For our last full day in France, we had a 12K urban hike planned at 13:30 for the 7th arrondissement in Marseille around the Notre Dame de la Guard area, and so wanted to see the rest of the city in the morning. But when I was reading about Les Calanques (sea inlets) on the coast south-east of Marseille, I saw a picture of Calanque d'En-Vau which seemed to be a kind of paradise beach that was a bit difficult to get to since it is down in a very steep valley.
I found out that the little coastal town of Cassis was only 4.5 kilometers away and so did a little research of the trails around the Calanques enough to realize that it would be theoretically possible to run from Cassis to d'En-Vau. I showed Hannah some pictures of d'En-Vau and asked if she would like to take a run there in the morning instead of visiting Marseille before our tour, to which she responded, "Geil!".
We arrived in Cassis about 10:00 at a parking lot which was right where the apparent trail to d'En-Vau started which we had found on various maps. It wound up the hill in switch-back formation which afforded us an increasingly astounding view of the Mediterranean Sea, the larger-than-life sky and sun, and the expansive Calanques landscape all around. The combination of the cold, hard-blowing Mistral wind from the north and the warmth of the sun's rays from the south was unique and energizing.
Two hikers were coming our way, so I stopped them and asked, "Connaissez-vous le chemin pour arriver au En-Vau?" They pointed in two different directions, but the one who sounded most confident said, "Continuer dans la même direction et tourner à gauche à la maison." When Hannah caught up with me, I told her this and we both could not imagine that there would be a house out here in the middle of this barren landscape. But about ten minutes later in two or three more turns of the trail, we lo and behold found ourselves approaching a house. The house was strategically pointed toward the rising sun, in front of the house was a kind of wide, open veranda and inside the veranda an older man at a table reading a newspaper and enjoying his petit déjeuner.
We rounded the house à gauche as instructed and were now running toward d'En-Vau. Soon it was obvious that we were at the top of a steep ravine and that we had to get down it somehow. Hannah said, "Just set a position on Google maps and click route." I shook my head at what I considered her youthful naivete and started analyzing the screenshots of maps I had made. Hannah then took her own phone, set a position on her Google maps and clicked route, and then showed me that Google maps had indeed displayed for her a dotted trail from where we were down the steep-sloped hill toward d'En-Vau.
We followed the dotted trail on her Google maps but couldn't discern any kind of real trail between the trees and rocks. Then, all of a sudden, Hannah saw a painted symbol on a rock: three stripes, one white, one red, and one green. Then up ahead we saw another one. We continued looking for and finding these symbols which took us on a diagonal route down the hill and soon we could see that where we had to hold onto the rocks and trees for balance, the surface of the rocks and the bark on the trees were very smooth, as if tens of thousands of hands had already passed over them from people who had come this way before. The trail became very steep, but if you followed the symbols, there was always an obvious next step to take, and soon we were at the bottom of the ravine on a dirt road looking at a large rock with the words "D'en-Vau" and an arrow pointing south.
We barely even had to run, the strong Mistral wind literally blew us down the road. After a few curves, we came around the last turn. The scene presented to us at that point can only be described as paradise: a pristine empty beach with turquoise-blue water, super-high cliffs on both sides, and the sun shining its rays down into the sea inlet onto the water as small waves came crashing up onto the pebbled sand. We immediately derobed down to our swimming clothes underneath, being careful to put our running clothes under rocks and branches otherwise the wind would blow them away never to be seen again. At one point even our shoes started to tumble down the beach toward the water.
It being mid-February, the water, of course, was super icy-cold, and not a refreshing icy-cold, but a painful icy-cold. After stepping out of it, I had to walk around on the pebbled rocks and count to ten for the cold-pain to drain out of my feet. The combination of the absolutely astounding scenery and the constant blasting of the Mistral wind so hard that Hannah and I had to yell out at each other to communicate, made the few minutes we spent there one of the most unique experiences of my life.
Hannah did a few hand-stand positions in the water and some poses on the beach that I got some pictures of, and then we had to take off since it was going to be a tight schedule to get back to the car, and then drive all the way to Marseille to find our tour guide for our 13:30 tour.
We took off down the road, and then back up the steep and rocky trail up the ravine to the top of the ridge, which didn't take but 10 minutes to climb. After that it was a relatively warmer run back down the Calanques, past the house and on the same trail all the way back to the parking lot where we parked, with absolutely beautiful scenes of the Mediterranean coast line.
From Cassis we drove at top speed to Marseille, under the Old Port, found a parking garage, hopped out, ran into a grocery store, grabbed various food as we ran down the aisles, paid for it, ate it as we ran down Rue de la République to the Old Port where we met Olivier right at 13:30 for our 12K urban hike around Marseille.