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Ideas for a family holiday on Cote d´Azur ( near St Tropez)

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We are visiting France, Cote d´Azur ( Cogolin/ St Tropez), for a 2 week holiday from 15th June and would like advice on where to go and what not to miss in the area. We are a family with 2 boys age 9 and 12. We will be staying in Cogolin just outside St Tropez. What fun and interesting excursions are there to do? We are interested in history and culture but also outdoor activities and beaches. All ideas are welcome !

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    Below is the section about the St Tropez area, from my much longer Cote d'Azur/Provence itinerary.

    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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