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Fréjus, St. maxime or St. Raphael

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Looking to do an overnight in the next 2 weeks. Need a place to stay for maximum of 100€. (I think St. tropez proper is out because of price).

We are driving down from Luberon just to get away for 2 days.

Suggestions welcome for what to see or do (not beach weather). We like to walk and check out villages, nice walking trails, etc. no museums, or shops.


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    We stayed in Ste Maxime 20 years ago and liked it. We have never liked Frejus much, St Raf not that much either.

    To see in neighbourhood :
    Grimaud is quite nice and some very nice walks
    La Garde Frenet is a charming small village close by
    St Trop obviously

    Futher away we love the Royal Canadel gardens - been there 20 times at least, can even do 'le sentier marin' snorkeling close to the beach. And Bormes les Mimosas is a beautiful small village too.
    Further again, Hyeres is nice, Toulon is ugly.

    If you don't like the beach so much, sleep in one of those villages... Or Gassin, superb view and a lot of restaurants. (takes about 1 hour to vist each of those villages).

    We go a lot less towards east, we don't like Cannes that much, I hate Monaco, Mouans Sartoux, Mougins have no interest, Grasse is very nice and do visit the musueum of perfumes.
    Vence, la colle sur loup, Saint Paul de Vence are very nice.
    Old Nice is superb, Menton is nice.

    Inside, we like the lake of Carces, le Thoronet (nice church there) avoid Gonfaron and their turtles, nothing special.

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    We just stayed in Nice for €80/night, right on Rue Massena. We loved the old town, it's good for a day, and took a bus to Villa Ephrussi and Villa Kerylos for one day. We wanted to walk from one to the other along the coast, but it closed due to the horrific rain storm in October. By all accounts it's beautiful.

    Sorry, that's not answering your question about locations, but just in case you'd consider something further afield.

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    Thanks, sugar maple. We've done Nice and east before.
    Thank you pariswat for all the good to do ideas.

    It's not that we don't like the beach, it's just that it isn't swimming season. A walk along the sea would be lovely.

    We are in The Luberon for our 4th time. We are here for 5weeks. Just wanting 2 days, 1 night getaway.

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    Hey Deb, we stayed in the area between St. Maxime and Frejus for a week last year , and quite frankly none of the three impressed this Californian very much. Of the three I guess I would put St. Maxime as the best option. Our friends from the East Coast seemed to like it very much, I think it reminded them of the "beach town" atmosphere of their youth growing up with NY/NJ beach towns.

    By way of disclaimer, I wasn't that impressed with St. Tropez either. I think I'm just too spoiled by the magnificent California coast.

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    We've only stayed in St Tropez in that region - although we've driven through Ste Maxime dozens of times going to/from St Tropez. Ste Maxime is rather ordinary - a "family" beach town. Nothing to make you want to "wander around". Here is something from my Cote d'Azur itinerary that describes things to do in the area. The itinerary starts with a drive through the Var inland area from Nice, & ends in St Tropez.

    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. If you decide to have lunch along the way - it will take longer.

    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, then Fayence. Explore Fayance on foot – look for the “Vieux Village” sign just past the fabric shop on the left. Old Fayance is perhaps the best place to stretch your legs and your wallet. One of my wife’s favorite Provence fabric stores is in Fayence. However, don't plan to stop in Fayance on Saturday - market day. You won't find anyplace to park your car.

    Continue on to Seillans*. Seillans would be a great place to have lunch. Try to find the restaurant "La Gloire de mon Pere" . It has a fantastic outside dining area around a large fountain and under plane trees. The restaurant/fountain is at the top/upper part of Grand Rue (Main Street). You can park on the D19 at the foot of the village and walk up Grand Rue to get to the restaurant, or you can circle/hairpin (by car) around the village on the D19 to the upper part of the village and park just 10 meters from the restaurant (look for the restaurant's sign).

    Continue on the D19 to Bargemon. As you are driving into Bargeman on the D19 from Sellians, look for a large square on your right with lots of cafes & plane trees. This would be another good option for a simple lunch (salad/pizza) or just coffee. The "vieux" town is an interesting 10 min stroll. On the left of the square (as you are facing it from the D19) and just past the cafes, there is a "port" (old entryway/gate) on the left. Go through this port and follow the cobblestones. Find the fountain in the vieux village.

    Continue on the D25 to Callas. There are great views of Bargeman from the D25.

    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 Riviera. 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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    No prob for me.
    But I dislike stu for always stating his number of stays and his recs
    He may be a good man .
    I have spent 121 or 150 weeks in south france. And will never boast about it.
    So yes I have a prob with stu.
    Just don't get what he is after
    But who cares.
    If he gives good advice
    And he does.

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