La Corniche de L’Estérel: gorgeous barren territory
La Corniche de L’Estérel is located in the French Riviera, in the south of France and is situated in those 80 kilometers of coastal road that connect Cannes with Saint Tropez. Today I want to speak more precisely of the stretch that goes from Frejus to La Napoule. A spectacular route of about thirty kilometers absolutely spectacular. An itinerary that runs along the fiery headlands of the Estérel massif and seaside villages with their Roman remains and museums of contemporary art.
Much of this stretch is occupied by the Massif de l’Estérel, a volcanic rock formation that extends from the coast to the hinterland. The massif is crossed by nature trails to explore on foot, by bike and in some limited areas even by cars. L’Estérel alternates its red rocks with the Mediterranean forest and is home to deer, hares, partridges and wild boar.
The history of this place began 250.000 years ago during an intense volcanic activity when an eruption produced mineral rocks, among which the most widespread was the rhyolite that characterizes the site for its red color. Legend has it that the fairy Estérelle, consulted by women for fertility, is the origin of the name of the massif. More likely, during a movement of tectonic plates, the earth opened up letting the lava rise to the surface and giving rise to the violet rock: the rhyolite or red porphyry.
The true origin of the name of the massif derives from the French adjective “stérile” which reflects the barren territory of the Estérel. The forest covers 6.017 hectares and is rich in a particular biodiversity protected by the European Union (Natura 2000 Estérel) and hosts an integral biological reserve. In the Middle Ages, Estérel was a refuge for hermits, including Saint Honorat, who gave the name to a famous cave and in the 17th-18th centuries prisoners who escaped from the prison of Toulon, took refuge there and joined Gaspard de Besse, the great-hearted thief who would have hidden his still-unearthed treasure here.
Frejus is a small town inland with an outlet to the sea. Frejus has several ruins that refer to its Roman origins. Founded under Julius Caesar, his port welcomed Antonio’s ships after the defeat of Anzio in 31 AD. Remains of the Roman period are the arena, some arches of the aqueduct and the theater still home to events. Frejus also has a medieval center, the Cité Episcopal, with the Gothic cathedral and the bishop’s palace. One of the most beautiful buildings in the Cité is the Baptistery, in front of the Cathedral, of early Christian origin.
Aerial View of Saint-Raphaël
Next to Port Frejus is Saint-Raphaël, known for its sandy promenade and the beautiful palm-lined promenade that runs along the sea and the whole city. Do not miss the historic center with the church of St-Raphaël of the twelfth century and the Provencal market open in the morning. Here you can buy cheeses, fresh fish and olives flavored with peppers and the famous Provencal garlic.
Do not miss the seafood restaurants on the pier and the beautiful villas hidden among the gardens inland. These are the luxurious residences built by wealthy English and French who at the end of the 19th century chose Saint-Raphaël as a holiday destination. Saint-Raphaël is also the gateway to the Estérel corniche. Not far from Saint-Raphaël are Boulouris, Le Dramont (where the Americans landed in the summer of 1944) and Agay, famous for its beach, and then the indented coastline of Le Trayas.
La Napoule Castle
Continuing towards Cannes, we meet Théoule-sur-Mer, with the beach frequented by the locals of Cannes, and La Napoule with its fourteenth century castle on the coast. The castle was bought in 1917 by the American billionaire and artist Henry Clews who rebuilt it on the ruins of a building of the fourteenth century. Today the building houses an artistic foundation with the private collection of Clews and is open to the public along with its beautiful gardens. La Napoule is part of the municipality of Mandelieu-La Napoule at the foot of the Tanneron massif.
Where to stay
La Ferme D’Augustin is a top hotel on the French Riviera, near Saint-Tropez and even closer to the famous 25km long Tahiti Beach, in the bay of Pampelonne. This hotel will offer you a truly relaxing stay in the south of France and you will find a first class service and a quality of food that is a particular highlight. La Ferme D’Augustin is a 4-star hotel but with many luxury extras but not only, you will also find cozy Mediterranean touches offered in a calm and peaceful environment like nowhere else.
The hotel offers 46 rooms including standard double rooms, junior suites and suites with garden and sea views. All are well-appointed with private bathroom, Wi-Fi, air conditioning, flat-screen cable TV, minibar and in-room safe. Some of the larger rooms and suites are also equipped with various extras such as Jacuzzi tubs, hammam-type showers and private terraces or balconies. The biggest suite, the superior suite located on the top floor, has an extraordinary view of the bay of Pampelonne from its private terrace.
There is a cozy seating area with an open fire and comfortable sofas, and they have a nice bar and restaurant on-site called The Table d’Augustin. The head chef is originally from Provence and believes in the exclusive use of fresh and seasonal local products as much as possible within his high quality dishes. The heated pool of La Ferme D’Augustin is perfect for swimming, but it also includes relaxing elements like whirlpool jet, waterfall shower and various jacuzzi effects.