Carry le RouetA lovely half hour train ride west of Marseille, the modestly charming port of Carry le Rouet will give you a sharp, salty breath of authentic coastal Provence.

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Carry le Rouet is the last of the semi-official Blue Coast calanques, even if by here the craggy landscape is beginning to flatten into the open plains that will eventually become the Camargue.

While not on most foreign tourist itineraries, it's hugely popular with French visitors, both day-trippers from Marseille and holiday-makers from further afield.

in Roman times it was a loading point for limestone rock from the nearby quarries (hence the name "Carry") and has been a fishing harbour since at least the 12th century.

Today Carry le Rouet is a lively small town that, thanks to the Blue Coast train line, has become a commuting outpost for Marseille.

A short walk from the station, slung around the port, is the centre, with its Art Deco-style casino, a little art gallery, La Bergerie, housed in a former sheep hut, and a wide array of bars, cafés and restaurants, as well as a single unsightly high-rise block that somewhat blights the skyline.

The coastal path outside Carry le RouetFrom here you can walk along a well maintained and easily accessible coastal footpath (pictured) to the beaches of the Blue Coast, or even as far as one of the neighbouring towns. It's punctuated with illustrated plaques (in French only) about the local flora, fauna and other curiosities.

At the eastern edge of the town, the Parc Marin de la Côte Bleue (Blue Coast Marine Park) has a lively programme of activities centred about conservation and the environment. Avenue Jean Bart, plage du Rouet, 13620 Carry le Rouet.

A little further still out of town is the restored, 17th century chapel of Notre Dame du Rouet which can be visited on certain days only.

Back on the port, The Albatros pleasure boat offers day trips along the Blue Coast calanques, the Chateau d'If and Frioul islands and the calanques to the south of Marseille. Carry is also a good spot for scuba diving, sailing, kayaking, fishing, surfing and other water sports.

The town is proud of its connection with Fernandel, the toothy, horse-faced comedian and singer, who was born in Marseille in 1903 and had a weekend house in Carry.

In his films Fernandel personified the stereotypical lazy, crazy, pastis-and-pétanque provençal lifestyle (the town's enormous boulodrome, a collection of multiple pétanque courts, keeps the tradiition alive today).

Fernandel appeared in Marcel Pagnol's 1940 version of The Well-Digger's Daughter, later remade by Daniel Auteuil, and had small roles in such English-speaking films as Around the World in 80 Days (Fernandel played David Niven's coachman) and Paris Holiday, opposite Bob Hope and Anita Ekberg.

Fernandel, left, with Paul RicardOne of his best-known characters was the exuberant Italian village priest in the Little World of Don Camillo series.

A street in Carry is named in honour of Don Camillo, and a bust of Fernandel sits in front of the town cinema. Pictured: Fernandel, ln straw hat, with his friend, the pastis king Paul Ricard.

The singer Nina Simone also made Carry her home for the last eight years of her life and died there in 2003.

Carry is - along with neighbouring Sausset les Pins - one of the key destinations for the open-air sea-food feasts held along the Blue Coast throughout the winter (the ones in Carry, pictured, take place on Sundays throughout February).

A sea-urchin feast on the Blue CoastThese are great fun so, if you are visiting at that time of year, be sure to time your trip to check one out.

Fruit, vegetables, cheese and other local food specialities as well as crafts are on sale at the twice-weekly provençal street market in Carry le Rouet. It is held on the place Albert Martin on Tuesdays and Fridays from 8am to 1pm.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

L'Office de Tourisme (Tourist Office) of Carry le Rouet is right on the waterfront at the Espace Roger Grange, quai Vayssière, 13620 Carry le Rouet. Tel: (+33) 4 42 13 20 36. Website for the Carry le Rouet Tourist Office

How to get to Carry le Rouet: Catch the Blue Coast train from Marseille Saint Charles station to Carry le Rouet. The ride takes about 30 minutes.

Or drive north out of Marseille along the A55 motorway until you reach the signposted turn-off (Junction 8). Carry le Rouet is well set up for cars with no fewer than 23 free car-parks, including six in the centre of town.

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You can walk to Carry le Rouet along the GR51 (Grande Randonnée 51) hiking trail, from Ensuès la Redonne in one direction or Sausset les Pins in the other.

 

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