The West Coast in front of Saint-Tropez
For most of the tourists, the Côte d'Azur ends at Saint Tropez. Hundred thousands of tourists travel the south coast of France between Menton and Saint-Tropez ; but only a few dare to continue to the west. The reason for that is not that the areas at the west of Saint-Tropez are deserted; but there, one finds much more French people than foreigners; Nevertheless, also this part of South France is without doubt worthwhile to visit and offers a lot of highlights.
By driving from the south of the peninsula of Saint-Tropez westwards, one first crosses the apparently insignificant place Cavalaire-sur-Mer. I spent a night in Cavalaire-sur-Mer and I was so fascinated by this plce that I dedicated an own page to it. But now let's continue alongside the coast from Saint-Tropez to Toulon.
On our tour alongside the Côte d'Azur we are currently between St. Tropez and Toulon; We have passed the somehow characterless but still totally fascinating place Cavalaire-sur-Mer and come across as next to a small bathing resort with the same name: Cavalière. The road between Cavalaire-sur-Mer and Cavaliére is very boring; but not for the driver; as he has to drive all the curves.
On this stretch one passes the Villa Domaine du Rayol. The villa has some dream garden complexes that can be viewed for an expensive Entrance fee (more than 5 €). In the gardens there are tropical plants form numerous countries of the world.
One finally gets to the small bathing resort Cavalière. No one spends his holiday in Cavalière; the small city is without any meaning and character. But those who want to spend a night during the journey through will find the 3-stars hotel chain Best Western; As boring as the play might appear in the beginning, as beautiful are the beaches. From Cavalière one can see straight to the Îles d'Hyères, a thing that provides a certin attraction to this place.
The next biggest place on our way from St. Tropez in direction to Toulon is Le Lavandou. One immediately notices in this place that it is a small and ambitious bathing resort. Le Lavandou has little more than 4.000 inhabitants.
And what is the thing that characterises the bathing resort at the Côte d'Azur? Le Lavandou has sand beaches; bathing there is good fun. But only a beach does not make a place to a bathing resort. The obligatory marina for sailing and motorboat fans is at least as important. And of course, the city itself must have the typical attributes of a bathing resort: there are some small alleyways with the typical shops where one can bathing items, t-shirts or cloths.
Those who want to stay over night in Le Lavandou will soon find a place. As it should be for a bathing resort, one finds at the main road a lot of hotels, but only of the lower class, thus 1- or 2-stars.
After we left behind the small bathing résorts Cavalaire-sur-Mer, Cavalière and Le Lavandou during our drive between St. Tropez and Toulon, we get after drinving through the heartland to the next bigger city named Hyères. Today, Hyères has about 50.000 inhbitants and is therewith the biggest city between St. Tropez and Toulon. But most of the visitors of Hyères only know the city by travelling through it to get to the Îles d'Hyères. But Hyères is actually such a unbelievably significant city.
In Hyères, the actual Côte d'Azur ends. Therewith, Hyères is not only the beginning of this dream coast at the west but also marks the most southern point of the Côte d'Azur. But Hyères does not only mrk some geographical records but is also historically very significant: The history of the city goes back up to the time B.C. when greek colonies settled here. In the antique times, Hyères became one of the most significant trade centres of South France. Those who see Hyères today will hardly believe that this city is practically the origin of the tourism at the Côte d'Azur. Finally, the city centre is not, as a lot of other cities at the der Côte d'Azur, right at the sea but further in the heartland.
Those who come from St. Tropez and continue driving to Hyères will first miss the view to the sea. But Hyères is a beautifully adorned city. I can hardly estimate how many hundred thousands of hours the city gardeners spend on planting, watering and cultivating the green strip between the lanes.
There are numerous hotels in Hyères, also of the upper category. But who would stay over in Hyères? As already mentioned, most of the tourists only drive through Hyères. They definetely stop in Hyères-Plage bzw. and/or on the peninsula Giens. The drive on the peninsula Giens takes longer that one would guess by having a look on the map. One passes countless hotels and comes across to numerous small beaches on the peninsula.
At the most southern end of the peninsula one gets to some old wall ruins from which one hs a fanastic view to the . Îles d'Hyères. From the southern tip also some ships depart to the islands. A two-way-trip on the ship to the island Porquerolles costs 15 €. On this place, there are enough parking places but they are not cheap: 5 € for one day and any other time, even only 20 minutes cost 3 €.
The Îles d'Hyères are a popular holiday paradise among the French people. A lot of years ago, the islands were not islands; they are a part of the moorish-massif that sank in the c ourse of the time. While the sea level increased, at the same time, the islands came up. All the Îles d'Hyères have a gorgeous and bright vegetation in common. Here, one finds some plants, flowers and trees of the most exotic and variated kinds. One gets to the islands from all the closely locted coastal places, of course also from Toulon and Marseille.
At the very best there is the island Porquerolles. With a length of 7 km and a width of 3 km, it is the biggest of the Îles d'Hyères. While the island had some steep cliggs at thr south side, in the north, there are dream sand beaches. The whole island is under natural protection; but on it, there is a real swarm of dy tourists.
At the east of Porquerolles there is the Ile de Port-Cros. This island is also completely under natural protection. Unfortunately, this islands strongly suffers from the hundreds of thousands of tourists that rush every year to this island. From the harbour, one can view the islands on some wonderful hiking paths. As the islands has some bigger water resources and sources, the vegetation is even more colourful and abundant.
The third big islands is named Ile du Levant nd it is only partly accessible: More than 90% of the islands are military prohibited areas. During a long time, the island was highly disreputable, as on the remaining 10% of the area, a paradise for nudists was originated. This is what it is still today, but today, the place is not disreputable just because some beaches for nudists.
Copyright: Patrick Wagner, www.tourist-guide.biz