While living in Provence I was lucky enough to be let in one of the best kept secrets: Cassis. A little fishing village on the Côte d’Azur (the French Riviera). While tourists around the world flock to sun in St. Tropez, Monaco, or to the famous film festival in Cannes, the French go to Cassis.
Known for its clay-color buildings, rosé producing vineyards, pebbly beaches and affable locals who speak little to no english, and are incredibly social and friendly. And elegantly dressed, especially the women. No American jean shorts, no tank tops. Dresses and outfits that were sexy and ultra-feminine, tailored to to hug a woman’s body, yet leave room to flow with her movement, room for mystery. Neutral tones and accessories that were noticed yet always a little understated. Hair and make-up natural, done just enough to enhance natural beauty.
The shops throughout the village reflect this elegance. Independent designers and buyers with an eye for understated quality and timeless, chic design I’ve never seen anywhere else. Beyond the shops, Cassis is home to a market held every Wednesday and Friday morning, full of local crafts, vegetable oil soap, fresh vegetables, Mediterranean style clothes, Turkish towels, linens, and of course, cheese. I bought a thin sweater to wear off the shoulder, that would also work for the rest of my pregnancy. The woman selling it to me spoke a little english and was so sweet. I’ve never understood the stereotype that the French are snobby or rude. That’s never been my experience. The woman spoke very little English but we managed conversation. She wanted to know all about my pregnancy, my time in France, when my baby was due. She showed me a picture of her adorable little five-year-old daughter. Then the gestured for me to choose a silk scarf, and pointed at my stomach, saying, ‘pour le bébé.’ It was so sweet and also cracked me up. Leave it to the French to use only the most stylish of baby wraps and blankets.
Cassis has restaurants and cafés for every budget point. My friend and I had a few long, leisurely lunches on the port, looking out at the people on the promenade, and the boats in the harbour. Just beyond the port and the village centre is the main public beach, the Plage de la Grande Mer. It’s popular but crowded for good reason. There’s a cliff to the left with a castle at the top, and out ahead, the blue Mediterranean, as far as the eye can see. I collected a few of the rocks, which I carried back to the States with me. I keep a few on my writing desk and a few in my daughter’s room, so the energy of the Mediterranean is always near, until we can go back to the best kept secret on the Côte d’Azur…