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That is what I realised as I bobbed around south-west France on a luxury catamaran booked via SamBoat. The company aims to open up sailing to all, as even novices can enjoy a holiday on the water – simply opt for a rental with an experienced captain, as my group did. I have zero sailing experience, so thank goodness for our cheerful captain Eric, who took our party from Marseille’s old port to the Calanques of Morgiou, on to Cassis and back to Marseille via a stop at the island of Riou.
I consider myself a bit of a Francophile, but there was something refreshing and unique about seeing the country from the water that made me fall in love with it all over again.
Food, of course, has a lot to do with this love affair – and even out at sea, we were well catered for. We were able to request the boat be well stocked with food and wine before embarking, and I enjoyed many lazy lunches on the deck gorging on cheese, baguette and rosé.
The beauty of being on a boat, of course, is not being stuck in one place for too long, and we were able to pack a lot in to a relatively short amount of time. Opting to start and end in Marseille meant having time to stock up on freshly baked goodies at the city’s oldest bakery, La Four des Navettes (stop by if only for the incredible smell), wander the cobbled streets, and even while away some time drinking the biggest Aperol Spritzes I’ve ever had in an idyllic, hidden away square (at Café Simon if you want to seek out these giant drinks yourself).
But before getting too embedded in Marseille, we were off to explore the crystal clear waters of the Calanques, which are a stretch of coves and inlets along the coast of France.
The water sparkled in the summer sunshine, tempting us all to jump in – a shock to the system, and I’m sure my screams could be heard all the way to Paris. I was out of the water pretty sharpish after that rude awakening, decamping to the deck to enjoy the feeling of the wind in my hair as Eric expertly navigated us around the natural, rocky beauty of the Calanque de Morgiou.
We weren’t spending the night on open water though, and soon headed on to Cassis, which has to be one of the prettiest French towns on the coast. Picture postcard French houses snuggle around the small port, which has the look of its ritzy cousin St Tropez without the eye-watering prices.
Keen to try a meal on dry land, we headed for dinner on the cliffs of Cassis at La Presqu’ile, a discreetly luxurious restaurant with an expansive terrace offering views over the Mediterranean. Course after delicate course was washed down with local rosé, Chateau de Fontreuse, before a short walk back to the port (be warned – good luck getting a taxi up here at midnight). The walk did allow us to get up close to some truly stunning properties, dreaming of which ones we would buy if we won the lottery.
After a night playing French property ladder in my sleep, the group decided to stay in Cassis a little longer to give us the chance to do some shopping – another plus of being on a boat is the flexible schedule. It is worth having a wander around the small shopping streets here, as they are filled with independent boutiques and delis selling gorgeous (if expensive) items to fill your home.
Credit cards suitably flexed, off we sailed again, this time heading for the island of Riou, part of the Riou Archipelago. Plenty of other savvy sailors had the same idea, and there were a few boats filled with day-trippers and holiday-makers enjoying the water.
As the sun started to set, most of the boats headed off to dock at a port but we wanted to try a night at sea, so the anchor stayed down and we enjoyed an evening under the stars.
A sense of freedom you only really get out on the water washed over the group, and we stayed up drinking beers and dancing to the best of the 70s playing on the boat speaker. Quite what our chic French neighbours thought of us I don’t want to know – although I’m assuming my rendition of The Piña Colada song did not sell them on the merits of Yacht Rock (an under appreciated genre in my opinion).
Waking up the next day, our flight home was looming, and it was time to head back to Marseille. We had lunch booked at La Table Du Fort, a classy restaurant down a side street near the port. After a lunch of delicious fresh fish, I wanted to get as much time near the water as possible before we had to leave, so we meandered along the port until we found a table at a café right on the edge.
Watching the boats docked neatly in their spaces, I was already planning my next aquatic adventure with my friends – although it will be some time before I feel ready to cruise off without a captain taking charge!
SamBoat is the fastest-growing global platform for boat rental, enabling curious travellers and seasoned sailors to experience the joy of being at sea. Operating in 76 countries and offering the widest range of boats and yachts for both day trips and longer charter, with SamBoat customers can compare thousands of peer-reviewed listings in seconds and book the perfect boating trip at the best price.
For more information and expert boating advice visit www.samboat.com.
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