Bonjour from a drizzly South of France. We are in full “rentrée” mode – the word that signifies the official return to school and work after the summer holidays. And let’s just say that the current French mood matches the brief showers we had this afternoon… dark, stormy, and with just a bit of a depression on the horizon.
Hopefully September will favor us with more sunny days to enjoy the views in fabulous villages like Bormes-les-Mimosas.
Bormes is an easy detour en route to more glamorous destinations like Pampelonne beach, St. Tropez, or any of the splashy beach-towns which dot this section of the coast. And one of the most striking things about the village itself is the views it affords of the surrounding cities and dazzling Mediterranean sea.
A trip to Marseille is not without its complications. First, there’s the mish-mash of streets & buildings which make the term “urban-planning” seem somewhat ambitious. Then there’s the mix of North African, Italian, and French influences that can leave you wondering if you’re still in the same France of wine valleys and opulent châteauxs. Of course all of this confusion is also part of Marseille’s charm – a boisterous, multi-cultural city which quite proudly refuses to be defined.
During our first few trips to France’s second city I felt more than a bit lost – chaotic streets, foreign tongues and a grittiness I hadn’t experienced during our outing to all those postcard-perfect Provençal villages.
Admittedly, one afternoon spent strolling through the Vieux Port and another tucked comfortably away in a seafood restaurant don’t exactly make for an exhaustive study of the city, so I decided to give Marseille another try.
This past July, we took an overnight trip to the city, and after starting out on our “tourist path”, it became clear that one thing had been glaringly missing from my previous trips: Summer.
I’d read about the Gorges du Verdon in my South of France guidebooks, and of course there were all those glowing blog posts about the region, but I’d never really understood what all the fuss was about. Feeling a bit steeped in nature as it is (these Provençal villages are quite the escape don’t ya know), how much better could natual beauty get?
Well, it got better. A lot better. The Gorges of Verdon really is, quite possibly, Europe’s most beautiful canyon.
Known as the capital of Provence Verte (Green Provence), the sizable town of Brignoles makes an excellent starting point for day trips around the interior of the Var region.
We were lucky enough to stumble-upon Brignoles’ large (biggest I’ve experienced) Provençal market one sunny Saturday in July. And talk about a lively place. If you don’t get drawn-in by the chatty salami-sellers, you just might fancy sampling a few of the local products on sale along the sprawling marche.
There’s also a covered area with food stalls where you can pick-up roasted chickens or plates of paella for a quick lunch-on-the-go. Although we found the pretty town square a better choice for a lazy, afternoon nosh.
The market boasts an interesting selection of Provençal products; including some potent liqueurs and some “brews” that seemed downright particular to Provence Verte (ie. beware of locals baring gifts…or vats of fig wine). Bon shopping!
Town-center of Brignoles, Place Caramy 83170 (on the map).
Wednesday and Saturday from 08:00 to 12:00.
Foodstuffs from Provence (olive oil, honey, cured meats, liqueurs), fruits & vegetables, Italian products, & clothing. Also a sizable flower market on Saturday mornings.
Villages to visit near Brignoles: Correns (1st organic village in France), Barjols (the “Tivoli” of Provence), or tour the famous Abbey at nearby Thoronet. Don’t forget to check-out a few wine estates in the area – including Domaine des Annibals , bronze & gold award recipients for their rosé & white wines at Concours Général Agricole de Paris 2011 and Concours des Grands Vins de Macon 2010.