12-13 May: Spring on the Côte d’Azur

Author: Mrs A

Location: Bagnols-en-Forêt, Provence-Alps-Côte, France

Our wonderful hosts have lived within the community of Bagnols-en-Forêt for about four years now. It’s tucked up on the hinterland behind the sparkling Mediterranean, on land which traditionally has been used to grow olives and grapes, but these days is more profitable being subdivided to house terracotta tiled villas with swimming pools.

Sunday: We joined them for a walk around the neighbourhood with Genie, their little poodle-cross rescue dog, and got a good feel for the area. Many of the houses are on half acre plots with lovely gardens. Just 100 metres from the back of Diane and Colin’s property the forest stretches on for miles with views out to the foothills of the Alps.

Genie enjoying her neighbourhood stroll
View out north over the forest to the foothills of the Alps
Wildflowers blooming in the meadows
A spray of purple flowers
Insect feeding on the nectar
Ruby poppies are everywhere
A perfect poppy
The delicate mauve flowers on the wild garlic

Later, we drove on down to the village for a lazy Sunday lunch, enjoying salads and a glass or two of local Rosé.

Colin and I awaiting our lunch

Diane brought along her lap warmer
Miss Genie wondering why we’re taking away her attention!

Towards the end of the afternoon a rental car arrived bringing Jenny, David, Chris and Karen to the house, here to enjoy their final four days in Europe before flying back to Australia. Colin cooked us all up a delicious feast and we had a good catch up.

Monday: We awoke to a beautiful morning and so Mr A and I decided to jump on our bikes and see a little more of the area. We rode up into the area behind Colin and Di’s house and explored some of the tracks leading into the forest. It’s great fun riding our little e-bikes and we were grateful for them on the steep uphills back out of the valley.

The area is stunning, and as we rode through the area full of wildflowers we marvelled at how parklike the area was. We reached a clearing along the road and with views that took our breath away – looking south towards the Mediterranean, Saint-Raphael gleaming in the distance, and north up into the beginning of an alpine environment.

Looking south across the Esterel Mountains (Massif de l’Estérel) to the French Riviera
Our little Tinker e-bikes

Looking inland towards the Pré-Alpes
Gorgeous wisened old trees admiring the views too

Our kind of pathway – we could ride forever on here

Bees collecting pollen on the wildflowers
Yellow, white, pink and purple the prevalent colours

We clocked up 20km and returned to get ready to head out with the group. We piled into two cars and headed south towards the coast. Our first stop was the little town of Fréjus.

The town is on the site of an ancient naval base founded by Julius Caesar in about 50 bce and known originally as Forum Julii. Its Roman ruins include a late 1st-century amphitheatre, an aqueduct, and ancient fortifications.

As we arrived in town we saw a parade starting – it turned out it was the saint day for saint François de Paule, the Italian monk who arrived on the day the plague ended in the town – and henceforth was praised for being the town’s saviour.

Parade about to commence

We ambled through the little streets, checking out the architecture, arriving at the main square and the cathedral.

Wandering along the streets
Quiet laneways in this off peak period
A couple of new hats for Chris

David and Mr A chilling out on the steps

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame et Saint-Étienne (13th century) has a 5th-century baptistery, gradually being excavated. 

Heading into the cathedral
Many artworks on the walls
Exploring the interior
Spot all the new hats!

After lunch in the square we drove a short way along the coast to Saint-Raphaël. A €4 ferris wheel ride gave us the perfect opportunity to enjoy views along the coast and get our bearings in this resort town.

Looking along the coast – Diane’s favourite sandy beach below
Up and away – Karen, Chris, Jenny & David in the other capsule
A windy view

We explored the streets before ice creams and returning back for the evening. Di and Colin had booked us a unique experience, a private dinner prepared and served at a local farmhouse, La ferme Constantin in nearby Fayance.

It was a fabulous rustic setting, as we enjoyed wine and appetisers outside overlooking the fields, before heading in for food as the sun set.

Arriving at the farm
Miss Genie had to join us of course
Appetisers with a view
A fine glass of rosé

Our private dining room

Every dish is beautifully presented
Our fabulous main course
A dairy-free dessert

It was a great experience, one we will never forget.

The village of Fayance up in the hills behind us

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