A Fish Tale From La Ciotat
Everyone knows that Cassis is a beautiful little seaside village French people love to flock to in the warm months each summer.
We came to know Cassis as well as its much larger “work a day” neighbor – La Ciotat when we spent two weeks camping at “Le Camping” in nearby Ceyreste camping with our then two small boys, back in the the Summer of 1985. Funny that we hadn’t been back to La Ciotat since then (although we had visited Cassis a number of times since), until just a few weeks ago.
What really stands out in my memory about La Ciotat – apart from its beach being the first place where our little boys saw topless sunbathers – is our evening fishing trip taken on a local fishing boat, captained by an “local expert”.
To make a long story short – La Ciotat, being on the Mediterranean Coast, it of course has a typically Mediterranean climate – which can also mean the coastal areas being blanketed by fog on summer afternoons and evenings! Dense fog is not the ideal setting for a family fishing trip, but we’d booked the boat and by the time we reached the boat, the captain had all our items loaded onto it and assured us that he had the latest in electronic equipment so that we would be completely safe and would certainly have no problems at all in finding the best fishing spot! Somewhat reluctantly we climbed aboard and set out chugging through the stone walls of the breakwater – as the bells from the old Church struck eight times … bong… bong… bong… bong… bong… bong… bong… bong! 8pm!
Four hours later the same bells marked our return, as we thankfully chugged back into the harbor – this time there were twelve bongs! I say “thankfully” because we had spent the better part of those four hours bobbing around, somewhere in the totally fogged in Mediterranean with the Captain constantly sounding his horn, to make sure that other vessels knew we were out there, and not run into us! Adding to the sense of drama, in between sounding the horn, he was checking radio signals with a directional finder – picking up radio traffic in a variety of languages – Spanish … North African varieties … Italian etc.. etc…
Right around 1:00am, we arrived back at Le Camping, to find the gate locked for the night, so we parked the car and walked back to our rented Camper Trailer with our fish. We were all so tired, that we left the fish in its bucket on the table in the campsite and called it a night.
Around 9am, the boys woke up and ran out to check their fish. We heard them chuckling away and went to see what was happening – they told us that we’d caught a “cartoon fish”. What’s a “cartoon fish”? Why .. it’s a fish skeleton – just like in the cartoons after the cats had feasted while we were asleep – and I can confidently say that, that night, the cat(s) in Ceyreste had the most expensive cat food in all of France!
This year we arrived at the Port on a Sunday morning to find ourselves at a “Spectacle 1720” Festival where the Sunday Market usually is. The market was being held further along the beach front and we enjoyed a stroll through the Festival and then a good walk along the beachfront to the market. The port was still busy and clock still chimed every hour on the hour.
Going back to La Ciotat was like visiting an old friend – although the town had changed in all those years, it was still basically the same. The sight of kids playing on the beach took me back to those hot August days when we loaded up the car early each day and headed from Ceyreste to the beach, with the kids (and every other person in France) along the crowded beach road until we found the best spot for the day’s play.