Life Along the Riviera and Beyond
I spent all day Friday, mostly in a car, just to visit a village house in the town of Collobrières with our newest Search Consultant in the South, Jennifer Parrette, who was in the driver’s seat. Collobrières is a village in the department of Var that I hadn’t heard of till an American woman came to us with an idea of placing her house there on the market. From Nice, it’s a two-hour-forty minute drive along the A8 autoroute, but less than 40 minutes from Toulon. Neighboring towns include Grimaud and Port Grimaud, Sainte-Maxime and Saint-Tropez to the east. International airports Marseille and Nice are each just 1.5 hours by car away.
The beaches just south of Collobrières, about a 40-minute drive away, are some of France’s finest—there are 12 kilometers of 12 fine sandy beaches as part of Le Lavandou: Aiguebelle, Anglade, Cape Nègre, Cavalière, Eléphant, Fossette, Jean-Blanc, Lavandou, Layet, Pramousquier, Rossignol and Saint Claire are some of the most desirable along the Mediterranean coast, each one offering something different. Now that I know this, being the beach lizard I am, I am anxious to discover them all.
I didn’t know any of this when I planned the trip to Collobrières. Nor did I realize what a beautiful and charming town we were about to discover. With only about 2,000 full-time inhabitants, Collobrières is in the heart of the Massif des Maures hills and forests. It’s a low mountain range where the winters are mild and the precipitation is low, particularly in the summer when the streams run dry. The town is as old as the 12th-century, and has held its importance in the area as the Capital of Chestnuts.
When we parked our car in the town lot, it was full and streams of people were headed into town, which was awash with restaurants. As it turns out, our visit coincided with the annual festivities of the chestnut—the last three Sundays of the month of October…no wonder the restaurants were so booked up! We were lucky to get an outdoor table on the back terrace of the Hôtel/Restaurant/Bar des Maures that has been catering to Collobrières and the surrounding area for five generations—since 1886—serving local cuisine, and just next door to our client’s house. We relished in their specialties and the friendliness of the staff and fellow diners, who seemed to know one another.
The Collobrier River runs through the village, along which runs a gravel strip that is obviously meant for the game of boules, although no one was playing at the time, in the cool rain. The river was inhabited by families of ducks playing on the rocks and swimming in the shallow water. We watched from our table and again from the windows of the house.
We were both struck by the village’s beauty and also by its liveliness. This is not the sleepy town we were expecting considering how secluded it seems from the big towns of Provence. Clearly, it’s the heart of the area to where residents from neighboring hamlets come to dine or take care of business. There were some rather impressive independent businesses on the side streets of the village—an FTD Florist, an iron-forger, hair stylists, etc…just about every essential thing one might need. This indicates that it’s the kind of town where one can have everything, not needing to always get in a car to grocery shop or perform everyday tasks…au contraire!
The village house was every bit as charming as the town. With four bedrooms and three bathrooms, a large living room, large eat-in kitchen, separate dining room with views on the river, all on four levels, there is no doubt that it will get scarfed up fast, should the owner decide to sell. Some of the walls are stone, others plaster. There are fireplaces in most of the rooms. There is a balcony from which there is view directly on the Mairie and Place de la Libération on the front and a large covered terrace on the back, overlooking the river. The upstairs covered terrace is where I would be…all the time.
To return to Nice, we drove eastward through the Massif des Maures along a winding mountain road toward Grimaud passing the Chartreuse de la Verne along the way—a Carthusian monastery dating from the 12th-century—and onward to Sainte-Maxime before turning north toward the A8 once again. There were lots of signs of “randonneurs” (hikers and bikers) in the beautiful woods whose hills weren’t too steep for amateurs. Leaving the area, Jennifer and I realized how little-known the Var is to our North American clients, but how we could change that with a little effort, and how living along the Mediterranean can be an affordable and very idyllic life.
The next day, I was treated to another excursion to one of the Riviera’s most medieval hill towns—Bar-sur-Loup. Inhabited by my friend and historian, Robert Levitt of Via Nissa, and a few other Americans, the town is less than an hour’s drive from central Nice on the River Loup. It’s inhabitants are known as “Aubarnais” or “Aubarnenc” in Occitan. According to Wikipedia.org, the first record of the commune was recorded in 1078 in the book Albarnum or Poncii Albarni, but in 1235, the village was renamed to Catrum de Albarno, and throughout the 16th-century, it was renamed to Lou Barn, Le Barn, and finally Le Bar-sur-Loup.
Robert gave me a more in depth look at the village by taking me on a walking tour of the central and most historic part of his town…yet another enclave just outside of Nice from which an idyllic life can be had, with everything Nice has to offer at your toes. He quite loves this life and cherishes his rides through the beautiful woods with such beautiful views to return from the city to a tranquil home.
Me, I still love a more urban lifestyle, but getting away to the countryside is rejuvenating…especially if you’re living it along the Riviera and beyond.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(Adrian in Nice on her balcony)
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