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November 2007
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Travel Books: Reviews by Planeta.com

We love good travel books. The best of them are a journey on to themselves. They inspire us, move us, and teach us about people and places.

On our Travel Books section, we ask our favorite online editors, readers, writers and explorers with an appetite for reading and an opinion: "what are your favorite travel books?"

Here is what Ron Mader picked for us. Ron Mader is a professional journalist and the founder of Planeta.com, a global journal on eco-tourism. The comments on the book slide show are his own.



Hiking the Estérel: The Rastel d'Agay

Hiking the Rastel d'Agay

You can spot it clearly from the seaside resort town of Agay, between St.Raphael and Cannes. Look inland from Agay's lake-like bay.

From the coast, the Rastel d'Agay looks like a wall of red clay, short and clumped with strides, like the side of a sand castle where the grooves of the slapping fingers still show.

Although it's part of the Estérel Mountain Range, a good chunk of the Rastel d'Agay sits on private property, owned the "Groupement Forestier de l'Ubac". Rumors have it that the land belongs to the Count of Agay, a relative of the aviator and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who crashed his plane close to Agay in 1944 while tracking German troop movements in the area.

To experience the Rastel from the other end means taking a short hike up. It also means savoring the panorama of the rusty and jagged Estérel mountains, and the bay of Agay like a ruby below. With the Estérel mountains protected from construction, you'll see pretty much what Saint-Exupéry saw it during his local flights (though he often flew at night fall).

To get there, drive inland from Agay on the D100 and turn right into the "Massif de l'Estérel" road after the Rastel d'Agay Campground. Head towards the Rocher St.Barthélémy. Stop at the Plateau d'Anthéor where a little dirt road allows 2-3 cars to park. A sign says "H33 Le Rastel".

Hike up the path, pass the SRL13 water cistern, then continue to the SRL14 cistern. Head left to the Rendez-Vous cross-road. You'll spot an oratory (St.Honorat Oratory) to your right.

Hiking the Rastel d'Agay - St Honorat Oratory

Take the narrow winding path in front of the oratory, to head up to the top of the Rastel hills. You'll find an old orientation table, too worn out from the elements to describe much of anything. Thankfully, the sites speak for themselves.

Rastel d'Agay panorama

The Côte d'Azur may be fast and glitzy, but to the walker who know where to go, it's close to paradise.
Discover the Côte d'Azur's gorgeous panoramic footpaths.
Order your copy of the new guidebook "26 Gorgeous Hikes on the Western Côte d’Azur" on Amazon.com today! 160 pages - over 100 color photos - 32 user-friendly maps - written by local hiker.



December in Saint-Tropez

St Tropez December

Top 10 Ways December is not like Summer in Saint-Tropez:

  • The Place des Lices sports as many little Christmas pine trees circling the ice rink as giant plane trees brooding over the plaza.
  • St Tropez Place des Lices December


  • The Christmas lights are being hung around street corners.
  • Tiny santons figurines are said to make their way to the Enchanted Forest on the Place des Lices (on display Dec 8 - to Jan 6, with the ice rink).
  • The only really busy bar/restaurant this December morning was filled-to-the-brim Le Sporting (on Place des Lices).
  • Our beloved Barbarac ice cream shop is shut.
  • Most folks who stroll along the streets are locals, going and coming to the Tuesday morning open market.
  • People are relaxed, smiling and talking to each other.
  • There are no dazzling diamond-studded sun glasses - yet, plenty of sun today.
  • The Mistral wind is frothing up the bay and blowing the quarry.
  • From the quarry, you look beyond the Maures Mountains and the Estérel to the north-east, and see the pre-Alps, snow-capped.

Snowcapssttropez


On the other hand, many large yachts still line up the port. Some things never change.