Monday, May 23, 2011

The Southern Coast

Our last day on the farm was a rainy one. We spent the morning tilling and planting our last batch of tomatoes, while getting a few areas ready for whoever would help work the land the next day. We spent our time after lunch cleaning our room, packing our packs and then in the garden, documenting with pencil and memory cards what we had accomplished. Out of nowhere, a downpour quickly crept in and we ran back in the house to watch.

Sparks of lightning filled the sky and each time we counted, trying to see which one was the closest. It was actually the perfect ending to our time on the Julio farm.

Leaving the farm meant traveling! Our destination was Firenze, Italy and we gave ourselves three days in the south of France to get there. First stop – Marseille.

I don’t’ have much to report for Marseille. Well, not much positive anyway. The one thing that was evident was that Marseille is full of trash. Everywhere we walked, in the city center, was full of trash. That, mixed with the heat and insatiable honking from traffic, the vibe wasn’t pleasant. Here is a picture of the old port, and besides a large Romanesque arch (which wreaked of urine) it was pretty much the only thing to see.

Luckily, Marseille was just a jumping off point for this:

Cassis. It is a small town just outside of Marseille that you can reach via an awesome bus ride. It takes you and on the side of some mountains as you get closer and closer to the pictures you’re about to see. Cassis is a beautiful coastal town, but the main attraction, at least for us, at the Calanques. They are these deep and narrow coves, kind of like reversed peninsulas, and are gorgeous.

Exhibit A. We hiked from the town to three of the Calanqies. This is view from the end of the second one. The Calanques are all these white rocks jutting out of the deep turquoise Mediterranean with bold green trees growing all around. The trail took us along the edges of them and for the last one, up on top.

From this point of view, you can kind of get a vibe for what the hike was like. I’m pretty sure I said every 8 minutes, “Oh my god! This is so frickin beautiful!”

This pictures of Casey gives you a better perspective of how high up we were. At the base of this Calanques was a beautiful beach. The only thing about it being at the base was that we had the climb down.

Now, I haven’t mentioned the weather yet. You can tell that it was bright and sunny, but what you can’t tell is that it was also extremely windy, especially at the top. We were expecting a gradual decent, but instead we got pretty much a straight shot down with the strongest winds I’ve felt in years, blasting us. At some points, it was so steep that I was lowering myself down to the next step with my arms.

But, we got down safely and this was our reward! Beautiful and beautiful. The thing about pictures is that it does a good job and capturing what something looks like, but not what it feels like. We were at this gorgeous beach with these massive walls on both sides and the intense ocean in front of us.

We ate some food and mustarded up the courage to go in. As nice of a day as it was, the water was actually freezing. We solely inched in and finally just went for it. Surprisingly though, my body acclimated and everything was golden. It was so nice to be back in the water. I swear I was a sea animal in my last life.

Anyhow, we soaked it up and headed back.

Our tans are back!

I thought I’d just throw this one it to give a little diversity.

The day after Cassis, we left Marseille and headed for Nice (Neec) Nice is beautiful. Just from leaving the train station, I liked it more than Marseille. We just had the day there and spent it exploring as much as we could.

How can you not love this? Sparkly ocean, a long stretch of beach dotted with sun bathers, and places to enjoy a drink and snack looking out at it all. Nice set up.

This is the harbor and its more just to show that they’ve got the beautiful hills too.

From walking around, I got the feeling that this was a typical south of France building. Taller windows, more detailed bottoms, and highly intricate balconies. The building itself doesn’t need much decoration because these balconies do it all.

One cool thing we saw, and that I’ll leave you on, was this memorial

It was a war memorial for the people who died in WWI. Its hard to get a feeling for the size, but this thing was enormous. I think I just like it because it is a legitimate and serious homage to the lost lives. Its not a little wall with names, it’s a large scale tribute.

Here are the steps, counting the years of the war. I like the simplicity.

The end of the south meant the beginning of Florence. I’m actually writing this on a train ride from Florence back to France. Needless to say, I haven’t found much time to write. Bit I’m catching up and hopefully Florence will be up soon.


celia said...

Wow your adventures are awesome along with your pictures. I am so happy that you got back into the water - although freezing. The waters are so so beautiful! Can't wait for your blog on Firenze

Dennis said...

Wow, what an adventure. Wish I were there with you. One of these days................Take care and be healthy!