When we last left off from our cliffhanger on the island :), my family was at the Moulin de Bonhour (which really wasn’t). From there we headed left and down the hill until we came to an intersection that gave us four choices. One way was back to the village and in two other directions was the way to separate beaches. I was more interested in strolling through the island vineyards; there are 200 hectares of them, and olive tree groves and then hiking up to the lighthouse.
In the end, that was the direction we took. We headed down hill towards the center of the island and passed beautifully manicured vineyards which abruptly stopped just at the edge of the island “forest”.
Then it was onto the olive tree groves
and after that a mixture of crops ranging from wheat, to corn, to flowers, to palm trees and many other crops and groves that I didn’t recognize. Remember, I’m nowhere near to being a green thumb (I am a self-proclaimed lover of LOOKING at nature not dabbling in it) so there are many plants and flowers of which I have no idea what they are.
Kilometers after kilometer were beautiful crops and some scattered houses of inhabitants lucky enough to own a piece of the earth on this island.
Just before making the turn to head in the direction of the lighthouse, we came upon this little shack.
At first I thought it was just some broken down thing that was left by the way side but as we continued along the main road, we noticed that it branched off onto a small trail and ended up at the little shack. To our surprise, it was a brand new shaded area with a bench to be used as a rest stop and bird watching area! We were lucky enough to have it all to ourselves and enjoy the chattering of the large amounts of birds that came to bathe and drink the water of the pond we were next to.
After a quick bite, we brought a backpack of snacks with us onto the island; we headed off in the direction of the lighthouse. The wide trail had been newly graded and compacted and to the side of the road there were surveying sticks every few kilometers. We wondered if this area was being prepared for building houses or condos. It would be a beautiful place to live, but what a shame to spoil the natural beauty of the landscape. There were no signs to tell what was to take place so I guess I’ll just have to wait and see until the next time I come by for a visit.
After rounding the bend, we came across a tiny collection of apartment houses (no more than 5 or 6) and then it was up the hill towards the lighthouse. Once we reached the top of the hill we could see the lighthouse, called Le Phare du Cap d’Arme, through a gate. It was built in 1837 but looks like it has been restored.
Unfortunately, you can’t go through the gate or onto the grounds to see the lighthouse up close. I was thoroughly disappointed as the lighthouse is on the map and there were never any signs along the way to say that you weren’t allowed to visit it up close. We only saw signs pointing us in the direction of the lighthouse. It seemed others had the same idea as us and the same disappointed look as we gathered around the fence peering in.
After a brief rest and some grumbly words coming from my lips, we headed off down the road and onto a little trail towards the Gorge du Loup. The trail is very easy to follow and hike on. It leads you through trees instead of groves and fields.
As you approach the gorge the trees open up into a wide open space overlooking a gorge with a view onto the Mediterranean. The gorge is a small one, but beautiful nonetheless. There happened to be a small sailboat anchored near the edge and some divers taking advantage of the beautiful day. This was another perfect spot to pull out a snack and sit and rest for awhile and enjoy the view. There were only two other people we had to share the view with. It was amazingly quiet and sheltered.
By the time we were ready to take our leave of the gorge and venture off to our next site, the clouds had started to roll in and it was getting a bit chilly. I put on my sweater and off we went towards the gardens and the beach.
What’s this?? Another cliffhanger??? More to come 🙂 ……
Since Tuesday was a holiday here in France, what else was there to do but go out and explore some more of Provence!
The week before, we had spotted the Ile de Porquerolles from the village of Giens. I had commented that if the weather would cooperate, I wanted to go visit the island that we had seen from the ruins of the chateau.
Lucky for us, the day was perfect for an outing to the island.
We drove to Tour de Fondue which is where you catch the ferry that takes you to Porquerolles. The cost is 18€ round trip for an adult and it takes about 15 minutes for the crossing. There is no set time for the return ticket you just need to be sure you make it onto the last ferry of the day or you’ll have to spend the night or hitch a ride back to the mainland on some nice person’s boat, if you’re lucky 🙂
Once we landed on the island, I headed straight for the office of tourism. I wanted to be sure I got a map since I intended to make good use of the many hikes you can take around the island. The map costs 3€, but if you treat it right it will last you a good many trips back.
One thing that is very noticeable is that there are bike rental places everywhere. This is a biking community and nearly every trail on which you can walk, you can also bike. We didn’t bring our bikes that day but I have plans to return again for a day of biking. If you want to take your own bike on the ferry instead of renting one on the island you can do so and the cost is 13,50€.
We first took a look around the little village. There are a plethora of restaurants and also little stands to purchase fruits and veggies, ice cream, crepes and sandwiches. You will not go hungry here. Since we had eaten breakfast right before leaving the house, I chose to make my first meal an ice cream cone 🙂 What?? My mom wasn’t around to tell me no!
The buildings in the town are fairly new compared to the other villages we have visited. Beside some homes and businesses built a few decades ago, there is also a good majority of new homes and apartments near town center.
On this particular day, the island was not very busy. There were plenty of spaces in the restaurants and the village was comfortably laid back and calm.
We visited the church in the town square. It was built in 1850. The modest exterior mirrors the interior. Though not as elegant as some, it is decorated with some of the most beautifully sculpted, wooden pictures of art depicting the life of Jesus and the saints.
Above the entrance and exit doors hang some very large paintings and a very simple stain glass window.
Upon exiting the church we headed left and up a small street following signs to the Fort Ste. Agathe, said to have been built around the 16th century.
The trail leads you around a small hill and gives you a terrific view of the port and the open sea.
The hike is not long at all and once you reach the entrance of the fort, you have a magnificent view of the Mediterranean and vineyards. It just so happened that when we arrived at this point, the sun broke free of some clouds and showed us that gorgeous Mediterranean Sea blue that you usually only get to see on a postcard.
After some time gazing out at the view, we headed through the front gate of the fort. There is not much left inside the ramparts that you are able to see. The main door says private and you can’t enter into the interior of the fort. We were able to see the views of the valley and the vineyards and see some of the outside of the fort and old guard house, but I was disappointed that I couldn’t go inside. Upon exiting out the back gate, there is a large sign with information on the fort and its history. The story is told in both English and French.
We then headed left down a dirt road to see the Moulin du Bonheur or Windmill of Happiness, which is the name given to it in sarcasm, since the windmill never brought any happiness to the few families who lived on the island a few centuries before. Here there is also a sign with information about the history of the windmill that is told in both English and French. The windmill has been restored and it is in lovely condition. The view from the hilltop overlooking the valley is quite exceptional. You can take the short walk around the windmill, but you cannot go inside.
After some picture taking and view gazing it was off on our next hiking adventure.
Goodness, I think we’ve come to a cliff hanger! More to come…..
In the VAR department of Provence there is a little village called Giens or Presqu’ile de Giens. At one time a chateau stood atop the village, but barely anything is left now. The villagers have turned the area into a beautiful little garden and what still remains offers the most spectacular views.
To one side are the Mediterranean and the iles-de-Porquerolles.
Directly on the other side are an inlet, where kite surfing and parasailing reign supreme, and a view of the surrounding hills of Provence.
The little garden is quaint and lovely, and this time of year the flowers are all in bloom.
It is neatly manicured and also houses an artist’ shop. The artist happened to be holding an exposition on this day. His does beautiful artwork, by the way. If his shop is open, feel free to browse. He allows pictures to be taken, as well.
Just above his art work that was hanging on the stone wall, you will find a plaque giving details of what transpired during history to this chateau.
To see the views you must access some steps to a balcony (which I assume was probably the ground floor of the chateau). On a clear day, the views are exceptional and this day happened to be fairly good weather wise. From this point you can also see the entire garden.
It such a peaceful place and I always enjoy seeing people out and about appreciating the beauty that these little villages have to offer. I also appreciate it when these little villages value their history enough to keep it alive for others to share and enjoy.