La Ciotat and the Calanques
November 29, 2013 § 8 Comments
Our hearts sang for joy. It had all been so grim and dark on our voyage home from Ireland. All across England the sky lowered upon us and the nights we stayed were pitch. Arriving in the north of France the temperature sank below zero and we moved south along the autoststrada stopping intermittently at ugly service stations that served un-France like food and in a town called Troyes we stayed in an awful Ibis business hotel that killed our spirits for its very serviceable practicality that had no room for beauty – who was the designer for these hotels? Turn key operation is ok, but humans need humanity…
Then as we were driving along the next day in the early afternoon, yesterday, south of Lyon, a glimmer of light lit the sky on the horizon and through the afternoon it opened wider and wider the further south we went. Joy oh joy. You can’t help but respond so hopefully to light, The countryside became lighter too and soon we were near the sea and finally there – La Ciotat. How gorgeous to be here in this marvellous town once again. We are staying in a funny cheap little hotel called the Malta Cross, lovely people, right near the port, where they used to make big ships. All the big old cranes are still there and the port is filled with all sorts of boats, restaurants on the water front, the temperature at 16 degrees, a vast improvement from the north at minus 2, and people were swimming lazily in the sea. Too beautiful to resist having a pastis on a sunny terrace overlooking it all.
But the most wonderful of all is the amazing terrain in the mountains above La Ciotat and Cassis. This afternoon we took the route des Cretes over the limestone mountains, white, fissured and holey, spotted with hardy little plants clinging for dear life to the small amount of soil there was. This is the area of the Calanques, ancient furrowed river and creek beds that became sea inlets when the waters rose. They are like gorges to enter and can often only be entered by sea as there are restrictions in the summer due to fire danger on land.
Our destination was Cap Croissette in the Calanques of Marseille. We wound our way from Cassis and through the outer suburbs of Marseille down to the sea and through an old fishing settlement to the point. It was wild and windswept and completley spectacular. Our hearts were in our mouths with this strange wild white beauty, the landscape a language of twirls and dots and dashes, the sea the deepest blue, the horizon mystical in the low light and evening mist. We have to return one day soon with a mobile studio, stay here for weeks and immerse ourselves in this southern land on the edge of another sea.
You might enjoy having a look at this old movie ‘Train Arriving at La Ciotat’ by the Lumiere brothers. When it was shown, it is said that people ran to the back of the theatre, believing they would be run over by the train!