Historic and modern Marseille, the European Capital of Culture in 2013, is not only known for its characteristic Vieux Port, the famous MuCEM*, its sun-kissed beaches, and much more, .. but as well for the limestone mountains that embrace the city. The Calanques stretch from Marseille along the Mediterranean coast down to the pretty town of Cassis. It has become a regular destination for me for an invigorating walk that can last a few hours but could easily take a full day. And still, I would only be scratching its vastness.
The Calanques are a national park, well protected against industrial and real estate development, emanating a pristine atmosphere that only untouched nature can provide. The rugged mountainous landscape ends in high sea cliffs dotted with pine trees.
Much of the Calanques’ coastline holds secret beaches that are better visited by sailing boat or kayak, or reached on foot, as the region is kept car-free. For the more scenic parts, Nathan Boonen, the son of my friend John, who knows the terrain by heart will ensure I will get to see some great sites through the viewfinder of my camera. Over the years, his father and him have explored the Calanques extensively in all four seasons and hiking there remains their favorite pastime. It has become my favorite too.
Is it the silence, the beauty of the pine trees, the deep azure waters, the blue sky and the white limestone mountain range? They are all part of the Calanques’ presence.
*Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations, MuCEM