural France.
Have you ever been? I would love to hear what you thought!