On the French Riviera's St Tropez this summer, large scale sculptures by Venezuelan-American artist Rafael Barrios challenge the laws of physics and our sense of perception.
Standing three meters high in bright laquered blue in front of café Senequier, blocks of hand-shaped steel hang out in space. Captured on photo, the blue structure jumps out of the picture to grab you.
At the Place de la Garonne, another grand sculpture by Rafael Barrios appears more discreet in pale grey, only to better strike from its unlikely posture.
Walk by the port to St Tropez' Annonciade Museum and an assembly of pink elements climb toward the blue of the sky. Folks sit around it as if it had always been there, but beware. It may move.
All of Barrios' large structures will disappear from St Tropez on September 15, 2014, to be beamed elsewhere.
Saint-Tropez is such as multi-faceted place. It is not what it seems to be. The town made a perfect backdrop for Rafael Barrios' wonderful trickery for the senses.
Mont Faron will be closed to cars, motorbikes, bikes from 8PM tonight to tomorrow (aug 15, 2014) 4PM. Why? The french president will be paying a visit to Faron Memorial as part of the 70th anniversary of the allied forces landing in the region.
If you're keen on joining the festivities, your only option tomorrow to go up the Mont Faron will be to hike it up or to take the bus (bus 40). Bus 40 will begin its first trip up at 9AM. Francois Hollande is expected up the mountain between 10:30AM and 11:30AM.
The New York Times has launched a new travel video series called "36 Hours". Each video highlights a city in 5 minutes, with interviews from local shop owners, artists, museum curators etc.
Some of the videos feel like adverts, but others manage to really grab at the heart of a town. The above NYT video on Nice is a bit of both, to be fair. But I enjoyed seeing Olive & Artichaud featured there.
Olive & Artichaud is a little restaurant in the old part of town on rue saint reparate, with an open kitchen and decent fresh food. Had lunch there with very tasty basil monkfish for 18 €. They have a narrow set of opening hours, probably given that they make everything from scratch with fresh food of the day - so watch for their current hours on their web site.
The jagged coast between Saint-Raphael and Agay hosts a number of coves and beaches, some of them with sand.
One I enjoy for swimming is the Plage d'Arene Grosse. Actually, it's just beyond that beach, immediately after the Port of Boulouris as you head east.
Why do I love this beach?
In general, it's far less crowded than the better-known public beaches nearby such as the beaches of Saint-Raphael, Frejus or even Agay. Few visitors know about it, unless they're staying in Boulouris right next door.
Because the beach faces the open sea rather than a sheltered cove, the water is usually very clean. You can check the current water quality status at the entrance by the port of Boulouris as water samples are taken and analysed regularly all summer long.
The other thing that may keep some beach-lovers out are the rocks. Most of the beach is sandy, but under the sand lays layers of rocks stretched flat. They create a gentle surf as the sea breaks on the rocks. While they're not sharp, you'll probably be more confortable wearing water shoes. Personally, I wear fins as I love to swim beyond the reef to the open waters.
Where is the beach?
If you don't have a car, it's a walk from St Raphael to reach it, though a very pleasant one if you decide to take the coastal path instead of the main road. That probably keeps many folks away.
Interested in local hikes on the Western side of the French Riviera from Cannes to Hyeres? Take a look at this hiking guide available on Amazon:
In July, the travel site allovoyages published a study on the most expensive resort hotels on the French coastline.
Photo: Hotel sezz, Saint-Tropez
Saint-Tropez topped the list. Monaco followed closely, then Antibes, Port Grimaud. Sainte-Maxime took sixteenth place. Top four on the French Riviera.
Photo: Hotel La Ponche, St Tropez
I wasn't surprised to read this. St Tropez has a generous offering of first-class luxury hotels such as the exclusive Chateau La Messardiere, the charming and full of history Hotel La Ponche in the old fishermen's quarters, or the modern le Sezz, all pictured above.
I was surprised not to see Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat among the top ten, for hotel palaces such as the lavish Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat, or even the Voile d'Or.
Queen Victoria arrived in the French Riviera resort town of Saint-Raphael early this morning. With her black hull , red chimney and pointed nose, she seemed elegant despite her imposing figure. She's 32 metres tall, 296 metres long, and weighs... too rude to mention.
While a number of its 2,208 passengers were whisked to shore to visit Cannes or St Tropez or just to stroll around lovely St Raphael, a number of us stared at the cruise ship and wished we could visit.
She has 12 restaurants, 13 bars, 3 swimming pools, a theater, a casino.