"A Diamond in the Rough" that's the best way I can describe our coastal town. And while it may not be chichi like Cassis, Bandol, or Sanary… La Ciotat has more character in its little pinky than all three. Can you sense our salty sea breeze coming from the turquoise bay just below?
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TODAY'S WORD: LE QUAI
: wharf, pier
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
When our vineyard went under contract and my husband tossed La Ciotat into the pot of possible places to relocate, I flinched. Not because of any particular impression I ever got from visiting here, but because this town has (or had…) a reputation as a place that is mal fréquenté.
Bref, La Ciotat isn't one of those gems you hear about when discussing charming French destinations. But the tides are turning and the beaches here are blindé—so completely packed you cannot see the sand for les serviettes--that is, you can hardly find a spot to put down your beach towel. And while the beaches here have always attracted sunbathers (they come from Marseille and hang out all day), the city is now attracting an international crowd.
By the times you receive this letter, my sister, niece and nephew will be landing in Marseilles and I will be excited to show them our not-so-new digs (hard to believe we moved here 6 years ago). Here are some of the places we will see. Enjoy the pictures and related text and see you next week for an update!
Mugel Beach. Our personal favorite, La Plage Mugel, is known for its clear turquoise waters and the shallow depth near the shore makes it safe for children to play and paddle. There is an authentic restaurant above the beach, but many locals enjoy picnicking, as we sometimes do, at the water's edge. (And do not miss my Dad's joie-de-vivre swim)
The big rock you see en face, is part of Les Trois Secs (The Three Drys)--three rocky islets located off the coast of our town. This beautiful calanque offers opportunities for snorkeling, diving, and exploring marine life in these crystal-clear waters.
(click the above link if the photo isn't appearing! I'm having technical issues with my blog...)
The Old Port with boats ranging in size (from these small wooden “pointus”) and price (to the new multi-million euro yachts). All around the port there are restaurants and even a few shops and art galleries. At one point this former industrial shipping town was known as a seedy place, but the locals might fiercely disagree. The new commercial centers look seedy to them, and who can argue with that? Meantime the heart of La Ciotat, which ripples out from this port, is colorful, lively, and full of soul, mirroring the locals.
A la memoire--In memory. There are at least 2 stèles, or memorial stones in La Ciotat. This one, near the green lighthouse on the old port, is for the 74 submariners who disappeared at sea in 1943.
This stèle commemorates the Lumière brothers, Auguste and Louis, pioneers in the field of cinematography. La Ciotat is known as the birthplace of cinema, and the Lumière brothers played a significant role in its development.
Eden Theater, overlooking the New Port, is the oldest operational movie theater in the world! Inside, enjoy cozy seating on red velvet chairs, surrounded by balconies above.
There are at least 5 beaches along the boardwalk and, unlike Paris (not that you can compare) there are plenty of clean public restrooms dotted along the boardwalk.
Our town has beachy, doggy vibes—great for outdoor and dog lovers. That's Jean-Marc, right, in his towel and claquettes, or slides. To the left a very friendly beach bum we met last night. I hope you enjoyed today's photo blog. See you next week for more pictures and stories. A bientôt! Kristi
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le quai = the pier
Allez! = come on!
on y va = let’s go
chichi = fussy
mal fréquenté = of ill repute, seedy
bref = in short
blindé = full, jam-packed
la serviette = beach towel
les trois secs = the three drys
La calanque = rocky inlet
Les claquettes = flip-flops, slides
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety