An Afternoon at the Calanques

The Port in Marseilles

I am usually the planner of our trips. My wife and I both do an incredible amount of research to find great places to stay and interesting places to visit…but on this trip for our second Sunday, my wife went rogue and insisted that we book a boat tour of the Calanques off Marseilles with Bleu Evasion.  The company offered nice, quiet boat tours where you stay on the boat and look at the lovely Calanques, but no…instead my wife insisted to book the tour on a smaller boat that took us to two spots where we would get off the boat and swim in the sea! Let’s just say that I’m more of a pool guy. But it’s vacation, so I am up for anything.

So on Sunday, we made the one hour drive to Marseilles, which I should mention, is a beautiful sea-side city.  We should have given ourselves more time to see the sights of the city (so if you are planning a boat tour like us, give yourself time to explore Marseilles). We very easily found the spot to meet the tour boat, and soon enough we began our adventure on the Mediterranean.

Tip:  Bring lots of sunscreen and a towel.  

Napoleon III’s palace overlooking the sea

Fort Saint Jean built by Louis XIV in 1660


Musee des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Mediterrane



From the beginning, the boat tour was amazing.  We were on with 8 other people, so it was intimate enough to feel almost as if we were on a friend’s boat for the day.  The sea was a gorgeous deep blue and as we approached the white juts of rock that are the Calanques, the water became green, turquoise and blue.  So clear you can see the bottom.

This particular Bleu Evasion boat goes very fast and the ride is very bumpy.  It is not for the faint of heart or those with a tender bottom or bad back.  If you are not up for an adventure on the sea, I would strongly suggest the bigger boat that I mentioned earlier (the one that you don’t get off and swim).

We made our first stop at a beautiful inlet and the Skipper told us to jump in and enjoy the water,  which was a lovely crystal clear blue. Despite being the more reserved (cautious) one on board,  I wasn’t going to come all this way and not get in the water, so I jumped off the boat! The water was surprisingly chilly…and after plunging in, I kept going down and down into the depths of the water…despite being very clear, I had no perception of how deep the water was when I jumped off.  I was getting very anxious for my foot to touch the bottom so that I could come up again. Eventually, I felt a rock, and pushed myself back up…and my head was soon out of water and I attempted to coax the others to come in! Eventually, Lena and Josette made their way into the water.  Lena was required to wear a life jacket (thank goodness) but it was very awkward and she wasn’t really able to swim or maneuver.   Since the water was so deep, it was exhausting to tread and swim with and 8 year old in tow, but at the same time, the whole thing was a beautiful experience.  The glimmering, clear sea below, the dramatic white cliffs, the warm Mediterranean sun…this is what we came to the south of France for.


The next swim was a challenge. The Skipper pulled up to a cove and said that we were to swim into to the Blue Cave, where the light is illuminated from the sea.  It sounded interesting, but the only catch was that the opening to the cave was this narrow little slice in the rocks, barely above our head height….AND there were sea urchins lurking on the rocks!  Those of us on the boat all looked at one another like “is he kidding?”  I think many of us had imagined that the boat was going to go into the blue cave…not that we had to make the journey ourselves!  The Skipper’s only advice was to “watch our heads” and “don’t touch the urchins!”  The loads of fun turned into extreme trepidation. But once again…when was I going to be back on a boat in the Calanques with the chance to swim into a cave????  I think I was the first one off the boat, and I think I might have yelled “YOLO” as I jumped into the deep sea water.

It was all bit frightening, and I admittedly left the swimming with our 8 year old to my wife, but we all managed to make it into the cave.   This is not for the faint of heart…several people on our boat didn’t attempt this adventure, but it was worth it.  The cave was magical and the glowing blue sea was beautiful. Definitely a bucket list moment.

After the cave visit, we toured a few more gorgeous inlets and then headed back to the port in Marseilles.

By the time we got back to the Port, we were tired, wet, and had gotten way too much sun despite being slathered with sunscreen.  We had that “I think I got a sunburn” feeling when your skin is tender and tight and gradually turning red.   We decided to walk into town a few blocks and look for lunch.  It was Sunday…and we found what felt like an awful tourist trap restaurant, but sometimes, you have to ignore your better judgement, especially when you are traveling with a hungry child…and it’s blistering hot…and you just really need a bite to eat and some water.  We ate what wasn’t a terrible lunch and decided that with an hour long drive in the forecast, we would skip any further sight seeing in Marseille and head home.

An hour later, we were home again and ready for a dip in the pool before dinner.   After cooling off and getting dressed, we headed down to the terrace for another delicious dinner.  We had a tomato gazpacho amuse-bouche, an artichoke-beet salad, duck breast with cherries & beets for the entree, and an apricot dessert. Superb!

Tomorrow morning we have to leave the lovely Hotel Benvengudo and move on to our next destination…Nice!

4 thoughts on “An Afternoon at the Calanques

  1. I am so proud of you and Lena! Ugh! Big ups, Josette for making this happen 🙂 Okay, I am inspired to learn to swim.

  2. Was this the Bleu Evasions Calanaques tour from 14-1830? Was there snorkelling gear provided also? Did you book online ahead of time or just when you were there?

    Thank you. Going to Marseille in May 2017 and thinking about booking the tour.

    1. Yes, it was Bleu Evasions! They provided masks and snorkels (no life jackets for adults or children). We booked about 5 months in advance, which may or may not have been necessary. They were right on time, very professional and it was a highlight of our 2 week visit to France.

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