On our first day arriving into Aix En Provence, we were planning to just take it easy and walk around the town square. But yes there’s always the unexpected that pops up in driving trips. Our concierge from Hotel Le Pigonnet was sharing with us places to go near Aix En Provence, and what we could do if we wanted to see something different.
Cassis, a Mediterranean seaside town located south of Aix En Provence, came up as the place which many Aix-ers (short form for the locals from Aix En Provence) tend to head to especially during these hot sweltering summer months. The pictures of the famous Calanques in Cassis and the idea of our feet submerged in nice cold sea water was enough to get all of us back into the car for another drive. So here’s how we spent our first afternoon in Aix En Provence with a day trip to Cassis instead.
Driving around the scary mountain roads on the way to Cassis.
What we didn’t anticipate was the ridiculous traffic in Aix En Provence. We were only supposed to take at most 45 mins to get to Cassis but ended up taking around 1 hour and 15 mins to get there in the end. There were some lovely sights to enjoy when we got off the highway and got closer to Cassis including the very unnerving windy mountain roads that Y had to drive very carefully around, it put us all on the edge just trying to avoid looking beyond the sides of the roads.
First views of the town in Cassis.
We decided to head towards the town near Port De Cassis and try to find parking. After battling the maddening afternoon traffic, now we had to deal with parking – yes I guess no surprises given this was the peak period in Cassis. Thank goodness, eventually after driving up and down the roads near the port, we found a large central carpark, a 10 minutes walk away from the town area.
View of the beachfront at Port De Cassis.
It’s unfortunate we only had an hour or so to spare here, and had to drive back to Aix En Provence to make it back for dinner there. But we made the most of it by enjoying the town shops and walking around the central town area and taking a dip in the waters at the beach.
Many websites say Cassis is like the St Tropez 50 years ago, it’s not as posh, and still retains much of that intimate small beach town feel, and has a convivial charm to it. There’s a good balance of cafes, drinking spots, boutiques, pharmacies to my favourite gelato shop – Amorino in this intimate town. I noticed the port had many pointus boats amidst the tourist boats and yachts docked there. Cassis is apparently one of the few Mediterranean ports where the fishermen still use these type of boats.
Admiring the boats docked at Port de Cassis.
So yes you ask me, what’s the verdict of the beach? To be fair, we were at the beach at Port De Cassis, so I am not sure if the beaches further down are better, but the sand was really rough, and not pleasant to stand on, as compared to places like Gold Coast in Australia or Maldives. It felt like my poor paws were getting some serious foot reflexology by the rough sandy pebbles, but the clear blue water in that burning scorching heat was still a god sent!
I would say come to Cassis if you want to have views of the sun and sea and a touch of that whole French Riveria feel without burning a hole in your wallet, after all Cassis is more of an everyday man’s French Riveria.
Chilling out in the shade while CG is at the beach.
Tips on visiting Cassis:
- Driving here is still one of the best ways, but be prepared for the bad traffic if you are here in summer ie. July and August. Buffer plenty of time to get from one place to another. And be patient with looking for parking. The second option is taking the TGV available from Aix En Provence.
- Time can be your enemy here given the rush hour traffic, so if you don’t intend to stay in Cassis for a night, it’s best to come here in the morning, to have ample time to really just chill here.
- A pity we didn’t have time to explore the calanques, but I think that one of the most pleasant ways to do it is via a boat tour. You can buy the tickets from the office located at Port De Cassis. You have wonderful options to choose from – 3, 5 or 8 Calanques to see.
Me and the national flag of France, very important selfie!