Year Abroad. Part 15: Sun on Sundays

Zac Turner

Mid-February and already layers are being removed. As T-shirts replace scarves we are beginning to slow down into the regular pace of life: morning visits to the park, coffees in cafés after lunch and, as of yesterday, early buses to the beach, to the promised land of Cassis. We had heard its name muttered among circles, murmured behind closed doors, whispered in hallways. And finally, we succumbed. Bus timetables were verified as we loaded ourselves with a packed lunch (the south of France takes its toll).

It is true, this isn’t our first attempt to reach for the grail. Back in September a planned trip to Cassis failed when we missed the bus. I say missed, but ultimately, I took the flak for this. Needing change for the bus, obviously I stopped for a breakfast ham sandwich at the train station. As a result, I found myself at the back of the queue with a limited number of seats on a Sunday service bus route. No worries, we didn’t even want to go that much anyway. Marseille is closer, and I prefer gravel on my beaches to sand, no risk of getting gravel between your toes, or in your eye. Although in 36-degree heat, gravel does have the downside of heating up like tarmac in the sunshine. But then again, that M25 feel was homely.

For this sunny day in February however, Cassis was achieved. Now, I enjoy a long bus journey when I’m certain of my arrival. What I hate about bus routes however, is not ever being quite sure where to get off, or whether, in fact, you are travelling in the right direction. Add in a pinch of not being able to use Google maps because you don’t have any phone signal here, and a spoonful of reckless bus driving, bring it to the boil and leave it to simmer for 2 hours and you’ve got a dishful of perfect agitation.

A group of ten, of whom three are hungover, an uncertain direction and hunger doesn’t make for fast progress. Every corner turned provides a new opportunity for Instagram and a nice day out quickly descends into a Nat Geo photography competition. People scale cliffs, get imaginative with panoramas and shoot death in their eyes all in the search for the perfect angle. Snapchat is at this point abandoned for its more aesthetic cousins, its only role to broadcast smugness. Of course, temperature and location filters are a must, just in case anyone hadn’t noticed you live in the South of France and can go swimming in February.

Arrogance aside, Cassis, and Les Calanques that we more specifically went to see, are breath-taking. Les Calanques are gorges which cut their way inland, through the cliff face, leaving secluded inlets of hidden beaches and an impressive descent down to crashing waves. Bring water and free time, and be back in town to sip coffee as the sun goes down over the harbour.

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