Pretty little streets lead off the large central square where
busy street markets take place on Wednesdays and Saturdays
all year round. Numerous bars and restaurants, which remain
very much alive out of season.
Cotignac: The most ancient
and beautiful village in the Centre Var. The prettiest street
market every Tuesday throughout the year plus numerous brocante
and antique markets in summer. Excellent boutiques for antiques,
fabrics and possibly the best Kilim rugs shop in Europe. Recommended
restaurant La Table de la Fontaine on the main square, Cours
Entrecasteaux: Famous for
its Château dating from the 12C, where Madame la Marquise
de Sevigne wrote some of her renowned letters in the 17th
century, many to her daughter whose husband owned the chateau.
Gardens by Le Notre, who also designed the gardens of Versaille.
Chateau opens daily to the public at precisely 4pm. Eccentric
interiors, worth the visit! Best restaurant La Fourchette
near the Chateau.
A short walk from this small village brings you to a dramatic
waterfall where the river above drops 100 metres over a cliff
into a lovely pool beneath. The Restaurant des Pins serves
simple, well-prepared meals. The nearby Chateau sometimes
has art exhibitions.
Tourtour: Alias the “village
in the sky”, with
the best views in the area. Restaurants and bars surround
the tiny central square with open-air concerts in summer.
La Bastide de Tourtour is its grandest hotel with a good restaurant,
though a bit formal. For gastronomy try Restaurant La Table
just beyond the arch from the central square.
Villecroze: A small typically
Provencal village. Best restaurants La Lavande and L’Annexe
in the main square. La Poterie du Soleil, just outside the
village on the Draguignan road, designs, makes and sells some
of the most stylish pottery in the area
Moustiers: A favourite
of ours, this village is nestled into the side of the mountain
and is famous for it’s china and famous, delicate white
There are numerous cafes, restaurants, and
boutiques brimming with Provencal
print fabrics, lavender infused soaps, bath oils and drawer
sachets, unguents, lotions and potions made from the gorgeously
scented, locally grown lavender. Just below the village lies
another Michelin starred Alain Ducasse gem, La Bastide de
Moustiers – Ste. Marie.
Lorgues: One of the larger
villages, Lorgues is home to Chez Bruno. Chef Bruno Clement’s
passion is the indigenous black truffle, and many of his dishes
include the luscious, rare delicacy. His “tasting menu”
is to die for.
St Tropez, still very attractive despite its popularity, is
only an hour away out of season
though often longer in high summer. There is an excellent
market in the main square on Fridays, plus numerous boutiques,
bars, restaurants, good beaches and usually some lovely yachts
in the harbour.
PLACES OF INTEREST
Abbaye du Thoronet –
a beautifully restored 13C Cistercian monastery with astonishing
acoustics. One of France’s cultural treasures.
Abbaye de la Celle (near
Brignoles) a part-restored Cistercian monastery beside an
excellent restaurant-hotel, Hostellerie de l’Abbaye,
created by France’s top chef, Alain Ducasse. A good
wine-shop selling Coteaux Varois wines is next door.
The Prehistory Museum (designed
by British architect Lord Norman Foster) at Quinson near the
Gorges de Verdun, Europe’s richest area for prehistoric
discoveries. Ideal for children and adults interested in archaeology
and ancient history.
de Ste Croix, a huge and beautiful man-made lake-reservoir.
Good little beaches for picnics and a refreshing swim. Pretty
villages around the lake with typical Provencal restaurants.
Electric boats can be hired for self-guide water tours into
the Gorge itself.
Many of the vineyards put on Art et Vins shows in season.
There are art galleries in most villages.
There are numerous concerts in the area, notably at Cotignac,
Entrecasteaux, Villecroze and Tourtour, from classical chamber
music to jazz, which take place mainly in summer.
The nearest good golf-courses are at Barbaroux, near Brignoles,
and St Endreol, near Le Muy/Draguignan. There are more at
St Raphael and around Mougins and Cannes.
There are hundreds of vineyards (wineries) in the Var. These
days most of them make good wine, mainly rose and red, though
there some good whites. It’s better to buy wine at the
vineyard, where you can have free tastings, rather than at
best local vineyards include Ch Carpe Diem (Cotignac), Domaine
Saint Janet (Cotignac) Domaine Nestuby (Cotignac), Ch d’Aspras
(Correns), Dom de l’Arnaude (Lorgues), Ch Ste Beatrice
(Lorgues), Ch de Berne (Lorgues), Dom la Rose Tremiere (Lorgues),
Ch de Rasque (Taradeau), Ch d’Astros (Vidauban), Ch
St Jean (Villecroze). There is a good specialist wine shop
on the outskirts of Draguignan. At Les Arcs, the shop of La
Maison des Vins wine institute sells selected Cotes de Provence
wines and, at La Celle near Brignoles, a shop sells a selection
of Coteaux Varois wines. Most Varois wines use a blend of
several grape varieties, principally Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault,
Grenache, Merlot, Morvedre and Syrah, though one can find
wines made solely from Cabernet, Merlot or Syrah. It’s
worth noting that local rose wines are made from red grapes
and are just as alcoholic as the reds!!
Further to the west.
Aix-en-Provence is a miniature Paris in the sun. Atmospheric
narrow streets housing restaurants and tempting boutiques
fanning out from the magnificent, rightly famous, boulevard
Cours Mirabeau full of street-life with its buzzy pavement
cafes, fountains and stylish architecture. Excellent street
markets on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Avignon, Arles and the Carmargue are a day
trip away. Italy can be reached in under 3 hours.