Love comes in many forms: The love of adventure; The joyful love of reunited sweethearts; And the love from your family. What better place to experience love, than the picturesque south of France? It was in dreamy Cassis, a town nestled between mountains on the Azure Coast, where the meaning of true love was revealed to me.
One of the great loves in my life is walking, and exploring the Calanques, idyllic islets with hidden beaches and panoramic views, seemed irresistible. After consulting a French information brochure, I felt confident that the few French words in my vocabulary were sufficient to make sense of the available routes. I announced to my party (my husband and parents) that it would be a leisurely hour and a half walk from our apartment to a glorious viewpoint.
Dressed in casual clothes and walking shoes, we arrived at the start of the route just past midday. We were a little taken aback by several people in proper hiking gear: Hats, boots, walking sticks, you name it! Most hikers, however, were in beachwear and my uneasiness soon evaporated when the walk appeared to be everything I had hoped for: Clear water, postcard-perfect natural harbours with filled boats and yachts, and green islets. The path was easy to follow, and trees shaded us from the blistering sun as we laughed and took photographs.
‘This is why I love walking’, I thought.
We then reached a rocky area worn smooth by the sheer number of hikers over the years, and the rocks shined as if polished. We slowly crossed the rocky section, careful not the fall, twist an ankle, or slip over the cliff. We laughed less and took fewer photographs, but it all seemed worth it when we made it to a beautiful secluded beach. Feeling pleased with ourselves, we stood a few moments enjoying the view. The problem with love, however, is that it makes you blind. Not satisfied that this had been a proper hike, I convinced my party that we should walk on.
The climb up the mountain began gradually. The path was uneven, and in order to scramble up rocks, I had to tie my long flowy skirt above my knees. As the path twisted up the mountain, trees became sparse and sweat rolled down our faces. We met scores of other unprepared tourists with red faces and bewildered looks. The information brochure never said anything about a steep climb (I think?)! My love for walking was fading away with each perilous step under the boiling sun. We had no idea how much further we had to go, but everyone felt that since we had come this far, we might as well see it through.
A man came from the top of the mountain, walking briskly, grey hair plastered to his head, eyes searching. Separated Sweetheart #1. He stopped us and spoke a few words in French while pointing and gesturing with a sense of urgency. With my limited vocabulary, I couldn’t decipher his important message, and all we could do was smile and shrug. (At the time I thought he was probably saying ‘turn around fools!’.) He shook his head and quickly went on. About 15 minutes later a woman came walking towards us, her face glowing and her short blond bob in a disarray. Separated Sweetheart #2. She too said something to us in French and we smiled and shrugged. She nodded in a distracted way and, to our surprise, yelled at the top of her lungs :
‘Danielle!’ Her croaky voice echoed through the mountains, but there was no answer. She gave us an anxious smile and off she went .
A few minutes later we heard the echoing cry again, further down the road. ‘Danielle!’
Then it clicked.
‘They’re looking for each other,’ my mom noted.
We all grunted in agreement, but we still had our own mountain to conquer, so on we went…
Without going into details, when we finally made it to the top of the mountain, my fears were confirmed. We had taken the wrong route and we were still nowhere near the scenic viewpoint. My mom remarked how nice a boat trip around the islets would have been. (I feel I should mention here that we were not the only disgruntled tourists sitting about.) Eventually, we decided the best thing would be to go back the way we came. I can assure you the journey down the mountain was just as tough. Stumbling down the mountain in a skirt and a sun hat, my love affair with walking hung by a tread. Luckily, love is persistent.
Spirits were low when we arrived back at the start of the route and we dreaded the long trek back to our apartment. Just then, we spotted the Separated Sweethearts, reunited and walking hand-in-hand, looking very much in love. They beamed at us and we smiled and waved at them. If they could do it, so could we .
The purest love, however, turned out to be from my dear husband and parents. They did not complain once during our strenuous 18-kilometre hike, and they were quick to forgive and forget my poor French and lack of directions. Now that’s what I call true love.
P.S. Like the Separated Sweethearts, I’ve managed to reunite with my love of walking, and I’ve enjoyed many pleasant walks since.
5 Things I love about Cassis:
- The beautiful scenery and walking routes are still number one on my list. Just double check the maps before you set off.
- The stunning beaches are perfect for sunbathing or enjoying a cocktail.
- You can pick and choose between so many different styles of restaurants. I particularly enjoyed the fresh seafood and I can recommend a cold bottle of A.O.C. Cassis is known for its white wines!
- You can easily spend a few hours exploring the town, with its quaint streets and shops, and the pristine harbour.
- There’s nothing better than enjoying an amazing sunset with your walking shoes kicked off and a glass of A.O.C.
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