• Photo: Laura Bartlett / Shutterstock

St-Raphael

Right next door to Fréjus, with almost no division between, spreads St-Raphaël, a sprawling resort city with a a busy downtown anchored by a casino and a Vieille Ville that may not the most picturesque, although you will stumble across Palladian and Belle Époque villas circa 18th and 19th century (the Tourist Office provides a map). It's also a major sailing center, has five golf courses nearby, and draws the weary and indulgent to its seawater-based thalassotherapy. Along with Fréjus, it serves as a rail crossroads, the two being the closest stops to St-Tropez. The port has a rich history: Napoléon landed at St-Raphaël on his triumphant return from Egypt in 1799; it was also from here in 1814 that he cast off in disgrace for Elba. And it was here, too, that the Allied forces landed in their August 1944 offensive against the Germans, known as the Champagne Campaign.

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