It feels like a miracle to find a refuge such as the Parc National des Calanques only a short distance from grimy, pressured Marseille. In parts of this diminutive 85-sq-km patch of scrubby, convoluted promontories, it's easy to believe you're miles from civilisation. Then a twist in a pine-clad gully reveals the entirety of France's second metropolis spread out within apparent touching distance; the calanques appear almost as its uninhabited suburbs.
But with their light-shifting geometry, rich plant and animal life and idyllic hidden coves, Les Calanques are so much more than that. They are beloved of the Marseillais, who come for the sun, to hike over pine-strewn promontories, mess about on boats and generally refresh their souls. The region is hugely popular in summer, visited by boats and hikers who schlep hours to the secluded fishing villages.