Le Dernier Mot: A New Life in La Ciotat

Le Dernier Mot: A New Life in La Ciotat

After 10 years of living in the country, we may soon be moving to the city! Sometime last year my husband said adieu to the strenuous, uncertain life of the vigneron. Yet, while he may have been ready for change, I was still very much attached to our quiet vineyard life.

I never imagined we might end up in the bustling southern city of La Ciotat! Never dreamed I would be this enthusiastic about living near an industrial port. More about that in a moment… First, I know you are dying to ask how exactly does one pronounce La Ciotat? Some clues…


…as in, Oh là là! Are we sure we want to go from a farmhouse on 12 hectares of land to a bungalow near a busy boardwalk? Had you asked me nine months ago the answer would have been Non! Over time, though, a new vision has grown within us. As newbie empty-nesters who work from home, we may do better near the action, in a lively town, rather than an isolated campagne. As a writer I am bound to be inspired by La Ciotat’s eclectic centre ville, a kind of ‘little Marseille’. As for Jean-Marc, by quitting the vineyard he might now focus on other aspects of his wine business (export, culture, and wine education).


…as in, See, you really can change and grow! Early on, had you waved your magic wand and shown me our future metropolis, I would have said, “Mais tu ne me connais pas du tout!” But these past months have been a process of getting to know our middle-aged selves. And it seems we are ready to be beach bums.


…as in, Oh so much to do and see in this city – within walking distance from our new, smaller digs. Only five minutes to the Neptune Club, an institution for Mediterranean sailing! And on the same promenade, the scent of churros and street food leads toward the port: only seven minutes to the dog-friendly beach, ten minutes to the famous Eden Theatre, and 20 minutes to the bustling harbour, where quaint fishing boats, or pointus, grab your attention beside million-dollar yachts. Here, all sorts of shops interlace cafés and restaurants. Beyond, the cathedral looks down over all the activity. On Sundays the area is overtaken by a farmers’ market while, farther west, the botanical gardens overlook the turquoise waters of Calanque du Mugel. Westward, la Route des Crêtes becomes a scenic drive to Cassis. All these nearby attractions make vineyard life look boring!


…as in, Ta ta! Goodbye to the seedy character of the city. Once upon a time people avoided La Ciotat. Jean-Marc said that, as a teen in Marseille, he and his friends would go to the beaches in Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer and the nightclub in Cassis – steering clear of the gritty city in between. But, in recent years, port activity has shifted from industrial cargo shipping to million-dollar boat maintenance. Pouring out of all the fancy yachts, a whole new generation of crew members is now in need of entertainment.

Jean-Marc will have an up-and-coming group of consumers to educate – via wine-tastings at the new oyster bar run by a few visionaries who jumped on the urban-renewal wagon!


Put it all together and you have La Ciotat… As in, ready or not, here we come!


VIGNERON = wine grower

LA CAMPAGNE = the sticks

TU NE ME CONNAIS PAS DU TOUT = you don’t know me at all

From France Today magazine

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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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  • Inez Sonnenberg
    2017-08-19 22:34:21
    Inez Sonnenberg
    I love reading your " Dernier Mot" (and often laugh out loud at some of your quips! You are such a gifted writer! Merci bien et bonne chance dans la " nouvelle vie"!!