View of Cassis's harbor from my apartment
Many folks know Cassis…the black currant liqueur that is used to make a Kir (or a Kir Royale when made with sparkling wine). A few may even know the tony village on the French Riviera by the name of Cassis. Those worldly gourmands who know both the drink and the seaside town often think that the liqueur is so named because it comes from the village of Cassis. Wrong.
Crème de Cassis is actually made in Burgundy, 300 miles north. As of 2015, this black-colored liqueur is protected by France’s geographical laws. Cassis is now officially referred to as Crème de Cassis de Bourgogne (Burgundy). The new designation guarantees the Burgundian origin of the fruit, as well as the minimum quantity of berries that is required. Like France’s other food and wine laws, it guarantees the authenticity of what’s in the bottle so that the consumer knows that the product is not a knock-off from another part of France, or Europe, or for that matter, China.
Now, back to the village of Cassis where I arrived today. If you’re looking for a heavenly spot to recover from jet lag, look no further. But, Cassis beckons for many reasons. Cassis is not on the radar screen for most Americans. Reason one. Next, Marseille’s airport is only 30 miles away making it an easy-to-get-to first stop. Reason two. Another attractive feature is that Cassis is small and quaint….without the crowds and noisy discos of St Tropez or Cannes. Reason three. But one of the most compelling motives to visit, is for its breathtaking beauty. A big reason four.
The calanques can be reached by foot or boat.
Cassis is drop-dead gorgeous. A large part of its magnificence is due to the “calanques.” It is thought that the calanques were formed by ancient streams that dried up a millennium or two ago. Today, the remnants are narrow, fjord-like inlets carved into steep white limestone cliffs, France’s highest sea cliffs. While there are many organized boat tours to view these calanques, I prefer to go by foot for several reasons. Most importantly, boats are not allowed to enter the calanques so boat visitors can only appreciate them from afar. While walking to the farthest calanque requires a good hour from the village (and some parts of the trail are a little difficult), one can opt for a 20 minute walk from Cassis to the first calanque. As there are spectacular panoramas around every bend, walkers to any of the calanques should allow extra time to take photos and soak up the splendor.
Tonight I’m celebrating my week’s stay in this sweet fishing village by ordering a Kir Royale----Cassis in Cassis!