Cassis is a beautiful resort town just west of Marseille. Hemmed in by high white cliffs, its modern development has been carefully limited and it retains much of the charm lost by its more high-profile neighbours. Built on the side of a hill, the old village is centred around a shady square where the inhabitants come to cool off and play 'pétanque' on summer nights. Portside posing and drinking aside, there's not much to do except sunbathe and look up at the ruins of the town's medieval castle, built in 1381.
A popular excursion is to take a boat trip to the calanques - long, narrow, deep, fjord-like inlets that have cut into the limestone cliffs. Those feeling energetic can take the well-marked footpath from the Route des Calanques behind the western beach; it's about a 90-minute walk to the furthest and best calanque, En Vau, where one can climb down rocks to the shore. Intrepid pine trees, and sunbathers, manage to find ledges on the chaotic white cliffs. The water is deep blue and swimming between the vertical cliffs is an experience not to be missed. A holiday in Cassis is peaceful and sun-drenched and the natural surroundings are truly spectacular.