Saint-Raphaël is a commune in the Var department of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France. To the west of Saint-Raphaël lies another older town called Fréjus, and together they form an urban agglomeration known as Fréjus Saint-Raphaël. The Var lies in the region called Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, often abbreviated to PACA. In the second half of the 19th century the township came under the direction of Mayor Felix Martin and writer Alphonse Karr, and owing to their efforts and its beneficial climate the commune developed into a seaside resort popular with artists, sportsmen and politicians. It is the headquarters of the Fréjus Saint-Raphaël canton, which is the economic and cultural center of eastern Var and lies in the arrondisement of Draguignan. Its inhabitants are called Raphaëlois in French generally, or Rafelencs in Provençal Occitan. Saint Raphaël is a large seaside town, nestled up beside Fréjus, and located half way between Cannes and St Tropez. Saint Raphaël has sandy beaches, marinas, good shopping, and lots of dining and lodging available. The town is also easy to get to, being close to the A8 autoroute, and the local railway station is a stop on the TGV line between Paris and Nice. Saint-Raphaël is located at the extreme eastern end of the Var, along the border with the adjacent département of Alpes-Maritimes, which occupies the far south-eastern corner of France at the border with Italy. The commune has a total of thirty-six kilometers of Mediterranean coastline, owing mainly to the many coves and creeks formed between the natural region of the Esterel Massif and the Mediterranean Sea. This places it second only to Marseilles, with fifty-seven kilometers of coastline. The commune is 89.59 square kilometers in extent. It is almost completely urbanised in the west, but includes over 60 square kilometers of protected areas of natural forest and the Esterel mountains.
Fréjus contains a medieval city as well as a popular seaside resort. Created by the Romans, it attracts many tourists because of its history, cultural and artistic qualities, its well maintained beaches, the sea and sporting facilities. There are numerous places of interest in the area, all are reasonably accessible from Fréjus because of its convenient location. The history of city is very similar to that of Provence. It was destroyed many times in spite of the presence of the Roman Legions. In 49 B.C., Julius Caesar decided to have the Adrian Way built linking Italy with Spain. In those days the Phoenicians of Marseille had already set up a colony on the site, but it was the Roman emperor who gave the port its prosperity and the city its name of Forum Julii meaning market of Julius. He also named its port Claustra Maris (English: The sea bolt). It went on to become one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean, until the Pax Romana, by denying Forum Julii its military activity, marked the beginning of its decline. The decay of Rome led to that of the cities of its empire. Between the 7th and the 9th centuries, Muslim invaders repeatedly raided the city. The sea encroached on the land while invasions by the Muslims and pirates left the monuments in ruin. By the 10th century there was very little left of the colony, mostly rubble. Sea-borne silt clogged up the port and led to the formation of a huge swampy plain, which then separated the village from the sea.
The church of St. Maximinus, begun towards the end of the 13th century by Charles II of Sicily and completed by the end of the 15th century, an example of pointed architecture in the south of France. The head of St. Mary Magdalen is honoured here, and the crypt contains tombs which date from the first centuries of the Christian Era. Forum Julii still has a lot of its ruins and an exceptional archaeological value. There's the Roman Amphitheatre, arcades of the Oree Gate, and remains of the Aqueduct arches. There is also the Cathedral, Chapel Jean Cocteau, Aurelienne's villa and Aurelien's park. The rhythm and mood still lives on today with many exhibitions, theatre and classical music events. Keeping up with its many traditions and artistic activities, Fréjus organises several fairs throughout the year. There is the pottery fair and the Bravade (street market bargains), in and amongst its Roman and Gothic architecture with the old tile roof tops and tinted walls. Everything blends in happily with the recently developed port and its neo palladian design and carefully selected Provençal colours which give it a unique identity. Port Fréjus which has a capacity of 750 moorings, is surrounded by beautiful fine sandy beaches. The town is very conscious of its natural heritage. As a backdrop there is the massif de l'Esterel (English: Esterel Hills) and its nature base situated on the sea edge, as well as protecting the area and its environment. Many sporting events are held here. There's the well-known annual Roc Azur mountain bike event which is completely open to everyone of all ages. There are plenty of walks to enjoy and strongly recommended is to see the infamous Barrage de Malpasset dam, which in 1959 burst partly destroying the town, uprooting everything in its path and causing 421 deaths. Only the ancient monuments withstood the torrent. Along the length of the dam's remains, all sorts of Mediterranean flora can be found such as heather, pine, oak and wild strawberry trees.
Saint-Raphaël has four large sandy beaches. One is near the city center which is called the Veillat. One at the Boulouris, one at Le Dramont and the fourth situated at Agay. There are also two smaller ones at Anthéor et Le Trayas. Saint-Raphaël is separated from Fréjus by the Pédégal River fed by the Garonne, the Adrets-of-l'Esterel, Saint-Jean-de-Cannes and Saint-Jean-de-l'Esterel. The River Agay flows from the mountains down through the village of that name, and is fed by the streams of Cabre, Perthus and Grenouillet. The Grenouillet is the most important of these streams, having average flows of between 43 cubic meters per second in July and 1160 cubic meters per second in January. The River Valescure, which is channelled through the Barrage des Crous, which is a dam, discharges into the River Reyran at Fréjus. From east to west the commune has several mountain summits rising from the massif. Mont Vinaigre in Fréjus stands at 618 meters or 2027 feet, Rastel d'Agay at 287 meters or 942 feet, Pic de l'Ours that carries a transmitter aerial at 492 meters or 1614 feet, Pic du Cap Roux at 453 meters or 1486 feet and Pic d'Aurèle at 322 meters or 1056 feet in elevation. Situated almost entirely on the Esterel Massif, the commune sits on soil of red porphyr, which makes for very picturesque scenes along the coast where the soil and rocks are exposed on cliff faces and rocky shores. Three important and spectacular rocks dominate the seascape: Cap Roux at 360 meters or 1181 feet, Saint-Pilon at 295 meters or 968 feet in elevation and the Rock of Saint-Barthélemy. Just to the west and north-west of Saint-Raphaël lies the ancient town of Fréjus. To the north lie the hamlets of Saint-Jean-de-l'Esterel et Saint-Jean-de-Cannes, both within the Fréjus commune. To the extreme north-east, beyond Le Trayas, is the small resort of Miramar, lying within the commune of Théoule-sur-Mer. The Mediterranean Sea lies to the south of the whole Saint-Raphaël commune.
La Plage private beach is situated on a beautiful stretch of sand between the Côte d’Azur towns of Fréjus and Saint Raphaël. It has a laid-back feel to it, and it is a very pleasant place to spend an afternoon on the splendid French Riviera. The swimming conditions are excellent and it's safe for kids to play. The beach has easy access and is accessible to handicapped visitors. During the summer months, the beach is open from 9 am until 1 am, and in the winter the restaurant remains open on weekends. Beach beds and umbrellas are available for rent during season. The area around Saint Raphaël and Fréjus is one of the most naturally beautiful parts of the French Riviera. The monumental red cliff faces of the Massif d’Esterel rise out of the water, creating a stark contrast against the vivid turquoise of the Mediterranean Sea and the deep greens of the surrounding pine forests. The region has some of the best walking trails in the Côte d’Azur, which range in difficulty making them suitable for all abilities. For the less energetic, a drive along the stunning coastal road, La Corniche d’Or, will enchant visitors with breathtaking views of the secluded creeks and calanques that punctuate the dramatic rock formations.
The modern rail station is named Saint-Raphaël-Valescure and offers national, regional and local train services. High-speed TGV and iDTGV trains - from Paris-Gare du Lyon with a destination of Nice. Corail Lunéa from Paris-Gare d'Austerlitz has a destination of Nice. Lines 03 and 06 of TER Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur from Marseille-Gare Saint-Charles also has a destination of Nice and TER Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur has a local stopping service to Nice. International scheduled air passenger services are available at: L'aéroport Nice Côte d'Azur which is forty-five kilometres away. L’aéroport de Marseille Provence is 118 kilometers distant. Private, commercial and freight services are conducted at: L'aéroport de Cannes - Mandelieu which is twenty kilometers distant and L'aéroport de La Môle - Saint-Tropez at thirty-four kilometers. Saint-Raphaël is well served by bus routes, and has a busy bus station in the town center. Express service by LER PACA - on Route 21: Aix-en-Provence to Nice. Fast service of 1 hour and 15 minutes to Nice Airport by S.V.A. - Société Varoise d'Autocars Departement. County services by Sodetrav - La Société Départementale des Transports du Var - Routes 27, 28, 31, 53 and 104. Town services by AggloBus Fréjus/Saint-Raphael with Routes 1a, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10. The shuttle boats of Saint-Raphaël provide fast connections to St. Aygulf, Port-Fréjus, the islands of Lerins, Saint-Tropez and Cannes.
Fréjus: 3 kilometers or 1.9 miles
Agay: 11 kilometers or 6.8 miles
Sainte-Maxime 23 kilometers or 14 miles
Draguignan: 33 kilometers or 21 miles
Saint-Tropez: 39 kilometers or 24 miles
Cannes: 41 kilometers or 25 miles
Brignoles: 66 kilometers or 41 miles
Nice: 66 kilometers or 41 miles
Toulon: 75 kilometers or 47 miles
Monte Carlo: 89 kilometers or 55 miles
Marseilles: 111 kilometers or 69 miles
Montpellier: 270 kilometers or 170 miles
Lyon: 415 kilometers or 258 miles
Perpignan: 419 kilometers or 260 miles
Paris: 695 kilometers or 432 miles
Bordeaux: 747 kilometers or 464 miles
In 1799 Napoleon Bonaparte and his forces arrived by ship from Egypt, prior to his coup d'état in Paris, and landed at a fishing village that was the commune of Saint-Raphaël. The coastal double-track rail link between Saint-Raphaël and Nice passes over a substantial viaduct constructed right on the shoreline at Anthéor. These tracks were of strategic importance to the Axis forces during World War II for supplying matériel to units in France. There were three separate air raids made on this viaduct from England, between September 1943 and February 1944, involving a total of thirty-one Lancaster bombers operating some seven hundred miles from base. Aircraft of the second raid flew on to Rabat, and from the third raid on to Sardinia. One Lancaster from the first raid was lost, and a flight lieutenant bombadier on the third raid was killed by enemy fire, some of which came from ships at sea. All the raids failed in their objective and the rail link was not severed. During World War II, on August 15, 1944, it was one of the sites of a beach landing in Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of southern France. Operation Dragoon was the Allied invasion of southern France on August 15, 1944, during World War II. The invasion was initiated via a parachute drop by the 1st Airborne Task Force, followed by an amphibious assault by elements of the U.S. Seventh Army, followed a day later by a force made up primarily of the French First Army. The landing caused the German Army Group G to abandon southern France and to retreat under constant Allied attacks to the Vosges Mountains. Despite being a large and complex military operation with a well-executed amphibious and airborne component, Operation Dragoon is not well known; it came in the later stages of the war and was overshadowed by the earlier and larger Operation Overlord.
St. Raphaël is located on the Côte d'Azur and enjoys a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild, humid winters. The Mistral wind occurs, although sometimes the town is sheltered from this by the Massif des Maures and the Esterel. It is perhaps more exposed to the Levant (strong, easterly, wet) or the Sirocco (very strong, southerly, hot) air flows, but fortunately these occur rarely. The wind velocity record was established on 30 January 1986, with gusts of 140 km per hour.
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