Cassis, Bouches-du-Rhône, France

Cassis Is a municipality of the department of Bouches-du-Rhône and the administrative region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. It is characterized by the cliffs present on its territory and by the Cassis wines (white, but also rosé) produced in the region. The tourism plays an important role in the economy of this county.

The Provençal motto of the town attributed to Frédéric Mistral is”One who has seen Paris and who has not seen Cassis can say: I saw nothing”. — these words, spoken by Nobel-prize winning writer Federique Mistral in the local Provençal language, reflect the great attraction that Cassis exerts on all those who go there.

It is a popular tourist destination, famous for its cliffs (falaises) and the sheltered inlets called calanques. The wines of Cassis are white and rosé, and not to be confused with crème de cassis, a specialty of Burgundy which takes its name from blackcurrants (cassis), not the commune.

The little fishing port, tucked between two exceptional natural sites (the celebrated Calanques and the majestic Cap Canaille) offers a concentrated version of Provence and the Mediterranean. The magic begins to work on the little road that leads to the village, winding between vineyards and pine trees. Walk along charming back roads lined with the brightly coloured homes of fishermen. Cassis will be forever remembered by those who see its port, boats and welcoming terraces for the first time.

The town is situated on the Mediterranean coast, about 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) east of Marseille. Cap Canaille 394 metres (1,293 feet), between Cassis and La Ciotat (“the civitas”) is one of the highest maritime bluffs in Europe, a sailor’s landmark for millennia. It is east of Marseille and in the department of Bouches-du-Rhône. One of its main beach, called “Bestouan” is made cooler by a karstic source.

The site where Cassis now sits was first occupied between 500 and 600 BC by the Ligures, who constructed a fortified habitation at the top of the Baou Redon. These people lived by fishing, hunting, and by farming. The current site of Cassis could have been inhabited by the Greeks, though no proof has yet been found.

Roman period
During the Roman times, Cassis was part of the maritime route made by the Emperor Antoninus Pius. It was a small village, established mainly around the Arena and Corton beaches. The principal livelihood was fishing and maritime trade with North Africa and the Middle East. Several archaeological discoveries attest to this.

From the Lord of Baux to King René
The 5th to 10th century, the barbarian invasions led people to take refuge in the hills inside the castrum a fortified city, which will become in 1223 the possession of the lordship of Baux.

The April 4, 1402, in Brantes, at the foot of Ventoux, in the presence of his wife Alix des Baux, Odon de Villars made a donation to his nephew Philippe de Lévis of the fiefs of Brantes, Plaisians and their dependencies, of the seigneuries of Saint-Marcel, Roquefort, le Castellet, Cassis and Port-Miou, dependent on the barony of Aubagne, as well as La Fare-les-Oliviers and Éguilles. His nephew, in return was to serve as a bond vis-à-vis Raymond de Turennein observing an agreement made between the viscount, he and his wife Alix. In the event of non-compliance on the part of Alix and Odon, the latter should pay 50,000 guilders to Raymond de Turenne.

In the 15th century, Cassis is attached to the county of Provence, then the King René transmits to the City of bishops Marseille who exercise their rights until the Revolution of 1789. The arms of the city, which contains an episcopal crozier, show that time.

The expansion of the city
In the 18th century, Cassis fate of its walls and develops around the harbor. After the Restoration, new activities developed: cod drying, making scourtins for the production of olive oil, working coral, extension of the vine, exploitation of quarries (cement, lime, stone).

The stone of Cassis, exploited since Antiquity, contributes to the reputation of this locality in the world. The quays of major Mediterranean ports are built (Alexandria, Algiers, Piraeus, Marseille and Port-Said); but this material is not present, as a persistent legend claims, in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in New York, which is actually made of concrete and granite from Connecticut.

In the xx th century, these activities disappear, relayed by tourism and a thriving wine-growing (“Cassis wines” was one of the first three names to be protected by AOC in 1936).

The Village
Nestling in a natural casket where pine forests rub shoulders with ochre and white rocks, the vineyards on the plains and terraces that stretch down to the Mediterranean sea, Cassis is protected by the two monuments of nature that are Cap Canaille(tallest coastal cliff in Europe) glowing red when the Mistral blows, and the white limestone Calanques. This little fishing harbour, nestling between two exceptional natural sites (the famous Massif des Calanques and the majestic Cap Canaille) offers its visitors a concentrate of Provence and the Mediterranean.

The magic already works its wonders on the little road that takes you to the village snaking its way down between vineyards and pine woods. The charm shows itself as you explore the little alleyways and squares edged with colourful fishermen’s houses. Cassis marks everyone’s minds forever as they discover the harbour for the first time, its boats and welcoming café terraces.

Municipal Museum Of Mediterranean Popular Arts & Traditions
Just two steps away from the harbour, in the heart of the town, the museum is housed in a former presbytery dating back to the beginning of the 17th century. The building may be austere, but the interior – all charm and balance – is sure to seduce you as soon as you enter. There is a succession of permanent and temporary exhibitions, and Christmas is regularly celebrated there in a very special way.

Its collections of paintings (the oldest one dates from 1601), its Roman remains and amphora propose a diversity that’s sure to charm the visitors. A reading corner and mini-boutique, complete this stopping place honoured on a number of occasions by major guidebooks: BBC, Athéna Review, le Figaro Méditerranée and various local radio stations.

Le Four Banal
Located in Rue Thérèse Rastit, in the heart of the historical fishermen’s quarter, it dates from the second half of the 17th century. With its remarkable dimensions and excellent state of preservation, it bears witness to the activities of bygone days.

The excavations undertaken in February and March 2001 by archaeologists from Var led to the discovery of a large number of ceramic artifacts, confirming the existence of an active port in this area between the first and sixth centuries AD.

The Cassis vineyard is exclusively planted in the districtCassis Winegrowers’ Union of Cassis, an “urban vineyard”, sheltered by Cap Canaille, the tallest coastal cliff in France, plunging down from a height of 400 metres into the Mediterranean. It’s a “pocket vineyard”, with just 210 hectares for a production of about 1 million bottles a year. One bottle for one vine. A rare wine that is made and sold by twelve wine-growers. Although the whites – dry and fruity – are the most renowned, the reds and rosés are also well-known.

The blackcurrant is a wine with appellation of controlled origin, produced in the municipality. It was the first AOC recognized in Provence in 1936 and one of the oldest wine-growing places in France. The vine already existed on the site of Marseille and its surroundings even before the landing (around 600 BC) of Greek sailors (the Phocaeans).

The first written evidence of the Cassis vineyard appear xii th century. The vineyard adopted the Muscatel grape variety and took off again around 1520 with the Florentine Albizzi family. At the xvi th century, 200 hectares produce 4,000 hectoliters of red and white wines. A quarter was made up of the famous muscat produced in sweet wine.

Totally wiped out by phylloxera, the vineyard was rehabilitated in 1892 but without muscatel, incompatible with the rootstocks used. It was entirely reconstructed on the initiative of Joseph Savon, Marseilles merchant, followed in this, from his Mas de Calendal, by the poet Émile Bodin. The Cassis wines produced on the territory of the commune alone were the first French wines to obtain the AOC the May 15, 1936, in the prestigious company of châteauneuf-du-pape and sauternes. This appellation produced 1,000,000 bottles per year in a region of just under 200 hectares in 2007. The whites are the flagship products of this AOC.

Industrial: On an industrial level, Cassis is known in particular for a company called “Club 2Cv Méhari” specialized in the restoration – reconstruction of Citroën 2CV and Méhari cars, models whose PSA has stopped production since 1990 and 1987 respectively.

The Cassis Vineyard was among the very first Appellations d’Origine Contrôlée in 1936 (with Sauternes and Châteauneuf-du-Pape). It is planted – and this is noteworthy – exclusively in the district of Cassis, sheltered by Cap Canaille, the tallest coastal cliff in France, plunging down from a height of 400 metres into the Mediterranean.

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The presence of stubborn and passionate wine-growers, who have never given into the lure of urbanisation, has maintained the vineyard over relatively large areas. In its latest Land Use Plan, the district has extended the vineyard area from 178 to 210 hectares for three reasons: the vineyards not only contribute directly to the beauty of the landscape and carry a real economic weight, they also play an important role in the protection against fires.

Although the wines of Cassis can be discovered with pleasure around a table, with your family or friends, the real connoisseurs will not fail to take a walk through the magnificent lands of the Cassis vineyards to meet the 12 wine-growers… Because the countryside is agreeable, and the wine-growers know how to initiate wine-lovers into the art of tasting.

Natural heritage
It surrounds the village on every flank with an unspoilt, colourful belt: to the north the tender green of the vineyards, to the south the indigo of the wide open sea, to the east the ochre of Cap Canaille, to the west the white of the cliffs and the turquoise of the Calanques.

Here nature offers the rambler an infinity of panoramas, an infinity of activities for the diver, hiker or rock-climber… to everyone whose best memories are born in the most beautiful landscapes.

Calanques National Park
The geographical heart of the Parc National des Calanques, Cassis – one of the most beautiful places in the world – was determined to make a strong and innovative commitment to this unspoilt area for the benefit of its inhabitants. And to achieve this, Cassis has created and put in place an innovative concept: the ‘sustainable territory’.

Cap Canaille
“Canaille” comes from the Latin “Canalis mons”, which means “mountain of the waters, of the aqueducts”, or from the Provençal “Cap naïo”, the “mountain that swims, that juts out into the sea”. To the east of the harbour and the village, Cap Canaille forms an immense stone rampart. This mountain’s cliffs are the highest maritime cliffs in Europe. Their summit is the Grande Tête with its 394 m sheer cliff. The Cap Canaille massif is a listed site.

The Crêtes Tourist Route
This 15 km long road snakes its way through the massif taking you to La Ciotat. It offers spectacular views of the Golfe de Cassis, the Calanques, the Riou archipelago in Marseille harbour to the west, and as far as Var to the east. Well-equipped car parks allow you to stop off to admire the panorama.

The “Petit Prince” Path
This wondrous route is dedicated to the memory of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who died for France. The “Petit Prince” path allows you to discover the Calanques and was created in the framework of an “integration scheme”. It is punctuated by 11 stations presenting the riches and particularities of the Calanques. Going around the Port Miou peninsula, it is accessible to everyone for a walk, lasting about an hour, that will take you on a tour of the deepest of the Calanques (Port Miou 1.5 km).

Calanque de Port-Miou
The calanque of Port-Miou is the easternmost cove of the coast between Marseille and Cassis. It is the only one located in the commune of Cassis, just outside the city. Port-Miou is distinguished from other creeks by its sinuous profile and its length (1.4 km). The status of light nautical base (boats less than 20 m) has been issued to the cove. Currently, the cove has 550 boats. It belongs to two owners: the town hall of Cassis for the left bank, the Solvay company for the right bank.

The one who love the sea will find it in Cassis through welcoming beaches, an invigorating sea, with all of its secrets of the underwater world. Or more simply, a sea for bathing, fishing, water sports and boating.

Grande Mer Beach
Main beach of Cassis, sand and pebbles. At the foot of Castle Hill, in the village center. Supervised swimming early May to early June: weekends and public holidays from 9 am to 7 pm, from mid-June to mid-September: daily and weekends until the end of September from 9 am to 7 pm On site: launching of kayaks and windsurfers, fishing. Amenities: Showers, toilets. Access for disabled (only works when the beach is supervised. Contact the lifeguard).Pets not allowed.

Bestouan Beach
Pebble beach and rocks of 150m on 30m. In skyline, Cape Canaille in majesty… Supervised swimming – mid-May to mid-June from 9 am to 7 pm on weekends and public holidays – mid-June to mid-September every day. Presence of a parking area near the beach, equipped and paying. Refreshment / snacks, accommodation, emergency station, showers, toilets, garbage cans.

Anse du Corton
Very small natural pebble creek. Paying parking area Madie, equipped for 160 vehicles (Revestel Avenue). Pets not allowed.

Anse de l’Arène
Natural beach of rocks in a creek bordered by a pine forest. Access to the sea a little difficult by rocks. The parking area near Madie equipped for 160 vehicles (Revestel Avenue). Restricted access in summer. No smoking during major fire risk. Pets not allowed.

Calanque Port
The smallest and most intimate of the three Calanques boasts a profusion of Aleppo pines that grow directly out of the rock face. It has a tiny, gently sloping, cove.

Calanque En Vau
The most famous and spectacular of the Calanques is picture-postcard beautiful. If you enjoy climbing, you will simply love its steep, jagged white cliffs. And everyone will enjoy a swim in its turquoise waters at the end of the path… Please note: the climb down to the ‘beach’ is not easy.

Cultural Life In Cassis
The first traces of the site’s occupation go back to 500 or 600 BC. On the heights of Baou Redon (near La Couronne de Charlemagne (Charlemagne’s Crown)) the remains of dry-stone walls have been found. They were built by the Ligurians, a tribe who lived from fishing, hunting and farming. Links with Massalia (Marseille), a town founded by the Phocaeans, lead us to assume there may also have been a Greek presence in Cassis. In Roman times, Cassis was on the Emperor Antoninus’s sea route.

The harbour then extended as far as Place Baragnon. The Arène and Corton coves sheltered industrial pottery and tile manufacturing sites. From the 5th to the 10th centuries, the barbarian invasions led the population to take refuge in the oppidum. Life got organised in the fortified town which, in 1223, became a possession of the Domain of Baux-de-Provence. In the 15th century, after the Baux family had died out, Cassis was attached to the Earldom of Provence, then King René handed the town over to the Bishop of Marseille. Cassis was governed by the bishops until 1789.

Painters In Cassis
The charm of Cassis and its light have attracted a large number of artists… Works depicting the port, village, Calanques and surrounding landscapes are on show in some of the greatest museums. You can admire artists from the Provençal School in the Museum

Writers In Cassis
“Anyone who has seen Paris, but hasn’t seen Cassis, hasn’t seen anything.” This is the saying that Frédéric Mistral adopted and transformed in his poem Calendal, after hearing some Parisians visiting Cassis in front of a reproduction of a fountain from the capital on Cassis’s Place Royale. These two fountains were destroyed during the French Revolution.

There is a book “Virginia Woolf à Cassis”, with bilingual texts in French and English and photos, that proposes “A reverie around Cassis “: views of the lighthouse, Cap Canaille, the paths she may have taken through the vineyards edged with low dry-stone walls, the houses she lived in. “In the steps of Virginia Woolf ” allows you to immerse yourself in a state of mind, and look for the village as she perhaps knew it …

Cinema In Cassis
The cinema has always played an important part in our dreams, you just have to look at the cinema attendance figures to understand that films are a way for getting away from it all for many of us.

According to the CNC (French National Cinema Centre) in 2014, 5,653 cinemas declared 7.58 million showings, 208.97 million tickets sold and takings totalling €1,332.73 million, that is to say up by 6 % with respect to 2013. Discovering landscapes, a town through a story that moves us, makes us laugh, makes us cry, marks our minds. It arouses our curiosity, encourages us to discover these places that have struck our imagination. In 2014, for the second time in more than twenty years, French films have passed the threshold of 100 million admissions internationally (114.5 million tickets sold). Many of them were shot in our beautiful region of Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur.

300,000 visitors declare that they came to our region after having seen a film shot here. Since the cinema was created in La Ciotat, the département of Bouches du Rhône has been one of the départements that has been the most filmed by film-makers, lovers of Provence.

Cassis, this little fishing village nestling between the Calanques and Cap Canaille, has seduced and continues to seduce film directors, actors and scriptwriters of every nationality. The variety of the scenery, its natural and architectural heritage, its international reputation attract several shoots every year. Many are the films that have been shot in Cassis between 1920 and 2015 – fifty in fact, some of them in their entirety, and others just for several scenes. Film-makers are drawn by the light and decor of our peaceful little fishing harbour. From the legendary ‘Naïs’ to ‘Fantômas’ not to mention ‘Bienvenue Chez les Chti’ or ‘Sur un arbre perché’, southern joviality mixes in with comical dialogues, pastis, cicadas, petanque, fishing and the sunshine. The accent, the typical gestures of Provençal exoticism, the alleyways, the turquoise sea, the hills, everything comes together to make films that are totally unique.

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