David Worboys – A decade in Provence

To the east of our house in Provence was the fishing port of Sanary and to the west the dramatic drive to Cassis. Photocredit Photocommunity.fr

From 2004 (my retirement year) to 2014, we had a maisonette in Provence. This enabled me for ten years to spend each May, June and September there, in between driving on to England. Thus the heat and crowds of Southern Europe in July and August could be avoided.

Our holiday home was at Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer in the Var, one of France’s most beautiful departements, half-way between Marseille and Toulon. Despite the proximity of these major conurbations, it is a natural scenic coastline with pristine beaches and crystal clear sea. Its backdrop are the western edge of the Toulon hills and the Forest of Malaucene which can be viewed from Saint-Cyr’s beach of Les Lecques.

Driving a short distance inland through the vineyards producing the excellent Bandol wines, we arrive at the charming hill-top villages of La Cadiere and Le Castellet. The former has a peaceful shaded atmosphere with quaint floral streets and spectacular views of the latter and its surrounding countryside. Le Castellet is a more sophisticated tourist attraction, with exquisite boutique shops, small hotels and gourmet restaurants.

Ten kilometres to the west, the coastal road leads to the shipbuilding port of La Ciotat. The long beachside promenade to the east contrasts with the harbourside and its restaurants to the west. Its main claim to fame is as the location of the presentation of the world’s first projected moving picture by the Lumiere brothers in 1895. This was the birth of the cinema. In 1896 they filmed a train arriving at La Ciotat station. And In 1903, they patented the first known colour film and photography.

Further to the west the dramatic coastline features the towering dramatic cliffs of La Route des Cretes before the descent into the idyllic bay of Cassis and its picturesque boating harbour.

To the north of Saint-Cyr one of the most scenic motorways in Europe leads up to the university city of Aix-en-Provence, birthplace of Cezanne and a significant cultural centre. In the delightful Cours Mirabeau is the famous intellectuals’ café, les Deux Garcons.

If we drive further eastwards, it’s only seven kilometres to fashionable Bandol, blessed with fine back-street restaurants and an imposing harbour full of impressive yachts. Bandol is most famous for among the world’s best rose wines – and its reds are reputed to be even better! Many of the vineyards bearing the Bandol appellation are actually closer to Saint-Cyr.

A little further along is the jewel of this coastline, Sanary-sur-Mer. From the walkway above its picturesque fishing port, the view of the pastel-fronted houses, shops and restaurants could be of Italy. A regular fish market is held on the pedestrian zone right by the port. A community of German artists settled there in the thirties to escape Nazi persecution.

This area is a delightful contrast with the bustle of Nice and the pretentiousness of St. Tropez further to the east.

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Written by

David Worboys

Offering a unique insight into everything from politics to food to sport, David is one of the Euro Weekly News´ most popular columnists.