"Bidou": A Do-It-Yourself Tummy Tuck in French (Bilingual Story)
“Smala” & Family Visit to Cassis, Aix-en-Provence, Marseilles

A Little Tour of La Ciotat, France. Allez! On y va!

View of la ciotat port from below the lighthouse
"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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    : 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!


Plage mugel
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)

Les trois secs ilots in la ciotat
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.

The old port in La Ciotat France
(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.

Stele marines who died in service la ciotat
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.

Stele honoring the  Lumiere brothers in la ciotat
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 Theatre oldest functioning cinema in the world
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.

Dog on lumiere beach
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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Click here to listen to  the French and English terms below

le quai = the pier
= come on!
on y va
= let’s go
chichi = fussy
La Ciotat 
mal fréquenté
= of ill repute, seedy
bref =
in short
= 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


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Catherine Nary

Hi, Kristi!

I love your pictorial tour of La Ciotat! The photo of the Old Port reminds me of Monterey, California (one of my favorite places)! The Memorial Stone can be compared to the statue of John Steinbeck at Cannery Row: https://www.innsofmonterey.com/blog/the-cannery-row-monument

La Ciotat's old buildings, the Eden Theatre, the beautiful beaches -- charming and lovely! The crystal clean beaches are reminiscent of the clarity of some of the Greek Isles.

La Ciotat is fast becoming one of my new favorite places! I am even considering retiring there, when I am ready (almost!).

~Your friend the STEM Librarian from the U.S. Air Force Academy who came to see you at Denver's Vineyard Wine Shop, and had you sign two of your books that they had (thank you!), as well as my own copy of your book. I'm now the Medical Librarian at Travis Air Force Base, Northern California.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,
Enjoyed your post today and the photos are beautiful! Enjoy your visit with your sister!


It looks like a great place to retire. Wish I lived there. Thank you for sharing.
Hugs, Nancy

Ruth Fuchs Hallett

Hi, Kristi,
The only time I was in La Ciotat, was when we drove through France on our honeymoon. We loved the little town and found a cute little restaurant overlooking the sea where we had an amazing bouillabaise.
My love affair with France lasted a whole lot longer than that with my (now ex) husband and I've been in love with France ever since.
One day I hope to get back there again. I've been to the South of France several times since that visit.

Love the photos!

Jennie Jordan

I love this blog! These photos are a lovely depiction of your sweet little town sur la mèr. Hopefully we will be there next summer.....we have friends whose family have lived there for generations. Now I really need to brush up on my french!

Cynthia Lewis


A few years ago while auditing French courses at the nearby university, La Ciotat and its history was discussed. Never did I dream that you and your family would move to La Ciotat! (At that point, I had been reading FWAD for quite a few years.) Thanks so much for the fabulous photos and interesting remarks. ... Happy visit with your sister and her family. Best wishes.

Jo-Anne Yurosko

Your pictures and words have painted a charming portrait of La Ciotat. I wish I were going there, also. I hope all of you have a wonderful visit and great time exploring the area. I know you will be the perfect tour guide and hostess😍

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Jo-Anne, and to everyone for such kind words! My sister is arriving any minute. So happy!


Now that little beach bum doggo is the perfect size - I think as we get older our dogs get smaller. They are sharp witted and so happy to see you when your return. Plus you can lift them into the sink at bath time. I really appreciate that.


Our dear Kristi
What a(nother!) wonderful post today!
You gave this armchair traveller such a picturesque and lovely tour that I am feeling the glow of becoming happily acquainted with a new and interesting place-- especially with you as our lovely ( and so knowledgeable!) guide!
Hugs and blessings to all of you-- and a joyful reunion with your dear sister and family!!
PS I totally agree with Rosann about small dogs( aka our beloved mignons Elley and Ari!!)

Judi Miller

La Ciotat looks very inviting! A wonderful place to visit and you are so lucky Jean-Marc’s “draw” came up with this town to which to move! It looks like you’ve seen a lot of changes and yet still the natural beauty remains!

Carolyn Wade

I have a photo of a poster in front of me as I type--a drawing of La Ciotat, "STATION CLIMATIQUE, D’ÉTÉ, D’HIVER" and it takes me right there! I can't wait for another visit!


Bonjour Kristin,

I really enjoyed this entry and I went on to look at your booklist and get the title, publisher information, ISBN for a summer reading list of my own from your list. What an amazing list of publishers! Only a few with more than one book on the list. Well done (from a retired librarian).

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Muriel.
If you have any French-themed book recommendations I would gladly add them to my sidebar.

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Carolyn, that sounds like a cool poster! I hope you will return soon. 

Carolyn  Chase

What a delightful visit to La Ciotat! I'll imagine myself there with your guests enjoying the tour and sunshine and water, the food, and most assuredly the company.

I have been thinking often about you and wondering how you are managing, now that you folks no longer have the wine store. I'm sure your new adventures will be filled with joy as well as challenges.

Richard Kahane

Great pictures, but I think the memorial stèle in your photo commemorates 74 lost submariners, rather than marines.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Richard. I will correct that and very much your note. 

Karen in Northport, NY

La Ciotat looks lovely. I believe I have done jigsaws of some of these spots! Thanks for the tour.
US visitors may appreciate the absence of woodsmoke. Looks like a loooong fire season. I hope their return trip is through Atlanta if they can't fly direct.

Leslie Riley

Hi Kristi, I bought your memoirs and would now start to read them, but I can’t find my password. Is there any way I can retrieve that? Thank you!

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Leslie, Thanks for your purchase. I will send the info right away, via email

Elaine Street

Hi, I need help with my password to read your memoir. Thanks, Elaine

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