A Day in St. Maxime/ St. Tropez

Recently, I had the pleasure of traveling to St. Maxime and St. Tropez along the French Riviera, a.k.a. la Côte d’Azur. I’ve never been to the French Riviera, so this was quite a learning experience for me! I expected beautiful beaches, warm weather, and a laid back atmosphere, and that’s exactly what I got.

I flew into Nice Airport in the afternoon and drove along the A8 to St. Maxime, where I was staying for six days. The home I was staying in was at the top of a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. From my bedroom window, I could see St. Tropez on the other side of the Gulf of St. Tropez, as well as the city of St. Maxime below. The weather was dry, warm, and breezy, which makes for great weather to sit outside and read a good book. It was everything I could have asked for and more; perfection.

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During my visit, I decided to do a bit of exploring around St. Maxime. I went into the old town center (the oldest part of St. Maxime) around 11am and found an outdoor market full of produce, spices, cheeses, meats and so much more!

From there, I walked toward the old church, passing shops and cafés along the way. The St. Maxime church is a small, stone church honoring the namesake of the town. In one of the alcoves, there stands a display of St. Maxime herself adorned with a crown of jewels, and a large painting depicting her turning away the riches of her royal family to live a life of poverty. There is a beautiful stained glass over the main alter which tells the same story. At noon, you will hear the church bells play a melody for a minute or so. Don’t worry if you aren’t at the church when it happens. You’ll hear it no matter where you are in St. Maxime.

The next day was spent in St. Tropez. In the morning, I took a taxi boat (Les Bateaux Verts) from St. Maxime to the crowded docks of St. Tropez. Most of the day was spent walking around and window shopping. I didn’t have much of a plan for the day except to explore. All the shops and restaurants are ULTRA expensive and the weather was REALLY hot, so I didn’t spend much time in St. Tropez. I did get some great photos though!

St. Maxime is more family friendly compared to the high-end, pricey St. Tropez. Both are wonderful in their own way, but I’d recommend staying in St. Maxime and taking Les Bateaux Verts to St. Tropez for some day trips. A 13,50€ ticket gets you to and from St. Tropez, and you can leave anytime (a boat leaves every 20 minutes). St. Tropez is very expensive (you’ll figure this out quickly when you see the Dior, Oscar de la Renta, and Gucci store fronts), so plan accordingly. Maybe set a budget so you aren’t tempted to spend 900€ on a purse.

It’s hard to plan a day in either town because there isn’t much to do unless you own a boat or like going to the beach for an entire day. You will quickly realize when you arrive that you are meant to relax and just enjoy being in the moment. If you are an adventurer like me, I’d recommend starting your day at the outdoor markets (they close around noon for lunchtime), then get lost in the many back roads and alleys of St. Maxime and St. Tropez. The city is very safe (just be cautious of pickpockets), so you don’t have to worry about meeting a Wayne family type of end in a back alley.

My Tips for Visiting St. Maxime/ St. Tropez

  • Don’t speak French? Don’t worry! Just about everyone I talked to in town spoke English. I would start conversations in French, but when I started looking confused, they switched to English. If you are uncomfortable speaking French with them, just ask if they can speak English. Worst case scenario, you mime your way through a conversation.
  • The air in St. Tropez is dry and can get very hot during mid-afternoon (at least in the summer months). Make sure to drink plenty of water and bring a bottle of water with you everywhere (a giant 1.5 liter bottle of water cost about 0,75€. Just bring a backpack or a large bag so you can carry it around with you while you explore). It might also be wise to plan some indoor activities or pool/beach time during the hottest part of the day.
  • I’m told there is great nightlife like clubs and bars in St. Tropez, but I haven’t experienced it for myself. If you’re into that, enjoy!
  • If you’re looking to meet some new people, go to the closest café! Especially in the morning, many people will be drinking their morning coffee at the zinc bar. If you want to sit down at a table in a café you have to pay extra (you are basically renting the table). Instead, people drink at the zinc bar for free. It’s like any other bar you’d find in your local pub, but there are no chairs to sit on.
  • TRY THE TARTE TROPÉZIENNE! They are a local specialty and worth every carb and calorie. Sweet brioche buns filled with pastry cream and topped with crushed sugar. It’s as good as it sounds.
  • St. Tropez can get expensive. If you aren’t looking to spend 30€+ per person for one meal, go to the local supermarket. Ready-to-eat sandwiches, snacks, drinks, and dessert could cost you 10€ per person, or less! Then you can sit along the docks, at the park, or on the water and eat while you take in the views.

Some extra photos:

Until my next adventure,

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Carol B

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June Bucket List

Hello. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Carol. For those who do, I went Surfin’ Safari.

It’s summer in Florida. When you think of Florida summer, you instantly think of crowded theme parks, 100% humidity, intense rainstorms, and hurricanes. Oh! and the beach… of course. I like going to the beach, but I’m the kind of person who doesn’t go in the water. I like being on shore, reading a book, soaking up the sun, and relaxing. In Florida, there are things in the water that can kill you. Last year, there was a flesh-eating bacteria. More recently, there have been sharks spotted of the coast of my regular beach. Gators aren’t beach-dwellers, but they also live in the water and are a very real threat. Understandably, I don’t go in the water much. This time, I decided to change that.

I’ve never gone surfing before. It always looked cool and exciting, but also REALLY difficult. How do surfers stay on their board? How do they stay balanced and not fall off? What happens if a giant wave comes crashing down on me? What about sharks? These are very real questions I had about surfing, but not anymore!

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I did some research into surfing schools in Florida and found one called EZride Surf School. They are a Florida company that travels to just about anywhere down the Southeastern coast of Florida, between Miami Beach and Cocoa Beach. They have summer surf camps, private lessons, professional coaching, and group lessons. I gave them a call and scheduled a 2-hour lesson for Molly and me in early June.

When the day came, we got ourselves ready, drove down to the beach, and met our instructor, Marcello. Marcello is originally from Brazil and was once a professional surfer. After a couple years with the pros, he decided to retire from professional surfing and began teaching. He’s incredibly nice and easy to talk to. Unfortunately, the Florida weather was not going to be kind to us. It began storming and thundering not long after we arrived. Marcello said it would be great surfing weather if there was no lightning, but we didn’t want to take any chances. Plus, it was Molly’s and my first time surfing. If those waves were any taller than 3 feet, we would not have been comfortable. We decided to reschedule for another day when the weather was better. I had a whole month to plan this lesson, so there was plenty of time to spare. Marcello was very understanding, and we were able to find another date in the last week of June that would work for all of us.

The day came and the weather was perfect. It was sunny, warm, and just a couple of clouds. Yet again, Molly and I assembled our beach gear, applied quite a bit of sunscreen, prepared our lunches, and set out toward the beach. We met Marcello at the beach around 10:30. He provided the surfboards (9 ft soft surfboards, if anyone cares to know. They are best for the beginners, so I’m told) and swim shirts/ rash guards. We just brought ourselves, water bottles, towels, and anything else we needed for a beach trip. Molly and I were planning to stay on the beach after the lesson was over and veg out, so we brought beach chairs and an umbrella.

The first 30 minutes of the lesson was mostly safety and a science lesson on weather and oceanic physics. It was really technical, but interesting all the same. For example:

  • Winter is the best time of year to surf, even though I think of surfing as a summertime sport.
  • The sweet spot in the water where waves just begin to form is called a line-up. That’s where surfers wait for their waves.
  • Waves are formed when energy from the wind propels the water toward shore. When that water hits a sand bar, the energy is deflected up and forms a wave.
  • A surfboard is only stable and balanced when in motion. Don’t try to stand on it in still water. (I tried. It doesn’t work.)
  • The way you stand on the board is very important to balance. You have to bend your knees to keep your center of gravity low, and keep your arms down! Stiff arms might help to keep balance on land, but in the water, it moves your center of gravity up, which affects your balance.

The key to surfing is to relax and be confident in what you are doing. The easy part is learning to stand on a board. The rest comes with time and experience. Now on to the wipe outs.

Molly, Marcello, and I got onto the beach, put our boards down, and practiced standing up on the board before going out. We practiced this once, then Marcello said, “Looks good. Let’s go!” Well alright, eager beaver. This is my first time doing this. Could we practice a little bit more? But I didn’t argue. I just went along with it. That might have been a mistake.

We paddled to the line-up point, sat on our boards, and looked toward the beach. It was very crowded. It’s what you’d expect from summers in Florida. There was nowhere to hide from the sunbathing audience. I accepted quickly that they didn’t matter. I was a beginner, after all! Who cares if they saw me fall off my board a couple times? (At the start, I was very confident that I wouldn’t fall too much. Boy, was I wrong…)

Then the moment of truth came. Marcello found my first wave. I got into position and was instructed to paddle. I started paddling toward shore with all the strength I had. As I felt the wave come up from underneath me, I heard “STAND UP!” coming from behind me. Oh crap, here I go. I pushed myself up, found my footing, stood up for a couple seconds, then fell over into the ocean. OMG I DID IT! I SURFED! What an amazing feeling! I just glided over the water like a freakin’ GODDESS! I found the surface, and instantly went back to try it again.

The next couple waves I began to overthink everything. My mental checklist was getting longer and longer with each wave. 1. Push up 2. Jump toward the center of the board 3. Feet point toward the side 4. Stand up THEN release hands 5. Relax. I had issues with not jumping far enough, not going quick enough, moving my hands to early and losing my balance, etc. With every pointer from Marcello, I was relaxing less and less, but I was still having fun! It was my first time surfing, after all, and I was doing this for fun. I’m not planning on going pro anytime soon. I managed to ride a wave once, maybe twice. Molly, on the other hand, did really well! She was determined to stand up on the board and she did. She rode her way to shore a couple of times! As I saw Molly improve more and more, I was getting a little frustrated with myself. The next one is going to be the one!

I was kidding about that. THIS one is going to be the one!

Maybe this one?

Ok, new goal: don’t swallow too much sea water!

Aced it.

I didn’t get the perfect wave, but that just means there is room for improvement! Now that I have an understanding of the basics and what I need to work on, I can practice whenever I want. Again, I’m not looking to become the next big surfer; it’s just fun to do. With that being said, I would DEFINITELY go surfing again. I’ll also mention that I did NOT die from a rogue shark or disgruntled jellyfish. That’s a victory.

If you are ever in South Florida and want to learn how to surf, go to the EZride Surf School website or call 954.803.7988 and schedule a lesson. If you can, ask for Marcello Loureiro. He was a great teacher, incredibly supportive, and he really knows what’s up. Happy Surfing!

Aloha,

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Carol B