Thursday, January 22, 2015

Massif des Calanques

The amazing natural beauty of France - the Calanque d'en Vau
*pic taken from the web*

Massive and steep valley created from erosion and rise of sea level....of limestone, dolomite and other mineral stones. I was beyond words looking at those pics while doin research of Marseille. The locals said you have not visited Marseille, if you did not go and see the calanque.
*pic taken from the web* of Calanque d'En Vau

Thing is, there isn't only one calanque, there's roughly about 24 accessible ones along the 20km coast stretching between Marseille and Cassis. You could catch a calanque cruise that departs from the port of Marseille. Basically it's a medium size cruise boat that carries like errr 150 people, or you could charter your own private boat....or if u are adventurous and FIT, the best way would be to kayak ur way there in small groups....and if you are afraid of water, you could go for an 8 hours hike.

so there's no excuse to miss the Calanques, all options are available at all budget/cost. Monkey was too ambitious, thinking that we should hike along the calanque and have a lunch picnic....once we arrived at Marseille...the SUN was too much. The UV ray was so strong, I could just get a perfect tan sleeping on my sun lounge chair for 40 minutes. But that kind of heat is just so enjoyable, bcoz the air was cool, the heat of the sun just touches your skin so slightly, u feel like u are in a tanning bed. AWESOME.

before JS knew wat's gonna happen, and where we are heading to....Monkey changed the plan and chartered a private speed boat instead. He wasn't too keen that we gonna spend half the day out in the sea....but wat we were about experienced, threw him off his skin and Monkey by her tail. 

the view from our huge balcony at Le Petit Nice Passedat......this was sunrise. It doesn't matter if it's sunrise or sunset, but it's alwiz spectacular. Now that the beam of the sun piercing through the valley made it even more's as if Mr. Sun is making a grand entry to a new born day.

I was still wondering who's beautiful villa was that, perched on the rocky hill. Weather wasn't looking fantastic that morning and both of us were :(((

More like Monkey  :"( sniff sniff
while JS >:-( this better be worth it!!!!
our private boat was already waiting for us below our villa. That's the beauty of having a smaller boat, I don't have to get to the port at the city centre to board those ferries, queueing in line with throngs of tourists...instead the boat came to us and it can berth anywhere it wants. :)))

the sea was pretty calm that morning as our speed boat made breaks on the surface as it sped its way to the National Park. Yes it has been declared a national park in 2012 for its uniqueness.

The sun played peek-a-boo with us. Now u see it, now u don't!!!

Ile Maire, a little beautiful limestone island....humans are not allowed there and the habitats are protected. There was a tiny lil abandoned house, built by an old man who lived there many years ago before it was declared a National Park. If you are lucky, you could see his 3 mountain goats living on this island, which used to be connected to the mainland by a short hanging bridge. It's actually quite near to the mainland, you could swim across.
helloooo meeeeeekkkk goatie goatie where are you????
There were so many types of birds living on this rocky island. You could hear them. Thousands and thousands of them. I am so glad this has been a designated no-go area to protect the habitats. If it's in Asia....gone were the birds, ended up being spit-roasted yummy poultry served in restaurants.

Our dearie Skipper Laurent took us to the off-the-beaten-track il Riou, another rocky formation of huge island in the middle of the sea, far from the mainland. The formation of stones here were so amazing. You could see the layers after layers of cemented pebble conglomerate.

The shapes, its height, and secret caves amazed us. There were so many habitats living on this rocky island!!!!

Skipper Laurent took us into these secret passages. According to her, in the ancient time, the sea pirates often hide inside here, away from whoever and also from the rough sea/weather. I am so glad we chartered a private speed boat to get here. Anything bigger than this boat won't be able to get in. But most of all we are so thankful to have Skipper Laurent, she's so experienced, full of knowledge and speaks really really good English. She's Parisienne by the way, once she has moved down South, she never want to go back.

Skipper Laurent then skillfully maneuvered  the boat deeper into this rocky island. OMG one could really get lost here. It's so calming to be inside here, you could just hear the birds!!!!

Skipper Laurent: "Would you want a quick swim? We have time?"
I wished we could, but we were eager to check out the most beautiful Calanque of them all - Calanque d'En Vau.

She's right, it's so safe here. I felt like I'm safely encased in a cocoon, away from everything else. Monkey was enjoying herself so much, she lied down staring at the would be so beautiful at night too, starry starry night~~~~ but wouldn't it be so scary bcoz it's gonna be super dark at night!!

Skipper Laurent took us to another island with a beach. The sea was so turquoise!!! There's some vegetation on this island too. Bcoz most of these islands are rocky formation, it's almost impossible for any tree to grow around here.

Hello Fishie Fishie sekalian!!!!

Skipper Laurent: "Do u want a swim? the water temperature is perfect!!"

errrr not with those fishes, they looked hungry and famish.....and I'm not a fish spa kinda person.

We spent some time talking to those fishes and about the environment. Skipper Laurent is so passionate about her work, the sea, the habitats and conservation. :))))

What a BIG TREAT!!! Skipper Laurent brought us to this spot!!!
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the very same spot that Jacques Cousteau made his first dive with his newly invented SCUBA equipment, the regulator.

It plunges down 30 feet straight from all these rocky formation. I dare not even dip my feet in for fear of heights. Yes, I'm very afraid of heights, even inside water.

This is the Calanque de Port Miou, the closest calanque to Cassis town. It deep in, about 1.5km and also very deep in terms of depth, hence about 500 boats and yachts moored here, protected from the Mediterranean Sea especially during harsh weather.

Most of the stones here were broken down with dynamites and served as a huge quarry since 1900. Do u know the base stone of Statue of Liberty came from here? this very same place??? unbelievable. I already felt this lil leisure boat tour is so fulfilling, almost like a school field trip!!!

*pic taken from the web*

the most beautiful, most steep, most stunning calanque of them all - Calanque d'En Vau.
Monkey kept on insisting this must be in the itinerary and Skipper Laurent assured me we will definitely make time for this.

and finally we arrived!!!!! it's so narrow and I don't know how those tourist ferry could come in. Later I realised they could only stay at the opening of the calanque, and can't get in any further. 

a lil pristine beach is on the inside, rock climbers were everywhere scaling the vertical limestone rocks. Monkey could only yelp in amazement.

"We are here!!! woohooo we are here!!! It's so beautiful!!! We are here!!! OMG I am gonna cry~~~I still cannot believe it we are here!!!!" and skipped and rocked the boat
Both Skipper Laurent and JS -_-" x 10000000

just look at that!!! so so so so stunning!!!! can u see those rock climbers???
I love those trees too!! wat are they? what species are there? Tell me?

Skipper Laurent was so patience entertaining my endless queries.

that satisfied and contented look on her face.....JS said this's so priceless.
It was such a beautiful experience.

Monkey again lied down on the boat, smiling goofily like silly. Aaahhhhh We were here...we were

JS -_- sigh...wat to do with this gal.

As we exit this stunning calanque, we thought that this would be the end of our tour...but there's more to see and to do!!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the exact spot to the Cosquer Cave.
U got to be kidding me???? this wasn't really part of the deal but we got to the exact spot!!!

the entrance of the cave is located 36m below sea.....with a even longer tunnel, about 175m. It was only discovered in 1985 by a French diver - Henri Cosquer, apparently it wasn't made public until a few divers was lost inside this labyrinth and died inside the tunnels/caves in 1991.

during the Paleolithic period, when the sea level was lower, this cave wasn't submerge in the sea. Early civilisation evidence were left behind with ancient art paintings on the wall dating 25,000 BCE. Oh, that's really very old. Today the cave is closed to public and only available to the French Ministry of culture for commissioned works and further studies.
check out those Rock Climbers. It's a recreational activity here in Marseille. Every scalable rock that I could see, there's bound to be ppl climbing it.

they were climbing around this rock, to get to the other side.....
Skipper Laurent challenged Monkey to swim through the opening...Gah it's so deep down there I'm not gonna do it!!! All the rocky lime stone formation plunges down to the sea, there's no sandy bed for u. So instead of swimming across, let's take the boat to the other side of this opening.....hehehehe..

WAHHHHH this is so so beautiful!!!!

Skipper Laurent let out a beautiful smile, as if saying goodbye to the beautiful nature for the day.

they should have shot Lord of the Rings here....hahahaha

Skipper Laurent brought us to another Calanque to this Blue Cave. It's quite deep and she dived in there before and this cave earned its name for one reason. It's really very very blue inside. :))))

Then we have a quick toilet break at one of the calanque that's civilised. Hehehehe. Calanque Morgiou. 

aaahhh so good to be able to stretch my legs again.

there's small lil chalet for rent here. You gotta rent in advance bcoz it's full during peak period.

fishing boats everywhere. Oh speaking of fish, reminded me of's time to nom nom nom

When it comes to lunch/food....that face....hiak hiak hiak. Skipper Laurent then took us to another calanque - Calanque Sormiou.

Nevermind that we didn't manage any picnic on the boat or by the beach. This was considered a beautiful picnic for me already!!!!

Skipper Laurent was still busy tying up the boat, in case it floats away. Oh nvm, here the water isn't that deep, I won't mind swimming out there to get the boat back here. tee heee hee...but before I can do that I need food.

Will blog about our picnic lunch here at a separate posting.

After our healthy scrumptious local lunch of grilled seafood, it's time to continue our excursion :)))

more caves and more sights. :)))

WOW it's so high!!!! this is like 30 metres!!!
the planes made criss cross pattern on the sky.
It's a happy day :))))

We stopped by at another fishing village, our last destination.

by 3pm we reached Marseille and we could see our villa from here!!!! near to the arched bridge!!

the huge Passedat signage greeted us. Hey I can see our balcony!!!!

Skipper Laurent stopped us at the lil staircase that swimmers used to get access into the sea. Ohhh wat a day it has been. JS was very happy too. It's been a revelation and educational trip for us :))))

If you would like to find out more about a visit to the calanques, be it on foot or by boat, click on the below's link:

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