Marseilles is the gateway to what is perhaps the most glamorous cruising ground in the world and is worth the stop if only to see the sights around the Vieux Port, the ancient heart of the city.
This is the place to enjoy excellent cosmopolitan food, including the signature fish stew – bouillabaisse – but do avoid the tourist traps and dine only where the locals eat. Once past the city, the beauty of the rugged coastline shines through; steep hills often with exposed limestone caps, are set against a backdrop of mountains.
We explore the calanques – miniature fjords cut into the limestone hills – and the charming seaside resort of Cassis. Past Toulon the next stop must be the off-lying island of Porquerollles in the unspoilt bay of Hyeres. This little island, just 5 miles by two, is a jewel from another world. The heart of the island is the charmingly dusty village square, where outdoor dining, drinking coffee and playing petanque seem to be the main pastime. Refreshingly, the island is practically car-free, so transport is by bicycle, an ideal means of exploring scenic tracks that meander through vineyards and pine woods to link the many sheltered coves and beaches.
Itinerary – Provence & Cote d’Azur
Day 1 – Toulon
Toulon combines the bustle of a major French port with the breezy ambiance of a Mediterranean resort town. Against the backdrop of looming Mont Faron, beaches and café-lined promenades line a harbour filled with historic naval ships, luxury yachts, and colourful fishing boats.
Day 2 – Porquerolles
Porquerolles has two facets: on the southern side, the coast is made of steep cliffs and secluded creeks only accessible to hikers. The northern side, on the other hand, offers fine sand beaches and turquoise waters – your very own Caribbean! As for the core of the island, it is made of fertile plains on which the botanical conservatory grows ancient and unique species.
Day 3 – Embiez Island
The Archipelago consists of the island of Embiez, Gaou island, the islands of Petit and Grand Rouveau, and the Magnons islets. By foot, bike, or on the little train, Embiez island is the perfect place to escape, and enjoy a little break from the rest of the world. Whether feeling adventurous, or simply like to relax and renjuvenate, the choice is yours.
Day 4 – Calanque de Morgiou
La Calanque de Morgiou is part of the Massif des Calanques, a National Park that is environmentally protected and internationally recognized for the exceptional quality of its natural, landscape and cultural heritages. In the hollow of the cove is a small fishing village and operational port, protected by two piers and has a restaurant and bar.
Day 5 – Marseille Old Port
Marseille’s history has been performed on the Old Port for 26 centuries. During Antiquity and the Middles Ages, the Greek, Roman and Medieval city expanded on the northern bank and to the south in the 17th century. Entry to the port was henceforth guarded by two forts, Fort Saint-Nicolas and Fort Saint-Jean. One of the iconic symbols of the Old Port was the transporter bridge, a metallic structure opened between both forts in 1905 which, unfortunately, was destroyed after the war. The Old Port was renovated in 2013 and to this day, the Old Port is the beating heart of Marseille.
Day 6 – Cassis
Nestling in a natural casket where pine forests rub shoulders with ochre and white rocks, the vineyards on the plains and terraces that stretch down to the Mediterranean sea, Cassis is protected by the two monuments of nature that are Cap Canaille(tallest coastal cliff in Europe) glowing red when the Mistral blows, and the white limestone Calanques.