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Get off the tourist trail and jump aboard a yacht to see France from the sultry Mediterranean. Go from one celebrated port to the next and uncover a side of France only the rich get to see. To contrast the excitement and fervour of the mainland, visit beautiful islands that are a wealth of unspoilt beaches, fascinating histories, natural parks and relaxed, quirky towns. From the charming French cities of Marseille, St-Tropez, Cannes and Nice to the relaxed environs of the islands of Porquerolles, Port-Cros, St Marguerite and St Honorat, this is a unique and relaxing sailing adventure filled with culture, good food and plenty of time to swim and relax in the sunny Mediterranean.
Day 1: Marseille - Saint-Mandrier-sur-Mer
Bonjour! Welcome to France. The group will depart from the meeting point at 3 pm so please be there at least 10 minutes before. If you’re running late to the meeting point, please contact the sailing operations manager (see ‘Emergency Contact' in the trip notes for contact details). Depending on the size of the group, you'll take a private vehicle or minibus from Marseille to Saint-Mandrier-sur-Mer (approximately 1 hour). Your skipper will meet you at the marina for a detailed briefing and the allocation of cabins aboard the yacht. The first port of call is then the local supermarket to buy provisions for your trip as a group. If you have any special dietary requirements, please make sure you notify us at the time of booking so we can accommodate your requests. Additional accommodation is available if you wish to arrive earlier and take in some of the sights of Marseille - France's oldest and second-largest city, which leant its name to the country's national anthem during the French Revolution. Today, still one of Europe's most important ports, Marseille is a dazzling fusion of cultures, with souq-style bazaars appearing alongside Provence produce stalls and local artisan shops. Don't leave without slurping down a bowl of bouillabaisse, the local fish stew. After the briefing, set sail for the Iles d’Hyeres archipelago, spending your first night aboard the yacht.Notes: The beauty of sailing is that each day is unique and, while we have a destination to reach, if the weather changes or something takes the group’s fancy, we are flexible on the day's itinerary. The itinerary is subject to change and may vary depending on weather and berth availability. Your skipper will make the final call to ensure your safety at all times.
Day 2-7: Cannes
Iles d’Hyeres Archipelago
Due to strict environmental protection laws, the Iles d’Hyeres archipelago (also known as the Iles d’Or or 'Islands of Gold'), have maintained a natural beauty and wildness that’s largely untouched by tourism. The islands are rich in woodlands, idyllic beaches and Roman history. Visit the largest of the islands, Porquerolles. Here you can perhaps hire a bike in town and head inland to explore olive and fig orchards in the wooded countryside. Maybe just relax on the island’s northern beaches or admire ocean views from the plunging cliffs on the south coast. For a quintessential island experience, watch the locals play petanque as you sip on a pastis in the village’s Place d’Armes. Stop by Port-Cros, the archipelago’s smallest island but one with a big history, having played host to pirates, monks, artists and soldiers through the centuries. This is a pristine environment, where no automobiles are permitted and you can stroll along walking paths through untouched pine forests. In 1963 the island became France’s first marine national park, so snorkel in the clear waters, following a recently established underwater nature trail.
The friendly seaside town of Cavalaire-sur Mer is more modest than its flashy neighbours and is a great place to see the traditional side of the Cote d'Azur. Explore the area and perhaps pull up a sun lounge on the town’s three kilometer-long main beach. Catch a shuttle bus to one of the quieter beaches along the coast, such as Le Dattier in the southwest. If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, wander through a nature reserve along the precipitous Fenouillet path towards Cap Camarat.
St-Tropez is your next destination. A summer playground for the rich and famous, the city has a lot of charm once you see past the glamour. Relax at a cafe under a plane tree in the Place des Lices or step back in time in the old fishing quarter of La Ponche. Check out the 17th-century Citadelle de St-Tropez for a detailed history of the town (with great views), which was built to defend the coast against Spain. Chill out in an upmarket beach bar on the flashy Plage de Pampelonne or beach-hop along the coastal walking trails. All of the beaches have facilities like toilets and change rooms, and sun lounges are available for hire or take to the water and try your hand at paddle-boarding. If you’re feeling cheeky, perhaps head to one of the town’s nudist beaches in your birthday suit. In the evening, if you are thinking of heading to one of the city’s many bars, restaurant or clubs, make sure you dress up a bit, as mere shorts and sandals won’t cut it here!
Sail for the Iles de Lerins, a group of four islands off the coast of Cannes. On the island of St Honorat, which has been continuously occupied by monks from as early as the 5th century, perhaps dine at La Tonelle, a restaurant run by monks who serve wine produced from their vineyards. Discover Ille St Marguerite, the island fortress where the Man in the Iron Mask was held captive. There is also a small museum on the island and some lovely white beaches. From here sail on to the glitzy city of Cannes, a pristine hotspot for the affluent and home to the famous film festival. Perhaps share in a little bit of the limelight by walking the red carpet on a tour of the Palais des Festivals. Alternatively, you can take a tour to the Massif de I’Esterel and either walk or ride through the forest to the highest point. In the evening, dine at one of the restaurants along the Rue Saint-Antoine in the old quarter of Le Suquet.
Day 8: Nice
Early this morning, there’s a short cruise to Nice where your adventure comes to an end at approximately 10am. Once transferred to land, you’re free to depart. We recommend booking an extra couple of nights to explore the city and its surrounds. With the glistening Mediterranean Sea on one side and the Alps on the other, Nice has something for everyone. If you do stay on, perhaps take a walk along the Promenade des Anglais or discover the Cours Saleya market in Vieux Nice. Sitting above Vieux Nice is the Parc de la Colline du Chateau, which offers panoramic views of the city and a refreshing break from the daytime heat. Known as the world’s capital of perfume, the town of Grasse outside the city is also a great option to visit.
- Live the life of a champagne jetsetter on a sparkling wine budget as you tour the islands and coastal towns of the famous Cote d’Azur, soaking up the relaxation and flexibility of life aboard a yacht
- Discover the contrasts that lie along the coast of Provence, from the bright lights of Cannes and St Tropez to the hidden coves of the Iles d’Hyeres Archipelago
- Explore the wonderfully preserved natural beauty of the historic Iles d’Hyeres – hike, bike or stroll through national parks, olive groves and pine forests, relax on picturesque beaches and enjoy some of the best snorkelling in France
- Indulge in fresh seafood and delicious Provencal cuisine – a famed gastronomy that delectably combines the ingredients of France with the influences of the Mediterranean Sea
- The galleries and museums of Nice provide the perfect distraction from the end of this sumptuous sailing adventure
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