Cassis : L’Hotel de Ville

Michele Hanrath (May 2006)

As Juliet remarked in last months’ Restaurant Review, it’s “time to go down to the sea” and that she did, and to Cassis. So I chose the Hôtel de Ville in Cassis from the book “Classé Monument Historique”. In French, this gem is free and available in most tourist offices.

The introduction is written by the mayor of Cassis, Mr. Teisseire, where he proudly boasts of archeological finds dating back to the Romans, Greeks and later the middle ages, all to be seen in the Museum d’Arts et Tradition which is located in an 18th C town house. Not far from there is the Hôtel de Ville which is housed in a renovated hôtel particulier built in 1626 by Desiré de Moustier, proof of the presence of an aristocracy in Cassis, according to Mr. Teisseire.

This house changed hands through the years, until in 1938 for reasons of succession rights (perhaps taxes) the house was sold to the commune of Cassis, which used it to house the offices of the Mairie.

At the end of the 1980’s the house was fully renovated. The mullioned windows open out onto a friendly courtyard shaded by plane trees. Inside, the grand staircase leads one up to the salon d’honneur or salle de mariage where in the past the walls were covered in Cordova leather. The tapestries and portraits which originally decorated this room were removed upon its sale to the commune, except the portrait of Pierre de Garnier which hangs above the monumental fireplace. The painted ceiling beams with their baskets of flowers add a whimsical touch as do the decorated lower walls.

On the ground level at the main reception area the floor is inlaid with glass tiles to allow one to peer down on to the remains of an ancient kitchen which was unearthed while the building was being renovated. The Mayor’s office is located in the original dining room and other staff are located in small offices on either side of the corridor. Throughout the building are pictures of the reconstruction and renovation of the building. Here and there small details have been salvaged, and these sections of the house were designated to be classified as historical monuments in 1984.

Perhaps after a good lunch with wine at Juliet’s recommendation, wonder up to the park and have a peek into the Hôtel de Ville and its neighboring museum. It is hard to imagine what it would have been like to have lived in this villa, close to the sea with the dramatic cliffs behind, in a 17th century Cassis. A dream!

I was disappointed to note that the office de Tourism has a telephone number (tel: 0892 259 892) which costs .34€ per minute. One of the first that I have come across, but they assure me that more will come!

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