You might want to pour yourself a cold glass of rosé before you begin browsing this post, maybe play some Jacques Brel; it only seems right. I left Paris and floated down south this weekend in search of sun, sea and Provençale pastels. Join me for a little tour of a ridiculously charming village or two…
There is no better time to experience the South of France than in the off season– either just before the summertime, when sleepy French villages are starting to stretch their legs after a winter of hibernation, welcoming the early bird travellers, or, in the Autumn, when the crowds have gone back to the cities and the region holds onto that summer heat for a few extra weeks. But even in the height of summer, when the Côte d’Azur is over-run and the beach parking lots are full, make a U-turn and head for the hills, direction: Bormes-les-Mimosas.
With views straight out off a vintage Côte d’Azur postcard and the architecture of a perfectly untouched Provençale village, it’s the sort of place you wouldn’t mind hanging your hat forever.
One of the most florally decorated towns of France, Bormes won the Gold Medal awarded by the Entente Florale in 2003, and until 2013, it was the commune that welcomed the French President on holiday every summer. The Fort de Brégançon, located on a small nearby peninsula in the old fishing hamlet of Cabasson used to be the official summer residence of the presidents of France.
Often compared to a Provencal nativity scene, the ancient village is a labyrinth of tunnels and narrow streets leading to hidden oases…
Take the secret pathway to the castle at the top of the hill, it’s called the Montée Du Paradis (you can find it on the GPS).
I always go to the south with a seasonal shopping list which includes a straw market bag, soaps from Marseille, something linen, and something antique I can fit in my carry-on.
We also picked up some honey and got to meet the bees that made it right there at the keeper’s market stall in the village.
There are so many picture-perfect restaurants in this village you’ll be wishing there were more than three mealtimes in a day.
My favourite 5 in Bormes-Les-Mimosas
- Le Jardin
- L’Epicerie du Village (find a table on the secret terrace round the back)
- Lou Portaou
- The Italian restaurant with the balcony at 1 Rue Jean Aicard (I forgot the name)!
And don’t miss Collobrières…
Just a 20 minute drive from Bormes-Les-Mimosas, at the end of a spiralling road deeper into the mountains, you’ll find Collobrières, a village lost in time, all for yourself…
If you truly want to escape to an authentic sleepy French village near the Riviera. Collobrières would be the one. You could stay in the medieval tower on the most peaceful square (pictured below), which I found is up for rent on Airbnb. Or you could book a room at the village’s only hotel, or a bed & breakfast with a pool.
Village Hopping in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
Before we end today’s post, I thought I’d leave a little list here of other villages worth visiting in the Var area in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. (We flew into Toulon on a short and easy flight from Paris-Orly).
- Belgentier – an old-world sleepy riverside village of fine narrow cobbled streets, linked by roofed and vaulted passageways.
- Bormes Les Mimosas – an award winning floral village peppered with restaurants and boutiques.
- Le Castellet – a small romanesque village in the valley of grey stone houses, barns, wash-houses and fountains.
- Collobrières – In the middle of the forest, renowned for its chestnut groves, far from the crowds of the coast with a charming 12th c. bridge, ancient fountain and picturesque houses.
- Gassin – perched high up on a rock with winding streets and ancient houses less than 4km from the sea overlooking vineyards and the gulf of Saint Tropez. Officially one of the “most beautiful villages of France”.
- Grimaud – Medieval hilltop village in the golf of St. Tropez with chateau ruins. Beautiful old houses have been superbly renovated.
- Porquerolles – Village on an island host to some of the best beaches in Europe in the Hyeres gulf, hosts a jazz festival each summer (regular boats to the island).
- Ramatuelle – close to the beach, flower-decked houses, cute bistros and small shops.