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Fréjus: Europe KiteSurf Cup

KiteSurfChamp

The wide bay of Fréjus hosts both the European KiteSurfing Cup and French long-distance kite surfing championship this weekend, May 30 and 31, 2009.

Expect around 80 competitors to fly their kites and slice the Mediterranean waters across the bay from Saint-Aygulf to Fréjus and Saint-Raphael. This afternoon, the winds blows heartily. Should be more of the same this weekend during the competition, at least in the afternoons.

Races start at 10:30AM. They break at 12:30PM and start again at 1:30PM, all subject to wind of course. Kite surfers launch from the Saint-Aygulf beach.

The local shop called Freeride promises to demo some of its equipment to folks with a reasonable handle on the sport.

Enjoy the show from any of the many beaches between St Raphael, Fréjus and St Aygulf. Traffic might get congested around the St Aygulf entrance, so time it right to ward off road frustration.


Hiking by St Tropez: What's New

St Tropez Pointus

If you've followed us a little, you know we love Saint-Tropez. Not for its giant sedentary yachts, but for its few small fishing boats that set out to sea to work in the morning. Not for its jam-packed summer roads where red Maseratis over-heat, but for its hiking footpaths that few ever discover. Click here for a Hikers on Hiking perspective on St Tropez from our readers.

So as often as possible, we head to the St Tropez peninsula, lace up our hiking boots and explore.

This week, we guided a hiking group on such a footed exploration. As usual and even after the Nth time, the scenery dazzles and charms.

StTropez Plage Des Salins

Our hiking guidebook to the French Riviera (hike #11, page 66) includes a 15 km walk around the St Trop peninsula, so we thought we would share our latest updates about this hike:

  • By the Cimetière Marin cemetery, just under the Citadel, extensive construction work in under way for a large water treatment system. For adepts of hiker #11, it means you'll need to head up a dirt mount in front of the construction zone right before the Cimetière Marin in order to reach the Citadel road. Take that road to the left, walk above the construction zone and down to the cemetery. The coastal path begins just after the cemetery and is marked with a sign "Sentier du Littoral" with yellow-painted signs.

    St Tropez Hikes

  • Last Winter, some strong winds and waves whipped the Western French Riviera. We talked about it here. The coastline experienced damage. A number of beach-side restaurants had to fix walls, piers, and occasionally more. Today, the St Tropez coastal pathway is 100% in walking shape. But you'll notice a sailboat or two still beached like a whale. When I visited a couple of months ago, a dozen of boats were beached. Waves of up to 6 meters had picked them up and dropp

    ed them on the beach. Most of them were removed, but the waters are shallow at the Baie des Canebiers. One of them remains there.Whaled in St Trop

  • The hike is gorgeous year-round. Summer means lots of heat on the French Riviera, and for hikers, that means adjustements. When hot, plan your hikes for early morning. You may dread getting up earlier than everyone else, but you won't regret it when the coast is all to yourself and when a cool breeze blows over a cove to refresh you. After 11AM in the Summer, you'll feel the hot sun right over your head. Plage des Salins may be stunning with its white sands, but it offers little shade. Many areas by the coastal path are similarly exposed. Carry enough water. For us, this means 50 cl per person per 5 km walk. It may be more for you.

    St Trop Tromping

     
  • Happy Trails!

For a colorful hiking guide to the western Cote d'Azur with maps and photos, check out "26 Gorgeous Hikes on the Western Côte d'Azur" below on Amazon.com (also on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, Amazon.de, Amazon.jp).


Tour de French Riviera

TdF
So the tour starts in Monaco this year. And on July 5, 2009 around 12:45PM, it picks up from Monaco and zooms across the French Riviera to reach its second stop some 182 km later in Brignoles.

From Monaco, it's up the Col d'Eze, then down to Nice by the sea to Cagnes-sur-Mer then inland toward Grasse then to gentle hills of Callian, Fayence then up the Col de l'Ange, down to Lorgues, Carcès for an arrival into Brignoles. The arrival into Brignoles on Avenue Foch is planned around 5:30PM.

I'm trying to get my hands on a detailed map of the Monaco to Brignoles route. The below video makes an excellent substitute for now... take a look.


Book Review: La madrague

La madrague

Author: Michel Goujon
ISBN:  9782867 464775
Published on March 5, 2009
Editor: Editions Liana Levi

Author Michel Goujon was born in Saint-Tropez, France. He lived there for twenty years before heading north to work and settle in Paris. It seems that St Tropez has never left him.

Goujon already charmed us with one of the better local travel guides on St Tropez, Saint-Tropez et le pays des Maures published by Hachette in 2002.

So when we spotted his first novel on the shelves just published this Spring 2009, La madrague, we had to read it. In French, la madrague means a fish pound once used to capture tuna.

The novel describes the hardships of a young Simon Garcin as he grows up in the 18C in a bastide set on a large plot on the St Tropez peninsula close to the pointe de la Rabiou. I often hike the coastal path by the Rabiou headland with its tormented geologic folds and the sound of the gentle surf as it gurgles in the rocks.

Simon's early days are  idyllic, bathed by the smells of the maquis plants, the posidonia sea weeds, the breeze. When his father sets out to sea after a disastrously wet harvest season, his life takes a turn into dark times. 

It may not be prime literature, but I loved it.

Why? It makes the St Tropez peninsula I love come to life. It weaves descriptions of local surroundings, fishing habits, but also the intrinsically political struggles of local villagers in the 18C. It layers Simon's past life on the peninsula with his present incarceration in the infamous Toulon prison or bagne. In Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, Jean Valjean also had been a prisoner of the Toulon bagne.

The book weaves flashbacks of the boy's youth. They kept me in suspense. And I enjoyed the mirrored images of the captured fish embroiled in nets, the Toulon prison bars, the cry and eventual flight of the seagull.

La madrague pulls historical details into the story. I would have enjoyed more historical anecdotes and depth, but again, this isn't a history book.

The author insists, the book is a novel, a work of fiction. He dedicates a brief final chapter, Roman et réalité, to explain this. This in no way diminishes the story's captivating thread.

But St Tropez and the entire Provence coastal regorges in history. It's such a rich past ripe for more historical novels. 

We know that extensive big game fisheries dotted the coast from Nice to Marseilles in those days. Extensive mazes of nets would encircle schools of pelagic fish as they made their Spring migrations along the southern coast of France. Typically, these were big game fish of the Scombridae family such as tuna but also bonitos. Fishermen, like maritime toreadors, would stand on their boats, harpoon and slaughter the captive fish. These were then common fishing methods in Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and elsewhere in the Mediterranean. TunaFishing

  Above photo La Pesca de Tonno from public domain painting by Jean-Pierre Houël, 1782. Part of his work "Voyage pittoresque des Isles de Sicile, de Malte et de Lipari." Paris, 1782.

We also know Toulon's history when its Royalist inhabitants handed the city with its critical military port to the then enemy English fleet. In 1793, after a 4-months siege of the city, the French Republicans expelled the British from Toulon. A young captain lead the French artillery forces in this effort: Napoleon Bonaparte.

All in all, this is a wonderful novel to soak deeper into St Tropez. For now, it's in French only.

Pointus in St Tropez 

Above Photo: Pointus at the St Tropez quay, May 2009.


Cannes Film Festival Freebies

Cannes Film Festival 2009

Yes, you can have fun at the Cannes Film Festival without being a film industry pro, without having a coveted Cinéphile Badge (easy to get, but too late now for 2009) or without being plugged with as many "special connections" as the back of your television set.

One way? The Cinéma de la Plage. It's free. It's on the public beach of the Plage Macé. Sitting on a lounge chair, you enjoy a big screen projection of non-competing Official Selection films and audiovisual heritage films.

The ticket? You need an invitation as spots are limited. Get yours from the City of Cannes Tourist Office right under the Palais des Festivals or Cannes Cinéma’s Espace Cannes Cinéphiles. Yes, we're talking lines... try to get there early.

What's playing?

Concerts usually begin at 8PM each evening. For 2009, ten projections will be made at Plage Macé, from May 14 to May 23.

  • On Friday, May 15: Music by Norvegian group Det Ar Jag Som Art Doden followed by a big screen projection of the classic "Pink Floyd, The Wall" by Alan Parker.
  • On Saturday, May 16: John Erik Kaada with Norvegian film music and the big screen projection of "Soundtrack for a revolution"
  • On Sunday, May 17: The Norvegian band Transjoik does its electro trance thing and projection of the "Neil Young Trunk Show."
  • On Monday, May 18: Danish music group Blue Foundation interprets music from Twilight or Miami Vice followed by projection of David Bowie's mythical "Ziggy Stardust."
  • On Tuesday, May 19: Finnish composer Anssi Tikanmaki goes into Jazz for the music of Finnish film director Aki Kaurismaki
  • On Wednesday, May 20: Jean-Michel Bernard plays the piano followed by the projection of "Don Giovanni"
  • On Thursday, May 21: Islandic Bardi Johannsson followed by the projection of "Tengri, le bleu du ciel"
  • On Friday, May 22: Hauntingly beautiful folk pop music of the band Gravenhurst followed by the projection of "Les vacances de M. Hulot"
  • On Saturday, May 23: Australian group Belle Roscoe plays rock and folk songs followed by a projection of Wattstax, the documentary by Mel Stuart

Some of us had planned on attending tonight's performance. Unfortunately, it's raining cats and dogs today in Cannes or as they say here "il pleut des cordes." We'll get a rain check.



Marseille 2013 European Cultural Capital

MarseilleBanner

On May 12, 2009, the European Commission of Cultural Ministers unanimously voted Marseilles (in French, Marseille - we need a counsel on international city spelling :) as the European Cultural Capital for 2013. Two cities are picked each year for this title.

For 2013, two countries had been pre-selected:France and Slovakia. Winning cities for the 2013 were chosen this week: Marseille and the Slovak city of Kosice.

The French winner is more broadly Marseille-Provence which includes 130 associated local towns.

Marseille's history is made up of cultural exchanges: as a vibrant Greek trading port beginning in 600 BC, as a Roman port, as a fortified town often times fiercely independent from local governors and central governments, as modern naval center, as a revived and always as a melting pot.

How are cities selected?

Marseille2013BeautyThree major criteria count for selection by the European Counsel: 

  • Scope: Projects have European wingspan
  • Cooperation: They reinforce public cooperation among EU countries
  • Urbanism: Projects highlight city's role in the development of culture in Europe

Why does it matter?

The showcased city will bathe in media. This gives government and municipalities a strong incentive to fund associated cultural programs.

Marseille2013The concept of focused cultural exchanges itself is important. It's the building of a bridge, a chance for increased cooperation and understanding through culture and the arts.

Marseille-Provence's current budget for the effort? Close to 100 million euros for all cultural programs, much of it coming from local authorities.

What are some of the Marseille projects?

Marseille presented 78 projects as part of its bid. They focus on art as a living urban experience that thrives on exchanges between people and cultures. Here's a sample:

  • The opening of a long-desired Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (MuCEM).
  • A Centennial exhibition to celebrate the 100th year birth of Albert Camus (born 1913).
  • Two new festivals: InterMed for contemporary arts in the Mediterranean and Via Mars where art will live alongside every day city scapes.
  • Some 200 Ateliers de l’Euro-Méditerranée (Euro-Mediterranean Workshops).

More info?

Check out the official web site, with press releases both in French and English.


Google StreetViews the French Riviera

StreetViewsNice If you follow a bit of travel technology, you've heard of Google StreetView. It's a hybrid concoction of Google Maps mixed with Google Earth and it shows you photographic renditions of city streets so you see intersections, lights, shops, haggard-looking blurry faced folks (haggard-looking for legal reasons). With your mouse or control, you twist the views into all sorts of angles.

How are these views taken?

Unlike plain old Google Earth, Google StreetView does not use satellite pictures to show an area. It relies on cars (and bikes too!) equipped with multiple cameras to criss-cross the streets of our planet and to beam back their multi-angle photo shots.

What towns of the French Côte d'Azur are currently covered by StreetView?

As you can imagine, it takes time for a camera-equipped Google Mobile to StreetView a whole city. As of May 2009, Marseille, Nice and Toulon have been StreetViewed on the French Mediterranean coast. More will come.

How can I use StreetViews?

Since we're street strollers, we're going to get walking directions for the city of Nice, France. Then we're going to cruise through the streets from Point A to Point B using StreetViews and its pegman icon.  Maps_pegman

Here's what we do:

Go to Google Maps and zoom on the city of  Nice. Click on Get Directions. Type in a Point A starting point (we picked Centre Commercial Nice Etoile, Nice) and Point B (Cat's Whiskers, Nice) destination, in our case, a nifty little English-language bookshop that carries good local titles including our hiking guidebook.

GetDirections

In the drop box, pick Walking. You get the walking directions. Granted, these are simple given the short distance, but no reproaches here.
GetWalkingDirections

Next, we drag the little Pegman icon and drop him anyplace we want to visualize the streets.

GetWalkingDirectionsPegman  
Google calls its StreetView application and here pops views of the street. What's nifty is the way we can twist and turn the angle on these views, so you move with the views. We see our Cat's Whiskers shop, right next to an excellent Artisan Chocolatier. Very cool.

GetWalkingDirectionsStreetView

Of course, you can't smell the chocolates or pate d'amande creations at the chocolate shop. Nor can you experience the warm potpourri aromas of baking bread, roasted chicken, pipe smoke and a tinge of dog pee.

Could Google have a Google StreetSmells project underway? You can't really experience France without it.

Until then, you'll have to visit yourself.


Ocean Village Visits

p>AzurAlive: Ocean Village Two

Ocean Village Two is back. This weekend, the festive-looking ocean cruise ship maneuvered its 245 meters (800 feet) of length, its 14 decks, its 8 bars, its 4 restaurants, its gym, pools, golf driving nets, volleyball courts, beauty salons and its 1,600 passengers into the bay of Saint-Raphael on the French Riviera. Want to check out its deck plans? Click here to take a peek - designed to please active sporty passengers.

Its the first of a total of thirteen Ocean Village visits to St Raphael this summer. Next visit to Saint Raphael? May 24, 2009.

Click on this article to read more about Ocean Village Two's stop in St Raphael & what to do there.

Note that beginning in Autumn 2009, Carnival UK, owners of the Ocean Village cruise line, will begin to phase out the Ocean Village brand. Beginning with Christmas 2009, rthe two Ocean Village ships will transfer to another Carnival UK cruise line, the P&O Cruises Australia brand. A new European Program from Carnival UK is expected for 2010. Not sure yet if and where they'll stop in the Mediterranean. See the Carnival UK site for details.

Schedule of Summer 2009 cruise visits to St Raphael, France:

Ocean Village 2:  Sundays May 10 and 24, June 7 and 21, July 5 and 19, August 2, 16 and 30, September 13 and 27

Oriana visits on: Thursday, May 14

Artemis visits on: Thursday, September 24


Harley Davidsons Rock Port-Grimaud

HarleyTropez
The 3rd Harley-Davidson EuroFest takes place at Port-Grimaud, southern France this weekend (actually, May 7-11 2009).

Where?

The gathering place for the 2009 HD Euro Fest is Port-Grimaud, at the camping Les Prairies de la Mer on the beach on the Bay of St Tropez on the French Riviera.

What?

Lots of shiny Harley-Davidsons and their riders, of course. Plenty of demos and ride-outs around the Golf of St Tropez. Also, lots of live music including a Woodstock revival on Saturday night.

Warning: Between the St Tropez Voiles Latines event, pres. Sarkozy visiting and this event, the area will be crowded!

You can read more about Harley events at www.harley-davidson.com and from the Harley Owners' Group (HOG) at www.hog.com 

Click Here to Read about Hiking the French Riviera


Saint-Tropez: Hot Latin Sails

IMG_1859

Interested in Pointus, Gozzi, Latin Sails, Bettes Marseillaises, Tartanes, or Barques Catalanes?

They're slender traditional wooden boats that brighten up Mediterranean harbors with vivid colors: blue, yellow, red, orange.

You've seen them on postcards in fishing ports with well-fed cats sitting beside them.

From May 7 to 10, 2009, you can admire an expected 80 of these small Mediterranean boats as they haul their triangular latin (also sp. lateen) rigs and flock to Saint-Tropez for the town's yearly Latin Sails (Voiles Latines) event.

The regatta event is part of a wider circuit of latin sail races set across the Med and organized by the Association Vela Latina Tradizionale. See the Vela Latina web site for details on their other stops in Trapani, Stintino, Lerici.

Italy will be the guest of honor at this 2009 Voiles Latines with an expert delegation from  the town of Chioggia, a fishing port that sits at the southern end of the Venitian Lagoon. In the early evening, musicians from Venice will charm St Tropez from atop their gondolas.

StTropezLatines

What's the Program?

Thursday, May 7: Boats arrive
Friday, May 8:      Welcome
Saturday, May 9, 11AM:  Begin race. Evening Joute event. by the Joutes groupe of St Raphael. Art and delicacies in the streets. Charming gondola rides in the bay.
We're also expecting the traditional sailors' picnic (fish, of course, and risotto di Giocchia this year)! by the La Ponche quarters of St Tropez on Saturday evening around 8PM.
Sunday, May 10, 11AM: Begin race. In the evening, award ceremony.

Where will races take place?

Races begin in front of the Tour du Portalet at the northern edge of the  St Tropez quarry. This  and the pier in front of it are perfect spots for watching the  boats.  If you have binoculars, you can also comfortably view them higher up toward the citadel.

Tips

The Voiles Latines attracts lovers of wooden sailboats and  pretty much anyone in the area who enjoys a good time by the sea.

Plus sunny weather is on the menu (as well as a Harley Davidson's Eurofestival in nearby Sainte-Maxime),  so expect many visitors. Consider heading to St Tropez by ferry boat from Sainte-Maxime or even from Saint-Raphael or Cannes to avoid traffic.