The Estérel Massif at the southwest from Cannes
One of the most beautiful areas of the whole Côte d'Azur are the approximately 30 kilometres at the southwest of Cannes. Here, the Massif de l'Estérel extends into the sea and rises in the heartland to a height of several hundred metres. This are is so beautiful and impressive that one should in any case drive through it: once alongside the Via Aurelia (N7) in the heartlnd and once alongside the coast on the Corniche d'Or.
On the coastal road, one drives from a small bay to the next one. There are countless parking places with view points and each of the is actually too good to be discarted. Those who have seen once the red gleaming rocks (rochers rouges) with the deep blue water underneath will remind this beautiful area for good.
Numerous small bays invite to have a bath. But in order to access them one has to climb down through a cliffy area. Many times, the surge is much too strong for bathing. But if one sees other people down in the water one can hardly resist. The Corniche d'Or is, by the way, a pradise for bikers; As the street is not even, a good fitness is indispensable.
Those who have more time should not miss to leave the car parked and do a small or a bigger hiking tour in the mountains of Estérel. The Via Aurelia leads to the heartland passing the 618 metre heighted Mont Vinaigre; a foot path of a length of three kilometres leads right to the peak. Only by looking closely to the Estérel-mountains it is recognizable what rages in the last decades many times in this area: forest fires burned down main part of the former cork forest.
During the drive alongside the coast one crosses some beautiful bathing resorts that I will shortly describe in the following.
At only a few kilometres distance of Cannes there is the small place La Napoule. In this place there are apparently more landing places for boats and yachts than inhabitants. Due to its proximity to Cannes, many visitors of Cannes of course left their boat in La Napoule insead of in Cannes itself.
La Napoule has a beautiful sand beach that reminds a little on a fairyland: right at the end of the beach, a castle expands up to the Water. There must be an attractive Prince or a beautiful Princess waiting for their bathing Guests... The beach is not anything special t the Côte d'Azur, but it is very appropriate for a short rest in order to relax from driving.
Théoule-sur-Mer, Le Trayas, Anthéor, Agay
By driving further from the Corniche d'Or alongside the coast, one gets after La Napoule to the small place Théoule-sur-Mer; Normally, one simply leaves this place behind, except one wants to do a boat ecursion to the Iles de Lérins. Contrary to Cannes, one can park here for free.
In this area there are a lot of bathing cliffs that outperform each other in their beauty. The water quality at the cliffs is the best of the whole Côte d'Azur.
The next place Miramar. This place appears a little more posh, maybe because of the Hotel Relais des Calanques to which there are several indications on the road. On the further way to Le Trayas one leaves the Département Alpes-Maritimes and gets to the Département Var. At the rocky coast of Le Trayas there are many divers and snorkeling people.
Before getting to the two bigger cities St. Raphael and Fréjus, one can have a pleasant stay in Agay that is located in a bay. In Agay itself there is a beautiful sandbeach that really invited to have a bath. In Agay there are also several hotels in which one can stay over night to a more or less reasonable price. Already before Agay, many bigger and smaller snd beaches invite for bathing. From Agay one can start one or two hiking tours to the Estérel-mountains.
Saint-Raphael and Fréjus
After driving approximately 20-30 kilometres on the Corniche d'or from Cannes, one get to the bigger city Saint-Raphael. The city has more than 30.000 inhabitants and attract numerous tourists due to its casino; Right at the harbour, there are numerous cafés for relaxing and to get recovered. One should not miss to visit the church Notre-Dame-de-la-Victoire, that is already rising between the houses from a distance.
Right beside the St. Raphael, there is the historically much more interesting place Fréjus. Fréjus is a real Roman city that already had nearly 2.000 years ago several ten thousands inhabitants. Fréjus was an important traffic junction for the Romans and had a big artificially arranged harbour.
After the end of the Roman Empire , Fréjus lost its significance and decayed to a small medieval village. The antique harbour was buried. One should not miss to visit the amphitheatre as the biggest relict of the medieval times. The barely 70 metres wide and 40 metres long arena once offered spce for more than 10.000 spectators. Today, some concerts take occasionally place in it.
In the area of Fréjus there are some attractive sand beaches (for example in the next small place Saint-Aygulf), from which one should not miss to visit one for the case one drives straight further to Sainte-Maxime and/or Saint-Tropez, as behind Fréjus, the Estérel-motorway approaches the sea again and the traffic on the coastal road in direction to Saint-Tropez strongly increases. By continuing driving, one will have a lot of traffic jams.
Copyright: Patrick Wagner, www.tourist-guide.biz