We left off on our last update in the Pourquerolles on June 27. Early the next morning we headed out to Cassis.
We visited Cassis briefly on our sail with Marilla and Mitch from La Grande Motte to Nice to pick up Allison, Mike, Riley, and Tristan in. Marilla described Cassis as the quintessential French seaside village. We all wanted to return there for a more relaxed visit.
Along the way, the winds picked up to 25 knots with gusts up to 30 knots and consistent 5-6 foot waves amid “confused seas”. You may recall, when we sailed in the English Channel from Cherbourg to Le Havre, we described that there was no pattern to the waves that assailed us from multiple directions. As such, waves will periodically merge with one or more waves and with little warning, you can get a really big wave. This is referred to as “confused seas” and this type of disruption in wave pattern arises when tidal changes / current clashes with wind; when waves reflect back off land masses; when there are leftover waves from winds in a previous direction; and likely lots of other factors. Our experience in the Mediterranean is they are pretty much the norm unless it is dead calm.
We described the Channel sail as topsy turvy – this sail to Cassis, was more of a roller coaster; and once, when both a gust of wind AND a rogue wave conspired to give us a thrill, we were indeed thrilled! It was COLD, too.
George brought us in closer to land where it was a bit calmer and we motor-sailed the balance of the way to Cassis.
We spent 3 lovely days in Cassis. Riley and Tristan braved the chilly waters below a seawall with waves crashing over it. Riley stuck it out for a great big wave.
We enjoyed a close up view of a type of jousting on boats. Until this time we were left to wonder what these odd boats with long ramps out the stern were. Most seaside villages had a number of them and we learned that towns have periodic competitions. We were observing what we think were lessons/practice.
First photo – competing boats approach each other, with combatants on ramp, armed with long poles and a wooden box strapped to their chests. The box is the target and has divisions in it to capture the opponents pole. Second photo – combatants engage with the objective of forcing their opponent into the water. Third photo – Gentleman in the yellow shorts leans to far in effort to unseat opponent – the best that could be achieved is both men being knocked into the water. Final photo – gentleman in the black shorts, having maintained his steady perch, wins the contest.
We were lucky to be in Cassis on Market Day. All villages of a reasonable size have an open air market one or two days a week. They can vary in how large they are and what is for sale. Often, it is a combination of fresh (in season, local) vegetables and fruits; cheeses, fresh meat and seafood, eggs, dried sausages, rotisserie meats, olives, olive oil and tapenade, bread, clothing, occasionally a “euro” stand with hundreds of different items for 1 euro, some crafts like soap, or jewelry, and pretty much anything someone wants to sell who is willing to rent a booth. They are always lively, colorful and fun to peruse.
The produce is of the highest quality at prices not dissimilar to the village store or supermarket. The produce in supermarkets, for that matter, is also of exceptional quality – in season, local – and the fruit, consistently DELICIOUS.
Massif des Calanques
A short boat ride from Cassis, are the Massif des Calanques. These white limestone cliffs have deep fissures similar to fjords. This area is part of the 10th French National Park.
The water was frigid, but Allison and Riley swam to the shore. Tristan was kind of pushed in and had barely touched the water when he levitated up and scrambled onto Allison, protesting loudly. He decided to pass on swimming, as did the rest of us. Water temperatures in Cassis in June are historically a bit less than 70 degrees F.
They were rewarded for their bravery when they arrived at a small, secluded, albeit nude beach. The people on the beach did not appear to be delighted that clothed people had arrived. Riley and Allison were not delighted either, but balked at getting back in the frigid water. Mitch and Marilla rescued them with the paddleboards.
Mike and George took Riley and Tristan for a bumpy ride. Marilla went later but, according to George, she is a lard ass and he could not get the dinghy on a plane.
Back in the beautiful town of Cassis, Riley was rewarded with the puppy dog she fell in love with and she named her Cassis.
And then, all too soon, it was time to start heading back towards Nice.
First stop, St. Mandrier
The first evening the old folks did some necessary tasks, including finding a burger place for dinner, while the younguns walked a trail that included an exercise course (so sorry to miss it).
The following day in St. Mandrier we (including Tristan) swam off the pebble beach. It was COLD, but I expect a few degrees warmer than in the deep waters of the calanques. There was a steep bank into the water and between that, the rocks, and some waves, I found it relatively easy to get in (I fell). George and Mike were last in (inching in is the worst!!).
We all climbed a hill to an old fort that had no access but did afford a beautiful view.
Marilla and Mitch pitched in to finish the masks Tristan had been working on for a family picture. Is it just me or do Marilla and Mitch look like they are copying off of Tristan?
We enjoyed one of the best dinners of our trip at a restaurant Mitch and Marilla picked out. Fabulous duck, carpaccio de boeuf… We had previously dropped off a cake for a belated (Mitch) and early (Marilla) birthday celebration. Sadly, Riley was not feeling well and she and Allison left early to get a good nights sleep so we took the cake back to the boat and saved some for Riley.
All too quickly, we were back on our way the next day, dropping Marilla and Mitch off in Toulon to catch a train to Nice for their flight home.
Goodbye Marilla and Mitch
Allison, Mike, Riley and Tristan stayed on for another week with us stopping at La Lavendou, St. Tropez, and Antibes.