Over the Bounding Main

Thursday, April 14, 2011 Road Junkies 1 Comments

Day #44:  Nice to Saint-Tropez, France

Stretching some 90 miles from the Italian border westward to Saint-Tropez, the Cote d'Azur (Azure Coast), or French Riviera, was one of the world's first modern resort areas.  British aristocrats were the first to make this area their winter retreat, arriving in the late 1700s.  With the advent of rail service in the mid-19th century, wealthy visitors flocked to this spectacular coast from Britain, Russia, and other parts of Europe.  Writers and artists such as Picasso and Huxley arrived in the twentieth century along with celebrities and other foreign nationals who established part-time or full-time homes in the area.
Monte Carlo Casino
With all that wealth spread about, the French Riviera became a major boating and yachting destination, today offering 33 harbors that can accommodate the world's most luxurious vessels.  Driving along the coast from Nice to Saint-Tropez today, we passed one port after another with hundreds of sailboats.  In some harbors, the boats were so numerous, their masts looked like a forest of odd looking trees.
Cannes Harbor
According to local tourism statistics, this magical portion of the Mediterranean coasts plays host to half of the world's superyachts each year.  They claim further that 90% of these mega units will visit the French Riviera at some point in their career.
Lady Nag Nag and other superyachts at Monaco harbor
Vanquish
Since these boats are beautiful to admire but quite expensive to own, opportunities abound for yachting wannabes to be a captain for a day or more with or without a crew.  For example, you can rent the 120-foot Vanquish with a crew of four for a mere $20,000 per day or the slightly discounted weekly rate of $137,000.  Many, many other vessels are eagerly waiting the opportunity to provide the average visitor with deep, deep pockets a taste of the grand life of the French Riviera.

Our adventures today lay on land, however, and were considerably more economical.  France is the first country we've visited on this trip that has more than a handful of letterboxes.  Today we found three boxes in a group aptly named the French Riviera series.  One search took us to the heart of the Saint-Tropez harbor, another to an area beach, and the third to a stunningly beautiful section of the coast.
CapTaillat
The steep Cap Taillat peninsula is connected to the mainland near Saint-Tropez with a thin isthmus of land.  The contrast of rocky shores and turquoise water combined with a profusion of wild flowers to create a beautiful seaside vista.  Hiking trails ran up and down the hills inviting exploration.  And to think, we probably would never have discovered this little jewel of the Cote d'Azur had we not gone there searching for a letterbox. 


Cote d'Azur Stats
Sailboats:  24,918
Superyachts:  1,943
Megayachts:  132
Hyperyachts:  27
Supermega yachts:  10
Hypersupermega yachts:  2