So yesterday, for the edification of our reader, (or readers if you count AnElephant’s mum, who likes the pictures) we did the marathon.
The Marathon of the Gulf of St Tropez, 2018, from St Maxime to Cavalaire sur Mer.
All 26 miles, 42 kilometres, plus the extra bit.
It took us a bit over 2 hours.
We are exhausted.
And very glad we went by car.
Don’t look like that, we had to get out to take photos.
And the way Emmy drives that is a relief and a challenge.
A relief, because she has a tendency to close her eyes if a large vehicle threatens her road space.
A challenge, because her idea of stopping for a photo op is to park with the passenger door over a giant puddle or a 2-metre ditch.
And, sadly, AnElephant is as agile as a half-brick.
Anyway, the course is as beautiful, as spectacular, as you might imagine.
This is, after all, Provence.
It is also the Côte d’Azur.
And that is the Mediterranean Sea out there.
It doesn’t get any better than this, anywhere.
The start point is St Maxime, founded by monks 1,000 years ago.
It sits at the foot of the Massif des Maures mountain range and looks across the gulf to St Tropez on the southern shore.
The beach was a focal point of Operation Dragoon, where in 1944 the Allies landed to liberate France from occupation.
The Marathon route follows the coast line past Port Grimaud and Cogolin Plage before reaching St Tropez, internationally renowned long-time home of Brigitte Bardot.
The fact that there is a large expanse of water to the left-hand side is fortuitous on two counts.
Firstly, your writer has navigational skills to match Pedro Álvares Cabral, a Portuguese gentleman who allegedly stumbled across Brazil on his way from his homeland to India, when he was attempting to negotiate his way around Africa.
Quite a good trick.
Secondly, Emmy translates all directional instructions as ‘Turn Right’, no matter how much emphasis is placed on the somewhat contradictory ‘Left’.
But we managed to arrive in St Trop, as it is known locally, with scarcely a fatality.
This lovely town is famous as a playground of the very wealthy, but it is much more, containing a charming old town with the iconic bell tower, and the wonderful Place des Lices, centre of local leisure pursuits, especially boules.
From here we sprint inland past Ramatuelle and Gassin, both spectacular hill towns dating from the Middle Ages, before returning to the coast at Gigaro and Sylvabelle Beach.
It now becomes evident that Emmy ignores all road signs, being much more engrossed by such necessary safety features as yellow butterflies, interesting farmhouses or other elegiac pastoral scenes.
A short run (in the passenger seat, perhaps less so if you have just tottered 20-odd miles) through the vineyards of La Croix-Valmer brings us to La Plage du Débarquement, another key landing place for the Allies on August 14th 1944.
We hurtle over any speed bumps careless enough to get in Emmy’s path (she sees them as an invitation to increase rather than reduce her mph/kph) before cruising into Cavalaire sur Mer, and arriving at the finish line at the end of the promenade in front of La Maison de la Mer.
Phew, we are puffed out.
We wish Bon Courage to those ambitious folk who plan to follow our trail on foot.
Sunday is a big day here.