Subject: South of France Trip Report - 1

>From Marseilles, our entry point, it was an easy hour drive to Cassis. We stayed at the Jardin d'Emile on the Plage du Bestuoan, west of the port. An ok hotel - small, and tucked into a cliffside. Not worth putting in the Ziner database, though. Eager to be outside, we changed into swimsuits and laid on the rocky beach for a while. This area is famed for the gorgeous calanques, towering limestone fjords along the coast. We drove to the parking area by the first one, then walked to it. The calanques can be reached by boat or on foot. Port Miou, the first of 3 calanques closest to Cassis, is now used as a marina. The water was amazingly clear and blue - fabulous shades of turquoise and deep azure. You could see the boats reflected on the sand beneath. A few brave souls were swimming in the chilly water. Lots of hikers, since this is the beginning of a Grand Randonnee trail that goes all the way to Marseilles, an 11 hour hike. We climbed to the top of the next calanque and looked down at the crystal clear water and the little beach, then headed back to Cassis. A delicious seafood (of course!) dinner at Le Dauphin, a walk along the quaint port and to the lighthouse, then a good night's sleep after the full day. We wake to a quiet sunny morning. As we gaze out on the shimmering Mediterranean, café crémes on the terrace of the Café de la Mer clear out the cobwebs. Just to fascinate us, it seems, six little sailboats go by, each connected to the one ahead - it must be a sailing class! Then another neat little row of bright dinghies bob into sight, towed by a rubber raft out to sea for the first session of the day. Our next stop is the tourist office, which offers plentiful information(much in English, conveniently), about Cassis itself, boat excursions, hikes and a multitude of area attractions. Looking forward to seeing the beautiful calanques from the water, we buy tickets by the harbor that will allow us to get off and stay as long as we want at En Vau, the third calanque. As we cruise out of port, the captain of the boat tells the passengers, in French then in English, about the town, resorts and homes, the cliffs, and landmarks we're passing.Nudging up to the rocky cliff about 200 meters from shore in the narrow calanque, he gives us a hand off of the prow to the closest rock. This is a path to shore? We make our way carefully to the beach, using our hands almost as much as our feet as we climb up and then down the rocky trail. It's worth it, though, to be able to enjoy this secluded cove. As we were relaxing on the rocky beach, other hikers were coming over the high cliff and making their way down. About 15 feet up, one hiker lost his balance and thudded heavily to the rocks beneath, then lay still. The few people on the beach quickly gathered to help, calling on cell phones, helping to make the man as comfortable as possible without moving him. In 20-30 minutes a zodiac pulled into the cove and an emergency crew jumped out and took care of him. Soon 3 emergency vehicles pulled up behind us - obviously there's an emergency access road to the secluded coves. After immobilizing the man, they took him away in a jeep. Amazingly, he hadn't broken anything. We were glad he wasn't seriously hurt, and certainly even more careful than we'd been before as we clambered back over the rocks to wait for a return boat. For the next 8 days we'll be staying inland, in the Luberon region of Provence - but we sure enjoyed starting the trip with a seaside day.