provence day 3: cassis and arles

Early Tuesday morning we drove to Cassis.  And I thought Marseille was breathtaking.  Maybe I'm partial to quaint little towns, especially after brushing shoulders with all the tourists in France's second-largest city the entire day before, but even though it's only a few kilometers away from Marseille, the tiny village of Cassis with its brightly colored buildings and pretty little fishing boats was now my new favorite place. 

After devouring an assortment of fresh pastries from the bakery (seriously, can someone tell me how the French stay so skinny?), we took a boat tour of the Calanques.  We were the first people on the boat and so excited to grab a seat right up front.  Then the captain came out and said "Le Douche."  This apparently means, "You will take a shower if you sit there."  We all figured a little seaspray never hurt anybody and sat tight.

The stark contrast of the white limestone cliffs and deep blue water was overshadowed by the hilarity of our predicament.  I really can't think of the last time I even came close to laughing so hard.  Our boat tour was straight out of an amusement park water ride, or maybe in Sujata's case, a wet t-shirt contest.  I almost peed my pants when, after half an hour of just getting soaked, the boat hit a huge wake and sent Sujata flying out of her seat.  It still makes me laugh out loud to think about it.  We returned to shore, soaking wet, salty, and more than a little seasick in my case.  While we dried off under the sun, we ate our slightly salty and soggy lunch (we had optimistically brought a picnic on the boat) and Sujata and I entertained ourselves with inappropriate remarks about the inappropriate fat ladies baring it all on the topless beach.

Joey drove the hilly and winding rode back to our cottage.  I suppose he should have known better than to rent a stick shift with two outspoken women in the car, and maybe Sujata and I could have complained less considering the driving conditions.  But with our stomachs already on strike after the bumpy boat ride, Sujata and I kept Joey informed of this fact at every hairpin turn.  It was a fun ride for all and definitely time for a nap.

Look familiar?
A few hours later, refreshed after naps and showers, we headed to Arles for the evening.  Arles was remarkably more muted than Cassis but still full of history and beauty.  We saw the spot where Van Gogh painted his famous Cafe Terrace at Night and some wonderfully old Roman ruins, including baths from the era of Constantine and an even older arena that is still in use today.

I could have spent days more exploring all the nooks and crannies of Arles.  I became terribly disconcerted when my camera battery flashed red, though much to the delight of my traveling companions.  Joey exclaimed, "I get my wife back!" Sujata concurred.  Given I took over 2,000 pictures on our vacation, I think they may have had a point.  Plus the slight sprinkle had turned into more of a steady rain, so we decided to head back to Aix-en-Provence for sushi.  After Sujata and I enjoyed a few too many lychee kir royales, Joey patiently drove us home to sleep it off for our next excursion.  Tomorrow was lavender day!

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