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La Ciotat

43.176944,5.608611
43°10'37"N 5°36'31"E
Published: January 2010
last updated: March 2011
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The visit

One of the most famous seaside resorts of Provence has nonetheless preserved its authentic atmosphere. La Ciotat is first of all the destination for Mediterranean beach vacation, but it will also please the lovers of history and nature.

Port de La Ciotat Beaches and the coast:

On the east of the old town and port of La Ciotat the Gulf of Love (le Golfe d’Amour) occupies 19 km of the Mediterranean coast; 6 km belongs to six beaches of the town. La Grande Plage and Beaurivage are quite shallow – ideal for children. Plage de Lumière is equipped for the persons with reduced mobility. On the west of the town (right after the haven) the coast is composed of some of the highest cliffs of Europe, creating two amazing calanques: Mugel (with its vegetal park) and Figuerolles (with the famous beach, hotel and restaurant). Just ten minutes by boat from the port of La Ciotat you’ll find l’Ile Verte – the only island of the department covered by the forest.

The town:

Start exploration of the old town from the fishing port of La Ciotat. Besides beautiful views on the sea and opposite-laying cliffs of parc Mugel the port has excellent restaurants with fresh local fish for very reasonable prices. To reach the old town just take one of the narrow streets perpendicular to the quay of the port. The old town has quite a few well preserved buildings of XVII-XIX centuries with fascinating doors, windows and balconies. The chapels of the town, built in XVII century, are remarkable monuments of the movement of catholic Counter-Reformation. The Chapel Notre Dame de la Garde is decorated with the votive offerings of the sailors.
One of the most remarkable sites of La Ciotat – the cinema L’Eden Théâtre (very close to the old port) is the oldest cinematographic theater in the world. Opened in 1889, it was the place of projection of the first films of brothers Lumière. Currently cinema l’Eden is under renovation and will soon become museum of cinematography. In the town you will find hôtel de Grimaldi-Régusse, built in XVII century for the family of ship-owners and merchants Grimaldi. Another remarkable building – the palace of the Lumière family (earlier called Château du Clos des Plages), where were turned some of the first films in history. Nowadays the old palace has been divided into apartment complex. To those, interested in the history of cinema, we recommend to visit the railway station of la Ciotat, where Louis Lumière has turned one of the first films – “L’arrivée du train à la Gare de la Ciotat”.

La Ciotat satisfies conditions for the vacation of handicapped persons:

Beach – Plage de Lumière (from June to September) is equipped with the ramp facilitating access to water, WC and changing cabins for handicapped persons; four wheel-chairs (two “Tiralo” and two “Hippocampe”) for sea bathing; specially trained personnel.

Town - although the old town is built on the hillside, the haven and seashore are accessible and have special lanes reserved for a wheelchair.
Tourism Information Office – disposes of complete information about accommodation and leisure for different kinds of handicap.

History

The naval history of La Ciotat starts in V century B.C. However, La Ciotat stays a modest seaside village, depending from its “twin-sister” Ceyreste. Rapid development of La Ciotat evokes a desire of the villagers to become independent and feeds the conflict between two communities. Finally, in 1429 the delegates sign the chart proclaiming separation of two communities. Thanks to this separation La Ciotat became a fully-fledged urban community. Its development is further boosted by the immigration of Genoese aristocrats, fleeing local revolutions of XVI century. La Ciotat manages to preserve its calm and prosperity through turbulent XVI-XVIII centuries. During the great plague of 1720 the villagers close the town and thus save themselves from the epidemic. Marseille is ravaged by the plague, so la Ciotat temporary becomes the main cargo port of the region. Wheat cargoes help the town to survive rude winters that follow the plague. La Ciotat has embraced French Revolution, but was greatly weakened by the naval wars of Napolenic Empire.

La Ciotat re-enters into history in XIX when lyonais manufacturer Antoine Lumière buys a property in the town and builds his palace, where two of his sons – Auguste and Louis develop the system of “animated photography” called “cinematography”. It is in La Ciotat that they have turned their first films and organized first private viewings.
La Ciotat is considered the birthplace of another invention, no less important in the region than cinematograph. According to local legend, in 1910 Jules Lenoir, who suffered from rheumatism, had to play in boules (knows also as Jeu Provencal) while standing on one place and keeping his feet together – thus the new rules of pétanque are born.

Practical information

By car take the highway (autoroute) A50 and then exit 9 (La Ciotat).
The town is also accessible by train (most likely you will have to make connection on the station of Marseille).
The closest airport is Marseille-Provence (there is a regular train connection between the airport and the town).
We recommend La Ciotat as a destination for family or active vacation. However, if you can, avoid the high summer season (July-August), when the town is overwhelmed with tourists and the prices are higher than normal.

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