Cicadas hum ceaselessly, hot sun beats on white rocks surrounding calm waters in every possible shade of aqua blue. The sounds of children laughing, tourists and locals chatting in a variety of languages blends seamlessly with the sounds of water crashing against cliffs and gently lapping on the white pebbled beach.
These large beach pebbles are a great equaliser. Old or young, large or small, tanned or pale, glamorous or plain hot and sweaty after hiking in, all must do the pebble dance in order to approach these cool, inviting waters. Some dance slowly and awkwardly, others with increased speed or greater grace, but all must dance their way to the water’s edge, balancing their tender feet on the pebbles of the beach.
Once safely across the pebbles, one is free to enter the cool blue Mediterranean creeping into the first small inlet of the Calanques, Port au Pins, so-named for the pine trees which cling perilously to the rocky crags surrounding it. The water itself is refreshingly cool and requires gradual aclimatisation for most. The shallow bay assists immersion in stages, as you slowly walk deeper and stones give way first to sand, then seagrass. The narrow bay is then yours, to float or swim around and explore as you wish. Busy, but not crowded on the morning we visited, there is plenty of room for everyone to enjoy this beautiful spot, just as long as you are willing to hike into it.
[The Calanques, a series of narrow, Mediterranean inlets, can be found between Cassis and Marseilles, on the coast of Provence, France. They are only accessible by walking track or small boat but are certainly worth the effort. Port au Pins is the closest to Cassis, about a 50 minute walk from the town centre.]