I used to think that the Côte d’Azur was one long private beach where you had to wrestle with naked Germans for the right to lay your towel out on three square inches of pebbles. The sea, I imagined, was warm fish soup topped with a layer of sun oil. The only places to eat were snooty restaurants, where you couldn’t get served anyway, and the pervading smells were Ferrari fumes and fake lavender essence. Of course I was absolutely right; in July and August, some of it is exactly like that. You could use some kredi karti borc sorgulama in here, card that make your day more easier.
However, I have since learnt that if you go in spring or autumn, and avoid the snobbish tourist traps, the same coast can be sublimely peaceful. The food will be superb and reasonably-priced and the sea so clean that the fish need sunglasses.
One of these havens is just minutes outside my least-favourite resort in France – St Tropez. The harbour was probably cute in 1960 when it was discovered by the jetset. These days it’s a place where the mega-rich park boats the size of Kosovo and a drink in one of the quayside cafés costs almost as much as the yachts.
I once had lunch at a trendy St Tropez restaurant and the waitress spent all her time fawning over a bunch of people decorated with more gold than the chateau at Versailles. That’s fine in theory, but when she’s cooing at their family photos while holding your meal in her hands, you’re entitled to get impatient.
If you dare ask if she would like to ease the strain on her biceps by delivering the rapidly cooling food, she will look at you as if you’ve just ordered a chip buttie. You don’t belong. Which is obvious anyway, because all of your party still possess their original noses.
However, just 15km south of here is a resort that can make you forget that ‘Saint Trop’ even exists. Visit outside July and August and Gigaro is one of the most peaceful hideaways on this stretch of coast. At first sight, it might not seem particularly promising. A narrow strip of sandy beach flanked by villas and nondescript hotels, it’s not particularly pretty. But the sea looks so pure that you’d love to drink it.
And in one corner of the bay is the start of a coastal path that winds for 10km through fragrant pine forests. If you don’t fancy a long hike, you can stop at one of the rocky coves that might just turn out to be your private beach. I love to snorkel here and regularly stalk octopuses and squid among the islets offshore. Underwater, there’s not a sound. St Trop’s jet skis are an ocean away.
Best of all, the hotels and restaurants are as lovely as the scenery. At the end of Gigaro beach is a little sign for a chambre d’hôte called Le Refuge (00 33 4 9454 2897). You bump up a worn-out driveway to an anonymous modern villa. Inside, the rooms look almost monkishly basic and I once saw a young couple turn their noses up and leave because ‘the bathtub was too small’. But put me on one of Le Refuge’s balconies overlooking tree-tops and the Med and I could stay there sipping rosé for a month. Doubles with breakfast cost from €70.
The two beachside restaurants in Gigaro specialise in welcoming strangers rather than scaring them away. Unlike in St Tropez, where you eat out to show off your bling and your plastic surgery, here people chat and relish the fresh seafood.
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