Cassis and the French Riviera

There is an aura about the Cote D’Azur. Maybe the myth is part of the allure, but the energy, the sun, the sea, all make life fall away and feel like you’ve stepped into the magic, too. The cerulean sea is literally an ocean of diamonds, dazzling under gentle cliffs and white clouds, a daydream of the brightest, bluest blue.

Cassis is a small village where we stayed at the advice of a friend, who I trust because she loves the same things I love. In a quiet cove off a highway covered with trees, the Riviera hums more quietly here than it does in the glamorous parts. Bistros and brasseries line a shabby chic boardwalk, that bustles at lunchtime with bowls of bouillabaisse, steak frites, and white wine in frosty buckets. Out in the water there is a big boat towing a long group of little boats, like ducklings, two children each, out to a sailing lesson. Real people live here.

In the afternoon, Jake jumps in the water and we lie on the beach with our toes in the sand. I watch his little head swim along, with children speaking French and topless women, not noticing either one. There are people sipping cocktails and families pushing strollers, classy ladies in sunglasses, and young people casually regarding each other. It’s an afternoon at the beach, like an afternoon anywhere at the beach, except that we’re in France, and being an older woman in a bathing suit is something to be proud of.

In the morning I buy croissants from a women at the boulangerie, who smiles and isn’t afraid to answer me and my very bad French. People are so nice in Cassis. I see her with her long gray hair and all of her bread, and I wish I was her. In the evening we walk along the marina as the stars come out, and after dinner climb the hillside to our apartment overlooking the sea. Some nights we cook at home, cheese and pasta and a bottle of rose, with beautiful artichokes from the farmer’s market.

There are so many dreams of somethings about the French Riviera. Whether it’s a casual evening over coffee, a swim in the Mediterranean, or waking up early to open a bakery; the simplicity is its simplicity. The magic is that this really exists.

The magic for me is that our family is together, one more time, in the bubble of our diplomatic life before moving home. This routine we’ve known for the last 14 years, of pulling out the map to explore what’s nearby, has been an amazing gift. The world is here and we’ve done our best. With this blog and these pictures I’ve done my best to remember our story, and to prove beyond a doubt that it was real. So thank you France, for being a bookend to what we hope is a memorable childhood of family vacations! Travel karma seems to be what we do best, and like all the others, this trip was a good one.