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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Between the mountains and the sea

Imagine summer weekends alternating between humidity, mountains, cold, snow, heat, rain, desert and the beach.  That has been my last couple weekends in France … simply wonderful extremes!One week ago my buddies Avid, David and I rented a car and headed for the Mediterranean , making stops in the large port city of Marseilles and the small harbor town of Cassis.
Postcard perfect: Port de Cassis

Our car, a rockin' Alfa Romeo that we got as an unexpected upgrade, fit in the same upgraded class as a Ford Focus.  Oh yeah baby!  I chauffeured that highly maneuverable petite hunk of metal all manners of use.  This included whipping around lane-stacked roundabouts with the skill of a Formula 1 driver and parallel parked like a true European.  In other words, roundabouts have no specific guidance, just everyone for themselves, and parallel parking spaces have about 15” more space than the length of the car, and you play bump-bump with the cars in front and behind you.  Only once or twice did I go around a roundabout more than once trying to get out of the madness, but I always won at the parking games!Cassis is about 20 miles east of Marseilles , and is one of the more beautiful small ocean towns I have seen in a long time.  We hiked to the Calanques, passing all sorts of various clothing partial or optional rocky beaches along the way.  The Calanques (I don’t know the translation?...) are all along the Mediterranean coast, and are like inlets ranging in size from enormous (tons of boats docked in the inlet) to much smaller and cozy.  The banks and mountainous areas around the Calanques are nothing but desert environment. Imagine yourself standing in the desert, looking out to herbaceous covered mountains on one side, and the deep crystal blue ocean just next to you.  All in the same exact split-second.Marseilles has the allure of an old fishing town, complete down to the fishing smell when you get near the old port area (“ Vieux Port ”).  Either you get used to the smell, or you take on the smell, but you forget about it when you see it at sunrise.  The beach is all pebbles and rocks large and small, and nothing like what Florida has taught me since birth.  You practically need hiking boots to climb down to the water.  And you love every minute of it.Enjoy the views – I most assuredly did…

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