Port Grimaud, historic village of Grimaud & St Tropez

Saturday in Saint-Tropez started in stark contrast to our daybreak just 24 hours earlier. And that was a good thing - the weather in Saint-Tropez was beautiful: a perfect sunny day with a clear blue sky and a temperature of about 28°c with no hint of humidity. Did we say perfect? Oh yeah...we did, but it bears repeating. Or, in light of the venue...parfaite!

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    We rose early to watch the ship’s approach into Saint-Tropez and met up with Shaun & Nona for breakfast at 7:45am. It was an easy choice to find a spot on the open deck at the back of the ship to enjoy breakfast outside in the sun. By the time we were eating the ship had already anchored in the Bay of Saint-Tropez (Golfe de Saint Tropez) and the sea was pleasantly calm. Following breakfast we did a quick freshen up back in our room then set off to the Cabaret Lounge in preparation for our tour. We didn’t need to wait too long before we set off to the gangway. Stepping onto the tender was a joy compared to the previous day’s adventure. It was a short and calm ride to the shore where we met our tour guide and boarded a bus that would take us to our first stop of Port Grimaud.

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  • Port Grimaud

    It was a quick trip to cover the approximate 7 km distance from Saint-Tropez to Port Grimaud. Our guide gave us an overview of the area and our itinerary along the way. Port Grimaud itself is a fairly new community - built in three phases starting in 1960. The seaside and affluent resort town was built in the style of Venetian canals but the buildings being very definitely French style. Port Grimaud is mostly traffic free, so as we arrived our bus parked outside the main entrance of the town and we set off on foot to explore this pretty community. We started the tour proper in the Market Square, the central hub of Port Grimaud.

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      It was very quiet and peaceful on this Saturday morning, but one can imagine the restaurants and cafés being full of vibrant life through the evening in this pretty little pleasure town. We took a short walking tour of the town, crossing over canals on bridges of varied styles, but it was obvious that the only way to clearly see the town properly was from the water. Each house in Port Grimaud had a boat berth, and travel by water was indeed the way to get around. We ended up back at the Market Square and boarded a tour boat that would give us that tour. It was extremely peaceful to float on the canals and enjoy the sights that Port Grimaud has to offer. It wasn’t hard to see how Port Grimaud was a very desirable place for vacation property. The boat tour returned to the Market Square and from this point we had some time to wander around the town on our own. We started by looking at Eglise St-Francois-d’Assise, a modern looking church that was completed in 1973 and which contains the tomb of Port Grimaud architect Francois Spoerry. A look inside the church provided a nice respite from the sun and also provided a look at the wonderful modern stained glass windows created by Hungarian-French artist Victor Vasarely.

      At this point we split up for a moment - Gary & Nona opting to take the walk up to the top of the church’s clock tower while Shaun & Linda preferred to stay closer to sea level and search for some gelato. The reward for taking the walk up the bell tower was a terrific view of Port Grimaud as well as the Bay of Saint-Tropez off in the slight distance. From that vantage point to was clear to see Azamara Journey anchored in the bay. Once they were finished drinking in the view, Gary & Nona returned to the Market Square and also decided to sample some of Port Grimaud’s gelato. There were a number of places to get gelato, so it was just a matter of picking the most desirable looking one. We met back up before Gary and Nona purchased their gelato from the same place that Shaun & Linda had selected and the caramel sea salt gelato acknowledged as a great choice. Delicious indeed. That brings up an interesting question - which is better, Italian or French? There was absolutely nothing wrong with this French gelato, but the consensus was it had to be Italian...but then, maybe more sampling of both was required...just to be sure! With the gelato all licked up we took an enjoyable stroll around Port Grimaud until it was about time for us to head back to the bus for the next stop of the village of Grimaud.

  • Village of Grimaud

    The approximately 5km trip to the historic village of Grimaud was mostly up hill from where the bus parked we continued walking up hill past the 18th century Chapelle Saint Roch and the 13th century Eglise Saint Michel until reaching an open area outside the town hall of Grimaud. The village sits about 500 metres above sea level and provides a nice view of the Bay of Saint-Tropez (Golfe de Saint Tropez).

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      Incidentally, until the end of the 19th century the bay used to be called Golfe de Grimaud - which, like the town, was named after the family that still reigns in nearby Monaco: Grimaldi. The significance of the name here is that Prince Albert’s ancient ancestor Gibelin de Grimaldi helped drive the Saracens out of the area in AD973 and was rewarded with this land. Nice payment.

      We took a wonderful walking tour of this very pretty medieval village and every turn on the narrow stone streets provided another beautiful view. What we see today is the village that began life in the 11th century, but village life here started much earlier - dating back to the 3rd century Gallo-Roman era. What stands over the village of Grimaud is now just the partial remains of the 11th century castle that had a great vantage point on the top of the hill overlooking any potential attack from the sea. Recognizing that not everyone in the tour would be interested in making the inclined approach to the castle ruins, our guide finished the formal tour of the village and arranged the time for all to meet back at the bus. With that, we set of to storm the castle! It was worth the climb. We were glad we had made the effort to get to explore the castle ruins and enjoy the picturesque views from every direction from this great vantage point.

      We had plenty of time to enjoy the castle ruins at a leisurely pace before we decide to head back down to the village and make our way towards the windmill we could see from the castle ruins. Our path took us back through the village until we found the way that would get us to the 17th century stone and wood windmill. It stands on a gentle hill overlooking the village’s cemetery so we decided to take a look through the cemetery on our way back to where we’d meet up with the rest of the tour group and our bus. It was interesting to walk through the cemetery and notice the style of graves. Quite a number of them had an image of the person mounted somewhere on the grave. A beautiful olive tree stands near the centre of the cemetery - the imagery of life together with the flour grinding windmill with that of death in the cemetery. Our time was drawing to a close in Grimaud, so from the cemetery we made the relatively short walk back to where our bus was parked. Our next stop was back in Saint-Tropez, which would be the end of the formal tour but we’d have plenty of time to enjoy Saint-Tropez on our own.

  • Saint-Tropez

    Our bus took us to near the location that the tenders would leave to head back to Azamara Journey, but we were in no hurry to re board the ship - Saint-Tropez was waiting. We walked to the Port of Saint-Tropez (Vieux Bassin) and took in the ambience - a very busy place with plenty of artists set up all around the port and lots of people walking between the artists on one side and the cafés, restaurants and shops on the other. There is no missing the fact that tourism is the number one industry in Saint-Tropez. By the look of the boats in port, there was no shortage of money in or visiting Saint-Tropez - it certainly did have the feel of a playground for the rich and famous.

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      We decided that firstly we’d head towards the Citadelle perched up above Saint-Tropez on its hillside lookout. From where we had started, we were learning quickly that the map of Saint-Tropez that we’d received on Azamara Journey was less than useful - it was confusing, so it was easier to use our instincts to reach the base of the Citadelle’s hill, or montée à la citadelle, which we did okay with because we were greeted by a sign indicating “Accès Difficile”. The route up didn’t look too bad to us, but presumably the municipal authority must felt the need to protect itself legally. We made the trip up, and the issue was really that the steps made of stone fill with heavy wood nosing wasn’t too even and if you weren’t sure footed it would be fairly easy to trip. Anyway, we made our way up and once inside the Citadelle it more climbing up to reach the top where we could enjoy some wonderful views of Saint-Tropez, the bay and the open water of the beautiful blue Mediterranean Sea.

      The Citadelle dates back to the 16th century when it was built to project the area and today it not only provides spectacular views but is also the location of a navel museum. Some of the canons or the remains of cannons used in the defence of Saint-Tropez through to the 18th century have been placed in the areas they once occupied in anger to divert one’s mind briefly from the wonderful views. As we walked to side of the Citadelle facing the open Mediterranean Sea we could see the beginnings of some sort of sailing regatta - seemed like a pretty big deal, although we weren’t anywhere near close enough to get a real sense of the event. Having exhausted all there was to see of and from the Citadelle we made our way back down to enjoy more of Saint-Tropez. We were starting to feel a bit hungry and decided to find a spot to eat, which turned out to be harder than we anticipated - it was mid-afternoon by this point and a lot of restaurants had closed between the lunchtime and dinnertime. It also looked like some of the shops had also closed for a spell during the afternoon. We ended up walking back to the port where we were pretty sure the restaurants would still be open being in the more touristy area of town. It took a bit to find one that was to our liking and with that we sat down for a late lunch.

      Next on the agenda was a bit more of a walking tour of Saint-Tropez with the intention to head towards Place des Lices - which the guide information we had presented it as “the heart of the Saint-Tropez”. This is the location where the town holds open air markets under the shade of seven rows of century old trees. No market was on at the time of our visit, but we did see what also is popular in this area - a couple of enthusiastic games of boules (or lawn bowling, even though it wasn’t being played on grass) being played by men. They were playing in the areas of greatest shade, of course. After we left Place des Lices, we decided to back track a bit to check out Musée de L’Annonciade located in the south west corner of the Vieux Bassin. It was a good choice on two fronts - getting a some nice air conditioned rest from the day’s heat and getting to enjoy some nice art from artists such as Paul Signac, Georges Seurat and Henri Matisse to name but a few. With that we drank in a bit more of the ambience of Vieux Bassin and then began the stroll back to the location where we’d be able to catch a tender back to Azamara Journey.

Back to Azamara Journey

Back on Azamara Journey in the late afternoon it was good to relax a bit and enjoy the view of Saint-Tropez from our balcony. After a bit of rest and refreshment we opted to visit the Mosaic Café once again for a nice cappuccino and a chat about our glorious day in Saint-Tropez.

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Following our coffee break we went up to the open deck on Deck 10 and watched the band and singers practising for a dance party scheduled to start at 9:00pm and also watched the final preparations for a Mediterranean Outdoor Buffet that was just about to start on Deck 9 with some additional tables being set up on Deck 10. While the buffet looked good, we opted to return to Discoveries for the normal good service and great food brought to us. As more and more people started to arrive to enjoy stake their claim of a table and enjoy the buffet we decided to make our way back to our room to get cleaned up and ready for dinner ourselves. We went to dinner around 8:00pm and weren’t disappointed by our choice - the food and service was at the level we had come to expect at Discoveries. By the time we had finished dinner and made our way back to the open deck the “Rock the Boat” dance party was in full swing. We went up to Deck 10 to look down on the party taking place one deck below.

At 11:00pm the show changed dramatically - with a fireworks display taking place off the coast of Saint-Tropez. We couldn't find out definitively, but common sense says the fireworks were somehow connected to the sailing regatta that we saw part of earlier in the day. It was fun to watch the fireworks display that seemed to last a pretty long time...and we had a great vantage point on the open deck of Azamara Journey. It was clear to recognize the building crescendo nearing the final burst of fireworks as the display drew to a close, and once it dissipated our ship started a cacophony of horns that echoed throughout the bay in appreciation of the show we had just seen. For us, the fireworks were a fitting end to a wonderful day in Saint-Tropez.

Final thoughts on Saint-Tropez? It truly is a beautiful part of the world, with lovely landscapes and great views pretty much in every direction. The elevated views from the castle in Grimaud and the Citadelle in Saint-Tropez were absolutely spectacular. It was busy, particularly around the port in St Tropez, yet there did seem to be a laid back feel to the place. We could easily see ourselves returning to Saint-Tropez.

The excitement was building. Tomorrow...Monaco.

St Tropez Image Gallery

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About WHITEonline

WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.

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