Recommended places to visit
The local towns/villages/sights:
Salernes is a popular town in the area with its ruined 13th century chateau, pretty squares and the best local market (Sunday mornings). It’s also known for its tile industry which produced the red hexagonal floor tiles commonly used here. There is a lovely spot for river swimming down near the camp site.
Moustier - Renowned for its beauty, famous ceramic industry and star suspended across the small gorge above, this village can get busy in summer. A quieter time to visit is late afternoon. A picnic lunch on the banks of the lake at Les Salles sur Verdon followed by an ice cream or a drink in Moustier is good way to avoid the worst of the crowds.
Cotignac - A lovely village de caractère set apart from other Provençal villages by its unique and romantic position nestling under a great cliff - see menu for more.
Tourtour - This ‘village in sky’ is regarded as one of the loveliest in France. The view from beside the Chapelle de St Denis stretches from the coast to the Maures Massif to Cezanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire.
Entrecasteaux - this village square is dominated by a huge chateau and holds music festivals in summer. There are also a couple of good restaurants and an excellent pizza place with a good play list.
Fox Amphoux: - A lovely hilltop village with spectacular views — especially from the church tower at sunset. Well worth visiting. Down in the new village there are two very good restaurants: Chez Jean, cheap and cheerful, with a no-choice menu, only serves lunch and is a favourite with both local hunters and gourmands. Le Table de Fanette, a little way out of the village, serves sophisticated, well prepared lunches and dinners.
Sillans la Cascade: - A few kilometres from Salernes, this pretty village has a chateau and a huge cascade (waterfall) with a pool and is a popular for picnics and swimming.
Gorge du Verdon and the Lac de Sante Croix: Swim, walk, cycle, pedalo, kayake, drive, picnic or relax and enjoy the view.
Cavalier, St Clair and Le Lavandou - lovely beaches about an hour away. The latter is busier.
St Tropez - Former sleepy fishing village made famous by Brigit Bardot and Collete. Still gorgeous but the harbour is dominated by super yachts and the shops no longer cater for a fishing community. Very busy mid-summer.
Nice - Always popular, with its beaches and good shopping. The tram ride is excellent and the Old Town best of all.
Cannes - Famous for the Film Festival, Cannes still hangs on to its 50s glamour.
Antibes with its 16th century ramparts, Jazz à Juan festival, sandy beaches (including la Garoupe, memorably described by F Scott Fitzgerald at the beginning of ‘Tender is the Night’), museums (including a small museum to Picasso and another to absinthe) is a fascinating town. Both F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway spent time here and Graham Greene lived for thirty years in an apartment near the harbour.
Aix en Provence: - A day out for art lovers. Paul Cezanne’s studio is preserved here, open daily, but do check the times if you plan to visit. There is also the Musée Granet, which holds a unexpectedly fabulous collection of paintings, 19th century sculpture and archaeological artefacts. Aix also hosts an opera festival in the spring and summer. This year, 2017, it runs from March until the end of July and the programme includes Bizet’s Carmen and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. See www.festival-aix.com for details. Shopping in Aix is especially good for food lovers. The old town has street after street of independent shops devoted to selling fine produce. There are also art and bookshops and shops selling perfumes, soaps and candles. On the Cours Mirabeau you’ll find the fin-de-siecle ‘Les Deux Garçons’, the famous restaurant beloved of Cezanne, Zola, Picasso, Pagnol, Piaf and Camus. These days it’s rather less beloved by Tripadvisor users who object mainly to the fabulously rude waiters. The reviews are generally so bad they’re hilarious but a simple omelette and salad from the snack menu eaten outside is still one of the best meals to be had for miles.
Summer opening hours. Please note shop opening times do sometimes differ from what is on the websites or even in the signs in the shop windows… Public holiday such as 14th July have different hours.
Casino: 08:30 - 19:30 Monday to Saturday
09:00 - 12:30 Sunday
Intermarche: 09:00 - 19:15 Monday to Saturday
09:00 - 12:30 Sunday
Lidl: 08:30 - 20:00 Monday to Saturday
Small village Spar: Monday 07:30 - 13:00 and 15:30 - 19:30, Tuesday - Saturday 06:30 - 12:30 and 16:30 -19:30, Sunday 08:00 - 13:00 and 16:00 - 19:00
Spar - supermarket on Brignoles road:
09:00 - 20:00 Monday to Saturday
09:00 - 13:00 and 16:00 - 19:00 Sunday
09:00 - 12:15 and 15:00 - 19:00 Monday to Thursday
09:00 - 19:30 Friday and Saturday
09:00 - 12.30 Sunday
Montfort sur Argens
09:00 - 20:00 Monday to Saturday
09:00 - 13:00 Sunday
Markets: Mornings from 08:00 until lunchtime
Salernes - Sunday
Aups - Wednesday and Saturday
Cotignac - Tuesday
Villecroze - Thursday
Carces - Saturday
Restaurants: You can generally eat well in any French town or village. Do let us know if you find a favourite you think others would like. In winter many restaurants are closed early in the week and some take holidays - please phone in advance to make sure they’re open.
Michelin starred — La Celle en Provence, near Brignoles: Hostelliere de la Celle is probably the finest restaurant around.
Bruno’s near Lorgues is a another famous restaurant. Truffles are the main thing here. Bruno uses local truffles. These have a different flavour to the very expensive white Italian truffles but are delicious nonetheless. Near the entrance you’ll see a mural featuring ‘The Last Supper’ with Bruno as Christ and other French Michelin starred chefs as his disciples. The rest of the decor is similarly kitsch, playful, witty or vulgar — depending on your taste.
Salernes: Food d’Amour and Bistro Gourmand are both excellent. You can also dine well for less in many of the local cafes and restaurants. For example the pizzeria Le Saint Romain near the supermarket Casino isn’t much to look at but the food is good and it’s very reasonably priced. Booking for most restaurants is advisable in high summer.
Cotignac: There are no excellent restaurants here but you’ll eat well almost everywhere. Restaurant du Cours serves good traditional French country food; the moules/mussels are very good. Café du Cours has gone up market and is very popular. The Atelier Gourmand next-door serves wonderful fresh salads, bistro dishes and ice creams. Brasserie Phil’s, La Tarante, Les 3 Marches, Pizzeria La Tarante and La Terrace are all reasonably priced and quite good. There’s also a new restaurant/café opened on the Place de la Marie which gets excellent reviews, Le Temps de Pose.
Tourtour: La Table de Tourtour, in the centre gets good reviews. La Bastide de Tourtour is looking a little tired inside but has a beautiful terrace which was used in the film ‘The Day of the Jackal’. A great place for a sundowner. The more modest La Farigoulette in the village is also good and has a terrace garden with panoramic views.
Entrecasteaux: La Fourchette is good, as is the Pizzeria, La Castellane and Chez Ellie.
Fox Amphoux: La Table de Fanette and Chez Jean as mentioned above.
Carces: Les Chineurs, very good pizza restaurant which also serves moules frites some days.
See also the following websites:
www.la-provence-verte.net Provence tourist information
www.mucem.org Museum of Marseille Mediterranean history
www.museegranet-aixenprovence.fr 19th C painting and sculpture
www.festival-aix.com Opera and classical music festival
www.jazzajuan.com Jazz festival in Juan-les-Pins, Antibes
www.festival-cannes.fr Cannes Film Festival
www.cezanne-en-provence.com Cezanne's studio in Aix en Provence