The Côte d’Azur

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Often known as the French Riviera, you may associate this area with ritzy yachts, glamour, Cannes film festival, celebrities in Saint Tropez…. and you would be right. However the Cote d’Azur (or Azure Coast) has more to offer than it’s rather pretentious reputation would at first glance reveal.

Determined to avoid at all costs the unimaginable wealth and on the other hand tacky tourist packages, I had a fight on my hands. Firstly no holiday accommodation will entertain the thought of renting to you for any less than a week in August, and the undeniable popularity of the Cote d’Azure has meant that the prices charged are almost offensive for the quality of lodgings offered. If you are looking for something that screams ‘French’, look again.

Or look at Bormes-les-Mimosas.

Nestled in the hills somewhere between Saint Tropez and Toulon, research revealed that Bormes was a stone throw away from a string of sandy beaches, yet not far from hubs of action (if desired). Although upon arriving in Bormes you would be forgiven for not wanting to leave at all! We were greeted by our softly-spoken host and oriented in our apartment which we would call home for the next four nights. The sparkling stone streets of Bormes were home to many boutique stores selling local products, as well as local families chattering away in French and cooling themselves on the steps outside their houses. On nominated days through the week the main square hosted a friendly and innovative market where you could find anything from fresh produce to handmade wooden puzzles. What was not to like about Bormes?!

Marjorie in our apartment window, Bonjour!
Marjorie in our apartment window, Bonjour!
Locals cooling down in the streets of Bormes-les-mimosas
Locals cooling down in the streets of Bormes-les-mimosas
Bormes a la morning
Bormes a la morning
Getting aquainted with the town of Bormes
Getting aquainted with the town of Bormes
The main street in Bormes, pretty as a picture!
The main street in Bormes, pretty as a picture!

The adventurous spirit in us saw to it that we pried ourselves from Bormes each day to see what the coast had to offer. The beaches were crowded, parking was… challenging (interpret – frustrating), and no matter how many beaches we tried along the coast – even swimming to some of them – it was tricky to find the peace and intimacy we were craving. I am sure that come September the coast would return to the placid carefree rhythm made for it. But it wasn’t September…

Three wardle ducks
Three wardle ducks
Busy, much?!
Busy, much?!

However, for us, we had to think more creatively. Thankfully I had a back-up prepared – a daytrip to the Ile de Porquerolles. We battled the masses for a carpark and ferry ticket, and came up trumps. Gleefully we skipped our way along a dirt track through the vineyards, gazing longingly at those who had forked out for the hire of a bicycle blazing past us on their way to paradise. Plage Notre Dame was our goal, and we were sufficiently rewarded with a bay as blue as Joel’s eyes, and water sparkling like mine. It was one of those days where doing nothing is the aim, and we happily assumed this role until the final ferry departed into the sunset.

In my happy place!
In my happy place!
No place I'd rather be than in this picture!
No place I’d rather be than in this picture!
Serenity at last!
Serenity at last!
Meandering through the vineyards on the way back to the ferry
Meandering through the vineyards on the way back to the ferry

No visit to the Cote d’Azur is complete without a rendezvous in Saint Tropez, home to the rich and famous. Although Geoff & Marjorie couldn’t wait to leave the place, I quite enjoyed the leafy and expansive market place selling everything from ancient books to caviar. The yachts in the sheltered harbour simultaneously fascinated and repelled me. I can only hope that people with that amount of cash are equally as generous with their money as they are lavish. Saint Tropez doesn’t have a beach to speak of as such, however there are several excellent beaches in close proximity. If you can avoid the main beach bars you have a shot at that slice of heaven you so dreamed of.

Leafy markets in Saint Tropez
Leafy markets in Saint Tropez
Herbs for your noses
Herbs for your noses
More fresh fruit, oh I love France!
More fresh fruit, oh I love France!
Meandering around Saint Tropez
Meandering around Saint Tropez
Yes they even have their own branded mats
Yes they even have their own branded mats
Vive la France!
Vive la France!
One of the less crowded stretches of beach at St Tropez
One of the less crowded stretches of beach at St Tropez

Before we could blink it was time to head north to Nice. We decided to bypass Cannes and instead drop by the lesser known town of Antibes. We did not regret this decision as we navigated around the rocky cape, interspersing our wanderings with refreshing dips in the azure sea. The walk around the cape is an escape from the hustle of the Cote d’Azure – thanks to the millionaire walled properties which block access meaning you can only enter at a few designated points. As a result, the walk is serene and you would be forgiven for wondering if you had discovered this tranquil sea path all by yourself.

The coastal path around cap d'antibes
The coastal path around cap d’antibes
Summer days you wish would never end!
Summer days you wish would never end!
Sea lions off the cap d'antibes
Sea lions off the cap d’antibes

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A little slice of perfection!
A little slice of perfection!
Running free!
Running free!

For us, the road continued north, in pursuit of our final destination – Nice. Coming soon!

There were about a thousand of these!
There were about a thousand of these!
Dusk in Bormes
Dusk in Bormes
Evening meals in good company :)
Evening meals in good company 🙂
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