Feb. 18, 2010, 2:01 p.m. by SMARTBRIDE

Honeymoon Series: French Riveria for a Fraction of the Price


Great news! If it's a luxurious french honeymoon you're after, more and more options are opening up on the Southern Coast of France. Forget Nice, Cannes and St. Tropez (the traditional seaside playground for the rich and famous) and venture west along the Riveria to Cassis (pronounced "ka-see" or "ka-seess", depending on who you ask), a quick drive from the Marseilles airport. With sun, surf and unspoiled national parks, Cassis is the perfect honeymoon spot for smart brides who want all the perks without the exorbitant prices.

Read on for more information on where to stay and eat, and what to do while you're there!

Cassis France Honeymoon

Where to Stay:

For a private and luxurious stay, look no further than Maison 9 ($195-245 Euro/night), a 4 room bed and breakfast with amazing rooms featuring rain showers, espresso makers, mini kitchen and everything you'll need to chill out, or adventure around the southern coast. From the linens, towels to the soaps and complimentary wine, everything is hand selected by the hotel's owner who shops the world to stock several family owned hotels around the globe.

Maison 9 Cassis France

Tucked down a rural laneway just beyond the buzz of the old town, the red ochre façade of an old Provencal abode reveals a luxurious country sanctuary with an infinity pool looking out over the distant cliffs. If you can even tear yourselves away from the hotel, make sure you schedule some time to enjoy the sumptuous breakfasts (included). Be prepared to lose track of time - you likely won't be hungry for lunch any time soon!

Maison 9 Cassis France

What to Do:

Stroll Into Town: The town of Cassis itself is an excellent place to explore tiny cobblestone streets, relax over long lunches of fresh fish and locally produced wine (Rose is this region's speciality), and generally soak up the easy going atmosphere.

Hike to a Secluded Beach: There are some perfectly adequate beaches to be lounged upon in Cassis, but supernatural splendor awaits in the Calanques, a series of finger-like inlets carved into pine-topped limestone cliffs. These French interpretations of fjords are anything but mundane, hiding vivid turquoise pools and tiny beaches accessible only by foot or small boat. Those adventurous enough to take the hour-and-a-half hike from Cassis to En Vau and Le Sugiton, the prettiest of the Calanques, are rewarded with an idyllic platform for sunbathing and swimming.

Cassis France Honeymoon

Hire a Private Sailboat: Not in the mood for scrambling down cliff faces in deck shoes? Elect to explore the Calanques in style aboard a private sailboat. Normally this would be a bank-breaking proposition an hour east on the Cote D'Azur, but we found a day-long charter on a 40-foot sailing yacht in Cassis for the absurd price of 50 euros per person. Our captain, a convivial ex-Parisien executive named Dominique, knows he could be charging more, but he didn't seem to care.

Dominique piloted us in and out of the Calanques, where French holidayers lazed in the sun and plunged into the pristine waters from the rocky outcroppings above. Late in the afternoon we dropped anchor in an uninhabited island cove, and for a moment, it was as though we had the entire coast to ourselves.

Cassis France Honeymoon

Day Trips: An amazing island beach beckons from the small port of Le Brusc on the other side of Toulon. From here, Les Embiez is a quick ferry away. Purchased by the late Paul Ricard (of the eponymous Provencal pastis) in 1958, Les Embiez is far less rambunctious than you'd expect for an island owned by a legendary liquor magnate. Don't be fooled by the pretty toy port lined with sailing yachts – the majority of the rugged little island's population is made up of goats. Still, 10 hectares of vineyards, a smattering of secluded beaches and a bargain-priced aquarium provide ample fodder for a day trip, with a boutique guesthouse as backup in case you're seduced by the island's languid pace.

Where to Eat: As always, restaurants tend to come and go. We recommend checking a guide book, or doing a quick search of reviews on trip advisor shortly before you go to get the latest recommendations. However, one of our favorites was Poissonerie. Enjoy unobstructed views of the dramatic Château de Cassis over fresh fish caught daily. (5 Quai JJ Barthelemy, Cassis; 0442017156)


Additional Info:

Getting There:

Air Transat offers charter flights direct to Marseille Airport (MRS) from Montreal and Toronto, Canada. National and Low cost airlines also fly from other major European cities. Try: www.airtransat.ca, www.easyjet.com and www.ryanair.com.

A rental car is a must for getting around and exploring the coast, and many rental agencies are available right from the Marseille airport. Rent well in advance, especially if your trip happens to coincide with one of the many french long weekends throughout the summer.

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