Provence-Cote-d'Azur Property Blog: Insider's guide to property in the Provence Coté d'Azur region

Introduction to the Var

The Var – beaches, countryside, lakes & mountains – the best of Provence Cote d’Azur

The Var is one of France’s best kept secrets – sandwiched between the Mediterranean beaches and the second largest canyon in the world, the Gorges du Verdon – it has all of the best features of Peter Mayle’s Provence including the villages perched on mountain tops, the landscape of vineyards, olive groves and lavender, but has remained largely French in nature.

The main town is Toulon, the second largest naval base in France after Brest, but that is to overlook the Napeleonic architecture, the Baron Haussman-designed main street, Boulevard de Strasbourg, the arab-influenced daily market at Cours Lafayette, Mont Faron and its cable car and the beaches of Le Mourillion.  However, the Var, particularly for the overseas visitor is more about the countryside, but even there one finds regions within regions.

Working east to west, and just 20 miles from Cannes & La Croisette, is the Canton de Fayence and the wider Esterel region.  Traditionally, this area is a popular
destination with Scandinavians and Northern Europeans who appreciate its natural characteristics. The land’s diversity means the region has it all from
the beach and coast line up to snow capped mountains via dense forests, fresh water lakes, grass plains and rugged hills. There are the Roman ruins at Fréjus, the beaches of Les Issambres, marinas at St Raphaël and Fréjus, the mountaintop villages of Montauroux, Fayence, Mons & Seillans, the medieval villages of Callian and Roquebrune-sur-Argens and the vineyards of Chateau Roseline and Chateau Dior in Montauroux, once home to the famous haute-couture designer.

Then you reach the area around the Gulf of Saint-Tropez which offers a variety of interesting and ancient towns that are popular tourist destinations but also have a year round population from many other countries. There is glitzy Saint Tropez itself, known as the millionaires’ playground during the summer months, and the famous beaches of Pampelonne and Ramatuelle with its restaurants and beach clubs ideal for people-watching.  Further around the bay is the popular Port
Grimaud – the Venice of the south of France – where it is possible to moor boats in front of fishermen’s cottages and cars are restricted to the outer edges of the village.  Inland are the charming ancient villages of Grimaud and La Garde Freinet but still within a few minutes’ drive from the coast.

To the west of the region you have the coastal towns of Hyeres, Carqueiranne, Sanary and Bandol either side of Toulon itself.  Hyeres with its ruined chateau, casino, the beaches of St Ayguade and the exclusive Gien peninsula with the offshore Iles d’Or.  Carqueiranne, of Roman beginnings, famous for long-stemmed tulips and early season fruit and vegetables.  Sanary, an old fishing village with the famous Pointus fishing boats used for jousting contests once a year around the area. Bandol, the St Tropez of the 1930s before Brigitte Bardot made St Tropez famous.  Inland there are the medieval villages of Le Castellet (perched on top of the mountain), Cotignac (huddling in the shadow of a mountain containing troglodyte remains), the iconic 13th Century basilica of St Maximin la Ste Baume and “the village in the sky” of Tourtour.

Traditional fishing boats

However what unites most of the region is that the Var remains close to its farming and fishing roots: the food is grown locally, the fish are caught fresh daily, it’s the Mediterranean lifestyle and diet that everyone talks about, without the hype because it’s just how people live, off the local land and with what is at close proximity.  Throughout the region this is celebrated in each town and village with the annual fete – figs from Solliès-Pont, chestnuts & marron glacé
at Collobrières, the rosé wines of Bandol and Pierrefeu, bread in Fayence and olives at Seillans to mention just a few.

Everything you read about in the Peter Mayle books exists here and even at the height of summer, there are enclaves where the area is unspoilt by its popularity

 

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