Vive la France!

Vive la France!

Welcome to my blog -- follow us as we travel around France.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Provence - Day 3: Cassis & Les Calanques

Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Today we got up a little earlier than usual.  There was a beautiful sunrise, but there were a lot of clouds this morning.  We left the house around 9:30 to go to Cassis, which is a resort town on the Mediterranean, about 20-25 km east of Marseille.  We took the autoroute all the way, and the trip took about 90 minutes each way and a ¼ tank of diesel.
We had to park up yet another hill, but this one wasn’t quite as steep as the one in Gordes.  We arrived by 11:00, so I thought we might be a little early, but the town was already buzzing with tourists, mostly French.  We  headed for the Tourist Information, then bought tickets for a boat trip to see Les Calanques, which are chalk cliffs and fjord-like inlets that stretch about 20 km between Cassis and Marseille.  The only way out there is by boat or hiking on a trail along the top.  We decided it would be best to do the boat trip before lunch, so we took the noon tour that visits 5 Calanques, and takes about an hour.  Our boat was probably the ugly duckling of the fleet, but was named the Marseille, so must have once been a proud little boat. There weren’t a lot of people on it, and it was very comfortable.  Everyone else was up front until it got windy and they started to get wet from spray.  We stayed in the back under an awning with open sides.  Even with the clouds, the wind was fairly warm, so I didn’t even wear my jacket.  The sea was not glassy smooth, but it wasn’t real rough, either.
The boat went up into each of the Calanques as far as feasible.  The captain gave a narration, but it was in French, so it didn’t mean much to us.  At one point, as we approached a sandy beach, the captain made an announcement, and everyone but Mom & I scurried to the front of the boat.  We wondered if the announcement was that it was a nude beach – the men, especially, seemed very interested and were taking a lot of pictures.  For a brief moment while we were there, the sun came out and you could see how the cliffs must look in bright sunshine with the turquoise of the water, the blue of the sky, and the white chalk cliffs.   We could also see a lot of fish in the water beside the boat.
The weather wasn’t quite as I envisioned for the trip, but it was great to be out on the water and the scenery was spectacular.
After getting off the boat, we had lunch quay-side at Le Delphin – it was the first place we came to, but once Mom saw that they had mussels, I couldn’t get her to move on.  Mom had the moules frites (mussels & fries), and I had a salad with chicken, avocado, egg, and tomato.  Mom loved the mussels – she had wanted some ever since we got here – they were in a sauce flavored with fennel, and my salad was very good.  When we sat down at the table, a couple of older French men at the table next to us seemed to be quite taken with me – I think they were about my age within a few years.  They gave us the half-bottle of red wine they had left, which was nice, and it was good wine, and I thanked them.  They asked if we were “anglais,” but I explained “americaine” and told them we were from Seattle – they seemed to know where that is.  When they left, one of them touched me on the shoulder and said “a bientot” (see you soon) – what a flirt!  When we’d finished eating, Mom looked for a wet-nap to use on her hands.  The French couple on the other side of us also had the moules frites and they had wet-naps.  When the woman realized that Mom needed one, she asked the waiter to bring one for her.  That’s another example of how nice the people have been.
After lunch, we walked around a little while before starting back to the car.  It was about 3:00 when we left to head back home, again via the autoroute.  The toll costs were about 12 euros for the trip. 
This was a really good day because we had no parking debacles and no missed turns or close calls with on-coming cars in tight spaces.  This kind of daytrip is fairly easy on mom, too.
Our house is in the area known as the Luberon.  We are right below the Petit Luberon on the north side.  Today, we were on the south side, and the terrain is quite different.  We saw several old churches and castles on hilltops, vineyards (they are harvesting now), chalk and limestone outcroppings, and the vegetation is a little different than on our side of the Luberon – it’s scrubbier over there.
Mom’s skin is so fragile that every time she even brushes against something with her forearm or back of her hands, she bruises and even peels back the skin.  She brought some band-aides, but not enough, and even the band-aides cause her skin to bruise.  We stopped in a “pharmacie” today to get some gauze pads and gentle tape.  Her right arm is now all bandaged up.  It is really interesting trying to find what you need when the labels are all in French, but the people who work in the pharmacies are very helpful.
I’m fixing steak for dinner tonight.

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