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Visiting les Calanques in the south of France

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Feb 21st, 2014, 11:55 AM
  #1
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Visiting les Calanques in the south of France

Today's contemplations...

Never having been to Marseilles or very nearby (the closest I've been is either Arles, or St. Tropez...) I am trying to figure out how to best visit les Calanques.

Assuming I fly into Marseilles and want to see some of them - how easy/hard are they to access? Can you drive right up and a short walk takes you to a nice area for spreading out a beach towel and a picnic basket... or is it a long hike to get to them... or is the best method to visit by boat (and where does one pick up a boat for a day's tour).

Are they completely unspoiled - i.e. just you and your hiking gear/beach towel, or, are there outposts for a drink a la the Buza Bar found in Dubrovnik?

Not having been to Marseilles, would you recommend staying two nights in Marseilles, making this a trip for the "day in between" and otherwise fit in the rest of the two nights sightseeing in Marseilles?

Any thoughts appreciated. This would most likely be the landing point for a trip that ends up in Barcelona (and day trips therefrom), or, the very last visit on a trip that starts in Barcelona and flies home from Marseille.

Thank you.
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Feb 21st, 2014, 12:02 PM
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Drive to Cassis. There are many boats that go out on tours from there. Lovely little village, nice spot for lunch. You can drive and look down on them too on Grand Corniche road.

We spent 3 days in Marseilles. Enjoyed it; nice hotel right on harbor, a great dinner and a wonderful free tour that lasted all day.

Oh, no - you can't just drive up; the road is a LONG way up. I don't think you can hike down.
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Feb 21st, 2014, 12:02 PM
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We saw them from a boat tip from Cassis. We did it as a day trip from Provence and there were many boats offering trips of varying distances ( 3 calanques or 5). It was September and, while they were very pretty, it looked quite crowded up there. There were lots of people but, alas, no Buza Bar!

We have flown out of Marseilles a few times but only have stayed at the airport.
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Feb 21st, 2014, 12:03 PM
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Um, boat trip, not boat tip.
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Feb 21st, 2014, 12:14 PM
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I think the common jumping off point are the boats from Cassis. I believe access is limited to boats and therefore no bars. Very stunning scenery and Cassis is a great little town.
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Feb 21st, 2014, 12:30 PM
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Cassis has wonderful restaurants along the port.
I tasted my first sea urchins in their shells there,
Be sure to try an authentic Bouillabaisse In Marseille.
I had mine at Chez Juju located in a snug little harbor.
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Feb 21st, 2014, 11:50 PM
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There are numerous hiking trails all throughout the Calanques Park. I've hiked in from the Cassis side a few times and if memory serves, it's about an hour to get to the first calanque. Not particularly difficult hiking. Don't expect large, sandy beaches. Do expect drop-dead gorgeous scenery.

I'm not 100% sure, but I think some of the boat trips will drop you off and pick you up later, if you didn't want to hike in.

Also, note that in the summer, hiking is usually forbidden due to fire hazard.

- Kevin
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Feb 22nd, 2014, 05:48 AM
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Thank you everyone! It sounds like Cassis is the winner. How much time would you spend wandering Cassis? If I had more time I would stay there but I have never visited Marseille and it looks interesting for a few evenings of wandering.
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Feb 22nd, 2014, 06:42 AM
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I think you could go on the boat trip in the afternoon...there are some choices on length etc. and would maybe be back in Cassis in time to wander the shops and town and have dinner. It really comes to life in the evenings.
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Feb 22nd, 2014, 06:45 AM
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Hey flygirl!
I am planning the same trip in May! From my research, there are several boats that leave from the harbor in Marseille. We may take a bus to Cassis one day and grab a boat there for a tour. No hiking for us though.

We are using Marseille as a base before we head to Barcelona for the F1 race. There is only one direct flight once a day between the two cities that I could find. Otherwise, bus and train take an entire day, so grab that flight when you can.
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Feb 22nd, 2014, 06:54 AM
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A lovely lunch in Cassis and a wander of an hour or 2 was about it for us.
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Feb 22nd, 2014, 08:02 AM
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My son used to rock climb on the Calanques when he was a student in Aix.

They drove into the park somewhere and walked on a trail to the cliffs. These were bolted on the top for safety ropes. They would rappel (abseil) down and free climb back up. They did this because there isn't any access from below except by boat.

On his honeymoon, he took his wife to Cassis, but they only looked at the Calanques from the waterfront while eating a three hour grand aioli. He didn't try to make her climb for her dinner.
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Feb 22nd, 2014, 05:31 PM
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Cassis is charming - visited with the intent of taking the boat tour to the Calanques. Beautiful blue sky day, nice breeze; however, boats were not operating because it was too windy! Ended up having a nice long lunch (bouillabaisse), with the crisp white local wine. Memorable! Also, there are some nice small wineries in Cassis that are open for tastings.
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Feb 27th, 2014, 06:49 PM
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Flygirl....I stayed in Cassis last July and hiked the first three Calanques. If you plan on going to any of the beaches bring water shoes or a light pair of flip flops (unless your hiking shoes are something like keens and can be worn in the water). The beaches are very rocky. The Calanques are spectacular. I've never seen anything like it in my life and they got better as we went along. Bring a lot of water and food, unless you view them by boat. But the views from the hike are sooo worth it. We spent close to an entire day hiking there and back, stopping at each beach for a while. Easily one of my most memorable days in all of my trips to Europe. I'm surprised more people don't make this a destination.

Cassis is worth a couple of nights. It seemed like a very popular vacation spot for the French. The port at night was fun...lots of restaurants and people watching. On the other side of Cassis is the Routes des Cretes, a beautiful, vertical drive along the coast with several places to pull off and take in the view. The view back down into Cassis and toward the Calanques was unbelievable.

Have fun!
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Feb 27th, 2014, 07:15 PM
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Thank you all for such great advice!
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Jun 5th, 2014, 11:12 PM
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@jglags your response was helpful as I am hoping to do the same hike this July. My research seemed to imply that hiking trails are closed in the summer? If we arrive by car where do you suggest parking and starting the hike from? Do you recall how long your round trip hike was and what level of difficulty? Thanks!
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Jun 26th, 2014, 05:54 AM
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Good morning everyone

Still plotting the itinerary. It sounds like I should spend two nights here - or would staying in Aix and coming in by taxi work as well? I would do taxi over train because it's too much of a hassle - I'd probably even have the driver drop me at a trail head.

If I stayed in Cassis, arrival day would probably be later in the afternoon, which means two nights is only one full day. Hopefully that one day would not be rainy. The morning after night two I would leave for Aix.

Is there any reason to have the car while in Cassis? Should I drop the car before Cassis and once there just get around by foot or taxi? The next and last stop would be Aix which would also be without a car.

Or, another alternative: is there a outfitter who offers guided day hikes? Given my limited time, that might be a great option.

Thank you again for the encouragement!
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Jun 27th, 2014, 05:52 AM
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Hi

Does anyone have thoughts on the below lodging choices? Including re: ease of access to the trail head?

Le Cap Cassis has a room for 140E a night

L'Avila Cassis for 150 or 180E a night. This is my top choice right now.

Chambres d'Hôtes Garrigue Cassis for 150E a night

Hôtel*** Les Jardins de Cassis-France for 142E a night

Hotel Liautaud for 93E (this is very low on my list unless someone can convince me otherwise).

Thank you.
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Jun 29th, 2014, 08:58 PM
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Sorry, I don't have a reply, but a question: We will be arriving via cruise ship to Toulon in August. We actually dock, I believe at La Seyne sur mer port. We would like to take a trip to see the Calanques by boat. Can someone recommend a good company to buy an excursion to see the Calaques from Toulon? Thank you!
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Jun 30th, 2014, 04:58 AM
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Hi

Just an update - I am taking L'Avila Cassis.

No answer on the excursion, sorry.
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