Dr. Hoffer's Travel Site This site was last updated 12/19/11
FRAN2005 #19 Busy St. Tropez
Thursday July 7, 2005
I woke up at 9:00 and at 10:00 I got up and by 10:35 I was on my run to Fréjus' old town, in contrast to the beach and marina part. As you can see our hotel room was very nice especially the balcony with the cool sea breeze.
Our room was the balcony on the second floor (which is really the 3rd floor.)
Fréjus (pop 52,000) was the first city in Gaul (old France) founded by Julius Caesar when he marched in here in 49 BC and conquered it. As I approached the old town I found a stationary store open and went in and bought some markers to mark the map as we travel (I forgot to bring one with me.) I arrived in the center of town at 11:10 (which is semi-piétonne or semi-pedestrian - whatever that means) and saw the Hôtel de Ville (city hall). I begin to notice that there are statues of Mary high up on many corners of buildings.
I found the central square and went went into their cathedral, St-Léonce et Cloître. The statues of the praying bishops in front of their coffins was interesting.
The Baptistery (circular part) was built in the 5th Century, the cloister in the 12th Century. Around the back of the church in the cloister, I found the Musée Archéologique (Roman Museum). It wasn't huge but it was very interesting. Here are some of the things I saw:
A Roman mosaic tile floor in excellent condition featuring a great cat.
Roman pottery, sculptures and the famous two-faced head, the symbol of the city.
The 3-D rendition of Roman Fréjus was very interesting.
After the museum, I settled for a cappuccino at a nearby outdoor café and by 11:40 I was walking back to the hotel and almost got lost but not quite. On the way I saw this center of a traffic circle with an artistic rendering of the two-faced statue I saw in the museum which is the city's symbol.
I went by the marina which is very nice and then I got a photograph of the memorial to the North African soldiers who gave their lives in defense of France in Southeast Asia. It is located on Fréjusplage.
I also saw some interesting art pieces in several of the galleries. Fréjus is also noted for artists.
This is a photo of the beach area in Fréjus that was in a store window. You can see the marina on the left and St. Raphaël harbor on the right. St. Raphaël is where Napoleon landed in 1799 on his return from Egypt. Our hotel was on the beach a little left of center.
When I got back to the hotel I got into a good conversation with Emmanuel Quarteroni who is a nice young man and is the Manager of the hotel. He is pictured below with Sondrine who was also very helpful to me.
Emmanuel told me that his grandfather and his aunt own the property but because estate tax laws are so bad in France it would be cheaper for him to buy another hotel than to accept inheritance of this one now. I explained how George Bush had changed the estate tax laws in America and that it was best to die in 2012 when the tax is zero than in 2013 when it goes back to 60%. He let me get on his new WiFi Internet for free and I did email, uploaded the website and downloaded Rush Limbaugh.
He is doing a very good job beefing up this old place and I would recommend any one to come and stay here. The place is great, the rooms are nice, the people are wonderful and the price is fair. If you want to book a room contact Emmanuel at Emmanuel.Quarteroni@wanadoo.fr or call +33-(0)4-94-51-1872.
At 4:00 we reluctantly packed up and checked out of the hotel and while we were doing that there was an electrical blackout, so that ended my internet excursion. At 4:30 we drove over to the Romain Téâtro (Roman Theater) and toured that.
Then at 4:45 we went over to see the remnants of the Roman Aqueduct and the old gate to the city (far in the background on the left).
Nearby was this monument erected to the words of Charles De Gaulle.
At 5:00 we drove over to see the Romain Arénas (Roman Arena) but they were having a military event there and they weren't letting anyone in or around it. I had Marcia drop me off and I approached the policeman and told him I just wanted to photograph the outside. He told me, "Okay but you can't go inside." I said that's fine. I started walking and took pictures of the outside of this beautiful arena.
Then I came to a gate with a military truck sitting in the center of the entrance. A couple pushing a baby carriage were exiting by going past the truck - I noticed that they had cameras. So I just ambled nonchalantly passed the truck saying "bon jour" to the military driver and walked into the center of the arena and took this photo and stitched it later. Amazing what you can see if you just don't accept NO the first time you hear it.
Using the telephones, we found each other again and at 5:15 we were on the road to St. Tropez. At 7:00, we stopped off to visit the Port-Grimaud canals. The city of Grimaud is surrounding a castle at the top of a hill (which we skipped) but decided to stop and see the creation of the canals.
Above right is the map of all the canals. This fellow, François Spoerry, came up with the idea in 1966 to do what Abbott Kinney did in Venice, CA, that is, build a city of canals like Venice. We walked for a long time looking for the restaurant to get a soda but then finally gave up and went back to the car. I noticed the license plates on the cars parked near the yachts were from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Monte Carlo. This place is a little ritzier than our Venice.
Marcia then drove the 22 miles along the coast to get to St. Tropez and as we approached the town, we could see that the traffic was totally nuts. St. Tropez sits on the north side of a peninsula and you have to drive all the way down one side of the bay and around the bend to get there (left map). The marina dominates the little town with its squeezed-in tiny streets (right map.)
We first drove into town and saw this hotel which I thought was charming and would be a good bet but Marcia drove too far past it and the traffic swept us away.
I finally put the address in the GPS of the hotel that Emmanuel had recommended and it took us all the way out of town to a luxury resort. I walked in and there was no one at the desk. Finally this young woman came running down the hill and was very happy to inform me that the hotel was completely full and she had no idea where I might find a room. After softening her up a little, so she could catch her breath, she finally relented and said they have a sister hotel in the heart of town and only after begging would she agree to call and see if they had a room. She did and they told her there is only one left and they would only hold it for me for 30 minutes. So we headed out in a hurry. These are the times when things that are hit and miss wind up pretty good. It took us a half hour fighting the traffic all the way back into the center of town. On the way I stopped at that place I first saw to see if they had a room and how much. When he told me yes they did and it was €350 ($422) and then after seeing my shock, lowered it to €275 ($331), I thanked him and raced out of there.
The street our hotel (below) was on was a one-lane, one-way skinny street in the dead center of town. There were cars behind us so we kept circling until finally I told Marcia to just park in an illegal spot (just below the signs in the left photo) so we could unload our bags and get to the room. The hotel was the second building from that corner.
At 7:45 we checked into the Hotel Playa [57 rue Allard, +33-(0)4-98-12-9444] and after unpacking, I worked on diarios in the lobby while Marcia got dressed for dinner. We took a stroll toward the harbor, the center of activity. And was it lively! The funny thing is that you can't see St. Tropez's beautiful little harbor because every square docking inch is taken up with a huge yacht. They looked nice but that was all you could see, boat after boat and no water (below right.)
At 9:10 Marcia pointed out to me that there was an Irish Pub over to the right. I was really in the mood for a Guinness. We found a table out in front and we each had two Guinness and white wine at Kelly's Pub. Inside, the pub was really neat but it was too hot to sit inside. The scenery was great and it was lovely.
I had asked the lady in the hotel for the best places to eat and we had walked around and looked at the two she recommended. They both looked good but the second one was playing loud thumping rock music and we opted for the other one. That wound up being a very good decision. On the way there, in the middle of the harbor, I spotted this big monumental statue of Pierre-André de Suffren, erected in 1866 on the instigation of Emperor Napoleon III (photo right). It is made of bronze melted down from pieces of artillery taken in battle with the Royal Navy.
[Admittedly, I didn't know who he was at the time because I couldn't read the French. I only learned who he was in August 2006, after watching the NBC TV show Treasure Hunters (Photo above right) and they mentioned that he was "an American Patriot." Suffren rose to the rank Rear Admiral in the French "Royale." He was for a while the effective commander-in-chief of the French naval armed forces.
Above bust of Suffren in the Museum of the Navy in Toulon, France.
During the American Revolution, in 1778 and 1779, Suffren formed part of the squadron of Vice-Admirals ès Mers d'Asie et d'Amerique D'Estaing throughout its operations on the coast of North America and in the West Indies. He held the line in the action with Adm John Byron off Grenada, and his ship, the Fantasque, lost 62 men.
The news of French aggressiveness and early successes in this naval campaign caused the British high command to change the destination of a fleet with land troops assembling in Canada from the American Colonies. This decision made the successes won by the Colonial Army irreversible. World historical events stamp De Suffren's campaign as one of the greatest battles. (click his name above to read more)]
We got into the L'Auberge des Maures [4 rue du Dr. Boutin, +33-(0)4-94-97-0150] at 10:30 and the hostess (below center, in white) told us we had a "short wait" and offered us a free glass of champagne at their little bar. How could we refuse that? I had fun videotaping the kitchen staff preparing the meals through the glass windows and since the champagne was very good, we were in no hurry. The floor in the hallway to the toilets was very interesting as you walked over pasta, grapes and herbs under glass (below right.)
As the time stretched to 30 minutes, I cajoled another glass of Moet & Chandon for each of us and after an hour we were enjoying our third glass. We were in no hurry and this place was huge and jam-packed with people and very festive. We had found the right place. Not bad without reservations. Damien Pilato was our bar man and he was very nice to us as was the entire staff.
We were finally seated and the place was still humming as the midnight hour approached meaning our "short wait" was about an hour and a half. We had water with gas, and after all that champagne, we decided on only a ½ bottle of Tropez wine. Because of the long wait, they gave us a free order of fried zucchini flowers, something that sounds terrible but is absolutely wonderful. First time I had them was in the Jewish quarter in Rome in 1997. If they are on the menu, always say yes.
I had pouple (octopus) (below left) salade and magret d'canard (duck breast) with a wonderful potato creation (below right.)
Marcia had artichoke/parmesan salad (left) followed by sea bream which she liked a lot.
For dessert, I had ananas (pineapple) with lemon gelato with an espresso and Marcia had a flan. We were also each given a free melon manzana apertif which was nice.
This was a wonderfully fun evening and we wandered our way back to the hotel and got to bed early at 1 AM.
KJH Go To -> NEXT DIARIO #20
Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD
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