I'm currently staying with friends in north Italy and we have just returned from four days on the Cote d'Azur. We went in their camper van and camped about 30 kilometres from St Tropez at a campsite near Frejus. It's my first ever trip to the south of France and I loved it - the light and colours in particular which are quite breathtaking. The views, the vegetation and the colours they paint the houses - all divine.
The campsite where we stayed is on the edge of a river and a ten minute walk through a stunning nature reserve to the beach where the river widens into the sea. My friends and I enjoy good food so we didn't slum it with the food we ate at the campsite! The local supermarket sells wonderful oysters, bread, pastries, cheeses ........ and it all tastes so much better outdoors.
The flora in the nature reserve was exquisite - some tiny delicate flowers and the huge broom bushes smothered in bright yellow flowers were quite spectacular and some were over 8 feet high.
The maritime pines are a feature of the Cote d'Azur and we saw many of them on the coastal road.
On Wednesday we took a bus into St Tropez for the day. It's impossible to take a car there let alone a camper van. It's a single lane road that winds along the coast hugging the sea through large towns and beach resorts. In the summer the road is a nightmare and there were a couple of spots when the bus was actually unable to move due to a long line of stationary traffic so the scheduled 1 hour journey took 1.5 hours.
The population of St Tropez is only 5,000 but in the summer it increases to over 100,000 !! Lucikly it wasn't too busy when we were there, however the place was swarming with Vespas for Vespa World Days from 2-5 June in St Tropez to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Piaggio.
We had lunch in a local restaurant, Un Jour a Peyrassol, recommended by a lady in a shop who I stopped and asked, near the bus station. I'm always of the opinion that one needs to ask locals where to eat and this was an excellent recommendation. If we had eaten in one of the restaurants in or around the port it would have been double the price and probably not as good. We were the only non French people in this restaurant so that has to be a good sign! The food was very good (small menu of traditional dishes), the service friendly and efficient. We even returned there later in the day for coffee and ice-cream. We managed to sink two bottles of the beautiful blush rose wine, Chateau Peyrassol, which went down rather too well !
These calamari were to die for!
Tarte Tropezienne (local delicacy)
After lunch we wandered through the streets towards the older part of the town. An interesting mix of hotels, luxury boutiques, food and wine shops and ice-cream parlours.
Hotel de Paris
Hotel de Paris
The gorgeous jasmin covered Auberge des Maures
More of the Auberge des Maures
House of Chanel
House of Chanel
After lunch we wandered through the narrow streets of the town which were quiet and cool after the baking sun of the port.
Then we decided the best way to see St Tropez and its surrounding area was by boat so we boarded one of the boats that takes you out for an hour and shows you the bay. The port is awash with huge "gin palaces" which look incongruous against the old buildings of the town. Then the huge private villas around the bay which are usually accessed by helicopter to avoid the road traffic - the guide on the boat told us who some of them belonged to (if he was to be believed!).
Yacht belonging to owner of Zara
Owner of this monstrosity is the owner of Vauxhall. You can rent it for 50,000 Euros a day!!
Brigitte Bardot's house
Back on dry land we headed around the waterfront to a little beach to rest in the shade. The houses are right on the edge of the beach so get a hammering from the waves in a storm.
We caught the 7pm bus back to the campsite and luckily it only took the scheduled hour as the traffic was fairly light. It was a long day but a very happy one. I could quite happily return there in fact plan to do so very soon. I want to go to Antibes and I'd like to go inland to Aix en Provence.
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