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South of France & Italian Riveria 10 Day Trip

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HI!

My sister and I are traveling to the South of France (Flying in and out of Nice) at the end of June. We have never been and would really like to explore/enjoy everything the area has to offer. We are huge foodies, love shopping, the beach, and the occasional museum. I will be working in Cannes for two weeks prior to our trip so we will most likely be skipping Cannes for this 10 day vacation.

Do you have any recommendations on an itinerary that starts and ends in Nice? We are very open to exploring Italy's Riveria as well OR Corsica. Our budget is in the middle range. We can splurge on a hotel or restaurant here and there when it's worthwhile. Also, we will be renting a car to take in some of the sights. We are pretty flexible on what we want to see and do!

Many Thanks for the Recommendations!
Melissa

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    At the end of June, the south of France is buzzing with many, many tourists. I strongly recommend that you lock in a hotel reservation somewhere ASAP; Nice would be my first choice, as it's an excellent transportation hub (train, bus, plane).

    From Nice you can explore some of the medieval perched villages (St-Paul-de-Vence, Eze-village, and others), Vence, the mountain town of Tourrettes-sur-Loup, the fishing village of Villefranche-sur-Mer, St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and much more--all without changing hotels.

    I suggest picking up a copy of the Michelin Green Guide to the Côte d'Azur and looking at the sightseeing itineraries. If you want to visit western Provence (where the Roman influence was strongest), get the guide for that area. Having a car in western Provence will give you good flexibility. You could pick up your car in Nice and drive across to the area around Avignon and stay somewhere in that region, then do day trips.

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    I just got back from Nice, it's so beautiful there!!! I would never, never, drive anywhere in Nice or Rome they are absolutely crazy. Never have ever seen anything like it before. You have absolutely no time to many any decisions where you think you should go, Scooters waving in and out of cars. I couldn't even look as it was so scary and I was driving with a reserved driver that lived there. Hope I haven't turned you off of Nice as I could go back there in a heart beat because I love it sooooo much, but wouldn't think of driving.

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    The following is the Cote d'Azur section of my Provence & Cote d'Azur itinerary that I've sent to over 3,000 people on Fodors.


    Itinerary

    Use the Michelin Green Guide to check opening days & times for sites.

    In this itinerary, the stars *** next to the cities & sites indicate the rating given to the site by the Michelin Green Guide.

    Nice & other coastal towns 3-4 days

    We’ve spent about 4 weeks staying in Nice, and over 4 weeks in St Tropez over the last 25 years. We’ve also stayed 5 weeks just inland from Nice near St Paul & Vence. We much prefer staying in Nice over Cannes, Menton, or Villefranche at the east end of the Riveria. In Nice, we’ve always stayed at the Hotel Windsor. You can get to most of the coastal towns by train – except St Tropez.

    I won’t describe things to do & see in Nice, Cannes, Menton, Antibes, etc. There are many tour books that discuss these towns. For Nice, follow the walking itinerary that’s described in the Green Guide. Take this walk in the morning so the sun won’t be in your face for the view out over Nice from the Chateau. Antibes** (old section) is quite nice. Biot* is a perched village worth visiting and it has our favorite restaurant on the Cote – Les Terraillers*. Eze** is a top attraction, but it’s too touristy for us – even more tourists than St Paul. Villefranche-sur-Mer* is a steep village just east of Nice and is interesting to explore.

    We spend 2 months in France most years (that’s 40 or so restaurant dinners per year) and the worst restaurants we’ve dined at in France are in Nice – stinky mussels, soggy fries, thin soupe de poisson, overcooked fish, etc. You can probably find a good meal if you want to pay top dollar, but when we visit Nice we want to dine outside in Old Nice and watch the “scene” on the Cours Saleya. One exception is Safari on the Cours. We’ve dined there 3 times and the food was better than the other places on the Cours, and the people-watching was superb. It’s quite popular, so reserve ahead – last time we were there they were turning away walk-ins at 9PM. Another dining option while in Nice is to have dinner in Villefranche. There are frequent trains there (8 min trip). We dined outside at La Mere Germaine and had an excellent meal while we looked out over the port from their outside dining terrace. Reserve ahead if you want an outside table with the best views. When we dined at Villefranche at night, there was only a late return train to Nice on Saturdays – other days you will need to take a taxi to return to Nice.

    Nice Hinterland 3-4 days Stay in St Paul/Vence area

    Small coastal villages ½ day
    See “Corniches de la RIVIERA” in the Green Guide (under R not C) and take route #1 from Nice to Village perche de Roquebrune* (Michelin guide under Roquebrune - Hill Village NOT Cap Martin). If the weather is clear, the view of Monte Carlo is stunning along the way. Roquebrune is a cute village with great views – walk through the town.

    Take D50 from Roquebrune to Gorbio* ( Michelin - see Gorbio in Roquebrune section). Walk through Gorbio. There are some nice shops in Gorbio.

    Retrace your route to Roquebrune & also the Grande Corniche to La Turbie*. Stop in La Turbie if you want to see the Roman “Trophie des Alps”* - but be careful driving – this is where Grace Kelly drove off the road & was killed. Take D53 north to Peille. Explore Peille* if you want. From Peille, take the D53 south to the D21 to Peillon**. This is one of the most spectacular perched villages on the Riviera – have your camera ready. There is no commerce in the village, but explore the rabbit warren of streets & passageways.

    Take the D21 then D2204 back toward Nice & then get on the A8 freeway west toward Cannes. Exit the A8 at #48 – I think it’s marked as either St Paul or Vence. Follow the signs & D536 to St Paul.

    St Paul de Vence & the surrounding area ½ day
    Explore the perched medieval village of St Paul**. It’s probably the most popular small village on the Cote. Shops are always open (although we’ve never been there on a Monday). I advise people to get there by 9:00 and leave by 11:30 to avoid the crowds. It is especially crowded on Sunday in the summer season. We’ve stayed just outside of St Paul at Hotel Le Hameau several times & it’s quite nice – nothing fancy.

    Head north of St Paul on the D2 toward Vence. The “old section” of Vence* is quaint. Look at the map in the Green Guide under VENCE to locate the old section at the east end of town. There is a walking tour described in the Green Guide. There’s an underground parking garage under the large open space on your right, just before you get to the old section. There are several stores in Vence where you can buy Provence fabric (see write up about Provence Fabric)

    After Vence, follow the signs to Tourrettes-sur-Loup (D2210), which is west of Vence.

    Explore Tourrettes-sur-Loup* – there’s a parking lot on your left, just off the road. You get about 45 mins of free parking (very confusing when your ticket is processed at the automatic ticket machine). Tourrettes is a real cute town.

    Continue on the D2210 west & do the Gorge du Loup** (Vallee du LOUP in the Michelin under L for Loup). Go in the clockwise direction – D2210 through le Bar, then D3 to Gourdon. Explore Gourdon*. Like St Paul de Vence it will be crowded & shops will be open on a Sunday & Monday. There is a restaurant called Nid d’Aigle with spectacular views of the hills & the Mediterranean – open daily (we’ve had lunch there – if you’re afraid of heights, then don’t go). Continue north on the D3. When you hit the D6, take it south back to Pont-du-Loup (this section is very scenic) & then retrace your route through le Bar and return to St Paul or Nice.

    Villages overlooking the Var River ½ day
    This route is difficult to follow if you are using the #528 map. Try to get the #115 map to make things easier for yourself.

    Some of the villages on this route are described in the Green guide under Vence – Excursions.

    If you are basing in St Paul, head north & go to Vence. When you get to the intersection where the “old” village is to the right & Tourrettes/Grasse to the left, go straight to St Jeannet (follow the signs). It’s marked as exit # 3 on the Michelin green & red guides. There is a grocery store on your right just after you go straight through the intersection. Follow this route to St Jeannet. This is a pretty drive. St Jeannet is a perched village, and you will have to turn left to get up to the village. There is a restaurant, hotel, and grocery at the intersection where you turn left. Follow the road uphill – there are a couple of switchbacks. When you get to St Jeannet, park your car in the large lot & walk into town & explore. There are some good vistas. Just as you enter the older section of town (the first 100 yds from the parking lot aren’t attractive) there is a simple restaurant with outdoor tables & nice views – a good lunch location.

    Return down the hill from St Jeannet, & take the D2 to Gattieres. Get out & explore if you have time. Take the D2209 to Carros Village – not the horrible modern town of Carros, unless you want to pick up a McDonalds hamburger (at the other end of Carros before you go over the Var bridge). When you get to Carros Village, get out & explore.

    Continue on the D2209 to le Broc & explore this village.

    Continue north on the D2209. Just before the D2209 reaches the Var River & connects with the N202, go straight on the D17 toward Gilette & Bonson. Take the loop to Bonson (D27). Drive through Bonson & continue on for a couple of kilometers until you reach the small road that goes to Gilette (D227) & take it to Gilette, where it merges with the D17. Take the D17 back to where you started the loop at the Var river/N202 intersection & then take the N202 north.

    Go north on the N202. You will see the town of Bonson perched high up on your left. Notice on your map that there is a road on the east (N202) and on the west side of the Var River. Continue north to where the two roads intersect, and then go back south on the road on the west side of the Var.

    Stay on the N202 south. As you follow the Var south, look to your right & see the villages of Carros Village & Gattieres that you visited. The best way back to St Paul is to follow the N202 & get on the A8. Get off the A8 near Cagnes, at the exit #48 that says either St Paul or Vence and follow the signs back to St Paul.

    I’ve driven through Cagnes dozens & dozens of times & I still get lost. If you want to visit the Haute de Cagnes*, take the D336 to Vence, and then when it joins up with the D36, head south to Haute Cagnes. Look for a parking garage on your left. It’s an “automated” garage where you park your car on a ramp & a door opens & then your car is sucked inside (without you) & parked on some kind of revolving track. After your car is parked, walk up the stairs & find the old section of Cagnes. There are some decent restaurants in Cagnes. We’ve eaten at Josy-Jo* (a Michelin 1 star) but didn’t like it. Cagnard seems too “upscale” for us, so we never tried it. We have dined at Restaurant les Peintres several times & have enjoyed it – the view is nice. This restaurant is on Montee de la Bourgade, where Haut Cagnes descends into Cagnes. There are several other “good looking” restaurants on this street. At the Place du Chateau there are several “pizza” restaurants, & it’s a good place to sit outside.

    Return to St Paul

    Deeper into the Nice Hinterland allow a full day
    There are dozens of cute perched villages in the area behind Nice. This gets you up into the “serious” Alps and driving to these villages is the best part - fantastic gorges and breathtaking views galore. Sometimes the perched villages offer a more interesting eyeful from the “outside” rather than from the “inside” maze of passages & steps.

    Get on the N202 (east side of the Var river) heading north. If you’re departing from the St Paul area, follow the route described in the Villages overlooking the Var section of this itinerary.

    When you reach the D2565, turn right and head up through the Gorge de Vesubuie** toward Lantosque. This entire drive is beautiful – you will want to get out of the car several times to “take in” the scenery. Explore Lantosque a bit. If my memory is correct, the best view of this town is from the north, a few kilometers past the village. Continue on the D2565 to St Martin-Vesubie.

    Explore St Martin-Vesubie* This is a very attractive town. It’s a good spot for lunch and there are several shops for browsing. It has a very interesting river that runs down the middle of the main street in town.

    You might notice that your green guide says that le Boreon is a ** attraction. It’s actually a starting point for many hikes into the higher mountains in this area and not really a “place” to visit.

    Re-trace your route back the way you came, toward Lantosque. Just before Lantosque, where the D70 hits the D2565 (that you are on) turn left on the D70 & drive to la Bollene-Vesubie. I have this town circled on my map, but I don’t recall if it’s a “get out & explore” town.

    Continue on the D70 & then turn right (south) on the D2566. Pass Peira-Cava (don’t stop). Continue on to where the D21 intersects with the D2566 & take the D21 east.

    If you don’t know the meaning of the French word “Lacets”, you will soon find out. There are 16 of them on this road. Take the D21 to Luceram.

    Explore Luceram*. This is one of our favorite towns in the area. Wander around as much as possible. This village is in a remarkable setting. If you think that you are in a deserted village, notice the number of satellite dishes perched on buildings.

    When you finish exploring Luceram, take the D2566 which heads west of the village – not the D2566 heading south. Take this road just far enough to obtain more views of Luceram. When it’s no longer in sight, turn around & return to Luceram and then head south on the D2566 to L’Escarene.

    Explore L’Escarene then take the D2204 northeast toward Sospel.

    Explore Sospel*. This is another very cute town. There’s a little more commerce here ( good, not ugly commerce). The last time we were here, they were filming a movie & everyone was dressed in Medieval clothes. Oddly, they didn’t look out of place (which gave us a chuckle). Notice the buildings on the riverfront. Take time to explore this town thoroughly.

    Return to Nice. The best way is to retrace your route through L’Escarene, and then take the D2204 to Nice where you pass under the A8 and then loop to the right to get on the A8 toward Cannes. Get off at exit # 48 – St Paul/Vence.

    Villages we have visited that didn’t appeal to us, are Coaraze and Contes. A village we liked but did not include on this itinerary is Levens.

    Take a train ride through the Nice Hinterland & visit 2 villages allow all day

    Overview
    Driving through this beautiful area by car is the best way to see everything – except for the driver. The Cuneo train line from Nice to Cuneo, Italy passes through this area with stops in several villages. I spent many days researching train schedules trying to find an itinerary that would allow me to stop in as many villages as possible and still make this a one day event. I found that only 1 itinerary worked. Leave Nice about 8:30am & take the train to Breil where you will change trains (but no time to see Breil), and then head to Saorge for about a 3 ½ hour visit. Then on to Tende for another 3 hour visit. Then return to Nice on the last train for the day. The train trip was more of a “plus” for my wife than me (she does all the driving & I do all the navigating). When traveling by car, we stopped quite a bit to admire vistas, spend time in villages, watch helicopters drop climbers/boaters into areas, etc. On a train, you can’t do this. Also, the scenery passed too quickly & was often on the “other” side of the train. We enjoyed the trip because we had already spent several days driving in this area & we (she) needed a driving break. We got back to Nice about 7:00pm and had dinner there.

    Details
    Depart from the Nice main train station at 8:30am. There were about 4 other stations in Nice where it would have been easier to park the car & not have to fight the horrible traffic around the Nice station (the 4 lane road that goes behind the station was bumper-to-bumper at 8:00). When you get to Breil at 9:30, you will have to change trains to go on to Saorge. You have 20 minutes to do this, but there was no announcement to do so. Also, past this point many of the stations do not have attendants. The train schedule is usually posted somewhere in each station. If you choose to get off at a station, make sure you know when the next train arrives for the continuation of your journey. If you return from your trip & get off at Breil, the trains can split & go in two different directions – one to Nice & one to Ventimiglia, Italy. Some of the stations were pretty far from the villages. Some of the stops were more “hesitations” than stops. When we took this train, one 80 year-old man missed his station stop on the last train of the day and was stranded at the next stop.

    Arrive in Saorge** at 10:30. This is a beautiful village. The station is quite a distance away from Saorge & there’s about a 20 minute walk up to the town. The walk up has some great views of this perched village. You will be there 3 ½ hours, so there is more than enough time to explore. Have lunch at the Bellevue restaurant. It might seem like nobody’s in town (we were there in mid-June). but the restaurant was somewhat crowded at 1:00.

    Get back to the station (unattended & it was even closed when we were there) for the 2:00 departure. Get off the train in Tende* at 2:30. This station is close to town. Explore Tende for 3 hours. Tende is a very popular starting point for hikers, so there will be lots of people there in full hiking regalia.

    Take the train back to Nice at 5:30. This is the last train of the day. We got a little worried when there were dozens of people lining up to take the train back, and we knew that there would be people already on the train coming from Italy (the 80 year old man). Everyone got on the train OK. It arrives in Nice at 7:00.

    Got an extra day to explore more of the Nice Hinterland?

    Further information about the following can be found in the Michelin Green Guide for the French Alps.

    In early July of ’07, we stayed in a Gite just outside of the old town of Entrevaux*, and explored the beautiful canyons, mountains, and small villages in the area quite thoroughly. Entrevaux is only 1 hr from Nice along the Var River. The town of Entrevaux is quite remarkable. Look up Entrevaux in the Michelin Green Guide for the French Alps and you’ll see a picture of the town. However, it’s more dramatic than the picture shows. There is a huge rock spur that sticks up along the northern bank of the Var River. A Cathedral sits on top of the spur, with a fortified zig zag wall (built by Vauban) running down to the medieval village below – it’s quite a sight to see. For the best view of Entrevaux and the surrounding area, drive into the large parking lot (looks like a strip mall) that’s opposite the drawbridge entrance to medieval Entrevaux – on the opposite side of the N202. The entrance to the lot is at the extreme west end of the lot. Immediately to your right as you enter, there is a restaurant/café and then a very steep road heading uphill just after the restaurant. Follow this road up & up – admiring the views of Entrevaux as you climb. There are several areas to pull out & take a picture – which you’ll want to do. Keep going till you can’t see Entrevaux anymore and then return to the “strip mall”, park the car, & walk over the drawbridge into the medieval village. There are a few cafes for lunch there, but there are better ones just east in the town of Puget Theniers (village not worth exploring). You can take a scenic train from Nice to Entrevaux, but you can’t explore the canyons without a car.

    Next, drive through the very scenic gorges in the area. We made several drives along these gorges – taking advantage of the sunlight at various times of the day. These gorges are quite spectacular and different from the gorges closer to Nice. The sheer walls are red slate – a very dark red-rust colored rock. From Entrevaux, take the N202 west then head north on the D902 (which changes to the D2202 when it crosses into the Alps Maritimes dept) through the Gorges de Daluis**. The views are better going north than south. As you exit the gorge at Guillaumes, head east on the D28 to Valberg, then on to Beuil. Drive south through the Gorges du Cains*** on the D28. Visit the cute village of Riguald near the south end of the Gorge. When the D28 hits the N202, take the N202 east to Touet sur Var*. You will see Touet perched up above the road, but you’ll have to drive past the town to find the access to the town. Drive up to Touet & explore this picturesque village. Continue east on the N202 & then take the D26 to Villars sur Var. This town has some very interesting passageways. After visiting Villars, continue north on the D26 and visit the cute town of Bairols, and then the town of Clans. These are all miniscule villages, and you’ll be surprised that they are even inhabited today – we enjoyed visiting them. Continue north on the D2205, then east to St Martin-Vesubie* (see “Deeper” above), and then return to Nice.

    Other villages that we’ve visited & enjoyed in the area are Annot*, Roubion*, Meailles* (more picturesque from the outside than inside), and especially Colmars* (old town** plus fort),. Castellane* is a popular town and a center for exploring the Gorge du Verdon. It has good “bones” but is very touristy. The main street through town has some of the tackiest stuff that I’ve seen this side of Mt St Michel. Villages that were mentioned in various guide books, but we didn’t find that interesting were St Sauveur sur Tinee, & Roure.

    After visiting Annot, Meailles, and Colmars, we took a very scenic drive east from Colmars over the Col des Champs* on the D2 which changes to the D78 when it crosses from the dept of Alpes de Haute Provence into the Alpes Maritime dept.



    Let’s leave the Nice area & head west to St Tropez, Aix, or Provence

    The Department of the Var, in the hillsides behind St Raphael & St Tropez.
    This is a beautiful area with quaint villages, vistas, rolling countryside, & vineyards. This is mainly a “drive through the country” & you can get out & wander in a town if you like. This drive will take less than 4 hours, even with some short stops & some browsing along the way.

    Get on the A8 towards Cannes and get off at exit #39. It’s marked “Fayence”. When you get to the D19 from the D562 (the D562 has some ugly commerce along the way), take it toward Fayence & drive through Tourrettes (keep to the right through a parking lot as you enter town), then Fayence (explore – look for the “Vieux Village” sign just past the fabric shop on the left), Seillans*, Bargemon, and then the D25 to Callas. These are all very charming villages. Stop at some if you have the time - perhaps Fayance is the best place to stretch your legs and your wallet. One of my wife’s favorite Provence fabric stores is in Fayence. There are great views along this route.

    If it’s past 3:00 pm at this point and you plan on heading into Provence & staying in either Gordes or St Remy for the night, it’s probably best to get on the A8 and head there now. To get to “central” Provence from Callas, stay on the D25 and head south toward le Muy where you can pick up the A8. This is actually a very pretty drive with wonderful views of the Maures Mountains in front of you as you drive south.

    If you get to Callas before 3:00, then continue through the Var. This is my favorite section of this driving route. As you leave Callas, take the small road that heads southwest and ends at the D54 at Figanieres. Take the D54 northwest toward Chateaudouble. When you hit the D955 (before Chateaudouble), head south. This is the very picturesque Gorges de Chateaudouble*. Stop at the D49 junction on the D955, turn around, & retrace the route on the D955. When you get back to where the D54 hits the D955, take the D51 to Chateaudouble. This is a cute town. If it’s lunch time, try “Restaurant la Tour” with fabulous views on a square shaded by plane trees. It's the 2nd restaurant from the parking lot. Then continue on the D51 to Ampus (explore). Take the D49, D51, D77 to Aups*, which is one of my favorite towns in the area. They have a very nice farmers market on Wednesday & Saturday mornings. There are also several interesting shops for browsing. After Aups, retrace your route a little & take the D77 east to Tourtour*. Park in the parking lot just outside of town (nice view of this medieval village as you approach town). This is another pretty village. There’s a good panorama from the grassy area near the church. There are some nice outside places to have lunch under plane trees, if you’re there around lunch time. Tourtour has several hotels just outside of town (we’ve never stayed at any of them). The Bastide de Tourtour is located in a lovely setting close to town. The fixed price menu is reasonably priced, but the selections looked very un-interesting when we glanced over them. The a la carte selections were expensive.

    Leave Tourtour (drive through the village) on the D51 toward Villecroze and continue on the D51 until it hits the D560 near Salernes. If you are doing this drive on a Sunday morning, there is a good outdoor market in Salernes & there are lots of outdoor cafes where you can watch the market activity. There is an interesting store featuring tiles produced in the area, at the northwest end of town on the D560 (5 min walk from the market area). After Salernes, take the D560 west to the D22 toward Cotignac. As you approach Cotignac, get the cameras ready for some great photo ops of this town, looking down on it from the cliffs above. Cotignac* is one of our favorite small towns. Get out & explore - this is a good lunch spot with a large central square lined with cafes, shops, and shaded by plane trees. Leave Cotignac on the D13 toward Carces. You will start to see a lot of vineyards now, and in May & early June there are fields of red poppies in bloom. Drive through Carces & take the D562 toward Le Val. There is a by-pass around Le Val, but instead, drive through Le Val – however, take the by-pass around le Val & enter town from the south side instead of the north side (the north entrance has an impossible acute turn that your car will have trouble with).

    Our favorite restaurants in this section of the Var (near Cotignac) are Clos des Vignes (04 94 04 72 19 – on the D22 in the vineyards between Montfort & Cotignac), Auberge du Parc in Correns (04 94 59 53 52 - nice outside dining), Les Pins in Sillans (04 94 04 63 26), Auberge du Vieux Fox in Fox Ampoux (04 94 80 71 69 - very quaint), and l’Oustaou in Flaysoc (04 94 70 42 69). The central square in Cotignac is lined with outdoor restaurants. The food is not on a par with the others in this list, but dining in the town of Cotignac on a warm night is a lot of fun.

    If you feel like lingering in this area a little longer, Lorgues is a nice town to visit & the drive from Carces to Lorgues is very scenic. Pick up an English walking tour map of Lorgues at the tourist office. There are

    several shops & outdoor cafes under plane trees and there’s a great Tuesday AM market in town. Le Thoronet Abbey** (close to Carces) is one of three Cistercian Abbeys in Provence. The most famous one is Senanque near Gordes, but Senanque has guided tours (only) in French, and if you want to wander inside an Abbey on your own (which allows you to savor & see more of the monastic life & soak up the essence of this religious lifestyle), then visit Le Thoronet.

    St Tropez** option add 2 nights to the itinerary if you want to visit – it is not a good day-trip
    This town is often criticized as “too touristy” & as a “jet set playground”. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I’m not a jet-setter, I don’t like crowded places, and as you can probably tell – I don’t like places that are overly touristy. We visit St Tropez quite often - 2 weeks in ’99, 1 week in ’01, plus many 1 to 5 night trips. It’s one of the few villages on the Cote without high-rises, and you can walk 10 minutes from the Pl des Lices & there will be vineyards around you. Market day is Tues & Sat am – it’s a great market, but get there early, enjoy the set-up, & leave before the crowds are so thick that you can barely move.

    There are two ways to get to St Tropez from the A8 – from the le Luc exit if you are west of St Tropez, or from the Le Muy exit to the east. My wife does not like taking the Le Luc route – too many winding roads, although she likes stopping in Le Garde Freinet on the way & this route is more scenic. I’ll describe the route from Le Muy (exit #36 on A8)

    At Le Muy, follow the signs to St Tropez. When you hit the outskirts of St Maxime, bear right & follow the signs to St Tropez. When you see water & leave St Maxime, look across the Gulf of St Tropez & see the village of St Tropez. Keep following the signs to St Tropez through a series of round-abouts (you will need to pay attention). The outskirts of St Tropez are not that scenic, but the village is one of our favorites.

    Use the map in the Green Guide to get to the parking lot at the Place des Lices. From the main street into St Tropez (Blvd General Leclerc), take Blvd Louis Blanc & follow the one-way signs to Av Paul Roussel & look for parking insignias. The parking lot is underground & expensive, but street parking is difficult.

    Explore St Tropez. All the shops will be open. Start at the Place des Lices (lots of outdoor cafés). Look for the Bar Clemenceau & the alley next to it is the Ave Clemenceau. Walk down this street. There’s a great ceramics store on the right & one of my wife’s favorite fabric stores is on the left near the other end of the street. The port is at the end of the street. Walk along the port. The tourist office is about 2/3rds down the way on the east side of the port where all the outdoor café’s are – pick up a St Tropez street map. Wander through all the streets east & south of the port. Shop along Rue du General Allard. There’s a good home decor shop facing the northwest corner of the Place des Lices. Go up to the Citadelle for a great view of St Tropez, especially in the early AM. Walk along the Chemin des Graniers (path behind the Citadelle on the gulf side) for good views of the gulf – spectacular on a clear day in the PM.

    Our favorite restaurant in St Tropez is La Ponche – it’s on the north east corner of the Tourist center map. It’s outdoors with a good view of the Gulf. Reserve ahead. There are three restaurants we like outside of town. The magical countryside setting with great views at Auberge la Verdoyante just north of Gassin is everything you could hope for along the Riveria. It’s really a Mom & Pop & grandma & grandpa place. The young husband is the chef and the charming wife (she speaks English) is the host. You may not want to leave this place after dinner. A friend who ate here with us in ’06 is still talking about his magical dinner there. Le Ferme du Magnan, which is toward la Mole on the N98 is out in the country and serves hearty meals. Their mussels smoked over grapevine wood are fantastic. The Auberge de La Mole in La Mole (make sure you have a huge appetite before going there) is quite popular and has an unusual setting.

    South of St Tropez is nothing like what you saw coming in from St Maxime. It’s mostly vineyards with two lovely perched villages – Gassin* & Ramatuelle*. Both are worth exploring. There is a large veranda in Gassin with several outdoor restaurants with great views of the Gulf. Take the D93 to Ramatuelle then follow the road to Gassin. You wouldn’t think that you are so close to St Tropez. The rest of the area west & south of St Tropez is just like this. The famous beaches are the Plages de Pampelonne, with the Tahiti Plage at the north end. I have had lunch at Tahiti Plage many times. Other villages in the area around St Tropez worth visiting are Grimaud* and Bormes la Mimosa*.

    For the most scenic coastal route on the Cote d’Azur, return to St Maxime & stay along the coast through Frejus & St Raphael (it’s not scenic up to this point). Follow the Corniche de l’Esterel*** (see Massif de l’ESTEREL in the Michelin guide under E). Take route #1. Take it as far as La Napoule .


    Stu Dudley

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    If museums are part of your plan I'd highlight two, the Meaght Foundation in St Paul du Vence (an extraordinary collection) and the memorable Villa Kerylos ( a magnificent 19th century recreation of an ancient Greek villa built on right on the coast) . I've blogged about both of them and you may find the descriptions helpful.

    ishttp://somuchmoretosee.blogspot.com/2011/02/villa-kerylos-cote-dazur.html
    http://somuchmoretosee.blogspot.com/2011/02/maeght-foundation.html


    We drove in this area but it was in September, I would imagine the traffic is horrendous in the high season. Have fun it sounds like a lovely trip.

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