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The Antique Car Show in Signes

On Sunday we headed off to the little village of Signes for their antique car show. The weather could not have been more perfect that day. Nice and warm, but not too warm, with a cool breeze.

Lots of car enthusiast turned out for the event and there were plenty of cars to see. We ended spending the afternoon looking at all the wonderful cars on display. Some were from France and Italy and some were of course, American.

Not only were the cars a treat for us to look at and enjoy, but so was the scenery. The village of Signes has some of the most picturesque hills surrounding it.

Here were some of the cars on display as well as some of the beautiful hills and countryside of the village.

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Ile de Porquerolles-The Village, The Church, Fort Ste. Agathe and The Moulin du Bonheur

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…..

 

Le Vieux-Cannet

The village of Le Vieux-Cannet is right out of a motion picture set and could very well have been a set for a French movie at one time. This very tiny village is considered a classic site and sits atop a hill overlooking the ville of Le Cannet-des-Maures (the “new” village) in the VAR.

Vieux-Cannet is one of the tiniest villages I have ever been to. They have no post office, no boulangerie, and no boucherie. In fact, not a single store or administration office is located there. They don’t even have a Maire (town hall). The villagers must go down the hill to Le Cannet-des-Maures for all their needs.

There is an old church named St. Michel in a quiet little square on which rests a wrought iron, free standing bell tower dating from 1776. The architectural design of the church is around the 11th century.  I tried to go inside, but found the doors to be locked up tight. There are remains of what was once a chateau, as well, but what is left has become a private residence. What this little village does have is a magnificent 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside and villages and a very unique charm about it with its cobble stone streets.

This quiet little town was completely deserted when my family and I visited even though it was a beautiful, warm day. I doubt many visitors come here even though they would be delighted at the old village houses being redone and cared for. It seems that this little village is working hard to ensure its longevity and many villagers have restored their homes. In fact, several of them were just gorgeous.

The day of my family’s visit, we saw no one. There were no people out in the square or in the small streets. The town cats were the only visible signs of life. We were able to have the whole village to ourselves to stroll about, look at the houses and admire the view. It was the first time I had ever visited a town in France and did not see another person. When approaching the village from a little area we parked in and passed through the remains of the ancient wall, I actually thought it could have been a ghost town. It did have that eerie empty feeling. Once we took a stroll around, though, we could tell that a ghost town village in France would not have restored houses!

This village is a wonderful place to stop off while touring through the VAR. If you plan to make a quick side trip, I would recommend doing so during lunch time. Bring a picnic and enjoy the view while having a relaxing lunch. If you stop by in the spring, the hillside leading up to the village is covered in yellow flowers. We went during the month of October so no flowers were to be found, but the visit and view were just as spectacular.

If you want to see more photos of Le Vieux-Cannet they appear on Flickr. To get there just click on the “More Photos” option under Photos on Flickr.

Views From The Remnants of Le Chateau de Giens

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.

The Port of Cassis

Tonight, at sunset, Dude and I took a stroll along the small beach and the port at Cassis. This village is one of our favorites to visit in the area and I have written about its charm before. It’s quite close to where I work so we are often there during the week in the evening time and can be seen window shopping and pastry shopping while enjoying the beautiful views of the Mediterranean.

Cassis is one of those towns that tourists flock to during spring and summer vacation. If you happen to visit during the tourist season you will find yourself feeling like herded cattle as you make your way around the walkway of the port. Every restaurant, shop, bars, and ice cream store in this village is full of people and you’re lucky if you can find a place to sit and relax. The main streets are crowded with tables and chairs and wide-eyed vacationers taking in the beauty of this delightful little town.

Normally during the summer months we avoid this place. After all we have the whole rest of the year to enjoy it while it is peaceful. Tonight happened to be one of those amazingly, peaceful nights. Since it is the beginning of spring, vacationers have not started to make their way to Cassis. This was the perfect night to venture there as the weather was calm and the temperature perfect for an evening stroll. There were no crowds, only a few other couples and families enjoying the warm evening.

This is the way I like to enjoy Cassis. The calm water, the warm air and the feeling like this picture perfect place is just for you and you don’t have to share it with anyone. I always comment on how wonderful it is to be able to visit whenever we want to and watch nature show off her magnificent sunset. We are so spoiled just like everyone else who lives here!

Les Baux de Provence

By far, the most beautiful village I have visited so far here in the south of France has to be Les Baux de Provence. I have been several times and it is, without a doubt, the first place on my list to take visitors. To date, no one has been disappointed.

The drive to get to Les Baux de Provence is a long one through olive tree groves and flat lands with sparsely laid houses. Just before you reach the city there is a small descent into a village at the base of Les Baux where you will find a few shops, some restaurants and hotels. Once you leave this road and turn the corner, there you will see, high on a hilltop, the lovely town of Les Baux de Provence. The first thing that comes into view is the spectacular ruins of the chateau. It’s quite simply an amazing and formidable sight.

During the winter months, this village is calm and quiet with not many stores or restaurants open. During the summer months it is one of the most crowded and touristy places I’ve seen. The winter is bitter cold in this town so take care if you do visit to not go when the Mistrals are blowing. I’ve never been in a colder village than Les Baux when the Mistrals decide to wage their war on Provence. For every bit of cold days you encounter there, the hot days are relentless in the summer.

This is the place where time has stood still. This is the place of cobble stone streets, original cut stone buildings, ruins, and gargoyles. This is the sort of village I love since history can be seen no matter where you look. From the moment you enter the gates, you are transported back in time. The only thing that keeps your mind set in the present is the current fashion trend of the people visiting.

This is the village that has my hand prints everywhere. For each time I go, I can’t resist running my hands along the walls and feeling the history beneath them. This is how I link myself to history. This is what really excites me. It’s so easy in this village to find a nice place to sit and picture what life was like back in medieval times, the hustle and bustle, the look and the feel. This is why Les Baux de Provence is one of my most favorite villages to visit.

When entering the village the first thing you will notice is one of the most wonderful candy stores in all of France, La Cure Gourmande. It’s absolutely impossible to leave this store without buying several different types of goodies. The décor is as pleasing to the eye as much as the candy is. Everything inside is delightful and delectable and it’s one store you cannot pass up. The best part about it being the first thing you see upon arrival is that while you are continuing your tour through the village you can enjoy the tasty treats you’ve just purchased.

Strolling through the streets you can find many lovely shops and cafes.

Every nook and cranny has something to offer. One of my favorite shops to browse is the tapestry shop. They make the most lovely hand crafted tapestries I’ve ever seen, many of them with fairy tales scenes or stories on them of the medieval times or renaissance in France.

During the summer, Les Baux de Provence puts on a show like no other. The town really comes alive with hundreds of people dressed up in medieval costumes walking about the town. Little stands are everywhere with merchants selling their goods. During this time, I don’t need to let my imagination run wild, the town freely offers up to me exactly what I crave.

As you make your way through the town you will come to the famous chateau which is now in partial ruins, but well worth the visit. You can choose to tour with or without audio. If it is your first time visiting the chateau, I would suggest spending the money on the audio tour, it comes in several different languages and tells of the history of the castle which is quite interesting. You are invited to roam freely and climb around the remains of the chateau. The view is spectacular and during the spring and summer there are shows which allow you to see the workings of the catapults (and some lucky guests can even try their hand at them), dressage, archery, live bird and bear shows and more. If you do not mind the heat and the crowds, this would be the time to go visit and experience the village in all its glory. The shows take place between 1 April through the end of September each weekend, holidays and school vacation times.

If crowds are not your thing, then the time to go would be the beginning of autumn when the weather can still be warm. The village will not be so crowded, but the stores and restaurants should be open for the most part.

Besides visiting the chateau, don’t forget to stop by St. Vincent’s church. It has beautiful stain glass windows (donated to the church by Prince Ranier III of Monaco), stone pillars with gorgeous carvings, gargoyles on the exterior who still watch over the town, and a wonderful white sarcophagus of a woman located on the left side of the church. This church was originally built in the 12th century and has had some updating, but for the most part remains like it was centuries ago.

If Santons are your thing, be sure to visit the Santon Museum. There is no admission charge and it is open all year around. You will enjoy the different exhibits this museum houses and there is even a documentary film on how the Santons are made. It’s quite interesting and a delight to see.

Then there is the view from the fortress wall just across from St. Vincent church. It’s absolutely breath taking. There are these fascinating homes that people have built right into the rock. You can stand there forever and not get tired of the beauty of this place. I know because each time I go, I have to literally tear myself away from it.

Take time to stop and have a refreshing drink at one of the many cafes or restaurants. It offers yet another opportunity to marvel at the history that is surrounding you.

After making the tour of the town, I always go around to see the buildings and ruins once more just to remind me of the feel, the texture and the sense of history. I just can’t help myself and I’ve even gone for a third trip around. There’s just something about this place that grabs me.

I definitely know that this village will be one that I visit time and time again. It’s one of those provincial towns that just stays with you, in good way.

If you want to see more photos of Les Baux de Provence they appear on Flickr. To get there just click on the “More Photos” option under Photos on Flickr.

For more information on the village of Les Baux de Provence, click here to go to their office website. This link will also take you on a video tour if you so choose.

La Cadière-d’Azur

Le Bouchon de Tourves

Fieldtrip To The Dump

 

Well, I got to take a trip to the Déchèterie(otherwise known as the local dump) to get rid of the junk the owners left in the house. I was not too happy about this since the one in the town we live in is just disgusting! There is trash and junk all over the place, it is completely disorganized, it smells something awful and if it is closed, people just go by and dump their junk on the side of the road!

So, when Dude said we were going I was not too happy. Protest time! Unfortunately, he was my ride back home so I had no choice. It was getting pretty late in the day and I was uncertain we were going to make in time so Dude was driving like a maniac! It was actually quite scary in the Europcar rental we had because that thing feels a little unstable. Not only that, but you can only get insurance for it for a grand! What are they gonna be able to fix on it for a grand? A big, fat, nothing is what. Can you imagine! You ding that thing or total it and you pay everything! What a rip off.

So there we were cruising towards home (me freaking out) and we passed by a local town with a sign for the Déchèterie. Bingo, down the little road we went. We actually passed it and had to turn around. You wanna know why?? Cuz it was actually a pretty nice place! Dang, this town had it going on.

We drove in and it was all organized and laid out nicely. They had all these different bins and you got to drive up, get out of your car and sort everything. They not only had the small bins for bottles, cans, paper and clothes, but these huge bins for glass, wood, metal, roofing materials, and an area for appliances.

We got out and ask the nice dump man what we were supposed to do with all the junk we had in the back of the van. He took a look and said it went into the bin entitled “Encombrants”. The reason was that our items were a mixture of material, wood, filling, nails and a bunch of other stuff. Due to this it all went into a big bin and was crushed up and then incinerated.

He explained that all other things at the dump in the big bins would be recycled and made into something new. Wow, a fieldtrip with a real lesson involved. Dude and dump man unloaded everything from the back of the van and then the nice dump man let us watch as all the items were thrown into the encombrants bin. Then he hit the magic switch. It was actually really cool to see. All the items were pushed together and crushed up into tiny pieces then sent off to the incinerator. Man, somebody used to love that stuff and now it was just dust particles. Really makes you think, doesn’t it……..okay, not really.

Then dump man looked at me real serious like (cuz I was hanging over the side railing really into it) and told me not to fall in. Duh?? I just smile and looked down in that bin and wondered how he knew what I was thinking. Cuz ya know, this remodel might just drive me to it!

Then, just like that, the show was over. We thanked the guy for the lesson and for letting us watch what he did all day at work. He was super nice and all so I will be fine if we have to go back again to get rid of more junk.

On our way out, I noticed that the back wall of the dump was one of the walls that bordered the village cemetery. I said to Dude, “Well that’s kind of sad isn’t it, that the dump is right next to loved ones?” Then he says, “Yup, you can get rid of your spouse and all your crap at the same time!”

Thanks Dude, glad to know you care.

Fontaine-de-Vaucluse

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