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Trip Report for France: May 7th-18th 2013

May 2013
by Steve Baker | sbaker@wimco.com

Jean and I had a fun, informative trip to the South of France. We spent an interesting three days in the area between Cannes and Monaco, (Côte d’Azur,) and then a lovely week in and around St Tropez. We saw a number of villas and a few hotels and also had time to get explore the areas.

Norm arranged an excellent schedule with British Airways via London both ways.  I was delighted to see that our London arrivals and departures were all from Heathrow’s terminal 5, as we had almost missed a flight on the last trip to France when switching Heathrow terminals by bus. Terminal 5 is still complicated since there is a main terminal and also terminals 5B and 5C. We arrived at terminal 5B on the way over and then had to take the shuttle train to the main terminal, go through security and then find our gate to Nice, all of which took about an hour.

 Our first hotel was a 35-minute drive from the Nice airport and a 3-minute drive from the beautiful hill town of Valbonne inland from Cannes. La Bastide de Valbonne is owned by a couple – she’s Belgian and he’s Italian-- and they have a wonderful if simple hotel with a pool. Their amenities were enhanced by the scent of abundant local herbs. It was a good quiet base of operations as we found the city and coastal traffic quite hectic, especially in Cannes and Nice.

We enjoyed dining on the square in Valbonne, and ate at the Café des Arcades twice.


Caprese Salad in Valbonne

On May 9th, we visited a few villas in downtown Cannes, Villauris, Beaulieu and Villefranche. We then inspected villas in Mougins, Le Rouret, La Colle sur Loup, Antibes, and Villefranche on May 10th and 11th. There was quite a variety of villas from very basic family accommodations to a stunning, perfect 10-bedroom villa, AZR 178, in La Colle sur Loup. It has a tennis court, small soccer field, billiards table, ping pong and much more.

In the afternoon on May 10th, Jean and I drove around to see some of the medieval hillside villages and had a nice lunch in Mougins on market day. On the afternoon of May 11th, after visiting several villas in Villefranche, we had lunch high on the hillside between Villefranche and Eze and then drove two hours to St Tropez and our hotel, the B Lodge, on the edge of the village which is a sister property to the Tom Beach hotel on St Barts. 

The B Lodge is very convenient as guests can walk to the port area, the Place des Lices and restaurants and shops throughout St Tropez. The bathrooms in the hotel are small and the hotel has only 2 parking spaces, but we enjoyed it and it was a good value when compared with nearby 4-5 star hotels such as Byblos and Le Yaca.

St Tropez was quite busy during our visit with the Women’s Cup regatta (Coupes des Dames) and the celebration of Les Bravades which commemorates the Tropezien militia’s defense of the town from of a fleet of Spanish galleons in 1637. 


Naval Re-enactors for les Bravades

The Place des Lices was quite empty when we arrived in St Tropez and was in use by only a few boules players and people sitting in cafes that line the Place. Then on Tuesday, market day, the Place was transformed into a colorful and busy market with at least 100 booths for flowers, fruits and vegetables, cheese, antiques and clothing. Then, a carnival was set up on the Place during Les Bravades. It’s a very versatile facility.


Market Day -- Place des Lices

The villas around St Tropez were mostly being readied for the season – there was a lot of rain during the winter and spring, so most properties were green and flowers were starting to bloom; the roses were beautiful at many villas.

 Roses

On May 13th, we saw villas in the St Tropez area, and moved onto Cavalaire the next day.

We had lunch at the Café de France in Grimaud on the 14th and then visited villa CEN CTH – quite nice. For more about CEN CTH, see our detailed blog post. We then went to see a new modern 7 bedroom in les Parcs de St Tropez called CEN CRO, which has everything – nice rectangular pool, well manicured grounds and a grass tennis court!

We toured a number of villas on the 15th, including one of my favorites, ACV ENT. A spacious and modern villa with 2-3 master bedrooms, ACT ENT has 6 bedrooms total. The grounds are lovely with views of a vineyard. You can easily walk to les Salins beach in under 10 minutes. The villa itself is equipped with a fitness room with TV, shower and toilet. Later that day, we had lunch at Le Pescadou in Gassin village – I had a small caprese salad and a huge pot of steamed mussels with onion/garlic sauce – wow! 

Our dining experiences were excellent over all– my favorite was a tiny tapas restaurant not far from our hotel in St Tropez called Le Dit Vin. We enjoyed wine and tapas like duck en brochette with a great sauce and a delicious spiced fried shrimp dish. We also met a couple of expats in St Tropez – she’s American and does private teaching for young children and her Spanish lover is a chef who trained for years in Japan  – we were lucky enough to partake in a special sushi dinner he was preparing in a bistro near our hotel – amazing!

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