After leaving the hilltowns of Provence, we drove toward the coast. We made an attempt to go into Marseilles (just for Bouillabaisse) and drove right through the city. It was crowded and not very pretty and as we expected, parking for our camping car was going to be impossible. So we decided to forget about it and head further east to the seaside town of Cassis.
The drive along the seaside cliffs to Cassis was great - curving road overlooking the Mediterranean. We arrived in Cassis and after some exploratory driving around the hillside town found a campground. Once we got checked in, we walked down to the port for dinner. And we mean down. A long hill. The port and center of Cassis are downhill from just about everything.
The climb down and back up was well worth it since Jose found an excellent Bouillabaisse in a restaurant called Chez Gilbert. The Bouillabaisse is served differently than the sort of fish stew we have eaten in the United States. First the waiter brought a bowl, accompanying crostini, bread and a garlic/saffron mayonnaise to add to the dish. Then he presented an attractive and very large platter to show us the 5 different cooked fishes and potatoes. We were so overwhelmed we forgot to take a picture of the platter. Too late, since it was taken back to the kitchen to be filleted. We did get a photo of the bowl of fish once it was all deboned.
When the fish was served, the waited also ladled some steaming hot fish soup broth into Jose's bowl. The costini slice goes into the broth with some spiced mayonnaise sauce and a piece of fish. Eat it and repeat. The waiter returned time and time again with more hot soup broth. It was a delicious meal and Jose was quite satisfied with this Bouillabaisse fix. Jill helped him eat the Bouillabaisse, in addition to her lovely dinner of St Jacques scallops grilled perfectly with a bit of greens, exotic mushrooms and truffle oil. Delicious!
After this rich meal, the next day we got some exercise hiking Les Calanques along the coast west of Cassis. The Calanques are limestone cliffs jutting into the sea, with narrow ravines between them. The deep blue water against the white cliffs make for some fantastic views. Hiking up and down the rocks and stones is a bit challenging, but we needed the exercise.
After several hours of the Calanques, we headed out of Cassis and drove east along the coast. We made another stop near Six-Fours-les-Plages to make another climb. Here we climbed to a little chapel Notre-Dame-de-Mai for the outstanding views of the surrounding coastline. The highest point on the Cap Sicié Peninsula which stretches out from Sanary, this chapel overlooks the cape and the sea from its steep height, providing a beautiful view from the Iles d’Hyères to the coves around Marseille. It was extremely windy, so it make for an exciting adventure and we are glad we took the time to make the climb.
We left here and found our overnight stop a bit further along the coast near the town of Le Pradet. We stayed at another France Passion farm, the Moulin de L'EsQuirol. This is a lovely olive oil farm. We parked amongst the olive trees for the night. The proprietor let us sample his wares and we bought some of his products: olive oil, vinegar, salt seasoned with herbs and spices of Provence, honey, and olive paste. We eagerly took them back to the camping car to make a tasty dinner with chicken, pasta and bread seasoned with our new "produits de la ferme".