11 Sud de France

November 3rd – Bargemon et Fayence

Header photo, above:  A view of Bargemon from a distance, looking North.

In this part of Provence, there are scores of hillside towns with similar, almost identical, characteristics:  They are beautiful, yes.  They are old, dating back to the middle ages.  Each has a town square with a fountain, each has narrow, winding streets, several patisseries with the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the town, and one or two restaurants, at least, where you can get the best omelet of your life, a daube (stew) of many kinds of meat, including Sanglier, the local wild pig, a fine glass of wine, if you are so inclined, and a generous dose of local hospitality.

It is fun to visit these towns, and it gives you a pleasant sense of going back in time, perhaps to a simpler way of life– at least from our point of view, if not theirs, at the time– and,  from an American’s perspective, an enjoyable feeling of immersion in “The Old World” that we hear so much about but which we have a difficult time relating to, what with our meagre 300 year old American history (absenting, of course, as is so shamefully often the case, the several thousand years of inhabitance by the indigenous folk before the Europeans arrived…)

The problem– if, indeed, it can be characterized as a problem at all– is that after awhile these downs begin to meld with one another in one’s perception, and they are so similar in their primary characteristics that you develop a sense of having been there before, even as you enter a place where you have not, in fact, ever been.  But it looks and feels so similar to others that it becomes hard to differentiate, to distinquish.

Bargemon

This would undoubtedly be insulting to any of the local residents who no doubt take pride in the particularities of their own town, and, indeed, with time and a slower pace perhaps the vistor would, too, embrace a greater awareness of the differences rather than the similarities.  Buy, for now, for me, I’m finding it hard to muster enthusiasm  to visit yet another midieval provençal locality, enjoyable, in an icreasingly familiar way, that I know it would be… 

Above:  And yet… there is beauty everywhere, in each town, in all directions.  The scene above was taken in Fayence…

And even though we are visiting in winter, very much the “off season” and the towns therefore easily accommodating visitors in numbers that pale by comparison to the summer months, there are signs everywhere of the true resort character of the Var.  Here is a sign for a rare winter antique show, an echo of the more constant activities and events staged for the summer crowds.

Above:  These towns evolved over centuries, leaving angles and avenues, and crannies and bagatelles of light that can offer delightful picture opportunities.

Above:  Yet more fabric from a delightful and expressive local merchant.

Above:  A typical Fayence street, lovely, and so similar to so many other streets in scores of local hillside towns…

Above:  In the summer this street in Fayence would be nearly impassable with tourists…

Above:  Each town has it least one large church, usually Catholic, sometimes a cathedral…

Above:  The interior of the church in Fayence.

Above:  These scores of midievel towns all sit on hilltops and have magnifient views across the plains, like this one…

 November 4th — Frejus / St Raphael / Port La Galère

Above:  Another day for the 30 mile trip to the coast, this time heading East,  once there, St Raphael

Above:  The trip down to the coast is a pleasant one, past many vinyards, now dormant for the winter, and majestic views of the coastal mountains that lead down to the shore.

Above:  St Raphael is a bustling resort village, with excellent restaurants, a beautiful park overlooking the Mediterranean, and, as with all this coastal towns, a long history dating back to the Romans…

Above:  St Raphael.  The summer crowds are gone, but the many souvineer shops remain open.

Above:  It was a warm, pleasant day in St Raphael, so we stopped for an outdoor lunch at one of the bistros overlooking the marina.

Above:  This, my friends, is what pizza avec quatre fromages looks like and, yes, it’s as good as it looks.  Better.

Above:  After lunch, we headed east along the coast… “in the direction of” (as they say) Cannes and Nice

Above:  The high speed railroad winds its way right along the coast.  I’m not sure they’d use that valuable waterfront real-estate for a train, if they had it to do over, today…

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 November 10th — Port de la Rague / Cannes

Above:  Heading south to the coast again today, this time with a bit of a mission.  We are going to stop in a town called Port La Galère with the idea in mind of perhaps renting a place there for a few months.  The problem finding a kennel for the dogs remains, so we’re hoping we’d have better luck in this coastal, and more densely populated, at least in the summer, area. 

Above:  After reaching the coast we stop to walk the monsters at the marina in Port de la Rague. one of the great summer destinations for France’s rich and famous.  

Above:   In the distance you can see some of the summer homes dotting the hills overlooking the marina with beautful views of the sea to the right. 

Above: The ships hail from places far and wide, from tax havens like the Channel Islands to Capetown, South Africa.  They are moored here for the winter, awaiting their owners’ return, probably with hired captains, in the  Spring. 

Above:  The dogs have plenty to explore and, the the Romans who proceeded them by several thousand years, have the satisfaction of their first wee-wee on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.  

Above: Another view of Port de la Rague

Above:  Chloe checks out Port de la Rague 

Above: This old-timer was fully functional and belonged to one of the waiters in a nearby restaurant.

Above: We stopped at a gated resort community in Port La Galère and, by pre-arrangement, were shown  several apartments for possible rental.  This community is a dramatic and beautiful place, with numerous small condominium apartment buildings perched precariously on a steep cliffside overlooking the Sea.  The result is views like the one above, taken from the balcony of one of the rental condos, looking almost straight down to the waves crashing against the crags.  Alice was familiar with Port La Galère from years before when she would visit her good friends Pepe and Jean who live in Luxembourg and have a summer retreat here.  Ultimately, however, despite it’s beauty and attractiveness, we decided not to make the move.

Cannes

Above:  Later in the day we continued east along the coast for about 20 Kilometers to Cannes, with its familiar line of seaside hotels seen so often in pictures of the Cannes Film Festival.  

Above:  Cannes, sleepy in winter compared  to the summer throngs. 

Above:  Cannes along La Croisette, its most famous boulevard.

Home Again…

Above:  And then the 45 minute trip back north, to the woods of Callas

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N E X T :   Rome

 

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