Scrap Metal Magic in Grimaud

The French Riviera harbors far more than what meets the eye.

Like Christian Champin's metallic monkey pictured above, Surabaya, currrently enjoying a bit of sunshine in Grimaud opposite St Tropez.

Born to a car body repair dad, the self-named "scrap metal alchemist" Christiam Champin grew up around his father's workshop - a treasure trove of scrap metal pieces. He loved tinkering in hid dad's shop.

Today, Christian revels in his own workshop where 80 tons of industrial metalic waste await a new faith. 

With great quantities of inspired welding, Christian shapes old radiators, broken engines, twisted pipes and dumped broken boat propellers into surreal creatures.

Each of his metallic phoenix-like creatures has a story to tell about our scrap society, albeit with a good amount of love and humour.

Meet "Rillette", the 100 kg pig

Christian lives in the Loire Atlantique region, but his creatures travel to the French Riviera.
They will find themselves at the Salle St Esprit in Valbonne: April 4 - May 26, 2014 and from July 15 to end of August 2014. Check out his web site for further info.

You will find some of Christian Champin's sculptures on permanent  expo in Grimaud at the Atelier GECA art gallery

The film below speaks of an expo which took place in 2010 in Saint-Aygulf by the beach of Fréjus, but it offers a great set-up of Christian's work presented on the sunny beaches of St Aygulf.

Could London be Warmer than St Tropez?

Photo: by ZoedeStTropez

St Tropez may be enjoying a balming 15°C right now in early March, but London is currently warmer by a couple of degrees. 

According to iTV and all weather current reports, London is currently warmer than Mallorca and St Tropez... well, minus the Mediterranean and all that it brings us.


St Tropez this Winter

AzurAlive: St Tropez at Christmas

For this Christmas season 2013, St Tropez is wearing a few strings of lights across it Place de l'Hôtel de Ville (picture above), white lights that run up the length of its platanus trees on Place des Lices and a colorful dash of blue, red, white that project onto the walls of the houses huddled around the port.

AzurAlive: StTropez at Christmas

The atmosphere is festive, but quietly so. This weekend (December 20 and 21, 2013) saw few people stroll around its dressed-up streets. All is peaceful in St Tropez this time of year. It's hard to imagine the frenzy of summer when you visit St Tropez during the winter.

Place des Lices remains vibrant on market mornings and the cafés and restaurants around the plaza continue to draw their share of visitors. My favorite lunch place? Le Sporting that sticks to quality dishes at reasonable prices and keeps attracting "les habituésé who live in the area.  

AzurAlive; StTropez In Winter

St Tropez - Salon du Chocolat


Enter the Jean Despas show room at the Place des Lice in St Tropez and a whiff of chocolate overtakes you.

You're at the annuall Salon du Chocolat which this year runs from December 20 to 22, 2013 from 10AM to 8PM in St Tropez on the French Riviera. 

Tasty little chocolate morsels surround you at the show, many of them made by artisans passionate about all forms of chocolate,  

The master piece has to be the massive all-chocolate replica of an airplane. It's 5m90 long, made entirely of chocolate (all 500 kg of it) and looks like a A330 Airbus. Its aromas of tangy chocolate make you want to snap off a wing for a nibble.

The plane was designed and created by Bruno Rouly, master chocolatier at the Délices d'un Gourmand shop in Charmes, Vosges, France. It has been on display earlier at the Paris chocolate show and then around France before its landing here in St Tropez.

AzurAlive_StTropez_SalonDuChocolat (2)

Les Voiles de St Tropez

Voiles de St Tropez

The yearly Voiles de St Tropez regattas have begun!

Traditional wooden yachts will glide along the bay of St Tropez, such as the schooner Elena of London, designed in 1910 by American naval architect Nathanael Herreshoff and winner of the Trans-Altantic race in 1928.
Elena of London
In the traditional category, the Voiles de Saint-Tropez will also welcome the classic schooner Atlantic, the 1916 Herreshoff sloop Rowdy, Fife Moonbeam IV and many more. The Voiles are a showcase of classic yachts designed by masters of the golden age of refined naval architecture. It's a memorable treat for the eyes!

Modern technological marvels will not be left behind at the Voiles de St Tropez. 
One of the latest creation among the megayachts to participate in the Voiles is Nomad IV, designed by Finot-Cong with hull and structure made up of carbon fibre and Nomex for top sailing performance. It launched its racing career in the summer 2013, and is expected to be one of the fatest 100-ft cruisers in the world.
As always, the regatta promises to be a treat for all visitors.

Useful Tips

  • Be sure to get there early on racing days to avoid traffic and/or parking issues.
  • Bring your camera and binoculars. Views from the port and besides the Portalet tower are great.
  • If you'd like to follow the race from the top of the citadel and all along the coastal pathway, consider wearing comfortable walking shoes and bring a hat and drinking water.
Sailing St Tropez

Program for the 15th Edition of the Voiles de St Tropez (2013):
  • Saturday, September 28, 2013:
    Welcome to all, with some evening festivities along the port.
  • Sunday, September 29, 2013
    Welcome to all contestants.
  • Monday, September 30, 2013
    Coastal sail for modern yachts begins at 11AM
  • Tuesday, October 1, 2013
    Coastal sail for traditional yachts begins at 11AM (Rolex Cup)
  • Wednesday, October 2, 2013
    Coastal sail for both traditional & modern yachts begins at 11AM (Rolex Cup)
  • Friday, October 4, 2013
    Coastal sail for both traditional & modern yachts begins at 11AM (Rolex Cup)
  • Saturday, October 5, 2013
    Coastal sail for both traditional(Rolex Cup) & modern yachts begins at 11AM.
    Closing Evening  

Elena of London Sails

Hiking Week 2013: Along the St Tropez Coast St Tropez - Baie des Canebiers
Every year, the Var department on the French Riviera organizes a week of accompanied regional hikes. For 2013, this "Semaine de la Randonnée Pedestre" runs from September 28 to October 6.

The chosen hikes are some of the best scenic walks in the region. What's more, they're accompanied by a (French-speaking) guide so you need not worry about getting lost.

Getting lost may not concern you much if you're strolling along the coastal pathways, but can be an issue in the Estérel Mountains or in the Maures Mountains behind St Tropez. St Tropez Port

So what's on in St Tropez for the 2013 "Hiking Week"?

Here's your chance to try the famous Saint-Tropez coastal hike accompanied by a guide: 

This coastal hikes meanders up and down the coastal path from the Bay des Canebiers (see pic above) for 8 kilometers. Come prepared with sturdy walking shoes and count on a 3.5 hour-hike.
When? This hike takes place on Saturday, September 28 2013. Leaves from the Canebiers Bay (by the sailing club) at 8:30AM sharp.

Reservations are required for this hike, as for all of the accompanied hikes. Call or email the Tourism Board by September 27: 0892 68 48 28  or email:

Other planned accompanied hikes for this week?

Some 140 hikes are planned all across the Var during that special week. Here's just a few of our favorites:

The Gorges du Blavet by Bagnols en Foret, though a bit more arduous than the St Tropez hike (6 hours, 15 kms) - on Fri, Oct 4, 2013; Reservations required: 04 94 08 99 78

Le Mont Vinaigre in the Estérel Mountains. Beautiful but views need to be earned by a fair climb (4 hours, 13 kms) - on Sat, Sep 28, 2013. Reservations required: 04 94 40 93 57

Vlllecroze on the Voie Romaine (2 hours, 6 kms) - on Wed, Oct 2, 2013. Reservations required: 04 94 67 50 00 

The Mont Faron in Toulon (4 hours, 13kms) - on Sun, Oct 6, 2013 starting at 7:30AM. Early Reservations r

Discover the Best Hiking Guidebook to the Western French Riviera: 26 Gorgeous Hikes on the Western Cote D'Azur

Sailboat Chartering on the French Riviera

Sailing around StTropez
Sailing along the French Riviera coast makes a tantalizing alternative to renting a flat/house/hotel on the coast.

  • You slice through open water to reach your spot for the afternoon rather than play bumper cars on coastal streets.
  • You access beaches and creeks otherwise difficult to reach.
  • You island-hop: to the islands Lérins close to Cannes or the islands of Hyères further west. Or if you have enough time in front of you and good sailing skills, Corsica.
  • You fish to eat... well, provided to troll at the right speed, at the right location, at the right time, with the right lure, you might catch a few tasty makerels. 
  • You sleep onboard.

Sailing around St Tropez

What's needed to charter a sailboat on the French Riviera?

Not much, other than a large chunk of change. Don't assume the worst however, and ask for current promotional deals. For a family or a group of friends, a simple smaller catamaran (not the above photo!) may cost you the same as a flat rental.

Unlike motor boats, no license is needed to rent a sailboat here on the French Riviera for sailboats up to 55 ft. Clearly, you need to be 100% comfortable maneuvering a sail boat, including berthing it, rigging it, respecting rights of way, communicating with the host ports etc. So come prepared with your sailing CV. If you're interested in bareboat chartering, it's up to the chartering company to decide if you're fit to charter without a skipper.

Of course, you're also in closed salty quarters for hours on end. So you need patience. Plus, you're at the mercy of the weather. If the Mistral picks up, as it can especially on the western French Riviera, you will be staying put, docked safely at a sheltered port. Plans rest in the hands of nature. So you also need a flexible & adaptive frame of mind. 

Where can I charter a sail boat on the French Riviera? 

There are many, many boat chartering outfits on the French Riviera. If you can, visit them in person and tour the available boats on hand before booking. 

Antibes is probably the best known of the Riviera yacht chartering towns. After all, it has the largest yacht marina on the Côte d'Azur. You'll quickly notice that it also berths some of the largest luxury yachts, both chartered and private. Tucked away in the port, you'll also find human-sized charter boats too!

Cannes is also a magnet for luxury yachts, with its two harbors and its islands in front of the bay. During the Cannes Film Festival in May, you'll find a number of yachts dotting the bay and acting as luxurious floating hotels. 

Lesser known but expanding, St Raphael is currently the third largest yaching port on the French Riviera. Seaways Yachting (Thomas Godin) charters sailboats from the port of Santa Lucia in Saint-Raphael - tel as well as in Golfe-Juan. They do offer human-sized yachts that are kinder to the wallet than the luxury type. Take a look.

An interesting online outfit aggregates boats for charter across the globe: They don't own the boats, but simply act as an agency between owners who are looking to place their yachts for charter and clients looking to rent. We've never used them, or have we (yet) received feedback from users. They are gaining in popularity on the French Riviera, so they're worth a closer look.

Sailing by St Tropez



St Tropez Celebrates Lateen Sails

St Tropez: Les Voiles Latines

The star-studded village of St Tropez on the French Riviera is really a little fishing port wrapped in flashy clothes. Its 20th century rise to fame gave it a high gloss polish, but deep inside, St Tropez remains a simple sea-loving village. 

To feel St Tropez's salted soul, take part in one of its sailing events. St Tropez hosts a number of them, with the largest being the Voiles de St Tropez in early autumn.

The Voiles Latines in St Tropez

The Voiles Latines sailing regattas are fun too, and today marks the launch of their 13th edition here in St Tropez! It's a treat not to be missed if you're anywhere close.

From May 23 to 26, 2013, over sixty classic lateen sail boats will gather from around the Mediterranean in Saint-Tropez for the this event.

What are lateen sails?Lateen Sail Rig by Britannica's Definition of Lateen Sails
Britannica says they're: "Triangular sails hat were of decisive importance to medieval navigation.... The lateen is believed to have been used in the eastern Mediterranean as early as the 2nd century, possibly imported from Egypt or the Persian Gulf. Its effective use by the Arabs caused its rapid spread throughout the Mediterranean, contributing significantly to the resurgence of medieval commerce. Combined with the square sail, it produced the ocean-conquering full-rigged ship."

What should I expect during the Voiles Latines?

In St Tropez, sailboats rigged with such lateen sails will be flocking from Italy, Tunisia, Spain, France and Switerland too to take part either in the event. You can watch them sail around the bay and dock along the port in the evening. The weather is great (sunny 20°C right now, lots of wind!) so this should be a fantastic few days in St Tropez.

Expect some festive atmosphere by the harbor, water jousting ("joutes nautiques") tournaments by the bay, an open catalan market and of course regattas. 

The Voiles Latines 2013 regattas take place on Saturday, May 25 starting at 12 Noon and on Sunday, May 26 at 11AM.

Bring your binoculars and camera with zoom. 

St Tropez

Les Voiles de St Tropez 2012

Les Voiles de St Tropez are back!

If you've in the French Riviera right now, or even in greater Provence, do yourself a favor: Go to St Tropez and experience the show of grand sailboats slicing through the bay of St Tropez. It's an incredible treat you are not likely to forget.

For 2012, the Voiles event takes place from September 29, 2012 to October 7, 2012. 

And if you cannot see the show for yourself, live it vicariously on Flickr with this: slide show by Zoé with plenty of great shots by SNST (Societe Nautique Saint-Tropez, the organizing committee). 

Voiles de St Tropez 2012 in the News:

. In Nautic Web News
. From SNST, the organizing committee 


Book: Le Massif des Maures

Our hiking group recently handed me a present as we wrapped up our hiking around the French Riviera for the season. It's a book. Actually, it's a jewel.

I noticed it at the library shortly after its publication in 2007, but now I can ponder over its gorgeous photography while the Mistral wind howls too much for us to ramble. I'll share a few of its photos (all by Jean-Marc Fichaux) below:

The book includes a dash of text at the beginning of each chapter. It talks about the Chartreuse de La Verne charterhouse, the coast by the Maures, vineyards, olive trees, cork oaks, and the destructive blood-red flames of forest fires.

All writing is in French, but the photography speaks for itself. Makes a great present to those who love this lesser-known area of the French Riviera.