Cassis Calanques Cruise

Oh my god, more than a year has passed since I visited Cassis with mom! I really must continue with our chronicle or otherwise all the details will fade from my memory…

Since I came back from Japan, I plunged into my No.1 passion, hockey!

I miss my mom but I am also relieved to be back into my normality in London. šŸ˜ŠšŸ’šŸ’•

Now then, I shall jog my memory and report about our mini cruise around Cassis’s spectacular inlets.

During the peak season, cruise ships left every fifteen minutes and the tickets were bought from the ticketing office by the harbour…

There were three kinds of cruising – 45 minutes, 60 minutes and 90 minutes, depending on how many inlets the ships would visit.

We opted for the 45 minutes one.

The weather was perfect for cruising!

Despite being weekday, the harbour was busy with tourists who were also eager to visit the famous Calanques.

We managed to find seats on the upper deck.

By the way, he wasn’t a captain…

We waited about 20 minutes until all the seats were fully taken. And then, the ship started the engine and we moved out of the harbour…

The sea breeze we enjoyed while we waited under the bright sunlight in the harbour turned more like gust as soon as we were into the open sea and I was very glad that I didn’t forget to bring a jacket.

I must say we were very lucky to visit the Cassis that day because the weather went down hill from the next day.

During the 45 minutes’ cruising, we visited three inlets.

The blueness of the water was breathtaking. Where the depth of the water was deep, it was beautiful sapphire blue and it turned to shimmering turquoise blue where it was shallower…

Who wouldn’t love to spend a day on a boat, doing nothing other than picnic and chilling out?

Eventually, our time was up and the ship headed back to the harbour.

Now, we will have some nice lunch! Mom and I alighted the ship and started to walk towards the town centre…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

La Tarte TropĆ©zienne, Cassis

Cassis, a reputed coastal town of CĆ“te d’Azur, was about half hour drive from Aix-en-Provence. Visiting the town was earmarked to be one of our road trip’s highlights and we were praying for good weather.

And our player was answered! We found a gorgeous blue sky over our head. A perfect weather for visiting the seaside.

We came off from A50 and went through a few hairpin curves…

‘I don’t see any coastline yet.’, mum complained. Guardrails were cutting the line of our sights and the only things we could see was the blue sky and the line of trees.

The traffic slowed down as we approached a toll gate…

I can’t recall how much the toll was but it was around ā‚¬3.00?

After driving through narrow and winding streets of Cassis’s residential area, we arrived at a very smart carpark. The place was modern and stylish with a fancy ironwork and colour scheme. Even though the charges weren’t cheap but I was impressed by most of the French public car parks in their towns and cities. They seemed to be well designed and pleasant to park a car. And we always felt safe.

‘Wow! It’s busy!’ Despite being weekday morning, the car park was almost full and we had to park in the lowest level. How busy will it be during the high season!, mum and I shook our heads with disbelief.

I don’t know about you but the sight made me very nostalgic…

It reminded me of the illustrations of my all time French children’s book, Caroline et ses amis, Ć” la mer…

All those pinwheels, who will buy them, you may wonder. But the atmosphere of seaside is such, I would have been lure to buy one if my rational side of me didn’t stop me!

The first settlers of Cassis were the Ligures who arrived at the shore around 500 BC. They were originally from the north-western Italy and they established their lives by fishing and farming.

Today’s Cassis is a popular tourist destination and the place is teeming with visitors who want to visit its famous cliffs and inlets.

A well-presented town centre…

Despite the aged appearance, the buildings were well maintained and the tiled streets and pavements were immaculately clean. The town was very smart.

Look mum, La Tarte TropƩzienne!

La Tarte TropƩzienne is a chain patisserie which has branches mainly in the South of France. They sell not only the famous tarte TropƩzienne but also more usual French cakes and pastries.

Tarte TropĆ©zienne! They came in different sizes…

Let’s have some with coffee before we go cruising, mum!

Doesn’t it look cute?

It was delicious too! While we enjoyed our morning treat, I chatted with a staff who made up delicious coffee. She was shocked to hear that I drove from London all on my own. She was even more impressed when I told her that I would drive back to the UK, tracing the eastern side of France.

‘By the way, is there any public convenience nearby?’

She told us that there was one in a town square which was adjacent to the shop.

Place Baragnon…

The square with a fountain seemed to be also a home for several ducks…

Hey guys, do you know where is a public toilet?

The public loo was in the north corner of the square and it was one of those “automated” kinds. I had seen a similar one in London for years but never had the courage to use one.

Oh well, I’ve got to bite the bullet now because I have to test drive it before sending mum in!

The loo wasn’t dirty but it was a bit scary. In the back of my mind, I couldn’t help worrying if the door wouldn’t unlock and I would be trapped inside!

Thankfully, no such thing happened and I sent mum to use it too. However, I stood right next to the door and kept on asking her if everything was ok. It must have been a peculiar sight for the passers by…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Lourmarin & Cadenet

The next place we visited before Aix-en-Provence was Lourmarin. The village was listed as “one of the most beautiful villages in France” and we were intrigued by the claim.

A carpark by the perimeter of the village appeared to be full so we proceeded further into the heart of the village and managed to find a space on the street lined with large trees.

The time was around half past two o’clock and the street was very quiet. We saw all the gift shops and cafes were open but they weren’t at all lively.

Lourmarin was famous for its castle. Apparently, the castle had an amazing stone staircase which resembled a fusilli pasta. ‘Mum, do you want to see the castle?’

She pondered for a while but in the end decided not to visit the building because her knee was hurting. ‘I am sorry if you are missing out on opportunities because of me.’, she apologised.

To be 100% honest, Lourmarin didn’t leave me with much impression. The landscape wasn’t as spectacular as Gordes or Roussillon – just didn’t possess the same “wow” factors of the aforementioned places.

After leaving Lourmarin, we drove past Cadenet…

I can’t remember why we pulled over there and then. But anyway, we decided to stop.

A vast vineyard!

We climbed back to the car and headed to our next destination, Aix-en-Provence…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Roussillon

Our next destination was a commune called Roussillon. A guidebook recommended the place as a “must-see” so we decided to lunch there.

What made Roussillon unique was its reddish rocks and soil which added rosy and orangish tones to the scenery. It was due to the earth in the area was rich in clay with ochre deposits – ochres were pigments ranging from yellow and orange to red.

Unlike Gordes’, Roussillon’s carpark and the vicinity were very quiet…

Ragged rock face was punctuated by openings and doors…

Are they some sort of storage, like railway arches? What the inside is like?, mum and I were very curious…

We didn’t came across a single soul while we sauntered towards the village centre. Where was everybody? Not even the sound of everyday life, such as the sound of TV or washing machine, was heard from the walls which lined a narrow street…

Heavenly scent of jasmine greeted us…

Psssss, it’s so quiet. We must keep our voice down…

Around Place de la Mairie, there were a plenty of eateries and we decided to have lunch at one of them.

We were ushered to a narrow staircase which led us to an outside seating area…

The terrace commanded a fine view of the valley…

As we settled into our seats, the weather seemed to be going south and the wind started to increase the strength. ‘Oh god, I hope it will stay dry…’, mum frowned while she looked on one of the staffs struggling to secure a canopy above the terrace which was flapping rather wildly.

For our lunch, we ordered their plat du jour, steak!

Mmmm, it was delicious. A couple, who were seated next to us, saw what we were tucking in and ordered the same dish!

After lunch, I left mum in Place de la Mairie and went to fetch our car.

‘Where does this path lead to?’ I couldn’t resist my curiosity so decided to do a quick detour…

The narrow passage led me to a higher ground…

And I found more cafes and restaurants…

There were small gates and passages everywhere. Very intriguing…

One of the stairs led me to an open terrace which offered another great view over the Luberon Valley…

It was so tempting to climb up another path to see if any hidden gem would await me…

However, I resisted the temptation because mum would be worried if I failed to return soon…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Gordes

Yes, the snow is here and it makes me feel like we are finally having a proper winter. And I don’t mind the weather as long as it won’t disrupt my journey to the ice rink tonight!

My entry today is going to be a perfect antidote against the present chill because it is about the little village in southeastern France where mum and I visited during our road trip last summer.

From Avignon to Gordes, our first village in the Luberon region of Provence, the journey didn’t take very long…

There were many pretty villages in the Luberon Valley and having to choose just a few was an agony for us. However, it would require at least another week of stay in the area if we wanted to explore it properly and we didn’t have that time.

Gordes was one of those “eagle’s-nest” type villages which were perched on the summits of boulders. As we got closer to the commune, a winding road leading to the place got narrower and steeper. Prior to our visit, we learnt from a guide book that parking in the village could be tricky so we decided to park in a public parking area by the entrance of the village. While we were getting out of our car, a fleet of coaches pulled up and poured out a herd of tourists. ‘I am so glad that we’ve managed to park before more crowds arrive!’, mum and I whispered to each other as we walked behind them.

A view from the roadside…

It was about five minutes’ walk from the car park to the centre of the village…

We wandered around the village for a while…

We strolled down a quiet street which was lined with pretty shops…

Oh, this was exactly I imagined how the village in Provence would look like! Honey coloured stonework and climbing roses. How idylic…

Time to time, we caught a glimpse of a the Luberon Valley between the buildings…

Luscious green of Provence!

These are the colours of Provence. How delicious they look. I really miss them!

Mum spotted a small studio which was selling hand painted plates and she wanted to see the inside…

There were loads of pretty earthenware on sale…

Mum decided to buy a small dish for olive oil. ‘This will remind me about our time together’, she smiled. Oh, thank you, mum!

After shopping, we walked to the end of the row of houses and saw this…

Isn’t it beautiful?

We walked back towards the village centre and came across a little cake shop…

Shall we buy some treat?

Ahhh, our favourite, Tarte TropĆ©zienne! We couldn’t resist it.

Leaving mum with a box of the cake in the village square, I returned to the car park alone so she wouldn’t have to strain her knee.

I saved the best view of Gordes for you…

Upon leaving the village, we did have a little incident and it was hairy! For some unknown error, Google navigation displayed a cycle path instead of car route, and as a result, I drove into an impossibly narrow lane. I am not sure if I could reverse all the way without my mum’s calm navigation. She did save me from badly scratching a bodywork of my car. Thank you, mum!!!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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