Wednesday, August 13, 2014

South of France Part 2: Cassis

Next stop on our fabulous South of France getaway was three brilliant days in the village of Cassis.  Awe Cassis, what a magical place you are.  Les Calanques de Cassis (the coves of Cassis) are what make this place truly special. They are like nothing I've ever seen before.  Enchanting coves are formed via dramatic limestone cliffs that plunge into the mesmerizing blue-green crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea.  We explored the Calanques on land by hiking along one of the many trails, and on water via a self-guided Kayak tour.  Words really do not do it justice.  Take a look for yourself....
Hiking along Les Calanqeus
Calanque de Port-miou

Clanque de Port-pin

Calanque d'En-vau

Kayaking through Les Calanques
We spent one of our days in Cassis on a wonderful self-guided Kayak tour through the Calanques.  Mya doesn't miss a beat, so of course she tagged along.  Now if you know Mya, you'll know how she despises and absolutely loathes water.  She is a catdog after all.  Well, having a water-fearing dog on board a kayak becomes a little tricky when you hit rough waters.  On the way back she decided to go all kamikaze on us by attempting to end it all by jumping into the choppy waters.  Luckily I was able to hold on tight to her while Kevin steered us home.  Puppy panic attacks aside, kayaking was a fantastic way to see the Calanques up close.  We only stopped to swim at one -- Calanque d'En Vau.  The prettiest of them all.

FYI: If you plan on visiting Cassis in the summer, be aware that between June 1st and September 30th access to the Calanques may be restricted due to fire hazards.  Click here for further info on access conditions.

The Village of Cassis
When we weren't basking in the glory of the Calanques, we were relaxing it up in town.  Here's some pics from our walk around the village, info on where we stayed, and recommendations for some of our favorite spots.
Village Stroll

Mya meets the locals.

Where we Stayed
We stayed in another great Airbnb apartment.  Click here for the link.
Mya and I at the front door.
Best Beach Bar
Same Same Beach is not only a beautiful pebble beach, but it's also a fabulous bar.  Not so much for the cocktails (they were kinda crap), but for the fantastic views.  It's mainly a younger crowd hanging out here.  Fun spot.

Best Restaurant
Restaurant Cassis Nino is located in the harbor.  Great location & great food.  Our favorite order: Provençal mussels.

Friday, August 8, 2014

South of France Part 1: Avignon, Baux, Gordes, Orange, & Côtes du Rhône

To celebrate our five year wedding anniversary, Kevin and I embarked on a glorious ten day vacation to the south of France.  At the end of May/beginning of June we explored the amazing Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, and we fell madly in love with it.  Seriously, I felt to cry when our trip ended.  I didn't want to leave, it was that good.  Our fabulous vacation began with three days in Avignon.  Here we explored the city and used it as a base to visit the villages of Baux, Gordes, and Orange.  And of course no trip of ours would be complete without a wine tour.  So it should come as no surprise that we spent one of the three days drinking our way through the Côtes du Rhône wine region.

Avignon Explorations
Our Apartment
We stayed in a great Airbnb apartment.  Awesome location with cool views.  Click here for the link.
View from the living room
City Sites
Palais des Papes (The Popes' Palace)
We were bad toursits and didn't go in.  I mean, come on, look at the line.
Avignon Cathedral (we could see it from our living room window)
Pont d'Avignon
A medieval bridge that leads to nowhere.  17th century floods destroyed the other half.
View from end of the bridge
Our Favorite Restaurants
Why we liked it: beautiful outdoor seating, great food, and shockingly good service.  It very well could have been the first time, in the history of European dining, where a waiter has refilled water on his own accord.  Here began my love affair for salade aux chèvre chaud (salad with warm goat's cheese). 

Why we liked it: cool terrace seating, amazing burgers, and friendly service (which may have been due to our waitress's love for Mya).

Baux, Gordes, & Orange
For our second day in Avignon we rented a car to visit the villages of Baux, Gordes, and Orange.  Of the three villages we visited Baux was our favorite.  It had so many charming restaurants tucked away into all the cozy nooks and crannies of the village.  While we were there we visited the Château des Baux-de-Provence.  From the Château we were able to take in incredible panoramic views. 

Awesome restaurant where we enjoyed a glass of wine.  Wish we would have eaten there too!  Such a cute place.

 Views from Château des Baux-de-Provence

 Lavender within the Château

After Baux we drove over to the village of Gordes.  The one thing you have to do there is head over to the La Bastide de Gordes Hôtel & Spa to enjoy some beverages on their kick-ass terrace. Trust me.  The drinks might be pricey, but the views are stunning and totally worth it.

That night we visited the village of Orange to watch a horse acrobatics show that took place in an ancient Roman amphitheater.  You heard me right.  Horse acrobatics.  What the hell is that?  Well, it had to be one of the craziest things I've ever witnessed in my life.  It involves very animated over-the-top acrobats (think Will Ferrell's Blades of Glory) who perform flips, jumps, and juggle whilst standing on moving horses. Oh, and the horses dance too.  My jaw literally dropped when I saw this horse trot in crisp staccato movements exactly in time to Rihanna's "Stay".  Nuts.  

Côtes du Rhône Wine Tour
Taking advantage of our proximity to the Côtes du Rhône area, we spent our last afternoon in Avignon on a wine tour with a company called Provence Panorama.  We visited the villages of Châteauneuf-du-pape and Gigondas.  The tour was successful as evidenced by our 6 bottle purchase, which we took with us to enjoy for the remainder of trip.  FYI: Stuffing 6 bottles of wine into your already stuffed backpack, and then carrying said backpack as you walk 15min to the train station is no easy task.  To say the least it was a sweaty start to Cassis.

Our lovely tour guide