After a good time in the Southwest region of France, called Occitanie, we left the port of Frontignan and sailed further east along the coast.
The first area after Frontignan had a lot of lagunes and swamps with a few cities. like La Grande-Motte which is famous for the yearly multihull boatshow in April (which we were invited to in 2023 to visit by Nautisch Kwartier Stavoren).
It was weekend when we did this sail, so a lot of boaters, kayakers, jetski’s, supboarders, kite surfers an windsurfers on the water. And new to me, wing surfers: a form of surfing, where one is propelled by an inflatable kite or wing on a surfboard and thus foils. The plank floats about 50 to 90 cm above the water through a wing construction. Looks cool and goes fast!
When you get close to Marseille, this region is called Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, also Southeast of France. In June the prices for the harbors go up here very quickly, times two or three compared to spring. And especially in this luxurious and popular coast, there are a lot of boaters and little place in the harbors. Also in France, there is a cumbersome system of privately owned berths, so ports often have very limited passenger/visitors capacity. For instance, the Vieux-Port of Marseille in the middle of the city, has 3.200 berths including 40 visitors berths….
So, we were ‘forced’ to anchor, but because of the sunny weather (15 hours a day) and beautiful bays, that is exactly want we want to do! In front of Marseille are Les Îles (the Frioul Islands) which is a rocky archipelago with sandy beaches, hiking trails and a rich flora and bird world. One of the islands is Île d’If, known for its 16th century castle and prison, it is the place where the book ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ by Alexandre Dumas is located is playing.
When we sailed into one of the bays of the islands, called Calanque de Morgiret, I was blown away by it’s beauty! It was almost 360 degrees surrounded by the white walls of the Calanques, the water was crystal clear, almost transparent. We anchored here and stayed here for 3 days:
On the first day in the archipelago, we picked up a dear friend of mine, Suzanne Stolk, who I have known since highschool. She arrived that evening at the airport of Marseille to visit us for 5 days. We had a great time onboard, cooking and talking about our lives and plans.
Suzanne is a sporty person, we used to skeeler a lot together in Rotterdam (also Pari-Roller, the Fridaynight Skate in Paris, 27 kilometers in 3 hours in the middle of the city!) or cycled or hiked. Suzanne comes in this area of France, Parc National des Calanques, for 15 years now with her husband Jeroen and their 2 sons Julian and Robin. They have climbing holidays here and know the area very well. So her visit now to us was a nice way of her getting to know my lifestyle on the boat and me getting to know her hobby mountaineering. We decided to do a 6 hour walk through the Calanques, so no climbing (we had no gear), but walking. The track was rated ‘medium to difficult’. We walked from the catamaran to the ferry on the island of Frioul which brought us Marseille, then we took the subway and bus to the border of the Parc National des Calanques and there the walk started.
Walking in the Calanques
It was beautiful! We saw the Calanque de Morgiou, walked to the beach below, then up again to the Calanque de Sormiou.
Great views above and surprisingly quickly you are at the bottom of the mountain range again, eating a sandwich at the port.
I learned that I am better at rising or climbing than descending. Both are different skills apparently. I recognize this being a cyclist: I love to climb up the hills with my bike, but am careful going down.
We also visited Marseille, this I had done about 3 times before and Suzanne often went straight to the Calanques, so she wanted to see more of Marseille now, for instance the famous Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, that overlooks the entire city of Marseille (city nr 2 of France).
We walked up the hill (again 😉) and had a great view over the port and the city.
We had dinner that night with Marco and Bianca who still joined us in this bay after we left together from Frontignan.
Marseille is really a beautiful city, unfortunately it has a bad reputation (the most crime in France), but all five of us said that we were pleasantly surprised by the charm of the old city center and the port!
Sailing along the Calanques
We left our cosy bay in Les Îles to sail along the Parc National des Calanques. This was something both Suzanne and I never done before. So we had seen the mountainrange from within and above walking around, but now looking from the water up to these mountains was even more impressive! We walked along those cliffs!
We went to the beach of Cassis and relaxed there:
We anchored that evening in front of La Ciotat, an old city. And the mountains now are red/brown in stead of the white of the Calanques.
The next day we went into the harbor, because in 2 days Suzanne would take the bus to Marseille to fly back home. And we used that day in the harbor to visit the market and Parc du Mugel, a botanic garden.
Next to the catamaran was this red strange looking little submarine, which turned out to be ‘an underwater drone’ as they called it: to map the soil on which the sea maps and navigation systems are based.
Suzanne left the catamaran to fly back home from Marseille to Rotterdam. Read here how she experienced sailing with the catamaran!
It was so great to have my friend on the catamaran for this quality time together! I really cherish our conversations and good times!