At the beginning of April, after a wet winter and before our main season began, we packed our bags and headed off for a week in sunny Marseille. We were lucky enough to have the offer of free accommodation for a week and, once our Brexit related travel worries had receded (temporarily), we were raring to go for a few days walking in the only peri-urban national park in France.
Marseille itself is the second city of France, a large and bustling port on the shores of the Mediterranean. However, right on its doorstep (a 30 minute bus ride from the centre) lies Parc National des Calanques. The Calanques are a sequence of coastal coves of varying sizes, some small and some more like mini fjords. The Parc includes these plus the hinterland of rolling hills and an offshore section of sea and islands.
We had wanted to visit Marseille for many years and had heard vaguely about the Calanques but hadn’t realised just how beautiful the scenery in the Parc actually is, or how good the walking is either. Although the highest point in the Parc (Mont Puget) is only 564 metres a day’s walk there actually covers much more height gain because the terrain is very undulating.
During our week we managed to fit in four full days of walking. We hiked two stages of the GR51, our first French long distance path walked for a few years. On the other two days we devised circular routes, which allowed us to reach most of the high points in the Parc. They also took in a fair bit of scrambling, which we hadn’t expected but which was great fun.
All the trails in the Parc are very well marked and we are already thinking about a return trip some day as there are still a lot of paths to walk. We still have to have a dip in the sea. The water wasn’t that warm at the start of April and in any case most of the time there was a bit of a drop between path and sea, even on the coastal walking sections.
The city was also an interesting destination in its own right. We certainly came home feeling well fed and exercised and ready to throw ourselves into what we hope will be a busy summer season for Saddle Mountain Hostel.
In case you are wondering about the blog title, it is the name of a favourite (non-French) band of ours.