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Annie Le Voguer

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Bargemon - The Pearl of the Var
By Annie Le Voguer
Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Bargemon travel item

Bargemon - the Pearl of the Var

Most people have heard of the Cannes Film Festival, the Rainier family of Monaco, the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.

But Bargemon? The Var? I am normally met with a bit of a quizzical look when I mention this is where I spent my teenage years.

So, what is the Var? It's an French departmental area that covers the higher more southern region of the Provence. Less well known than the Luberon, Avignon and Marseilles, but far richer in beauty and old world villages.

Draguignan is it's main town. Derived from the 'dragon town' my children used to love to imagine we had our own dragon still living in a cave in the corner of the forest across the stream from where we live.

There are many endearing little villages that make up the Var, Fayence, Seillans, Claviers and Callas for instance are the four closest to Bargemon.

But it is Bargemon that holds the top spot and is known throughout France as 'The Pearl of the Var'. With air so pure ther are convalescent homes for those with breathing difficulties that come from all over France.

Poets, painters, scientists, Resistance fighters, even Romans, have all lived in this medieval village perched nearly 500 metres high yet only an hour's drive from the Riviera coast.

In fact, artists are still drawn to Bargemon and exhibtions take place most of the year displaying their works.

With around 1,000 inhabitants, Bargemon boasts a cheateau that was once a 12th century fortress - its ramparts still entwine half the village. Pierre Puget angel heads are to be found in the 14th century Catholic church that still runs regular services to its devoted village.

The other chateau, on the valley floor, was home to the Counts of Villeneuve who played an important part in the history of Provence and to whom this area belonged in the 13th century (I mention more about this in my book, Teenager en Provence). The chateau can now be hired out for groups (up to 80) from as little as $50 a day per person in single rooms or dormitories. When I lived there the chateau was still lived in by the wife of the Count de Villeneuve and I knew one of her sons, Gilles, very well. I understand that crippling costs to maintain the chateau forced her to move.

The main square is surrounded by a variety of shops and the bar "Le Commerce" will serve you at a table in the centre, shaded by huge poplar trees that have probably been standing there for generations.

There is a market in the lower square every Saturday where you can buy direct from the farmer. Home made cheeses, vegetables and meat at prices not to be beaten.

The best local products are olive oil, honey and grapes. Grapes you can buy on the side of the road from stalls - try them for flavour first. Olive wood and provencal material can be pricey but the wood is beautiful and lasts forever.

Taking a car drive up into the mountains takes you to one of the European rivals to The Grand Canyon - Les Gorges du Verdon. Look it up on the web, it is breathtakingly beautiful. Hugely popular for abseiling, clibming, kayaking or just sightseeing.

Prefer the beach? Twenty minutes to the coast you can be in St Tropez, though in summer the traffic can be so bad the trip is more like four hours.

To get to Bargemon you can fly to Nice, take a car and head for Les Adrets. Follow the lac St Cassien into the countryside and it's all signposted from there. Takes about an hour and 15.

There is a hotel in the village, L'Auberge des Arcades, but with the huge selection of villas to rent why not settle in home from home. There are restaurants in the village but with other villages so close it's worth a change of scenery.

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Reviewed by John Domino 9/20/2008
Painted like a picture. I want to go...



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