Have you ever booked a trip to a place that you’ve dreamed of?... somewhere you’ve pictured in your mind a thousand times - seen the movies, read the books etc... Quite often these trips end up going one of two ways - incredible or incredibly disappointing. But, sometimes you just need to find your feet, give a place a chance and move through the miasma of expectation. You’ll end up being pleasantly surprised, as I found recently in Provence...
After suffering through bloated (both in number and size of the participants) crowds on the Amalfi - don’t even mention Capri, six years of life in the USA and the growing desire for simplicity... I lusted after the perfect, quiet holiday.
We were headed to Cassis... the promise of a quiet, local, coastal town in Provence - I couldn’t wait.
I’d read all of the Peter Mayle books... I could hear the cicadas in my dreams, imagined the sun on my skin whilst meandering past sun-bleached fishing boats amidst the aroma of boullabaise and pastis.
The first day we wandered into town I was a little taken aback at the number of people. And, where were the market stalls? The wicker baskets of fresh produce... the quaint cafes. Where was the idyll of my dreams? Basically the little town from ‘By the Sea’ (without the issues). I just wanted to shuffle my espadrille-clad feet to a zinc bar and order a pastis, without feeling overwhelmed by tourists. Every restaurant seemed false, everything seemed not-quite-right, and I felt the sinking feeling of ‘oh, i didn’t think it would be like this’.
Fast forward a few days - past the head-injury and stitches (we’ll talk about that later), the uncomfortable moments of feeling overwhelmed and the travel ‘disagreements’... we’d retreated to lazing by the pool in the sanctuary of our B&B, avoiding the bustle of town (a ridiculous thought in Provence... right?) and only after several days did we decide to venture to the beach, after a reccomendation from the son of our host.
It was that day, when everything fell into place... the beach was small and pebbled. The water an ethereal blend of blues and greens, fringed by bleached cliffs and blazingly coloured flowers. The occupants were older local, bronzed and occasionally topless. There was a quaint restaurant & bar called ‘Pastis’ just steps above the beach... it felt like it was meant to be, and I could feel the pangs of dissapointment start to slip away.
After a thorough investigation (feat. sunbathing, swimming, pastis, local rosé, beer, and a fresh seafood lunch) I finally started to think “I could come back here” instead of “Cassis was nice, but nothing like what I’d imagined”. From there, we meandered the back way into the town itself... it was quiet, pretty and peering down the old alleyways to the harbour beyond made me happy. I saw a tiny, hole-in-the-wall oyster bar, a local pastis store, a boulangerie, gourmet butcher and Épicerie... all moments away from the tourists. Hidden away... somewhere you really need to just wander to get to.
I made a mental list; after a morning swim, we’d get our supplies from those little shops, stop for charcuterie, wine and oysters (half a dozen for me please), a bottle of pastis (also for me) and stroll the back way to our quiet poolside terrace, in one of the nicest B&B’s we’ve been. It would be wonderful, easily possible and just so.