St Raphael Cruises

St Raphael, A large resort and now one of the richest towns on the Cote, ST-RAPHAEL became fashionable at the turn of the twentieth century. Its seafront Belle epoque mansions and hotels, flattened by bombardments in World War II, have mostly been rebuilt, while the old town beyond place Carnot on the other side of the railway line has suffered years of neglect. On rue des Templiers a crumbling fortified Romanesque church, the Ãglise St-Pierre , has fragments of the Roman aqueduct that brought water from Frejus in its courtyard along with a local history and underwater archeology museum (daily: June-Sept 10am-noon & 3-6.30pm; rest of year 10am-noon & 2-5.30pm; 20.20F/3.08 for church and museum).

The beaches stretch between the old port in the centre and the newer Port Santa Lucia , with opportunities for every kind of watersport. You can also take boat trips to St-Tropez, the eles d'Hye ¨res and the much closer calanques of the Esterel coast from the gare maritime on the south side of the Vieux Port. When you're tired of sea and sand you can lose whatever money you have left on slot machines or blackjack at the Grand Casino on Square de Gand overlooking the Vieux Port (daily 11am-4am), or there's bowling at the Bowling Raphaelois on promenade Rene-Coty, and plenty of snooty discotheques.

St-Raphael's gare SNCF , in the centre of town, is the main station for the Marseille-Ventigmilia line; the gare routià ¨re is on square du Dr Regis, across the rail line behind the gare SNCF . Information on the surrounding region is available from the tourist office , just to the left out of the gare SNCF on rue W.-Rousseau (daily: July & Aug 9am-8pm; rest of year 9am-12.30pm & 2-6.30pm; tel, www.saint-raphael.com ). Bikes can be hired from Patrick Moto, 280 av General-Leclerc (tel

Seafront accommodation in St-Raphaael is available on promenade Rene-Coty at the Beau Sejour (tel, fax; 220-300F/34-46; closed Nov-March), one of the cheaper hotels along here, with a pleasant terrace; or at the Excelsior (tel, fax, www.excelsior-hotel.com ; 700-800F/107-122), whose rooms are luxurious and well equipped. Bellevue , 22 bd Fà ©lix-Martin (tel, fax; 160-220F/24-34), is good value for its central location; and La Bonne Auberge , 54 rue de la Garonne (tel; 220-300F/34-46; closed Dec-Feb), is a cheapie close to the old port. East of the centre, the Hotel du Soleil , 47 bd du Domaine de Soleil, off boulevard Christian-Lafon (tel, fax; 300-400F/46-61; closed Oct-March), is a small, pretty villa with its own garden. There's hostel accommodation and double rooms in Boulouris, 5km east of St-Raphaà «l, at the Centre International Le Manoir , impasse Raoul Blanchard, chemin de l'Escale (tel, fax The Centre has friendly, helpful staff and is close to the beach right by the Boulouris gare SNCF (trains or buses every 30min from St-Raphael). A four-star campsite close to the beach, Le Val Fleury , on the N98 in Boulouris (tel, fax, is open all year.

Food markets are held every day on place Victor-Hugo and place de la Rà ©publique. You'll find reasonably priced cafes and brasseries around these, and plenty of pizzerias, crà ªperies and restaurants of varying quality around Port Santa Lucia and along the promenades. Of the more expensive establishments, two of the best are Le Sirocco , 35 quai Albert-1er (tel, a smart restaurant specializing in fish, with menus around 90-200F/13.73-30.50 plus a view of the sea; and Pastorel , 54 rue de la Liberte (tel; closed Sun & Mon), with menus from around 160F/24.40, which has decently priced Provenal wines, oli on Fridays and wonderful hors d'uvres.

For drinking , try the selection of beers at the Blue Bar on boulevard de la Liberation plage du Veillat (open till 4am in summer); for expensive cocktails with piano accompaniment, there's the Madison Club at the Casino (7pm-4am) or the Coco-Club at Port Santa Lucia (till dawn); or there are a series of beachfront discos open in the summer along the promenade to the west of town. If you're staying outside the centre though, note that late-night taxis are almost impossible to come by in this part of the world.

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