I knew you’d struggle with that one, but let me introduce you to (or remind you about) Marseilles’ Calanques.
With 43,500 hectares of marine area and 8,500 on land, the official naming of Marseilles’ Calanques as a National Park has made it the only one of its kind in Europe. It is home to a biologically diverse ecosystem, prehistoric cave drawings, and perhaps the resting place of Antoine de St. Exupéry.
But what’s really amazing is that this national park adjoins one of France’s largest cities (in fact the second in terms of population). The local Calanques (steep, walled coastal inlets) have long been a part of the inhabitants’ lives, cultures, and identity. Not a sunny weekend goes by without visits, family picnics, water sports, diving or hikes.
In April the area officially became a national park, the creation of which will allow for the preservation of this most precious asset, whilst encouraging us to enjoy the numerous activities available. Teams of volunteers patrol the park to help visitors, giving generously their free time to protect and support a cause they believe in.
That cause stands for the unique geological, botanical, zoological and ecological qualities of this area. The number of protected and listed species of both flora and fauna is impressive: 139 protected land species, 62 protected marine species and over 900 listed on the inventories of special interest. It really is a haven for all animals and plants.
For a stay in the area I can recommend the small fishing village of Cassis. Synonymous with Marseille and the Bouches-du Rhône in the summer, it offers beautiful scenery, vineyard trips, cultural events and some of the biggest ice cream shops I have ever seen!
There are many flights into Marseille from airports across the UK and Ireland, and getting to Cassis can be done by bus, car (a 30 min drive) or train from Marseille city centre.
So, were you able to name the peri-urban national parks? Have you been to the Calanques? What were your experiences?
For more information on the Calanques National Park please go to http://www.gipcalanques.fr/ (French) and for some ideas on how to explore the area on a budget, why not check out our blog article on just that?! And for some shots of the mighty Calanques themselves, take a look at the photos from our press trip!
If you’d like to see the whole of our trip to Marseilles, take a look at our photo gallery.