The one definite plan I had going into the trip, was that I had to visit Cassis. Luckily Cassis was a 30 minute train trip from Marseille. As we would be hiking all day, we decided to have a big breakfast in the morning. We went down to carrefour (as that was the only supermarket open) to buy essentials.
A cooked as I sat on the windowsill in the other room. She cooked pancakes then I joined her to cut fresh fruit and iced coffee with the remaining milk. We gorged on the different varieties of food. For some reason everything tastes better there. A had the idea to put the stuffed pancakes inside the baguette, which surprisingly tasted amazing.
At 12pm we headed to the train station to buy the tickets and catch the train. The train travelled through some small mountains. I remember looking out the window and realising how much I needed to be around nature. At home I had become so holed up in my room trying to avoid any situation that could cause a panic attack, being outside felt like freedom from my brain.
About 30 minutes later we arrived in Cassis. The train station was tiny – with only two platforms, and there weren’t that many public transport options. We decided to walk to the town in order to find our way to Parc National des Calanques. I had stupidly only brought a 1.5 litre bottle of water that was a third empty. The long walk to town in the heat didn’t help with the amount of water I had left.
The walk took longer than expected, but we managed to entertain ourselves through the exhaustion from the previous day. Once we were close to the town, we saw glimpses of the sea through the peaks of buildings and fences. You could see a mountain against the royal blue and I couldn’t help but think about climbing all of them.
Once we got to the town centre, we were confronted by stunning, aged coloured buildings with contrasting shutters. A candy town where everything is pastel coloured. Quite the contrast to somewhere like Burano. It’s so quaint and tiny, you could barely hear a peep. I took way to many pictures for someone with limited memory space and a dying phone.
I could see myself living a quiet life there. Working as a waitress in a small cafe, riding my bike to get around, drawing or painting just for the fun of it and drinking great coffee. I had always contemplated moving out of London, but I always thought it would be to go somewhere busier.
As we headed towards the beach, I saw a grey cat that looked exactly like my previous cat Sully. He stood in between the shutters of a window and I reached my hand over to coax him towards me. Sadly he was too wary and I didn’t want to disturb him in risk of being scratched, so I moved away. I will still get excited every time I see an animal though.
We passed some steep stairs where we could see a peak of the sea, and decided to eat the rest of the baguette we had. Once we got to the bottom, I noticed just how clear the sea was. I had been to beaches in France before, but I had never seen a sea like this before. I noticed this massive rocks, which I had to run to. I love climbing up rocks – no matter how small they are. I found a ledge and perched my stuff on the side.
I knew that despite the fact that it wasn’t scorching, I just had to swim for a bit. I striped my clothes off and climbed back down the rocks, passing my shoes back up to A. I dipped my foot in and realised just how cold the water was. Luckily I didn’t have the apprehension of having to dunk myself in the water, as I had slipped on the rocks on the sea floor and fell in. Who knew I could still be clumsy in the water? There was an older lady who was perched by the rocks with her feet in the water. She muttered something to me in French which I replied to. I could feel her watching me as I screamed about how cold it was.
I started to swim out towards the other side of the beach so I started to warm up a bit. As I got to the middle I saw the same mountain I saw earlier, it seemed more majestic from the angle. There were quite a few people on the beach but only one other person who swam. I found it quite strange. How could you be by water this beautiful and not swim in it? even if it is a cold spring day.
After an hour we made our move to Calanques as it was starting to get late. I got out of the water and dried myself off, putting my clothes on over my wet bikini. There were no shops around so we had to make do with the small amount of water I had left. The walk to the national park was tough in itself. We had to walk over a lot of steep hills and for someone who is as unfit as I am, my muscles were not prepared.
Even the view from the start of the trail was incredible. There is a massive drop from the mountain to a harbour. You could see the tops of the boats lined up against each other. The stark turquoise and white contrasted with the redish colour of the mountain and the well watered deep green trees. Being in between mountains and a drop made me fell small and insignificant, the way that New York does. To me, that’s one of the most incredible things to experience.
As we started climbing, it was obvious that we weren’t well prepared. I wore slip on vans and A wore a pair of converse. Everyone else that we had passed on the hike had been in actual walking shoes and light exercise clothing. I got tired pretty quickly as A raced ahead. There were so many steep inclines and declines with unsteady ground to manoeuvre across. I tried to slide around trying not to trip over a rock or slip on loose dirt.
It took 40 minutes to get to the first stop point. I would stop every so often to take in the views, take a picture or even to catch my breath. There were so many incredible views already. I was dumbfounded by how much beauty we were surrounded by. I think I had gotten so used to the insular, bubbled life of London that I forgot there is more out there in the world.
You could see hints of sparkling blue whilst climbing down to the first lagoon. I almost ran down the path trying to get to the water just that little bit quicker. The water had an ombre effect, going from mint green at the start point of the lagoon gradually getting darker as you reached the rest of the ocean. There were a lot of people taking pictures in the water, but we decided to hike to the second lagoon.
We continued following the blue marks painted on the rocks, leading us through the trail. At points I would panic because I would loose sight of them for a while, only to find them again. We hiked for what felt like hours. I became so dehydrated and hot that I took my shirt off and walked in my bikini. I actually left my shirt on the ground when I took it off and only realised 10 minutes later, where I proceeded to run back and grab it. At this point A was way ahead of me but it was quite nice to be alone and bask in the silent, crisp air.
After an hour and a half of extra hiking, I had caught up to A who had been waiting for me at the top of the mountain. She noticed that there were no trails leading down to the second lagoon, despite the fact that she could see it below our point. We walked together for another 20 minutes, hoping to find some way down but it was obvious that we wouldn’t find it. At the point we decided to head back which was slightly disappointing.
We sat for another 20 minutes at the highest point of the mountain. Most people seemed to stop at the first point of the trail, so we were practically alone here. We sat on the edge, which again was very liberating for me. I recouped some energy and cooled down in this time, but at that point I felt like my whole body would collapse under my legs.
Walking back was easier, and as I was in front of A this time, she followed my pace. We stopped only once on the way back to the first lagoon, where she had to pee in the bushes. In that time I had noticed a derelict house perched on the edge of a cliff. It seemed like it came straight out of a horror movie.
By 5pm we made it back to the first lagoon and I decided that I had to swim in this water. We didn’t have much time before it would get dark so I had to be quick, but there was no way I could pass water this clear and not swim in it once. There were only four other people that were with us, but no one swimming.
The water was so cold that I kept saying “okay, I’m dunking myself in now” but not actually doing it. I had said this about 12 times, much to the amusement of the old couple perched on the rocks. As I eventually built the courage to do this, I actually got brain freeze. The old couple clapped which made me laugh under my breath and I felt so peaceful. I wondered what this place would be like in summer whilst it is scorching.
I got out of the water pretty quickly, as we started to make our way back to the town. I knew I had to get something to drink before we got to the train station as I felt physically sick from dehydration. We passed a small number of restaurants, which were all either closed or too expensive.
At one point we looked at the menu where a guy continued to insult me for not speaking French fluently. He told me I shouldn’t come to France, that I should just go to New York where I can understand people. I just walked away, thinking how narrow minded he was. If I thought like that, I would be confined to a small part of the world. How could I learn new things if I did that? It wasn’t for a lack of trying to understand the language.
The final restaurant we found seemed like it had good food and was relatively cheap so we settled there. I guzzled the water and food quickly, as if it was the first time I had consumed in days. The toastie I had was covered in hot cheese which burnt the roof of my mouth, but it was so delicious that I didn’t care. We ate quickly and left as it was already dark outside.
We made it back in Marseille at 10:23pm and it’s safe to say I pretty much passed out on the sofa. Thinking back at it now, I’m so happy I managed to push myself that day. I’m not sure when I’ll next climb a mountain, but here’s hoping I will actually be fit when I do.