Le Dernier Mot: Crowning Glory

Le Dernier Mot: Crowning Glory

Kristin Espinasse dreams up ways to properly couronner an award-winning body of water

Having shared with you the beauty of our lively port city, La Ciotat, there is now one more thing to shout about: our coastline was recently crowned ‘La Plus Belle Baie du Monde’! Although it is physically impossible to crown a body of water, one could prop a couronne on one of the hundreds of dolphins that regularly grace our shoreline.

Our sparkling baie en croissant will boast this title all year, at which point another aquatic beauty gets to bask in the saltwater spotlight (past winners include Mont-Saint-Michel Bay and the Bay of San Francisco).

For now, we Ciotadins are gazing at our seafront with a new appreciation. And what better way to experience the splendour than from a historical boat?

Les pointus, as they are called, are the colourful fishing vessels you see bobbing in the port in Marseille, Cassis, Sanary and, here, in La Ciotat. And after wishing for one for decades (ever since strolling as newlyweds along the calanque of Sormiou) our dream has come true. We will soon be the lucky owners of one of these barques de pêche – built in 1925!

In the meantime, as Provençale bureaucracy kicks in (it’s like winning the lottery to get to buy one of these boats with its own slip), the current owner has granted us access. So, Jean-Marc and I recently enjoyed a relaxing sortie.

Kristin set sail aboard a pointu for a celebratory recce

After packing a thermos of tea (for the chilly sea breeze), a bottle of rosé, and some sweet and savoury goodies from la boulangerie, we set sail towards L’Île Verte – the nearest island, only 10 minutes away in put-put time. This 100-year-old barquette is slow; and so close to the water you can reach over the side and touch it.

Nearing The Green Island, Jean-Marc tossed the anchor overboard and we rocked peacefully for the next hour, enjoying the magnificent scenery – including Le Bec de l’Aigle, an impressive eagle shape in the rocky coastline – and gabians, that’s southern French for goéland, or seagull.

On this day the French air force flew jets overhead and with a whoosh they appeared over the island’s Mediterranean forest every quarter of an hour. What a spectacle! If only my husband had more to show from the end of his fishing line… It seemed the arapèdes he’d hooked there were not fooling the local daurade. Even les loups turned their noses. “Next time he should try cake,” I thought, as I began to doze off…

Lying there on the wooden sideboard, I dreamt I was eating une galette des rois, when suddenly I bit into the fève inside. My husband, following tradition, placed the cake’s cardboard crown on my sleepy head… but the wind carried it right off.

Searching for it in the distance, I spotted the golden glimmer, just as a dolphin disappeared underwater. “Oh, indeed!” I thought, waking up. The ‘Most Beautiful Bay in the World’ has received its deserved crown!


LA PLUS BELLE BAIE DU MONDE = the most beautiful bay in the world
UN CROISSANT = crescent
UN POINTU = wooden fishing boat
UNE CALANQUE = rocky inlet
UNE BARQUE DE PÊCHE = fishing boat
UNE SORTIE = trip, outing
UN GOÉLAND = seagull
UN ARAPÈDE = limpet
UNE DAURADE = sea bream
UN LOUP DE MER = sea bass
UNE GALETTE DES ROIS = cake of the kings
UNE FÈVE = fava bean

From France Today magazine

Read more of Kristin’s popular columns here:
Le Dernier Mot: Affair of the Heart
Le Dernier Mot: Inside Job
Le Dernier Mot: Naked Ambition
Le Dernier Mot: That Which We Call a Rose…
Le Dernier Mot: France Isn’t All That Bad!
Le Dernier Mot: A Passage to Corsica
Le Dernier Mot: Desperately Seeking… Dessert
Le Dernier Mot: Sirène Again!
Le Dernier Mot: Milking the Breakfast Bar
Le Dernier Mot: Saperlipopette
Le Dernier Mot: Uninvited Guêpes
Le Dernier Mot: An Exception to Every Rule

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The American-born author and photographer lives with her French husband, Jean-Marc, and their two children on a vineyard and olive farm near Bandol in Provence. She's the author of "Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France" and runs the French Word-a-Day blog and newsletter.

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  • Anais Anthony
    2019-10-24 02:25:42
    Anais Anthony
    See how easy it is to pollute this pristine bay, even if it is 'une couronne'!


    • Kristin Espinasse
      2023-01-16 10:07:06
      Kristin Espinasse
      Hello Anais and thank you for your comment. I wanted to reassure you that the paper crown in the story above never ended up in this glorious bay (the crown was part of a dream in the story). There is indeed a lot of garbage on the beaches. Here is a story about what locals are doing to clean up the seafront. Thank you for reading and Bonne Année! Here's that story "The War on Waste in La Ciotat": https://francetoday.com/culture/lifestyle/le-dernier-mot-war-on-waste-in-la-ciotat/