•Var (83310) • Population: 3,322 • Altitude: 102 m
Grimaud is a Medieval perched village overlooking the bright blue bay of the Golfe de Saint Tropez, dominated by the striking ruins of the 11th-century chateau at the top. The village is situated at the Mediterranean edge of the Massif des Maures, forested hills that stretch southwest to Pierrefeu-du-Var and Hyères and northeast towards Frejus. The twisty D558 road that connects the Golfe de St Tropez with with the interior goes across the Maures past La Garde-Freinet, through forests of cork oak, chestnut and pine. The even smaller twisty D14 road goes west from Grimaud through the hills to Collobrières, passing near the Chartreuse de la Verne.
Grimaud's perched location gives it a marvelous view of the surrounding hills and the Golfe de St Tropez, a bay that was named the Golfe de Grimaud until the 17th century. Overlooking the pass through the center of the Maures put Grimaud in a strategic position through the Middle Ages.
The interior of the village is neatly restored, but not overly so, in spite of its close proximity to the highly popular and wealthy area around Saint Tropez. Grimaud is actutally considered the richest village in the area, quite a claim considering the area, with the houses being bought by people of all nationalities for whom money is no problem. At least the commune doesn't have to beg for upkeep funding.
Some of the village houses are 15th and 16th century. Many of them have the ancient-style stone walls, and many others are restored with the bright pastel colors of Provence. On the Rue des Arcades is a 15th-c house called Templiers, with an historical facade and basement.
Several older door frames and lintels are made from large, polished slabs of stone, either black lava or the very dark-green serpentine, a stone that reminds us of the green "lauze" used in some of the Alpine villages, such as Tende.
A fair amount of green decorates balconies, tiny gardens and house fronts. Cactus is popular, but we saw a lot bougainvillier, much of it in flower during our recent visit mid-February.
The village is large enough to offer a good number of streets for wandering and exploring, including some Medieval-narrow and some low vaulted passages. The Office de Tourisme has a free pamplet with a walking tour of Grimaud, and there are corresponding plaques on the corners of buildings marking the tour route. A number of the village's old fountains are quite interesting; the one on Place Neuve dating from 1886.
Uphill Efforts reduced. Perched villages and hillside villages, so typical of Provence and so picturesque, can be a problem for people less spry than when they were young. Grimaud has a novel solution for this: a rather ornate (or at least eye-catching) elevator of glass and iron to lift people from the main street at the lower end of the village up to a main square above, where the Mairie and some other principal buildings and shops are located.
Water Supply. All of Grimaud's water was supplied by three wells through the Middle Ages, until the 16th century. Then, an aqueduc system was built to bring water in from the Pont des Fées (3 km north) to the castle and the village. Some of the vestiges remain of the aqueduct, and the 15th-century arched bridge over the Garde river, Pont des Fées, is a beautiful old site.
By the 19th century more water was needed for the expanding population, and in 1886 a steam-powered pump brought water up to the village from a spring on the plains below.
Church. The village church is the 12th-century Romanesque Saint-Michel, a parochial church with a square clock tower. There's also the pretty stone Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs in the village, built in 1482 [photo-8].
Commerce. Grimaud has the typical village commerce, but the shops are spread out in different areas and not too obvious. There's a single small grocery store (épicerie), a boucherie and three boulangeries/pâtisseries. For more than your daily needs, you'll find several real-estate agents and many art galeries.
Resources. Grimaud is in the wine growing area of Provene [wine map], and local vineyards offer AOC "Côtes de Provence" wines. A wine co-op is located just at the edge of the village. Other items produced here are honey, flowers, chestnuts, cork and sand.
Castle - Chateau du Grimaud
The key site of Grimaud is the castle ruins at the top, and that's worth the short steep walk up to the top. The castle was built in the beginning of the 11th century, rebuilt in the 15th century, and originally had a round tower at each of the four corners. The chateau was torn down by Richelieu sometime in the 17th century (he was most active between 1624 and 1641).
Jean de Cossa rebuilt part of the castle, including towers with firing slits, the high walls, underground passages, the serpentine windows and doorways, and two large cisterns, still intact.
The main part of the ruins, those so strikingly visible from outside the village, are surrounded by a long stretch of crenelated ramparts up to 7 meters high. These were part of a triple-walled enclosure, and are some the nicest we've seen in any of the Provencal villages.
The ramparts are used, in the summer time, as the backdrop of an outdoor theater, with the terraces up towards the castle ruins as the theater seats.
The 17th-century Saint Roch's windmill sits on a low hilltop just to the north of the main village hill (a short walk from the center, just past the cemetery). Called the Moulin de la Gardiolle in the 17th century, this wheat mill was one of several mills in the area during the Middle Ages, including 4 or 5 water mills along the Garde river. The old stone tower and wooden blades were renovated in 1990 by the "Compagnons du Tour de France", and looks quite complete and authentic. Viewed from the nearby castle ruins, the windmill seems at though it could be working today.
The Moulin de La Roque Troucade, on the right bank of La Garde, has a water canal carved out of the rock.
This modern "old-port" village was built in 1998 (during our first visit to the area), at the seaside 5 km from the perched village, at the western end of the Golfe de Saint Tropez. Each house was designed to rigorously copy an authentic Provencal style, and the modern result is actually quite harmonious.
This is a mariana-village, where you can moor your boat at your door, as long as you don't need to ask the price. Nicely done and very popular, but we've neglected it in order to focus on our "back country" orientation.
History of Grimaud
First record, 1119 Grimal, from the Grimaldi family, currently known as the rulers of Monaco.
Prehistoric: Vestiges of the prehistoric past of the Grimaud hills include 2 menhirs; located 3 km northwest of the village, at the Couzes farm and on the Avelan hillside; one of the two menhirs has an anthropomorphic face. At Notre-Dame-de-la-Queste there are mills made of basalt (a black lava rock), and in a cave at what is now Port-Grimaud there's a Phonecian-Carthaginian sculpted head.
Gallo-Roman: In Antiquity Grimaud was the port of Sambracis, and numerous Gallo-Roman artifacts have been found in the region, including two-meter high stone posts found imbedded in the ground for anchoring boats. Many, many Roman ceramics have been unearthed around here, including amphoras and tiles.
Medieval: Grimaud was the Domain of the Viscounts of Marseilles, then of the Lords of Pontevès and of Jean Cossa and, until the 17th century, of the Lords of Castellane-St-Juers.
The Office de Tourisme is located on the main road at the lower part of the village, and has a lot of good information to offer. A display window on the outside, beneath a covered walkway, has schedules, maps and other information available for perusal even if you stop by when the office is closed (something that seems to happen to us all the time).
Every Thur - Marché
Every Mon, Thur, Fri, Sun - Marché local Port Grimaud
1st Sun - Brocante
Every Sun - Puces (flea market)
Every June - Fete du moulin (windmill festival)
Musée des Arts et traditions populaires
- Location: on the main D558 road along the bottom edge of the village (the same road as the Office de Tourisme).
- Open: afternoons 7 days a week: 14h00 - 17h30 from Monday to Saturday, and 14h00-17h00 Sundays and holidays.
- Entry: Free
- Tel: 0494 554 383, or 0494 944 929
- This nice little museum of ancient trades and traditions shows some local, rural industries, and depicts an olive-oil mill, a cork (bouchon) maker and a village appartment from the 19th century.
There's a cycling path along part of the coast past Port Grimaud, towards Ste Maxime. This area is very built-up, though, for the summer tourists, and it can get very crowded.
VTT Mountain Biking
Grimaud sits at the eged of the Massif des Maures, and the forested hills stretch out to the west and in an arc around the north and to the northeast. There are many trails out here suitable for VTT cycling, but we don't have details.
• GPS: 43.273216, 6.520159
IGN (1/25,000) #3545 OT "St. Tropez, Ste. Maxime, Massif des Maures"
The beginning (or end) of the GR9 (Grande Randonnée) trail is at St-Pons-les-Mûres, beside the N98 highway, just north of Port Grimaud. We once hiked from there to Aix-en-Provence, a good hike except we did it in August, not be best time of year to be clambering through the hills of Provence.
The GR9 goes from near Port Grimaud northwest to La Garde-Freinet, then westward through the Massif des Maures.
The GR51 (Balcony of the Cote d'Azur) trail passes just beside the perched village of Grimaud. To the north the GR51 joins for awhile with the GR9, then goes on north past Plan-de-la-Tour then east to Le Muy and Roquebrun-sur-Argens. To the south the GR51 goes through the picturesque village of Cogolin, then heads west to, eventually, Cassis and Marseilles.
Shorter hikes are available in the hills immediately north of the village, such as a short walk to the Pont des Fées, or a bit further north to La Roche Percée.
No problem for eating here: Grimaud has several restaurants, catering to all budgets and gastronomic needs, and several are open all year.
We at lunch in the Restaurant-Pizzeria du Chateau. Our saumon-tapenade avec pâtes-basilic and ravioles aux foie-gras were excellent, but the name "Pizzeria du Chateau" does bring a vision of helmeted Medievel knights eating pizza slices through their visors.
Public transportation to this area is by train to Fréjus-Saint Raphël, then by bus to Port Grimaud/St Tropez - [Bus: St Raphaêl, Fréjus, Ste Maxime, St Tropez].
Department 83, Var Buses
- See Beyond's Var Department Bus Schedules for downloading the Var bus-lines map [Plan du Reseau] and bus-line schedules [Horaires] (link for PDF files).
- Schedules for the Var bus lines are on the VarLib Horaires-Ligne page (http://www.varlib.fr/horaires_ligne/?rub_code=6") - type the line number in the Numéro ... ligne box to access the bus schedule PDF link. (Type a couple of digits in the box to get a list of route numbers.)
Fréjus - Grimaud/Cogolin Bus
- Bus line 7601 from St Raphael and Fréjus has stops at St Aygulf, Les Issambres, Ste Maxime, Grimaud-St Pons, Port Grimaud, Cogolin-La Foux and St Tropez. From St Pons or La Foux, the line 7702 serves Grimaud and Gogolin. Links to Var bus maps and schedules are explained on [Bus Schedules, page-16 Var].
Les Arcs - Grimaud/Cogolin Bus
- Bus line 7202 from Les Arcs (main train station) serves La Garde-Freinet, Grimaud, Gogolin, La Foux and Saint Tropez. There are three buses a day: morning, mid-day and evening. Links to Var bus maps and schedules are explained on [Bus Schedules, page-16 Var].
Le Petit Train de Grimaud
- A little train (petit train) runs between Grimaud village and Port-Grimaud during the summer (April to October). The journey is about 50 minutes.
The discovery trip visits one of the oldest villages of the Massif des Maures, its Château, the Provencal-Romanesque Church Saint-Michel, Chapelle Saint-Roch, the Musuem of Arts et Traditions, the Mill, numerous fountains, a panoramique view of theGolfe de Saint-Tropez squares shaded by centenaires micocouliers (nettle trees).
Comentary is given in French, English, Italian, German.
- Entry: Round trip about 7 € for an adult and about 4 € for a child.
- Web: petit-train-de-grimaud.com/