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Port Grimaud

Often referred to as the “Venice of Provence”, Port Grimaud is the delightful town in the bay of Saint Tropez inspired by the Venetian canals, and is the brain child of highly respected and influential architect François Spoerry. Some serious persuading was required before the project finally grew up from the marshy reed beds as Spoerry’s plan was seen by many to be a step too far from the forward thinking architect. But since the completion of Port Grimaud I in the 1960s, such was it’s immediate success that Port Grimaud II swiftly followed and in the 1990s Port Grimaud III was completed. The latter two share the Port Grimaud Sud port entrance and the main square in Port Grimaud II and are collectively known as Port Grimaud Sud. François Spoerry lived in his beloved town until his death in 1999 and the town is now listed as a town of international special interest and will be carefully preserved for the generations to come.

Spoerry designed and built the church of St Francis of Assisi in Port Grimaud I, here he used stained glass designed by Victor Vasarley which famously depicts the phases of the sun in his modern geometric art. It is in this church that Francois Spoerry is laid to rest and a plaque in his honour is displayed on the wall of the town hall in Place Francois Spoerry. The Family coat of arms was also built into the bridge that joins the Place du Marche with the Place d’Eglise.

Aerial view of Port Grimaud

Aerial view of Port Grimaud

Port Grimaud is split into three clear areas, each with its’ own residents association and elected syndic. Each is accessible by car but the series of canals are the real “roads” of this rather unique place. Virtually every house has its’ own berth at the end of the garden and almost everyone in Port Grimaud owns a yacht or boat and the daily run to the bakery each morning for croissants is done by RIB for those not wishing to stretch their legs! The houses are designed to emulate the pastel shades and styles of the fishermen’s houses of Saint Tropez and not a single house looks the same as its’ neighbour, the colours, the level of the roofs, and other subtle details that make this place unique. The management of Port Grimaud maintains a careful but discreet gardienage of the town and ensures each home owner maintains their property, keeping facades and shutters painted regularly – changing the colour is not permitted!

Restaurant on canal in Port Grimaud, French Riviera

Canal in Port Grimaud

For those thinking the bay of St Tropez is all about St Tropez old port, walk through the main square of Port Grimaud I on a balmy summers night and you’ll see the market very much open, bustling with people at midnight! All sorts of fabulous delights are on sale from linen clothing, fresh local honey an array of olives served in more ways than one could imagine, as well as the world famous Tarte Tropezienne! The restaurants are full and tourists flock to the local cafés to watch for the most spectacular yachts entering the small harbour next to the church. The Hotel Le Suffren in the Place du Marche is once of the most well known hotels in town and their terrace is a haven from where to watch the world go by, and enjoy superb food.

If busy markets aren’t your thing then head around to Port Grimaud Sud where life takes on a far more relaxed pace. Families returning from a day at Pampelonne Beach moor up at the end of the garden and strike up BBQs and the wonderful smell of charcoal fills the air with laughter and the chinking of glasses. Port Grimaud Sud is a fabulous place to own or rent a house to just relax. Most of the properties are small, but feel much larger as this is the place to be for real indoor/outdoor living. From the driveway at the front, it’s possible to look straight through most houses to the berth and canals at the bottom of gardens. The properties are so inviting, just walking past catching a glimpse of the sparking water beyond makes one want to head straight to the estate agents!

Port Grimaud Bridge

One of Port Grimaud’s many bridges

The Place de François Spoerry is an elegant square in which to enjoy an aperitif or dinner. The cafe La Grimaudoise is full of locals and not too many tourists and is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of champagne with a superb selection of charcuterie, olives and local cheeses. Often this is sufficient, but the wonderful music and great atmosphere make it all too tempting to just stay put and enjoy dinner as well! Next door is the Pizzeria La Caravelle, again a very simple place but makes just divine pizzas.

Further into Port Grimaud Sud, head around to the marina and to the shipyard.  Here you’ll find La Calypso! For years a great place to eat ice-cream and have a cold drink as there aren’t many places to stop for drinks around the marina. But the restaurant has recently been taken over by a young couple, Anthony and Sandra, and the place is now renowned as one of the best secrets in Port Grimaud, ideal for escaping the crowds whilst enjoying a lively local atmosphere. Serving mainly fish dishes, the menu is uncomplicated with not too large a selection to ensure the freshness and quality that this young couple is building their reputation on!

Houses in the town of Port Grimaud in the Var, France

Colourful houses of Port Grimaud

Finally, Port Grimaud is after all on the coast and after lunch at La Calypso just wander a little further along the Rue des Sables and in front of you lies the beautiful bay of St Tropez and a delightful private beach only for residents, a wonderful sheltered hide away. Unfussy and with only one beach club, this sandy beach is a great place for local families to play and for residents to escape for a relaxing swim. The opposite side of the port entrance, in front of the Hotel Giraglia, is a second beach open to the public but mainly used as the private beach for hotel guests. This is without a doubt the most elegant hotel in Port Grimaud and well worth a lunch reservation if you can get in – a great pearl in the middle of this very special and absolutely delightful town.

This article was written by Rachel Blundy, charter broker at Bespoke Yacht Charter.

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