Thursday, 30 July 2015

Port Grimaud - The Venice of Provence

At the far eastern end of the Golfe de Saint-Tropez is a town that is quite different from the usual Provencal towns that have grown up over the centuries. Although at first glance, you might imagine it's a small, Mediterranean fishing village - all is not what it seems.

This is Port Grimaud - a town that grew out of nothing and is just over 50 years old. But in that time, it has become known as the 'Venise provencal' or the Venice of Provence.

Port Grimaud is situated on what was once a marshy estuary of the river, La Giscle, its waters boosted by the tributary, La Garde, which flows down from the high Massif des Maures. This river now forms the southern boundary of the town as its fresh waters mingle with the sea.

The village was conceived by the architect, Francois Spoerry, as recently as the 1960s.

Being constructed only 50 years or so ago, I had visions of it being another modern resort built for people who like sailing.

Happily, I was wrong.

The estuary had been deepened to create the canals and land was reclaimed for building the town itself.

It is now a picturesque town of canals and bridges, many designed to emulate those in Venice.

Port Grimaud is almost fully pedestrianised with large car parks to the north and east - just off the RD559 - and within easy walking distance.

A lot of care has been taken with the construction of the houses, keeping as close as possible to the original design of buildings in this part of Provence, but with a few whimsical Venetian touches.

Statistically, it is located almost exactly halfway between Sainte Maxime and St Tropez. It has seven kilometres of canals, 12 quays and each year is visited by around half a million people.

The town thrives almost exclusively on tourism.

There are all the facilities of a regular town - shops, banks, pharmacies - and a daily market in the central Place du Marche. You can climb to the top of the church tower in the Place d'Eglise for an excellent overall view of the town. There is even an Ile des Pins (though not on an island as in Nouvelle Caledonie), and excellent little cafes plus quality restaurants.

The best way to explore this town is by boat. Either take an organised tour through the town via the canals or hire a boat, take your own time and see it for yourself.

It you are a sea lover, and want to get some pretty impressive views along the coast - and on the water - from the Golfe de Saint-Tropez, why not drive (or take a bus from Les Arcs-Draguignan railway station) to Sainte Maxime. There you can catch one of les Bateaux Verts (small green ferries) across the bay to St Tropez, where you can transfer to another Bateau Vert for the journey along the length of the gulf to Port Grimaud.

1 comment:

  1. What a unique and pretty find. Adding it to the (never ending) list!