The Esterel Massif greatly impressed me. This ancient volcano is a palette of colors, perfect for photographers. The striking red color of the volcano diminishes or revives itself, depending on the time of day, in permanent contrast to typical Mediterranean vegetation that has found its place on this volcanic land over 250 million years. Currently, the Esterel is 32000 hectares large, which can be all toured on foot, through their trails surrounded of wild landscapes. This place isn't just for photography fans, sports enthusiasts will love it too: there are circuits equipped for them, a total of 45 km. of trails to explore on foot, 100 miles of marked bike routes and 100 km of tracks for horses. But whether you are on foot (like me), cycling or riding, you need to be a little careful: there are 14,000 hectares classified and therefore protected!. And if you want to see a bit more contrast, you can go up to the top of the mastif(the highest is 618 meters above sea level), as there you will find a breathtaking view of the blue Mediterranean Sea.
The old port of Saint Raphael has an amazing ambience in the early hours of the morning! Its filled with fisherman arriving, tourists going up to one of the ships of Saint Raphael, others just arriving for a day at the beach. During your stay in Saint Raphael you must visit the old port. It is also ideally located in the heart of the city, near the foot of the water.
Here there is constant activity. The fish market attracts all types of people- from restaurateurs to consumers, all who are eager for good fresh fish like bream, mullet, hake. There is something for everyone! Once the stands are emptied, those who are curious will not be bored. You can stroll through the garden of Bonaparte, or the shade of old plane trees in the courtyard of Jean Bart, from where you can enjoy an incredible view over the old port and the city of Saint Raphael. In summer, a night market encourages further exploration around the harbor.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Victory of Lepanto is an integral part of the city of Saint Raphael. Indeed, it stands on the old port and probably appears on most vacation photos of this area. The pink stone was extracted from Esterel and the architecture attracted my curiosity. Its dome is rounded and I was reminded me of oriental style. Indeed, the church was built in 1887 in the style that was very popular at the time: the Romanesque Byzantine. There is a character in all gold on the façade of the church that cannot be ignored. This is the representation of the archangel Raphael, the symbol of the city. The church is the last of the French churches that had reached the ranking of basilica, consecrated by Pope John Paul II on January 14, 2004.
Among Fréjus and Saint-Raphaël, you find Agay. Is a city in the bottom of a bay at the foot of Rastel of Agay, the red mountains of Esterel. The lighthouse serves as Agay's burial of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The beauty of the landscape, whether at sea or on the coast, makes it one of the most beautiful places in the Riviera. The sunsets are amazing to see.
Once you reach Dramont beach, a breathtaking view of the Golden Island unfolds before your eyes. I understood immediately why this island formed by red rocks, is thought to be one of the most beautiful in France. Right now it is private and you can't enter, but you can see it from Dramont beach, opposite the island, where you can easily unleash your imagination. There must have been sumptuous feasts in this beautiful place by its former owner, the self-proclaimed king of the island! This island inspired Hergé in his famous comic "Tintin and the Black Island". Dramont Beach was one of the main landing sites in Provence, and is a pebble beach that's good for a family picnic. There are areas to sit in the shade under the pines. It offers a wide range of sports, some of which will allow you to get a little closer to the Golden Island, for example, by kayak. From here you can also venture into the coastal road which, as its name suggests, it will take you between land and sea.
The old port and the port of Santa Lucia are two lively landmarks located in Saint Raphael. The first is located in the center of the city, the second more to the east, but its close enough that you can walk there. The port of Santa Lucia is the third port on the Riviera Coast and is an ideal starting point for exploring the Mediterranean coast, Corsica and Italy.
It has, of course, all of the services that you will need for your stay at the port and, over time, has become a real point of interest. Here, you will find plenty of shops and restaurants to choose from. With or without a boat, you'll have a very pleasant stroll through its docks (like I did), and maybe even feel like you follow the coastal road, which starts near the port that will take between land and sea. When night falls, the port is the perfect place for a fun night in one of their boats, like the "Way of Cuba" where the cocktails are excellent (in moderation, of course)!
Stroll along the Corniche d'Or is a real pleasure. This road is carved into the rock which joins Saint Raphael to Cannes. There are numerous and extremely beautiful beaches, coves and inlets. The road overlooks the Mediterranean, the deep blue of the water contrasts with the red Esterel range that it skirts. You can not help but stop many times along the way. A dip in those clear waters, a walk in the Esterel, visiting one of the many coastal towns ... The temptations are different! Since its construction in the early 20th century, the Golden Cornice has been very successful. And yes, to connect two major coastal cities is a dream! If you prefer to leave the car in the garage, no problem, you can cross the Corniche d'Or by train which allows you to enjoy amazing landscapes, between land and sea.
Why not travel by boat? There can be a lot of traffic on roads in the French Riviera during summer. The surrounding sea, deep blue, is an alternative to driving. Saint Raphael boats will take you an hour to the Great Provencal Market of Saint Tropez. Take this opportunity to leave your car in the garage! Saint Raphael boats depart from the old port of the city, but you can also use them to take a trip to the surrounding islands to see longline fishing, to discover things under the sea or the Esterel coves, or even for taking a walk of "light and sound". A little useful data: Boarding time is 20 minutes before departure. My best memory? A trip to the island of Sainte Marguerite and its famous riddle of the Iron Mask ...
A nice morning forces you to take a walk along the old port of Saint Raphael. It offers a very particular ambience at the arrival time of the fishing boats. In their nets, there are rock fish for soup or bouillabaisse, and scorpion fish, red mullet and lobster. The fish market is on the port, where you can buy fresh fish every day anytime after 7:30 am. Fishermen don't hesitate to offer recipes and cooking tips for preparing fish. Some vessels longline fish, while others use baskets, for lovers of the golden, wide-eyed, shrimp or deep water fish. Even if you don't want to buy fish, it's a good place to enjoy this morning atmosphere in the old port.
It was a hot summer afternoon when I discovered the night market of Saint Raphael. After sunset, the liveliness in the old port doesn't decrease, rather the opposite. Artisans and traders set up their stalls on the shore offering their products to passersby. Jewelry, clothing, paintings, ... something for everyone. Even if you don't want to buy anything, we recommend diving through this family atmosphere, particularly the coastal cities of the French Riviera. Bear in mind it's only in summer, from 8 pm to midnight. The rest of the year there are other markets with a different environment depending on their location in the city: food markets, fish, craft markets, antique shops, ... Saint Raphael municipality does not lack markets!