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visiting the ciotadens and ciotadennes of la ciotat

After having moved to Marseille, Julia Child and her husband Paul decided to take a trip along the southern French coast toward Cannes.  They stopped for a picnic near La Ciotat, a small fishing village at the time.  Today, tourists find La Ciotat appealing and maybe it is second only to Cassis for a day trip from Marseille.

One day I joined Paul for a business trip to Cannes, which was about four hours east of Marseille by car. We took six hours, in order to explore the windy side roads. What a beautiful countryside. The hills rising from the coast were all golden with flowering mimosa. In a little beach town called La Ciotat, where Charlie and Paul had visited in the 1920s, we stopped for a picnic lunch on the edge of the sea. We sat in the hot sun on flat rocks in a strong breeze.  —Julia Child, My Life in France.

La Ciotat has some historical significance: it is said that pétanque was invented there, and the Lumière brothers, among the first filmmakers in history, filmed one of the earliest films there L’Arrivée d’un Train en Gare de la Ciotat, or “The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat,” and Napoleon, as a captain of the artillery, had stayed in a house in La Ciotat during the 4th and 5th of September in 1793 while preparing the siege of Toulon.

Taking the #69 bus from Marseille to La Ciotat is simple once one locates the Halte routière Sud bus stop near Place Castellane.  It is on a side street at 11 Rue du Rouet, across from Cantini Medical if one looks on Google Maps.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

I would not recommend taking the train to La Ciotat and expecting a regular, frequent bus service to the town center.

There is no need to get off the bus before it reaches the terminus.  It will take you to the harbor; and after descending there, you will spot the tourist office.  Turn your back away from the Mediterranean Sea and look toward the village.  Walk any street inland and you will come to the main tourist and commercial streets.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

Expect La Ciotat to shutter its doors during the lunch hours.  A once busy commercial street will quickly become still around noon.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

I recommend arriving at La Ciotat in the morning around 10:00 and using the time until lunch to explore and locate a restaurant that seems appealing.

Wandering the streets and occasionally stopping for an espresso are not the only activities one can do.  Some sites online make excellent suggestions if you choose to spend the day, or longer, in and around La Ciotat.

During the last visit, I chose to eat lunch at the popular restaurant L’Office’in, which has a nice view of the port.  Depending on the weather and the day in the week, one might consider making a reservation.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

Hemingway and France have had a well documented connection.  One would expect to see the influence of that affection in Paris.  Occasionally I see it in small towns as well.  The cave à vin et à alcool called Hemingway’s has used the American writer as a theme and is decorated with des photos d’Hemingway et une vieille machine à écrire (some photos of Hemingway and an old typewriter).

To review the Hemingway connection to France and particularly to Paris, I suggest looking at three posts: “looking for hemingway’s paris and the génération perdue, part 1,” “looking for hemingway, the lost generation, in the cafés–part 2,” and “looking for hemingway & his apartments, a triangle, part 3.”

What surprises me each time I visit La Ciotat are the number of restaurants that specialize in Mexican food.  Tacos are not what one would expect in a small, rural, French village on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jim O'Connell #

    Hello Micheal, As always your story telling and pictures are wonderful! The scenery is beautiful there and the food looks terrific! A bit of sad news to pass along…Andy Sommer passed away this week whilst playing tennis in Phoenix…he was 66 and yes, it was a heart attack. thought you would want to know. Enjoy the French countryside, harbors, and food and wine!!!

    A big hug my friend!

    • Thank you for the compliments. It is truly wonderful to hear from you. Yes, I had heard the news about Andy, and thanks for telling me. I leave for southern France soon and will toast to your good health when I eat my first meal there.


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