Radio Times Travel offer: Carcassonne, Avignon and Provence, six days from £439pp
DAY TWO Venture beyond the city
1 PAY HOMAGE TO THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
In summer, the mercury can climb to 35 degrees and the sparkling sea beckons. From the Old Port, it’s a short ferry ride to Chateau d’If, the 16th-century island fortress-turned-prison with a famous fictional inmate – Alexandre Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo.
2 VISIT THE BIRTHPLACE OF POST-IMPRESSIONISM
There’s also a boat to L’Estaque, a scruffy fishing port with a surprising claim to fame: it was the birthplace of post-impressionism, fauvism and cubism. Cézanne, Braque and Renoir were just three of the painters who immortalised it.
Calanques National Park
3 TAKE A COASTAL TRIP
The most spectacular excursion is to the calanques, the jagged coves between Marseille and the pretty fishing village of Cassis. Steep limestone cliffs frame these gorgeous inlets, where the deep-blue sea turns azure. In 2012, this stretch of coast – land and sea – was declared a national park. To explore it on foot, hop on a bus to Goudes or Luminy and stick to the paths, which become steeper as you scramble down to teeny coves where you can swim in the crystal-clear water. The views are breathtaking. Look out for ant-sized climbers clinging to overhangs and cabanes – simple huts that Marseillais traditionally escaped to on Sundays.
DON’T GO HOME WITHOUT…
…eating bouillabaisse. In Marseille, a chef is only as good as his stew made with rockfish, shellfish and saffron. Sample a traditional version at Le Miramar, or splash out on Gérald Passédat’s seven-course feast at Le Petit Nice, which boasts three Michelin stars.
…buying Savon de Marseille. The authentic local soap is surprisingly hard to come by. It should be made with 72 per cent olive oil (green) or palm oil (cream). You can find cubes of the real deal at Savonnerie Marseillaise in Le Panier and La Licorne in the Vieux Port.
Radio Times Travel offer
Carcassonne, Avignon and Provence, six days from £439pp. Join us in the stunning walled fortress-town of Carcassonne – one of France’s greatest medieval glories. Visit the fascinating papal city of Avignon and the spectacular Pont du Gard, cruise along the Canal du Midi, and perhaps join our optional excursion to the port-town of Collioure, on this wonderful holiday. Read more and book.