Ben, Where do you stay when you do these crazy trips of yours? Do you have to stay in some horrid hovel, just so you can afford to pay for the flight? Or did you sell your kidney before you left, so that you can stay in a hotel like most tourists?
Well Ben, I stay in excellent houses. And they’re not even that many Dollars, thanks to a trick I’ve learned called “Let Daniel deal with it, because he’s great at this stuff!”
Seriously – I don’t know how he found it (actually, I do know. He looked online, in French, and used some version of AirB&B), but Daniel found an amazing villa for us to stay at while we climbed in Cassis. It was right near the entrance to the Calanques, maybe a ten minute walk to the parking area. Less, probably. And to keep things symmetric, it was roughly a ten minute walk to the good restaurants in town – five minutes to a small pebble-beach where we could dip into the Mediterranean.
Most importantly, it has an infinity pool – heated to a perfect 25 Deg.C, just below 80 Deg.F. And a grill, and three bedrooms.
And it was just over $400 USD for the whole week. Roughly two nights in a Boston hotel. That doesn’t have an infinity pool. Or a grill. Or three Bedrooms.
How was the stay, you may ask? Well. Thankfully, someone invented bullet points, so I can mark down exactly how the stay was…
- The view. Ohh man. You don’t even know. The back yard looked out over the bay, and a huge Massif (a large mountain with an exposed rock face on one side) rose over the waves in the distance.
- The sleeping – three bedrooms, where I got my own little room with my own little bed and my own little creepy rabbit doll. It was quite nice, and while the bed was a bit hard I got used to it quickly, and had some of the best rest I’ve had in ages.
- The bathrooms – were a bit strange. There was a shower and sink in Daniel & Erin’s room, a toilet (without a sink) in its own little closet, and a full bathroom with a tub, two sinks, and a toilet, but no shower. That bathroom was huge. My bedroom had a sink and what may have been a bidet… though I don’t really think it was, since the spout looked exactly like a sink (versus a spraying thing)… so who knows what it was. But it was cool.
- The eating – we had a full, if small, kitchen in the main portion of the house. We also had a grill out back, a table inside and a table outside, and all the silverware and glassware that we could ever want. Seriously… so many plates. It was a bit intimidating. Thankfully, the kitchen also came with a small little dishwasher that could handle the crazy number of plates.
- The relaxing – like I mentioned, we had amazing views off the back porch. This was accentuated by the full garden, cool benches, stonework, and general “holy crap this place is awesome!” that we had going for us. Lots of sitting by / in / around the pool occurred, as well as utilization of the couch for reading and chilling out after long days of climbing.
But Ben, that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t tell me anything about the actual town of Cassis! This is France! Didn’t you go out and party it up? Check out the local bars and restaurants and people and places and things?!?!
Well Ben, we did a bit of that. But honestly, not as much as one would expect. You see, the main point of this trip was adventure, and climbing… and restaurant owners don’t look kindly to us climbing their walls. Ask Daniel how well doing pull ups on a building goes. (Ed Note: See “Camping and Kayaking – Aug 17th and 18th)
We did eat well, however. France has some amazing food, and their grocery stores aren’t an exception to that rule at all. And the bakeries… well, there’s a reason that my Grandma recommended that I get fresh Baguettes every morning.
- Breakfasts were uniform the whole week we were in Cassis – Coissants / pastries with Eggs and Bacon, orange juice and coffee. Simple, efficient, and a good way to kick the day into drive.
- Lunches we packed up, with the exception of the one rest day that we took. We would pick up Baguettes from the corner shop, one per person, and then combine that with some cured ham, Brie, and apple slices. We even bought ourselves some Baby Bell cheese, and small snickers bars to give that little bit of energy throughout the day of climbing. I’m seriously debating doing this for lunches now that I’m back in the states – the Brie wasn’t cheap, but having small snacks throughout the day really does help keep me going more efficiently.
- Dinners… now dinners, those were a different thing. We ate well, we ate heartily, and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.
- Saturday night we took to the grill like only Americans can. Sausage, chicken, zucchini and asparagus were all prepared by the talented Rebecca, and damn but it was amazing. Loved every bite; garlic, salt, pepper and oil make for very good marinade, especially with spicy chicken! We were assisted in this consumption by Johan and Magnus, who brought us lots and lots of amazing Danish beer.
- Sunday night we headed into town finally, taking a quick look around before settling in on the second place we saw… primarily because it was still open and we were extremely hungry after a long day climbing. Turns out, Cassis is on the sea. Which means seafood is very popular. Which means Salmon is super cheap. Which means I was in heaven. Even though I couldn’t speak French, and couldn’t order anything on my own in their language. Aww… Thank you Daniel…
- A rainy day is a day to explore and drive around the French Countryside! Since were in Avignon, we ate our dinner there – Salmon with rice and deliciousness, and even stealing some wine and Pizza from the rest of the table! Interesting fact I learned – Apertif’s are not dessert wines. They’re appetizers. I believe I have been using the term wrong for the last few years.
- Tuesday and Wednesday we rocked the grill again – Sausage and Chicken and veggies one night, and then Surf & Turf the other. Interesting factoid – France doesn’t really do beef. I guess most of Europe doesn’t; the grazing area required just isn’t viable in their area, unlike the USA. So the “turf” part of surf & turf was less than stellar… vacuum sealed packages of thin steak passed off as ribeye. Thankfully, Rebecca hadn’t stopped being an amazing chef, so they turned out quite good… even if they were only a few millimeters thick.
- Friday found us exploring Cassis again… correctly, this time. We got home early enough that we weren’t dying of hunger, so we took our time exploring the restaurants and picking out a place we wanted to eat. It was a quite… colorful little shop, with plates and napkins and silverware and placemats all different bright pastels – but when the food came out, we could barely notice the colors. It was amazing! Bjorn and I shared a pizza & sea bass (originally it was going to be Tuna Steak, but they ran out), and Daniel and I started out with a plate of calamari. Interestingly, they don’t really hold to the “bring all the food out at once” rule that US restaurants do… instead we got a trickle of plates, which caused some of us to look on longingly as the others ate their dishes. But the wine was excellent, and that made up for it all.
- Friday also found the girls heading back to the house early, to pack up their stuff. Us guys stayed out a bit later instead, stopping in at a Grand Marnier creperie. Seriously. They made crepes. With Grand Marnier. I had nutella. I also used their massive, 2+ liter bottle of cognac to sprinkle more than a little extra on top. Holy crap. Crepes. Nutella. Cognac. Yum.
What else can I say about our time in Cassis? We never really met too many locals, since we spent so much time climbing and steering away from the restaurants in order to conserve a bit of money on the trip. Those that we did meet were just as likely tourists, though everyone was quite friendly and polite. At no point did I really feel the “disdain of the French” that I hear so much about. It may have helped that I learned a few small phrases, and that Daniel spoke conversational French… but honestly I think it was just the attitude. We weren’t there to gawk at people, and we were as culturally sensitive as we could be. And since we didn’t go out a ton of times, we sort of minimized the chances that we could shove our feet into our mouths.