There’s hardly anywhere in the French Riviera as inviting during the winter months as Théoule-sur-Mer, where deep red rock framed by sky and sea echoes memories of warm summer sunlight.
This isn’t a place that needs superyachts or superstars: Théoule-sur-Mer has preserved its rural character and is proud of that fact. Everyone knows each other in the final coastal town of the Alpes-Maritimes, claims the head of the tourism office, Dominique Baldini, but in the summertime, the population increases tenfold.
That’s perhaps the first reason to venture to the intoxicating red rocks found at the base of the Estérel mountain range in the cooler season. For hiking, mountain biking and much more, this is the Côte d’Azur’s El Dorado. It’s far too hot in the summer anyway. 100 kilometres of trails criss-cross the rough, volcanic landscape with different lengths and difficulty levels, and flora and fauna enjoy freedom in this largely untouched paradise. But despite the beauty of the wilderness, Théoule-sur-Mer is also deeply attached to its 13 kilometres of Mediterranean coastline as mayor (since 2004) and general practitioner Georges Botella explains. Watersports are on the agenda almost all year round. The base nautique closes from December to February, when owner Gilles goes skiing with children from the sailing school, but otherwise offers a range of non-motorised activities throughout the year. Lessons in sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and the ever-popular stand-up paddling can be taken here or you can borrow equipment. Gilles’ kayaking tours transport guests cross the bay to explore the Grotte de Gardanne and its impressive natural arch. The beach on which Gilles is based is also the ideal spot for summer swimming, he reveals, as barely any tourists make the walk to Plage du Suveret, even in July.
While on the path, you’ll pass five large, light blue boats bobbing in the harbour. The pointus – traditional fishing vessels belonging to locals – are part of a club that is perhaps more about communal conviviality than fishing success and there are around 130 members of Rascasse Club Théoule. The meticulously maintained boats are frequently rented out to film crew, but there is no bling or superficiality here. For its residents, Théoule-sur-Mer is about soul and the quintessential village esprit de corps.