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St Raphael France French Holidays

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The old centre of St Raphael (St Raphaël) has been more neglected than that of the larger neighbouring town of FrejusFrejus (Fréjus), but this has not hampered St Raphael's rise to stardom as one of the richest towns on the Cote d'Azur. It is an important resort and has been popular with holidaymakers since the early twentieth century, hence there are a number of Belle Époque houses along the seafront.

In fact, these were rebuilt after suffering substantial damage during WWII whereas the old town, which is across the railway line, does not seem to have had the same attentions lavished upon it. What you are left with is the Église St Pierre on rue des Templiers, a fortified Romanesque structure with parts of the same Roman aqueduct that you can see in Frejus in the church courtyard. There is also a museum with displays about underwater archaeology and local history (€1.50). The suburbs of St Raphael and Frejus, which is 2km northwest, are now pretty indistinguishable from each other, so you would be forgiven for thinking that it is all one large town.

St Raphael is known for its wonderful sandy beaches and maritime pursuits, such as diving and boat trips to local sites of interest. The beaches run from the new port of Santa Lucia to the old port in the town centre. From the gare maritime in the old port, or vieux port, you can take boat trips out to the Îles d'Hyères and St Tropez, and the Îles de Lérins towards Cannes. Lots of other watersports are also on offer, or you could head to the Grand Casino on Square de Gand to spend some more money, or the Bowling Raphaelois on promenade René Coty if you are tired of the seaside.

Staying in a hotel on the seafront in St Raphael can be an expensive business. Places such as the Excelsior (04 94 95 02 42) are luxurious but cost upwards of €125 per night. One of the cheaper seafront options is the Beau Séjour (04 94 95 03 75), which has rooms from €55 70. Inland the Bellevue at 22 boulevard Félix Martin (04 94 19 90 10) offers central accommodation for around the €40 55 mark.

The places Victor Hugo an de la République are the best options for cafés, brasseries and the markets (open every day). The Port Santa Lucia and the promenades have a selection of pizzerias, crêperies and other establishments, as well as some more classy restaurants. At the Pastorel at 54 rue de la Liberté (04 94 95 02 36) you can expect to pay around €28 for a menu of regional classics such as aioli and good array of wines.