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