France port of La Ciotat is a little-known beauty

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Less frenetic than neighbouring Marseille, this beautiful coastal resort quietly celebrates its pioneering heritage in shipbuilding, cinematography and … pétanque

So impressive were the shipyards at La Ciotat, halfway between Marseille and Toulon, that French emperors, dignitaries and scientists would flock there to witness the launch of an ocean liner. The swell overflowed the port, flooding cafes and carrying diners and motorcars out to sea.

It all seemed calm when I visited this summer. Shipbuilding ended in La Ciotat in 1987 but the yard was turned into a hub for refitting luxury ships and superyachts, keeping a huge workforce active while the town turned its attention to tourism. I wander along the seafront past a giant 3D #ILoveLaCiotat sign, brightly painted pointu boats, a ferry going to Île Verte, barrels of fishing nets, some great-looking restaurants and a restored hammerhead crane.

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