It’s one of the best kept secrets in super-chic Saint-Tropez, and it has nothing to do with yachts and celebrities. Le sentier des douaniers (luh sen-tea-ay day dawn-ee-ay), or “the customs officers’ path” snakes between luxurious properties and the coast of the Mediterranean and offers an unbeatable view. It’s not needed to keep track of smugglers anymore; the treasures you’ll find here are of the natural variety.
About three meters (10 feet) wide and 13 kilometers (8 miles) long, this wild space seems suspended between the sky and the earth. It’s also a fragile space. Each storm takes a bite out of this peninsula. Retaining walls built of stone and special cement that can resist the corrosive effects of the omnipresent sea spray are reinforced to keep the path clear for those who know about it. The hand of man is mixed with the natural world in a very practical way, GPS markers are deployed along the path in case someone gets hurt, probably because the hiker has gotten distracted by the fragrant pines, white-flowered rock roses, and myrtle.
Despite the fact that it is known to relatively few outside the area, about 15,000 people take it each year, but they might not want to share the secret with you! The path starts next to the ramparts at the far end of the port, past all of the restaurants and yachts. You’ll pass by several beaches along the way. If you start in the morning, stop for lunch at Tahiti Beach, a club on the Plage de Pampellone. Afterward, take the rue de Tahiti and circle back to town. In total, you’ll need about five or six hours for the whole route. I’d rather spend my time on le sentier des douaniers than frying on a beach any day. If this appeals to you, there’s another spectacular path in Cap d’Antibes.
- Japanese Chef Tsumoru Takano arrives at Saint-Tropez (helionly.wordpress.com)