There is nothing quite like life in the South of France, which means there is also nothing quite like holidaying in the South of France during the summer. I try and come here every summer holiday since it makes me feel most at home. This was my first trip of the summer and our first stop after Paris was Cassis. Cassis is a small Mediterranean fishing port in France's Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. It's home to centuries-old pastel-colored châteaus, rosé and white wine producing vineyards, and magical colorful calanques (narrow inlets with steep limestone cliffs and so many magical shades of blue that your eyes have probably never seen before). The harbor is filled with all types of boats, sidewalk cafes and restaurants and on Wednesday and Friday mornings, they have a local farmers' market in the village-centre where local vendors and craftsmen come out to sell all sorts of fruits, cheese, bread, meats and some of the best linen that you can find in the South.
There are several places that one can drive or train to, while vacationing in France. That's the beauty of Europe. If you want an exciting change of scenery, you can escape into a different country in a matter of a few short hours. The beauty of France is that each part of the country is also so inherently different. So we left Paris and headed for Cassis; a short hop and a jaunt by car or train, but it was entirely worth the fleeting adventure (even if we almost missed our train because Emily left her basket in our AirBnB and locked the keys inside... thank you Jerome!). Once you arrive by train, Cassis is about a 40-min by drive from Marseille’s train station, Gare de Marseille-Saint-Charles. We took a train from Paris to Marseille, which took about 3.5 hours and picked up a rental car at the train station via Hertz for our journey in the South (best to pre-book and know how to drive an manual. Also note that cars in Europe are generally very small and the streets in The South are tiny, windy, and narrow so avoid big SUVs as much as possible).
Emily and I had both always wanted to go to Cassis. We had read articles online from Vogue and seen photos of the infamous calanques. We rented a contemporary cabin in the woods through AirBnb hosted by a wonderful woman named Corine (she is a super friendly artist with incredible taste) and her builder husband (he is responsible for the building the majority of homes in Cassis and the surrounding region). It was the perfect place to stay, as it is situated on the top of the hill in a national park overlooking all of Cassis with views of both the forest and the ocean. The home was a little cabin bed and breakfast on the top of the hill past their main house, which was once stables for their horses. A few years ago, Corine and her husband decided to change the stables into a guest house and they built it from the ground up and lined it with cedar and a very charming contemporary design mixed with antique furnishings. It was the perfect place to zen out and relax, as there was also a spa outside that overlooked the entire surrounding villages. Corine was the most wonderful host and she welcomed us into her home with fresh homemade bread and helped us with all the location recommendations in town where we could easily get the best food for lunches and dinner.
The Michelin-starred La Villa Madie is great to get more fresh fish and vegetables and has beautiful views of Cassis since it's located high up in the hills. I would stay away from any of the restaurants that are right in front of the port, since they are mainly tourist traps and explore all the little charming side streets. You must book La Stazione for amazing Italian food. We had some of the best pizza on our trip here and perfectly cooked homemade pasta filled with fresh seafood caught local just off the port. L'Atelier Gastronomique was a great option for lunch where you can get fresh sandwiches, salads and fresh juices made. Divino is a small wine bar that serves tapas style small plates and wine from the region. And of course, there are amazing Gelato spots all around town, but we preferred Amorino (which they also have in New York in Greenwich Village that I frequent all the time).
Cassis has a pebbly public beach down the waterfront near the village-centre that is easy to relax at. If you have time, you should go on a wine tasting in the nearby hills at Clos Sainte Magdeleine or Le Clos Albizzi. Les Calanques are infamous to boat or hike to, but they are rather hidden and off the beaten path. Look up directions to the Port-Miou and prepare to search, but once you find them, you will be in a sea of secret beaches. But the best way to find the calanques is to rent a boat. There are a few major calanques that you can easily get to from the port of Cassis and the furthest one is only about an hour and a half away by boat, but it's the best one and oh is it sublime!
You can rent a boat from JCF Boat (at the very end of the dock). We rented a basic motor boat with shade for five hours for about 140 Euro, but if you're more adventurous and want a serious workout, you can also rent Kayak's at Club de Kayak (but prepare yourself, because the currents are quite strong!). Boating topless is allowed and almost encouraged, so in the interest of not having tan lines, we did as the locals do. You will most likely have a car in Cassis, so you'll need to park at Parking Mimosas up the street on the hill to the left in the village and pay for hourly parking. Its very inexpensive, but sometimes the machine doesn't even work and they will let you get away for free!
Although hardly anyone speaks English in Cassis, you'll fall in love with everyone in this charming little port village. They have the cutest little postcards, charming street vocalists and just the loveliest French locals. It's a great place to stay for a few days, but keep in mind that it is a very small village, so I suggest doing three days (two travel days and one full day) to maximize your time, but also not overstay where you'll be wandering around trying to find something new to do and running short on options.
Coco wears: Missoni Dress, Vintage Gardener Straw Hat, Vintage Gucci Envelope Tote, Joie Sandals, Horn Bangles, Vintage Gold Belt. Photographer: Emily Collins. Location: Cassis, France. City Guide: Cassis