travel

3.    From St Tropez to Cassis

Where to stay La Suite, Cassis

Description: hotel born from the French dream of a German stylist, Herbert Hufnagel

hotel born from the French dream of a German stylist, Herbert Hufnagel

The most striking thing about this three-bedroom guest house, which opened in July 2009, is the stunning geometrical mastery of indoor/outdoor space, designed to make the most of its views of the sparkling Mediterranean sea and Cap Canaille, a monumental limestone cliff that turns deep red at sunset. It’s no wonder that Herbert Hufnagel, a German interior designer, fell in love with the site, redesigning what was once a drab village house into a dazzling villa of glass, rock and stone. Each room is unique, decorated with an eclectic mix of Hufnagel’s finds from Africa, Indonesia, Mexico, Bali and Moroccan souks. Guests will always finds a quiet corner on the immense white terrace, but each room also has a private patio. After breakfast – an elegant array of fresh croissants, brown bread, mangoes, figs, strawberries and homemade jams – take a dip from the town’s prettiest pebble beach. La Plage du Bestouan, across the road.

Hôtel La Figuière, Ramatuelle

Description: C:\Users\Administrator\Desktop\New folder (2)\7120095.jpg

Hôtel La Figuière, Ramatuelle

Off a leafy road midway between St Tropes and the Pampelonne beaches, La Figuière is an unassuming, 41-bedroom country hotel surrounded by vineyards. It is also one of the most affordable places to stay in the area, even in high season, which is why chic Parisians book the same room year after year for extended stays. A family affair, La Figuière is run by Cécile Chaix and her mother Monique, both true-blue Tropezians. “My grandfather bought this bastide in 1964 and built seven rooms,” says Cécile, who has gradually added to the property. Drinks are served on the terrace, and there’s a small pool house for snacks and breakfast; the landscaped garden is ablaze with purple and pink bougainvillaea and white olender. Don’t be put off by the run-down, grey exterior of the row of rooms at the back – the – no – fuss style is as authentic as it gets: Souleiado print fabrics and red-and-white tiled bathrooms. If you tired of the peace and quiet, the port, boutiques and beaches of St Tropez are just a short troll away.

Le Mas des Romarins Ile des Embiez

Description: The Ile des Embiez

The Ile des Embiez

The Ile des Embiez-a tiny island off the coast of Six-Fours, near Bandol – is best known as the fiefdom of Paul Ricard, the famed Marseillais entrepreneur who invented Pastis in the 1930s. There’s no escaping his legacy, which includes an Oceanography Institute and Museum, and the ubiquitous bottles of Pastis sold in every shop on the island. Only a 12-minute ferry ride from the mainland, it’s a popular destination with family day-trippers, but has begun to attract a more discerning clientele since Le Mas des Tomarins opened in 2009. A five-bedroom ProvenÇal-style guest house in a sprawling, two-storey farmhouse, it feels more like a home that a B&B. The rooms are simple but comfortable, with taupe linen bedspreads and rattan furnishings; the large bathrooms have tubs and double sinks. There is a vast kitchen to whip up your own dinner (the island has a grovery shop but foodies might prefer to bring a basket of goodies from Bandol). A private gate opens onto a garden of sweet-smelling jasmine, rosemary, magnolia and fig trees and a stone splash pool. If you ignore a smattering of bungalows and caravans, the island is a car-less treasure trove of wild inlets, limpid turquoise creeks, and is great for snorkeling or biking under the umbrella pines.

Château de Valmer, La Croix-Valmer

Description:  Hotel Château de Valmer - La Croix-Valmer

 Hotel Château de Valmer - La Croix-Valmer

The charming coastal town of La Croix-Valmer, south-west of St Tropez, is surrounded by windswept umbrella pines with not a designer shop in sight. Château de Valmer is a genuine, 42-bedroom bastide, owned by the Rocchietta family since 1949, set in six-hectare grounds planted with ancient oaks and vines. A smart, low-key retreat, it has lovely bright rooms, two terrific restaurants (one down at the beach), home-grown organic wine, a glass-walled spa offering Carita and Cinq Mondes treatments, an outdoor pool and a heated indoor pool. The hotel’s star attractions are two re-cedar tree house overlooking the vineyards. Each has a canopied bed, squirrel-themed knick-knacks, vintage furniture, a large porch, plus a bathroom stocked with Cinq Mondes toiletries. Gigaro Beach, a curve of white sand which is uncrowded even in high season, is just a 10-minute walk down the palm-lined path.

Where to eat La Verdoyante, Gassin

Description: La Verdoyante, Gassin

La Verdoyante, Gassin

You could easily mistake this pretty farmhouse for a private family home. In fact it’s a temple to the regional terroir cuisine long popular with locals. This is a place for a long leisurely meal on the terrace. Young chef Laurent Mouret’s menu features ProvenÇcal classics with a modern twist; scallops and avocado crumnle, foie gras with dates and gingerbread; wild mushroom risotto with walnuts, tender beef stew with gnocchi. Two neighbouring vineyards produce an elegant fruite rosé that’s de rigueur on summer nights. The five-course menu is exceptionally good value.

La Rasteque, Bormes-les-Mimosas

Description: La Rasteque, Bormes-les-Mimosas

La Rasteque, Bormes-les-Mimosas

La Rasteque is at the foot of Borme-les-Mimosas, an unspoiled village of narrow streets and flower-lined squares ad fountains. Young chef Jerôme Masson (who trained at Michelin-starred Villa Belrose with Thierry Thiercelin) dishes up delicious regional specialities, guided by the best seasonal produce. The small, changing menu starts with classics such as a brochette of grilled prawns and delicately stuffed courgette flowers, just enough to tantalise your taste buds for main dishes of warm lobster with ginger carrots, roast lamb with polenta, or pork filet mignon drizzled with lemon-thyme juice.

Auberge de la Môle, St Tropez

Description: Auberge de la Môle, St Tropez

Auberge de la Môle, St Tropez

Formerly a 1960s roadside gas station, this unpretentious, family-run restaurant has been serving a five-course fixed menu of home-cooked, southwestern specialities for 50 years. The signature dish is a plump and tender Tournedos Rossini – steak topped with a gargantuan slab of foie gras – served with potato cakes with truffles. Then comes the enormous cheese platter, followed by mousse au chocolat (other dessert include crème caramel the way grandmère made it, and pears poached in wine).

Weather to go

Description: The region enjoys a warm summer

The region enjoys a warm summer

The region enjoys a warm summer, peaking in August with temperatures reaching 28­­­oC. August and September are fine months to explore the secret side of the Côte d’Azur.

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