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Trails: Hiking the Sentier du Littoral - Around Cap Camarat

Azuralivecamarat3_1 You'll find Cap Camarat just south of the famous St Tropez Peninsula's Plage de Pampelonne.   

But Cap Camarat has little sand and no beach bars or restaurants. It is a protected site, owned by the Conservatoire du Littoral and managed jointly by CEEP and the commune of Ramatuelle.   

In its raw form, Cap Camarat is a block of cream and rusty granite, cracked and thrust above the sea.  Along the Sentier du Littoral path that climbs up and down around the cape, Camarat displays its rocks in an assortment of shapes: in rectangular pitons with sides so smooth they appear sheared, in thin slices like layers of a wafer, in triangular wedges, in folds.

The below hiking loop of 1.5 hours takes you around Cap Camarat from the Plage de Bonne Terrasse, alongside cliffs of granite, up to the Camarat Lighthouse and down through inland side of the cape, back to the beach.  Not recommended for small children due to cliffs.

Getting there:
From Ramatuelle, follow the signs to "Les Plages": Pampelonne, Camarat, Bonne Terrasse.
At an intersection, turn left towards La Bonne Terrasse.
Follow the signs to Baie de la Bonne Terrasse. Park in the lot before the stretch of road that leads to the gated community "Domaine de Bonne Terrasse," and head by foot towards the sea.

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Hiking:
You take the path of white gravel that leads to the beach "Plage de Bonne Terrasse," walk over the crescent of beach heading south or right. Hike up on the A27 path to the Sentier du Litttoral, pass a tiny house with a broken tile roof. 

Climb over white and caramel granite sheets of rock on the yellow-marked path.  Notice the plants of Jupiter's Beard or in french, Barbes de Jupiter (Anthyllis barba-Jovis) growing seemingly on blocks of granite. They dig their roots in narrow cracks in the rock.  In the spring, these silvery shrubs are covered in pale yellow flowers.

Continue your hike up the path carved into the rock, surrounded by bruyères and more Jupiter's Beards. You enter a forest of white oaks that leads to a panoramic view of the Plage de Bonne Terrasse, Pampelonne, even Saint-Raphael and l'Esterel.

After hiking among the maquis vegetation of arbousiers, green oaks, mistletoe, salsepareille, you reach a rocky path that takes you up to the Phare Camarat, the Camarat Lighthouse.  Note that the lighthouse is closed to the public since early 2006.

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Return by heading down the paved road inland towards Ramatuelle and turn right in the well-indicated A27 fire road.  While a fire burned parts of the hill in 2006, re-growth appears healthy. Beyond the hill, a clear day offers views of the Maures, Les Issambres, St Raphael, l'Esterel.

The A27 path takes you back to the sentier du Littoral, by the beach de Bonne Terrasse.


Trails: Hiking the Sentier du Littoral - Cap Lardier

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The Conservatoire du Littoral protects three sibling capes on the St Tropez Peninsula: Cap Camarat, Cap Taillat and Cap Lardier.  Cap Lardier is the most southern one, the thumb on a left hand raising three fingers.

Unlike Cap Taillat, with its thin finger of sand that dips into the sea, Cap Lardier appears wide and confident, a rounded promontory of forest that broods over the sea.

On a day such as we had last week (sun and balming temperatures in November), a hike to Cap Lardier is like sweet crème fraiche over a bowl of strawberries.  Delicious.
 

Time:           2 hours for 5.5 km round-trip
Difficulty:     Easy
Highlights:   Hug the coastline to the sound of rumbing surf and discover remote coves, a rugged wild cape that points to the distant Iles d'Or.  Return facing a green sea of umbrella pines.

Getting there:
Reach the beach community of the Mas de Gigaro, the pretty beach resort of La Croix Valmer.
You can park at the Parking Saint Michel, or on the street, if anything is available.  Don't forget to purchase and place a parking ticket on your windshield as street parking is PayantAt the eastern tip of Gigaro, at the beach entrance, the site of the protected Cap Lardier welcomes you with informational signs and restrooms.

Hiking:
The open Sentier du Littoral begins through a cover of mimosas, green oaks, cistes de Montpellier and Eucalyptus trees, likely remnants of athe area's previous life as a campground.

At the end of the beach de Gigaro, the sandy path climbs.  A few Umbrella Pines overlook the cliff.  Their exposed roots meander across the path like the burrows of moles. A panel indicates the path to the Crique de l'Ilot du Crocodile, named because of its small island and its bumpy shape.  Continue left towards the Plage de Jovat 150 meters ahead.

You navigate up and around a few tiny capes, through dense vegetation of maquis: Heading down, the eastern wind carries whiffs of algaes and sweet musty sea salt. The little Plage de Jovat curls up ahead. On the beach, gentle rollers spash the sand and retreat.

In the summertime, when suntan oils cover every inch of St Tropez's Plage de Pampelonne and Plage de Tahiti, a few escapees wiggle their way to the Plage de Jovat or to the next beach, Plage de Brouis.  You might decide to take a dip.

As you continue on the coastal Sentier du Littoral, you pass a sign indicating La Maison du Pecheur and continue straight.  Up a promontory, the deep green Cap Lardier looms ahead.  The sound of birds chirping mixes with the louder rythmn of crushing waves.  To your left, leaves of Salsepareille (the Smurfs' favorite food) twist around the foliage of oak trees and bushes.

Umbrella Pines appear over the Cap Lardier like a cover of green mushrooms.  By the sea, white rocks tilt towards the hills.

You reach Plage des Brouis and continue a few meters on the sand to rejoin the path to Cap Lardier.  A sign warns you of the impeding cliff.  Indeed, the climb up steps of thick wooden planks and roots challenges the legs.

You reach the "Les Pins Blancs" promontory slightly out of breath. 

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To your right, a couple of umbrella pines hug.  Continue the path to the right and follow directions to the "Vieux Semaphore de Collebasse."  After passing a water citern for use against potential forest fires, you head right to the Sémaphore where white oaks, umbrella pines and the bay of Cavalaire surround you.  This makes for a friendly picnic stop (remember to leave nothing behind).

You return to Les Pins Blancs through the same route.  There, head back to Gigaro not through the Sentier du Littoral, but through the inland path.  The Plage de Gigaro is 2.810 km away.

On the wide forest trail of your return, a sea of dark green umbrella pines stretches over the hill of the Brouis while the Bay de Cavalaire paints the southern view in a deep blue.

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At the next intersection, you head left, back to the coast to reach the Plage des Brouis.
The loop was short, but memorable.



Discover the Côte d'Azur's most gorgeous footpaths with our latest hiking guide.

Note:

Around 250,000 people visit the protected site yearly.
Many do so delicately, for the purpose of discovery
and thoughtful enjoyment.  A few come to tan on its beaches.

Unfortunately, an obstinate small number of visitors pick the site's plants, drop garbage along the trail, venture off-trail and tramp on plants.  The Conservatoire du Littoral's aim to balance tourism with protection is a delicate one.

Please be one of the thoughtful visitors - treat the Cap Lardier with respect and leave nothing behind but memories.
 



Le Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrivé

We may be in Provence Azur here, land of famed Rosés that taste of peaches and blackberries, but the Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived. 

At my neighborhood grocery store, bottles were arranged in pyramid formation by the entrance. Bottle labels were in primary reds and yellows, all festive.  There wasn't a person at the counter without at least one bottle on the counter.

"Non vraiment, c'est mon dernier verre," echoed the café next door. 

Around the corner, my favorite wine seller had a long table with glasses and bottles and slices of saucisson.  Passer-by's took a sip.  Some twinged.  "Frankly," the wine store owner told me on the sly, "Beaujolais Nouveau is not my favorite."  The evening was cool and our glasses filled. "Well," she added, "this year is pas mal, pas mal du tout..."

Earlier in the day, in Fayence, the church's door displayed a large advertisement hailing its Beaujolais Nouveau wine tasting.  It was to be held pronto that evening at the Presbytery.  I love France.

A votre santé!


Trails: Hiking the Gorges du Blavet

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This 2.5 hour hike leads you through a forest of cork oaks by the Blavet's rocky river bed, alongside a sheer descent of rock and up to the top of the Gorges du Blavet canyon.

Getting there:

D4 from A8 highway towards the town of Bagnols-en-Foret.
Left on D47, heading towards Le Muy and La Motte.  Left again at the next intersection by the Caveau Saint-Romain.  Right on D47 at the Chapelle Notre Dame intersection, heading to Le Muy.  Park on the left 4km after intersection - the path is signaled from the D47 road with a "Gorges du Blavet" sign.  Lock your car and leave no valuables inside.

Hike:

You cross the white and green striped car fence and take the path on the right marked "Gorges."  The path leads to the GR 51 main hiking trail through a profusion of oak and pines trees, heather, blackberry bushes.

At the jumble of rocks by the river, turn left to cross the river and walk on its left bank as the GR 51 path begins to climb.  You trek among tall pine trees.

At an intersection, take a right, and continue on the GR 51 path which now descends towards the river and mounts of boulders. Notice the "Grotte" sign on a tree before the river.Gorgesdublavet2compressed

Cross the river here, and head up towards the sheer cliff where you may spot a rock-climber hugging the face of the rock like a salamander.

The river babbles below as you navigate up through a forest of green oaks, around carved pitons of rock.  You reach the top of the gorge where the GR 51 path opens up to a field of Aleppo pine trees, cistuses, lentisks. 

The GR 51 joins the wide Piste de la Lieutenante road that you take heading east (left) to a bridge over the Blavet river.  Over the bridge, the gorge appears like a drape of velvet in silver, ocre and salmon. 

Cross the bridge and take the narrow blue path immediately following the bridge on the left - if you reach the "Le Réservoir" fire road, you have gone too far.  The path is marked in blue dots of paint on trees and rocks.

After reaching up and around a promontory of boulders, the blue path dives down towards the Blavet river. Watch your step here. Follow the blue dots as the path sinuates alongside the river in a lush jungle of cork oaks, pines, mistletoe and heather.  Hear any brown frogs croak?  They sing in these ponds in the spring during mating season. 

The GR 51 reaches the blue dotted path at the "Grotte" junction and leads you back to your car the same way you arrived.

Contact Bagnols-en-Foret Office du Tourisme for more information on the town of Bagnols and vicinity - Place de la Mairie, Bagnols-en-Foret, Tél: 04.94.40.64.68.

(c) AzurAlive.com


Le Beaujolais Nouveau Va Arriver

Unpetitsip_2 November 16, 2006 is coming up... it is Beaujolais Nouveau day.

Soon, most of our neighborhood will sip, chat,  comment about fruiteness and color, sip some more, babble about acidity and eventually dance in the streets in good cheer.

We'll be posting about the experience the next morning, or thereabouts... 

You can read Beaujolais Nouveau stories from a variety of participating web sites on BlueVicar.com



Les Voiles d'Automne de St Tropez

Voilesdautomne_11nov06Gray sails flapped without conviction today in the Golfe de St Tropez for the 10th Annual Voiles d'Automne 2006 regatta.

Organized yearly by the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez (Tel: 04 94 97 30 54), this event counts as the final regatta for 2006 on St Tropez waters.  Bonjour tristesse!   

While crews exhibited the requisite skills for precise sailing across the race's croissant-shaped course, the wind missed the rendez-vous.  The regatta continues tomorrow, November 12, 2006.

Given how palm trees sway this evening in Sainte-Maxime across the St Trop bay, there's hope for an exciting race tomorrow.  And if hope fails, there's always reminiscence:  read an account of this October's Les Voiles de St Tropez.      
 

                                                                                    

Trails: Hiking the Sentier du Littoral - l'Escalet to Cap Taillat

Moving west beyond the Plage de l'Escalet beach, a salt-ridden wind whips rocks and hillside around the Sentier du Littoral.  A wooden bridge that reaches over a small sea cliff is wet with waves. Hikers walk around it. The wind smells of rock fish, crumpled thymne and curry. On the hillside, a ground cover of Pin d'Alep (Pinus halepensis) and Green Oaks (Quercus ilex) hugs the ground and leans westard, perfectly sheered.  They are bonsais, shaped not by a gardener's tools but by the wind, sea spray and sun that reign over this wild peninsula.

The native vegetation of the Cap Taillat is protected and untouched. Cap Camara, Cap Taillat, and Cap Lardier belong to the Conservatoire National du Littoral, a sort of National Trust for the protection of coastal environments.  Created in 1975, the conservtoire protects unique environmental zones along the french coastline.  It does so by acquiring land, restoring its original habitats and educating the public about their unique eco-systems. Cap Lardier is managed by the C.E.E.P. (Centre d'Etudes des Ecosystèmes de Provence) as well as by the commune of Ramatuelle.

Two kilometers from the Plage de l'Escalet, the Cap Taillat hangs on to the continent through a finger of sand or isthmus.  Not so long ago, this finger and surroundings were covered with long-term and unregulated settlements of camping cars and tents.

Years ago, few dwarf fan-palm trees (Chamaérops-humilis) were ever found growing in the wild in Europe, but three were spotted on Cap Taillat. Today, dwarf fan-palms flourish in the area, helped by land protection and by the local foxes which feed on the plant's grains and deposit them
in their droppings. The endangered kidney vetch (Anthyllis-Barbajovis or locally known as Barbe de Jupiter) also thrives in this area. 

Cap Taillat is a feast for the senses.  Follow the yellow marked trail from Plage de l'Escalet to Cap Taillat and back, for an hour's stride.  Remember to not disturb the natural environment.  Leave nothing but foot tracks; take nothing but fond memories.

Click here to see Google Map of Cap Taillat.


Trails: Hiking the Sentier du Littoral - Around the Cap de St Tropez

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Time:           4.5 hours for 16 km round-trip
Difficulty:     Medium
When to go: All year round. Avoid rainy weather of course.
Highlights:   The hike around is long enough to need a good level of fitness, but not strenuous.  There is an early bail-out point at the Plage des Salins; you can always turn around at any time and retrace your steps to town.   


Discover the truly wild side of Saint-Tropez: walk around its peninsula.  Surpringly, few people do, yet it yields bays and creeks otherwise only accessible by boat.  Beyond the Pointe de la Rabiou, the path leads you through rugged coastline and across beaches of fine white sand.

The Sentier du Littoral coastline pathway is marked with a line of yellow paint and plenty of signs either reading Pietons (pedestrians) or Sentier du Littoral - no need for a map here.  Note that for the first half of the walk, the path either shoulders or passes right through private properties.  Don't tresspass beyond the marked path.

Begin your hike by the pier of Saint-Tropez, under the Tour du Portalet at the end of the Quai Mistral.  A map welcomes you with distances to the road ahead:  Baie des Canebiers: 2.7 km, La Moutte: 7.4 km, Les Salins: 8.5 km, Plage de Tahiti: 12 km. 

Pass through the Port des Pecheurs then up away from the coast to the path leading towards the walled Citadelle.  Head back down to the coast just after the cemetery. Another Sentier Littoral panel greets you.  You pass the Plage des Graniers, head through bamboo pathes on hard-packed sand and up towards parasol pines.  The large bay ahead is the Bay des Canebiers.  You begin to hear the sound of the wind whistling like chimes through the strouds of the anchored sailboats. 

Walk on the beach by the Bay des Canebiers' private nautical club, on the Plage des Tamaris then up to the road that climbs and meanders between homes. Pass under the stone door to the Cap Saint-Pierre. 
LittoralsttroppriveAs you head down towards the Cap Rabiou, you notice the stone-walled villa that mirrors the old fortress walls of St Tropez.


Img_1977 At the Calanque de la Rabiou, the rocks above the sea look like milk chocolate spun and folded in fudge.  The protected plage de la Moutte soon exhibits its white sand.  At the Cap des Salins, the granite tombstone of Emile Ollivier (1825-1913), minister under Napoleon III and author of the 17 tomes of l'Empire Liberal, he loved the region and lived for a while in the chateau La Motte, overlooks the ocean with the inscriptions: "Magna quies in magna spe."

Littoralsttropsalins Beyond it stretches the white powdered sand and popular Plage des Salins. 

You could head back to St Tropez from the Plage des Salins by taking the road next to the Lei Salins restaurant.  During the summertime, the SODETAV buses operate back and forth between St Tropez and various St Tropez Peninsula beaches, including Plage des Salins and Plage de Tahiti. 

Littoralsttropptecapon However, the upcoming Pointe du Capon offers views of a wild wind-swept coastline and the Cap du Pinet a hike over pine needles by the cliff.  The Plage de Tahiti is wild too, though in a different way.  The long stretch of white sand ahead is the famous plage de Tahiti.  Kick off your shoes (or everything, clothing is optional here) and cool your feet in its waters.   After an energizing sip at one of the beach's bars and restaurants (Tropezina Beach, Millesjm Beach, Manureva), head back to St Tropez on the Belle Isnarde road that goes through the neighborhoods of Pinet, la Gardine, la Messadiere, la Belle Isnarde and reaches the center of St Tropez.

(c) AzurAlive. 
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For more hikes on the Sentier du Littoral, take a look at the St Raphael du Cap du Dramont piece, or the Cap du Dramont hike.
If you have any questions, comments or additions related to this hike, help yourself to the comment entries below (click on Comments link below).  We'd love to hear about your hike or your questions.  We often hike around St Tropez, Les Maures, l'Esterel and around small and forgotten villages of the Var and love to share what we find.  Bonne sortie!

The local french hiking group of Les Randonneur Tropéziens walks this région and is open to new members: 04 94 97 14 84
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