This weekend we celebrated an anniversary of sorts—two years since our first trip to Europe together. We took a European cruise in 2013 and that cemented, not only our love of world travel, but our love of seeing the world together.
We departed out of Barcelona that trip, but our first port was Marseille, France. We headed back there this weekend to relive the fun memories of that vacation and to make even more!
We left Friday after Matt got home from work and what should have been a three hour trip ended up taking us six hours because of horrible traffic most of the way there. With the weather getting cooler and the leaves already starting to change, I guess a lot of other people had the same idea to get in one last hurrah at the beach.
While the drive was long, we went through countryside we’d never seen before. At one point I squinted off into the distance and asked Matt, “Are those mountains? I think that might be the foothills of the French Alps.”
It was nearly 10:00 by the time we pulled up to the hotel that night. Apparently we arrived just after a large bus of tourists and, after we checked in, we found ourselves staring at an elevator bank packed with at least 40 people trying to go up to their rooms at the same time. We had two options: wait in the hallway with the rest of the guests until it cleared enough for us to catch a lift or head to the bar for a quick drink while the masses cleared. We opted for the second option.
Luckily, after we finished our drinks, the lobby was clear and we could get an elevator up to our floor. Once in the room, we ordered room service and collapsed on the bed in an exhausted heap. Sometimes you can’t beat a night in after a long drive.
Saturday morning we woke early, got dressed and made a beeline down to the port in the hopes of scoring tickets on a boat to tour the Calanques. The calanques are a series of steep-walled inlets etched out in the massive limestone cliffs that line the coast between Marseille and Cassis. Many of these inlets have become popular–if isolated–beaches with beautiful, turquoise water—others feature impressive caves and rock formations cutting into the sides of the sheer cliffs.
We were lucky and able to get tickets for a three-hour trip that would take us by each of the calanques. As we bought the tickets, the woman at the booth cautioned us that it would be a bit choppy out there, but having survived a bumpy whale watch in Boston a few months ago, we figured we could handle it.
Tickets in hand, we went in search of breakfast. We ended up at a cute little brunch place where apparently the kitchen wasn’t open, so we settled for not-so-petit dejeuners of bread and butter, eggs, pain au chocolate, fresh juice and, of course, a cappuccino (green tea for Matt). The sun was out and the temperature pleasant, so we sat outside where we had views of both the port and a little square up the street.
Once breakfast was over, we set off on a mission: find Les Savons de Saint Victor so I could load up on my favorite body washes. I discovered this store when we first visited Marseille and immediately fell in love. The soaps are handmade and, while scented, they don’t irritate my skin like many others do. Oh, and the woman working the shop the first time we went joked with me in French–and I understood, which made me feel like a rock star. I think I’ve got a theme going here with the joking in French (not to be confused with French jokes).
I probably could have shopped for hours in the little store that is tucked neatly away in the shadows of the Abbey of St. Victor—an easy walk from the port, but not so easily found unless you know what you are looking for. However, we had a boat to catch and wanted to drop off my goodies at the hotel before we left, so I quickly wrapped up my shopping left with, oh, maybe just half of the store.
After the soaps were deposited, we headed back to the port and to a little restaurant where we had a carafe of wine two years before. If it really was going to be choppy, we figured a little liquid courage wouldn’t hurt. We sat there and sipped on our wine until we could see the line moving for people to get on our boat. We were nearly the last to board, but were able to get seats (I guess if sitting on the place where they loop the rope is a seat) on the back of the boat where typically it’s a bit less choppy.
The sun was out, there were few clouds in the sky and the breeze began to pick up as our boat gained speed. The views surrounding the harbor, including Notre-Dame de la Garde, glowed in the sunlight and we took pictures, shielding the camera from the occasional spray of seawater as the boat climbed and fell over waves slowly increasing in size.
Once we cleared the safety of the harbor and began making our way out into the open waters of the Mediterranean, things began to get really interesting. Suddenly the occasional sprays of water became constant gushes as the boat began to pitch from side to side with mounting intensity. I gripped the rail of the boat as a rush of water gushed over my feet. Things were getting real.
Matt, who had moved back by the stairs to protect the camera from the water, grabbed my hand and we climbed to the second level where I gripped the rails for dear life. This was more than a little choppy. I quickly ran through escape plans in my head should the boat decide to tip too far to one side. Matt just laughed and said everything would be okay. He didn’t have a dream about a tidal wave the night before.
Just when I thought I might not be able to take it anymore (though I really didn’t have a choice since we were so far out at that point), we sailed in between two cliffs and the waters calmed a bit. We were still rocking, but the gushes of water coming over the side of the boat slowed in their frequency. I was able to look out and admire the rocky cliffs rising above us.
The next couple of hours took us in and out of the coves that make up the calanques. They were truly beautiful and awe inspiring in their sheer size and natural glory. Here are some of the photos we took—just like the Grand Canyon, however, pictures (at least mine anyway) do not really do what we saw justice.
Suffice to say we made it back to the port and I eagerly jumped back onto land. We immediately went in search of a beer and a bit of food to help calm
our my nerves and ended up at a little restaurant serving burgers that overlooked the port. While we were sitting, suddenly we heard the roar of a military plane and saw two soar by and over the hill opposite us. Though initially a bit unsettling, we soon learned the French air force was putting on a show and we sat back to relax and enjoy the view.