As silly as it might sound, I was pretty excited about seeing another area of Provence – the Mediterranean coastline – for the first time in my life. The evening after we hiked Sainte-Victoire, we met Julie in Aix-en-Provence for drinks and dinner we had to ‘rush through’ in 3 hours so we could retrieve our bags at the campground before the night attendant closed up for the evening at midnight. From there, we took the short drive to Julie’s apartment in Marseille.
The next morning, we drove to some of the cliffs that bookend the city of Marseille. This part of the Mediterranean coast is particularly rugged, and the cliffs were just a taste of what we’d see later that weekend. The area is full of winding roads that swing past row upon row of craggy grapevines that produce some of the world’s best wine. We stopped at a vineyard called Domaine du Paternal, had a few sips of rosé, red, and white, and bought a few (very reasonably priced, for the States at least) bottles.
The next day started with a warm hike from the road, through the rocky chaparral, past bizarre rock formations, and into a sparse forest for about an hour before arriving at Calanque d’En Vae. Not far from Marseille, a series of inlets called ‘Les Calanques’ jigsaw the coastline, creating crystal clear bays mottled with deep greens and blues and walled by steep cliffs on either side. Our calanque had a small sandy beach, but to get some protection from the sun, we hike along one side toward the mouth of the bay. After another charming picnic of salted meats and stinky cheeses, we took a dip in the chill waters. I’d guess that the water temperature was around 60°F, though I was caught gasping for air, as the shock coming from 90°F air made the difference feel more extreme.
We swam around for a while and watched the climbers scaling the wall opposite us. Kayaks are allowed in the bay, but motorized boats have to stay out, so it was easy to just enjoy swimming the ¼ mile across to the other side. Even with the long hike to get there, the area was buzzing with people here to beat the summer swelter.