1 Chez Julie 5 rue de la Chapelle 83390 Pierrefeu du Var Tel: 04 94 48 16 97 Version 10: January 2006 2 About Pierrefeu: Pierrefeu du Var is a picturesque Provençal village of 4500 inhabitants, situated at the gateway to the Massif des Maures and clinging to a rocky outcrop 150 m above sea level – as the tourist brochure/website would have it. I like it because it’s an authentic, working French village, not over-run by tourists (like me, yes...), handy for the sea/beaches, good vineyards, markets and decent restaurants. How to get there: The closest airport is Toulon/Hyères – actually in Hyères – which you can get to with Ryanair from Stansted - www.ryanair.com. It’s only 25 minutes drive from Pierrefeu and is a pretty small-scale set-up with only half a dozen or so flights into the airport per day. If you need a car, there are hire car companies within a couple of minutes walk from the terminal - unlike at Nice, where you have to get a shuttle bus and walk to the collection points! If you’re coming from Scotland, though, you’d have to factor in a connecting flight to Stansted which you can do with either Globespan or Easyjet . It’d be an early start, though, as the French flight leaves at 11.30 or so. There is a wide range of flights to Nice (about 1 hour and 30 minutes away by motorway) and you are bound to get a good deal. You might also be surprised to hear that BA and British Midland often do better prices than the no-frills airlines! So, phone/surf around. If you’re travelling from Scotland and don’t want to ramp up the price with a connection to another airport, try Globespan who fly direct to Nice from Edinburgh and Glasgow several days a week in the Summer months, starting in early April and going through to late October. The 07.30 flight from Glasgow gets you into Nice for 11.10 and the Edinburgh run leaves at 09.00 and gets you to the sun by 12.40. Marseilles is also an option with British Airways. It’s round 1.5 hours drive away. However, we’ve found the route quite complicated and would recommend Nice in the first instance. 3 Here are the details of some companies which fly to Nice: www.britishairways.com - 0845 773 3377 (from Heathrow and Gatwick) www.flybmi.com (British Midland) - 0870 607 0555 (from Heathrow) www.flyglobespan.com (Globespan) – from Edinburgh/Glasgow/ www.easyjet.com - (Easyjet) 0870 600 0000 (from Stansted, Luton and Gatwick) Hiring a car: Of course you’d then have to hire a car. I tend to use either Holiday Autos - www.holidayautos.com - or Auto Europe – www.auto-europe.co.uk. At time of writing (July 2005), Auto Europe and Holiday Autos are going head to head to offer better deals so you might want to shop around. You get the best prices online but you might want to phone and talk to them first to establish what kind of car you want, which ones have air-conditioning etc (and anytime from May on, this can be a must…) Note: if you're returning to Nice with a hire car and need to fill it with petrol, you'll have to go round the houses a bit in order to do that at the Airport Total petrol station before giving back your car. You'll see the petrol station as you arrive (on your left) so keep it in your sights and double back on yourself in order to get a top-up, following the signs for Terminal 1. If you don’t want to get involved in the labyrinth which is Nice Airport, you could always fill your car up at a service station just after Cannes and let your credit card take the strain of topping up what you’ll have used on the final 30km or so from Cannes to Nice. On arriving at Nice airport, you’ll generally find yourself in Terminal One. To get to the car hire offices, you’ll need to take a shuttle bus (on your left as you come out from baggage claim into the terminal) to Terminal 2 where the hire car places are. (Note: Easyjet flights get into Terminal 2 itself.) When you get there cross the road from the bus stop heading to a multi-story carpark. Keep walking through it and you’ll see the car hire portakabins arrayed in front of you. (Note: If you’ve hired with National, don’t take this route and turn hard left on leaving the terminal and walk past the taxi rank to the green National office.) Bear in mind, too, that, in the height of summer, queues can be long and often snake out into the car park. Make sure you’ve got water/liquids for the wait as the temperature could be over 40 degrees! Other ways to get there: You can always go by ferry in your own car, of course and, once over the Channel, the journey would then take you anything up to fourteen hours to drive, depending on which ferry port you arrive in (assuming it’s between Zeebrugge and Dieppe). A good way to work out your route, if you do want to drive is by using the internet - www.viamichelin.com or www.maporama.com. If you want to break the journey, do so after Dijon (you can get to Beaune in about 6.5 hours with a few petrol/snack stops) and stay in a wee Burgundy village. You might not want to negotiate the traffic around Lyons after a long drive! The train's another option although you'd also have to hire a car. You could do London/Toulon in about 10 hours (via Lille) and the TGV from London to Avignon direct in 6.5 hours. This direct route is available on Saturdays in the Summer months. Phone 08705 848848 for French Railways information or try www.eurostar.com or www.raileurope.co.uk 4 Driving Directions from Toulon/Hyères or Nice airport: From Toulon/ Hyères Airport - Turn left on leaving the airport, taking signposts for La Londe/L’Ayguade at the first roundabout you come to. This will take you along a seafront road for a bit. At the next roundabout, follow signs for Hyères-Centre, Pierrefeu and Toulon, turning left. Follow this road for about 1.5 miles, till you come to another roundabout and go straight over it, in the direction of St Tropez/Toulon. At the next junction, go right (onto the N98), towards St Tropez, La Londe, Le Lavandou and Pierrefeu. Stay in the right hand lane as, almost immediately, you’ll come off this road (after 400m), following signs for Pierrefeu. Go under a wee bridge and onto the D559A, again following signs for Pierrefeu You’ll come to a set of lights and go straight on (signposted Golf Hotel). Follow the road round (again there’ll be signs for St Tropez) and get into the left-hand lane because within half a mile you’ll take a left to Pierrefeu, via a filter lane. Be careful here as you have to negotiate a series of ‘give way’ (Cedez le passage) signs, some of which are more obvious than others. Go slowly and keep your eyes peeled - I’ve seen a few bumps at this junction! Follow the road round past some big covered greenhouses. You’re now on the road to Pierrefeu (D12) and you’ve only got 13km to go. (From 3km out, you’ll begin to see the village on the hill ahead of you.) Once you’re in Pierrefeu, follow the road up the hill until you come to a junction with the Hotel l’Univers on your right, a fountain on your left and a Petit Casino supermarket ahead of you. Turn left and, almost immediately, take a right fork at what looks like a pedestrian street, at a small clock on a stick, with the Bar Central on your right. (If you find yourself going downhill, you’ve missed it!). This is the rue de la République. (And from now on in, you can refer to the map at the end of this document.) Follow this almost-pedestrianised road a few yards up to a wee car park where, if you’re REALLY lucky, you might be able to get parked. If not, go on up the winding narrow road past the church (having taken a sharp right) and round the hillside to try and get parked nearly at the top of the village. (Follow rue de l’Eglise and rue du Bassin to chemin du Barry – basically, keep going uphill to where the road comes out to a flat section with 3 or 4 car park spaces. You can go up a steep, narrow road to the small car park by the old Chapel at the top of the village but it’s a bit of a trek downhill to the house.) Getting back’s a little more straightforward. Once you‘ve come out of the Pierrefeu road (the D12), follow signs for Carqueiranne and Hyères Airport, heading towards Hyères. As you get closer to the town, the road becomes a dual carriageway and, at the first set of traffic lights, turn left. This isn’t signposted and it won’t be until you’ve turned hard left - almost back on yourself - that you’ll see a sign for L’Ayguade and Hyères airport. Follow this road down to the coast and then turn right for the airport, going along a seafront road with the Med on your left until you come to a roundabout with a right turn for the airport. Driving Directions from Nice airport – about 1 hr 30 mins: As you leave the airport, follow the signs for the A8 (first to Cannes (péage) and then to Toulon, Marseille etc.) and get onto the motorway, heading west. At the first toll booth 5 the charge is €2.60 (and you can have the fun of chucking a pile of coins into a basket, if you have them); at the second you take a ticket which you will present when you come off the A57 at Sortie 10 (Cuers Nord). The charge for that section is €9.40 If you’re short of Euros at this early stage in your trip, you can pay with a credit card at any of these tolls. As you approach the long line of tollbooths, either look for one with CB marked above it (French for Carte Bleu - or credit card) or one where there’s an attendant (the sign will be a little man’s head with a cap). Stay on the A8 for about an hour, coming off at Le Luc/Le Cannet des Maures (after two exits for Vidauban) and get onto the A57 to Toulon - the road splits to let traffic go onto this dual carriageway or into Le Luc. Stay left here to get onto the A57. Leave this dual carriageway at Sortie 10 (Cuers Nord), just after paying your €9.30 toll charge, and follow signs for Pierrefeu, to the left of the roundabout you’ll arrive at on leaving the motorway. (In case you’ve not realised it by now, in France you give way to traffic coming from the LEFT at roundabouts) Follow the road to Pierrefeu for 5 km through the vineyards and, once you’ve come over a small bridge, take the left fork up the hill on arriving in the village (Avenue des Poilus). (See the map of the village centre at the end of this document) Come up the hill to the village centre, past the primary school on your right (check out the crossing marked by two yellow pencils!), until the road bends round to the left under a trompe-d’oeil mural on the side of a house. Slow down now as you’re going to take a sharp left turn back on yourself at the top of the hill onto rue de la République (there’ll be a vegetable shop and boulangerie on your right.) (If you miss it, there’s a car park about 100m further on the left where you can turn and try again, aiming to take a right fork this time, just past the Bar Central) Assuming you’ve negotiated the hard left turn, head along the almost-pedestrianised street up to a wee car park where, if you’re REALLY lucky, you might be able to get parked. If not, go on up the winding narrow road past the church (having taken a sharp right) and round the hillside to try and get parked at the top of the village. (Follow rue de l’Eglise and rue du Bassin to chemin du Barry – basically, keep going uphill) If neither of these yield fruit – or if it’s after 7 or so in the evening - don’t waste your time and just park in the main Dixmude car park in the village. Parking near rue de la Chapelle: The house is in a 250-year old, pedestrianised quartier so let’s just say you’re not going to get parked right out front… However, there are places you can get parked close by (usually within a few minutes walk) and, if you’re feeling really adventurous, there’s a way to get your car within feet of the house to unload really heavy bags/shopping, before doubling back on yourself to park slightly further away. (See map at end of document) As mentioned in the driving directions, the three best places to park are either: At the carpark just down from the church (about 100 yards walk to the house). However, there are probably fewer than 20 spaces here, so finding one is usually cause for national celebration. (There’s a wee space and room for one illegally - and temporarily! - parked car just above the car park, before you turn sharp right to go up the hill. Getting in here amounts to a significant parking jackpot.) From here it’s about 100m uphill to no. 5. 6 At the carpark or along the street nearly at the top of the hill (going hard right round past the church and following rue de l’Eglise, rue du Bassin and chemin du Barry) to a small car park in front of some houses. You can often get parked along the wee top road but beware of driving on too far - if there’s no spot, you’ll have to reverse along a relatively narrow street! From here it’s about 100m downhill to no. 5. The Dixmude car park in the village – you’ll know it by the large wedge of stone opposite the bank (Crédit Agricole) which commemorates the airship crash which took the lives of many young men in 1923. Many spaces although a bit of a longer walk up to the house. If you have luggage you might want to get as close to the house as you can, unload and send on an advance guard to open up while you get parked. (New!) As of September 2005, there is an alternative route up to the top of the old village, via a much-heralded, but as-yet-unfinished, road from the end of the boulodrome, just past the Dixmude statue, and uphill. There are a few more parking spaces underneath the rocks and also at the side of the new road. From which, you walk up the hill a bit before going down rue de la Chapelle to the house. Note: don’t go right up the steep hill if you’re walking, but follow the road to the right, past a couple of green wheely-bins and then head downhill. How to get your car within feet of the house to offload luggage/heavy shopping – not for the faint-hearted or those with a wide-bodied vehicle:- Head towards the car park at the top of the hill and go straight on. You’ll find yourself at the top of a very narrow street which looks pedestrianised (rue de la Chapelle). It is, technically, but carry on downhill (this is where it’s best to have a rather narrow car!) until you get to a dead-end sign. Stop here and walk downhill about 10 feet to no. 5, rue de la Chapelle. Once you’ve unloaded your car, drive on, slightly uphill towards the street which is a dead-end (rue de l’Hermitage) and turn almost immediately left into a slight slope leading up to someone’s garage. Then reverse back on yourself and return the way you came – back up the hill, to the car park up top. We only tend to do this when unloading a lot of luggage or Ikea furniture! The House: Ground floor – The ground floor contains the kitchen and the loo/shower room. The kitchen has a washing machine, electric oven and fridge. It’s also got a cd/radio player. The shower room/loo is off the kitchen and the linen cupboard is just to its left. Just past the kitchen table, before the stairs, is a door to the basement (or cave). Things like the mop, bucket, brush, pan, iron, ironing board etc are on the steps down to the cave and a lot of beach kit is kept in the basement itself. This is where to go hunting if you want mats, chairs, patball racquets or blow-up toys. First floor – On the first floor, are the two bedrooms. The main one has a double bed and, through a partition wall behind it, is a single room with bunk beds. There’s a hairdryer here so you needn’t bring one from unless you’re Vidal Sassoon. Top floor – At the top of the house is the living room. This has a tv/dvd player and stereo and also a small desk, built into the wall. The sofa here can be converted into a ¾ size double bed and there’s bedding in the drawer at the top end of it. The terrace here has enough room for two wicker chairs, a wee bistro table and chairs and, of course, a bottle of rosé! It gets the sun pretty well all day and, in the evening the light (switch on the beam next to the sliding door) can be classily complimented with a row of tea lights in the glass holders kept above the desk. 7 Note of warning: The way the house was converted in 1994, the stairs from the kitchen to the bedroom and then up to the living room are open and there is no banister opposite the wall side. Please take care if you’ve got small children with you. The same warning goes for the low window opposite the terrace in the living room which is virtually at floor level. And, finally, if you’re anywhere over 5’5”, take care coming back into the house from the terrace. The beam will get you tall folk every time! What to bring: Bed linen, towels, dishtowels. Duvets and pillows are provided, but not sheets, pillowcases, duvet covers, towels or tea towels. (Note: the double duvet is a standard double-bed size). In the height of summer, you’ll probably not want many more covers than a flat sheet and light blanket. Please leave the house as you found it. There’s a vacuum cleaner in the cupboard next to the loo and brushes, cleaning equipment and products under the sink and at the top of the stairs leading to the basement. Could you also take out all wall plugs and leave the fridge door open, with some newspaper alongside it, to catch any drips as things defrost? Loo roll and washing up/washing machine stuff are all provided. Please replace what you use. On arrival: And indeed when you leave – refer to the handy one-pager, or, as I call it, ‘Appendix 1’, at the end of this document. Some of this will be coupled with stuff in the next section, so stay alert and read both bits! How things work: Hot water If it’s been a few weeks since the last occupant, on arriving at the house the first thing you should do is switch on the hot water. There’s an electrical junction box just on the left of the main door and one of the switches on this has a small sticker marked ‘b’. Flick this up to put the water on and try to remember to switch it off again on leaving. Washing machine This is pretty straightforward, but there’s a manual in a folder on the green shelf in the kitchen if you need help. Washing liquid and conditioner are under the sink. Hang washing out on the terrace - on the clothes horse - or go native and use the pulley system outside the wee back bedroom where you usually get a good breeze. Such a good breeze, in fact, that you’ll need to make sure you use a fair amount of clothes pegs so as not to find your laundry in the lane when you return from the beach! There’s an iron on the shelf next to the door to the cave and an ironing board on the cave steps. Oven Again, this is pretty simple, but a manual is in the folder on the green shelf. Be careful using the grill as the control buttons just above it can get quite hot! Be aware, too, that cooking a 5-course meal for all the family by using all the rings and the oven (while simultaneously having showers, drying hair, watching the TV and listening to the stereo) can push the electrical system in the house to ‘tripping’ point. Fridge Straightforward enough but the freezer bit needs to be shut firmly to close properly. Please also unplug (and empty!) the fridge on leaving, leaving some paper around its base and keeping the door open to air it. The only time I’d suggest you don’t do this is if you 8 know for certain someone is coming in to the house straight after you. Heating The hulking, ugly thing between the oven and the fridge is the oil-fired heater. To use it involves a trip to the basement oil tank with a watering can and nerves of steel. Unless it snows or you are extremely cold-blooded, I’d leave this well alone. If you’re getting hypothermia and really want to use it, see Appendix 2. Phone There’s a phone in the kitchen and one upstairs in the living room, which also has an answering machine. To dial the UK, put 00 44 in front of the number you want and leave out the first 0 of your British number. So, to call me at home in Glasgow, for example, you’d dial 00 44 141 334 1167. If the little envelope is flashing, it means there’s a message. Dial 3103 and press one to retain the existing answer message. Then you can listen to any message left and press three to delete it. Power points Please switch everything off and unplug it on leaving if no one’s coming in straight after you. There are a few UK to French plug adaptors in the living room and in the kitchen. Shower Before leaving, it would be great if you could clean out the filter bit of the shower which is the grill on the ground. You just lever up the grill with a knife and empty the ‘trap’ of hair etc. Two bits come out (it’ll be obvious when you see it) and you need to clean them out, rinse and replace. When cleaning the bathroom, incidentally, there’s a very good product in the cupboard under the kitchen sink; it cleans limescale and it extremely good for the taps and sink and shower. Sink plug Irritatingly, when you put the plug in the sink it doesn’t always want to pop out using the lever thing next to the taps. If this is the case, don’t panic. Look underneath the sink (at the shower end) and you’ll see a metal stick-type lever. Shoogle it about and the sink plug should come out. Be careful getting up again after this as the shelf above the sink is just waiting to be clunked by your head… Actually, you’ll probably find it’s much less trouble just to take the plug out completely – but just be careful not to drop anything down the sink. Nagging Note: As mentioned above, we’ve had one occasion now where using too many electrical devices at once has ‘tripped’ the power. Be aware that it’s an oldish system and don’t be over-ambitious! Neighbours: At number 9b, there’s Simone Milesi, an older lady who keeps a close eye on all the neighbourhood goings-on, and misses nothing! She used to live at number 3 and knows the village and its inhabitants intimately… At number 7 - are Esther Nissyn and Philippe Orand, who are married. Esther is Peruvian but speaks fluent English so is a handy source of information about both the house and the village. They’re both really great. TV/Radio: The TV/DVD has six channels – TF1, France 2, France 3, TMC (Télé Monte Carlo), France 5/Arte and M6. The DVD plays UK and French DVDs and you can rent discs from the library down the road using your credit card. You’ll find that most UK/American films have an English soundtrack or at least subtitles. 9 The aerial needs to be tweaked to get all six channels perfectly, I’m afraid. There’s usually one which is a bit fuzzy while the rest are perfect. Just fiddle about with it until you get a good picture on the channel you want. If you have a short-wave radio, you can find the BBC World Service at varying strengths throughout the day on 6195, 9410, 12095 and 15485. On the road from Nice and nearer that end of the coast, you can get a rather cheesy English- Language radio service called Riviera Radio (on 106.5 FM). It’s 70s, 80s and 90s soft rock but has BBC World Service news on the hour as well as a subbed-down version of French news and local weather. The signal rather falls away at our end of the coastline so it’s World Service on short-wave or French radio, I’m afraid. If you’re up for experimenting with French radio, the following might be interesting: France Bleu Provence (music, chat and local news/info) – 102.3 FM France Info (news channel) – 105.8 fm France Musiques (classical and jazz) – 94.3 RM Classique (more like Classic FM) – 103.3 FM France Inter (more like Radio 4) - TBC Rubbish: The wheely-bins in the car park down from the church and up the hill towards the top of rue de la Chapelle are emptied every day. We tend to empty at least the kitchen bins daily. Note: although the pedal bin in the kitchen says 20 litres, make sure you buy bin bags of 30 litre capacity. There are recycling skips in the car park next to the Dixmude statue, in the car park of the Grignotière restaurant on the way out of the village towards Cuers, in the market square and in the carpark at Intermarché, near Cuers. Village shops: Petit Casino, the minimart opposite the fountain is open from 07.30 until 19.30, (except Sundays when it’s only till 12.30) with a long-ish break for lunch (we’re talking more than 2 hours). It’s closed on Mondays, as are most shops in Pierrefeu. There’s now a second wee grocer, just down the hill from the Petit Casino, which is open on Mondays. There are three boulangeries (one down the hill towards Hyères, opposite the Mairie and Post Office), a butcher (also a traiteur with pre-cooked meals and salads), a fish shop two greengrocers, a gift shop, a couple of pharmacies, two tabacs and a paper shop (where you’ll get postcards and, as of Summer 2003, variously the day’s Times, Guardian and Daily Mail - published in Marseilles!). If you feel the urge, there’s also a tattoo parlour on the wee road up to the church, just past the always-deserted beauty parlour and automated video library. Since June 05, the video library has added a snack bar. Handy if you want chips or sandwiches to go! Markets: Of these, Lorgues and Cotignac are perhaps the most provençal but about 45 minutes drive away and very touristy in Summer. Worth doing at least once, though. Closer, and less touristy, are Cuers, Hyères port and L’Ayguade. The big discovery last year was Le Lavandou 10 and, if you only do one ‘big’ market, do this one. Pierrefeu – Tuesdays and Saturdays (bigger on Saturdays in the Summer) in Place Gambetta Lorgues – Tuesdays Giens – Tuesdays Cotignac – Tuesdays Hyères - Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays on Avenue Gambetta. Sundays at the Port. Wednesdays at L’Ayguade – good for a stroll about on Sunday morning before an aperitif or lunch at the Port) Cogolin - Wednesday and Saturdays (a nice one to stop in on en route to Grimaud) La Crau – Wednesdays Le Lavandou – Thursdays. And a probably the best large market in the area with minimal tourists, unlike Cotignac and Lorgues! Cuers – Fridays (probably the biggest and best one close to Pierrefeu) Bormes Port – Saturdays and a good one, too! (New!) For anywhere but Pierrefeu, just pitch up at the village/town in question, head for the centre (Centre-Ville) and follow the crowd. Market days tend to dominate village life once a week and in bigger places (Lorgues, Cotignac, Le Lavandou or Cuers) getting parked can often reflect that. Super/hypermarkets: Atac (New!) The latest edition to supermarket life in and around Pierrefeu, Atac was opened in mid-June 2005. It’s still to win my heart completely as I don’t think it has the choice (in wine, at any rate) of the Intermarché near Cuers. However, it does sell fresh milk which is a plus, is open on Sundays until 12 noon or so and is handy to get stuff as you come back from the beach. There’s also a wee wifie selling roast chickens in the car park. You can get petrol here too but, at time of writing, they don’t take non-French credit cards so you’ll need to pay for your petrol at the booth which means buying it in supermarket opening hours. Intermarché Apart from Atac and the Petit Casino in Pierrefeu, a bigger supermarket which is less than 10 minutes drive away is the Intermarché at Cuers Nord. Head downhill as if you’re going to the motorway towards Toulon or Nice (turn hard right coming out onto the main road after the church). Drive through the vineyards until you get to the roundabout at Cuers Nord and take the signs for Draguignan, Frejus and Brignoles, bearing right. Go on to the next roundabout and head for the Intermarché exit (second on right). This wee supermarket is rarely crowded and you can get fresh meat, fish, seafood and vegetables as well as a good selection of wine. It’s open from 09.00 - 19.00 every day, apart from Sunday, with no break for lunch. There’s also a petrol station, hair-dresser and paper shop - where you can also get The Times - in the complex. (Also a source for fresh milk, if this is a priority for you.) In Summer months only (ie July and August), the Intermarché is open on Sunday mornings till noon. Carrefour - and more If you want to do the hypermarket thing, head for Le Grand Var, a shopping centre with a huge Carrefour hypermarket as well a range of other shops including Printemps (the Frasers of France). To get there, take the road to Cuers Nord and, this time, follow the roundabout round to the exit on the left, heading to Toulon (A57). Join the motorway and stay on it until La Valette du Var. Come off here and you’ll arrive at a roundabout. Take the left hand exit (at 9 o’clock as you enter the roundabout, but you’ll 11 probably be safe enough just to follow the rest of the traffic!) and follow a circuitous succession of roundabouts, always heading for Centre Commercial. You’ll know you’re getting close when you take a final right turn onto a slip-road past a furniture store called Conforama. In the unlikely event that you want to do a spot of furniture-building or fancy some pickled herring, Ikea is just next door. Try to avoid coming to this shopping centre on Saturdays - it’s heaving. Oh, and unlike our big edge-of-city malls, all of these shops are closed on Sundays. Wine: Pierrefeu and the surrounding vineyards are renowned for their wine. In fact, as the tourist board brochure puts it, 'Think Pierrefeu, think rosé!'. I know I do… Check out the co-operative (Les Vignerons de Pierrefeu) at the entrance to the village (coming from Collobrières) where you can taste and buy wines from the vineyards below Pierrefeu from 2 euros per bottle or ‘en vrac’ – in plastic gallon bottles or vacuum-packed wine boxes – if you think you can get through five or ten litres during your stay! If you do want to try this option, you can also buy Pierrefeu rosé or red in a five-litre wine box at the Intermarché at Cuers Nord. (95% of the wine grown around here is rosé, then some red and a tiny amount of (probably undrinkable) white.) Pierrefeu’s very own Maison du Vin opened in June 2003 and offers an insight into all the wines around Pierrefeu, not just the ones which are signed up to the co-operative. You can taste and then buy! If you want to get an overview of all the wines of the Cotes de Provence appelation, make the pilgrimage to the Maison des Vins between Vidauban and Les Arcs (on the N7, about 40 mins from Pierrefeu). There are over 650 different Cotes de Provence wines to purchase and, at any given time, around half a dozen to taste. And to see where it all comes from, take a stroll through the vineyards below Pierrefeu (see the Walks section). Post Office: The post office is down the hill (on the Hyères road, turning right at the fountain), opposite the Mairie on Place Urbain Senes. You go in through what looks like someone’s front door and inside you feel like you're stuck in a time warp. You’ll need stamps of 55 centimes for postcards to the UK. Banks: There are two in Pierrefeu, a Credit Agricole, opposite the main car park by the Dixmude memorial and a Caisse d’Epargne at the top of the hill on the Cuers road. Both have cashpoints (a distributeur des billets) and you can use UK credit cards here, if you have a PIN number for your card. Recent intelligence has it that you can use your Switch cards here. Doctor/pharmacies: You can get paperwork which will guarantee you free healthcare in France (coming from a fellow EU country) from the Post Office at home. Pick up an E111 form, fill it out and then 12 have it stamped at the post office by showing your passport. I haven’t had to use a doctor or dentist in Pierrefeu but here are some names and numbers, in case you need to consult either one. I have no idea if they speak English, I’m afraid. Doctor: Dr Lienard (a lady) 04 94 48 29 32 Dentist: Monsieur (Docteur??) Mayet 04 94 28 21 19 (More are listed in the useful numbers section of the village map that you can get at the Tourist Office or Mairie) If you need more information, ask Esther next door or visit one of the village’s two pharmacies (both on the hill on the Hyères Road, heading down towards the Mairie). Emergency numbers: Police 17 Fire brigade 18 If you have a medical emergency, always call the Fire Brigade first they’re trained paramedics. Tourist Information: Office de Tourisme - opposite the Dixmude memorial, by the big car park - 04 94 28 27 30. www.ot-pierrefeu.com. You can get village maps there and lots of info of what to do/see in the area. It seems to acquire more and more brochures and leaflets each year and they’re very helpful. Not sure what the standard of English is like, but try them out! I do know what the English is like on the tourist office website as I did the translation. If you spot any grammatical or spelling errors, see me after your hols… There’s also a bigger Tourist Office for the region (Provence Côte d’Azur) on the main road which runs through Hyères, the D98 as well as another one in Hyères itself, near the Casino. They’re both called Maison du Tourisme and you can check out the area’s website at www.provence-azur.com Maps: Orange Michelin 528 (covers Nice to Nîmes), Green Michelin 114 (more detailed) and OS equivalent, IGN 3445. If you haven’t managed to get a map before leaving the UK, you can get one in the paper shop in the village, the Intermarché near Cuers or Carrefour at the Grand Var shopping centre near Toulon. I’ve left a selection in the house, including OS maps for Pierrefeu, Toulon, Hyères and St Tropez. If you’re interested, there’s also a replica 1947 OS map of the area, showing the routes and battle locations of the Liberation forces which fought their way North from the coast, having landed at St Tropez in August 1944. (Pierrefeu was liberated on 16 th August, not long after the US, British and Free French troops landed and this is a big occasion in the village, celebrated with fireworks and dancing) Telephones: Mobiles work in France but they’re expensive, to make calls and receive them! There's a 13 phone box in the car park below the church that takes a phone card (une télécarte). You can buy one from the Tabac or the Post Office. Drives/excursions: Grimaud Two lovely drives but the backroad from Collobrieres is but not for those prone to car-sickness as the road‘s pretty tortuously winding! A really pretty hill village which is probably unbearably busy at the height of Summer. Do the historic walk around the village to see it at its best - you can get a wee green leaflet that talks you through the route from the tourist office. Bormes-les-Mimosas Again, there’s a drive over the Massif de Maures from just before Collobrieres but it can be hair-raising when the road is busy in the summer and you’ll need a strong stomach! Bormes is another picturesque hill village, with amazing views down to the Mediterranean and pretty little back streets to explore. We like to go for an apéritif and a wander after a day at the beach at St Clair. St Tropez About 45 minutes away, St Tropez is to be avoided in high season when the traffic in and out can be backed up for hours. It is very good value for people-watching, which is more than can be said for the price of drinks and food! A great small art museum is worth a visit too. Bandol and Sanary (New!) About 40 minutes drive beyond Toulon, these two rather exclusive resorts are great for a market visit or lunch out. Sanary, with its bars and restaurants right on the harbour-front, is particularly worth a visit. Aix-en-Provence An hour or so away to the North-west, Aix is lovely. Worth sitting on the Cours Mirabeau, watching the world go by and then exploring the narrow streets behind. Walks: Up to the Chapelle at the top of the village in Pierrefeu. Get there either from the top car park or via various winding steps within the old village quarter. Don’t miss the ‘tableau’ almost at the top of chemin de la Chapelle showing two shop window dummies in some dodgy Middle Ages get-ups (check out the bloke’s 30-denier tights) in front of a 1960s chest of drawers. They’re meant to be having a discussion about courtly love – which was actually just a bit of banter in some fancy French. Head on up to the top of the hill and the look-out points and incredible 360-degree panoramas. One looks due North over the valley below, the other, beyond the Chapel, faces East. Both views have photographic tables, pointing out prominent landmarks and giving you your bearings. Not to be missed! As of summer 2005 the Chapel is open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Check the church noticeboard for details of times. Around the old village. You can meander in the back streets of the Quartier Sainte Croix (where the house is), taking in the cooking smells from the tiny, dark kitchens (not unlike my own!), checking out the well-tended plants on window ledges, balconies or tiny pocket handkerchief-sized gardens and ending up at the chapel at the top of the hill. In fact, quite a few villagers work very hard on their plants and you'll spot a few houses with award-plaques on their walls. Another nice village walk takes you up to the ‘burbs’, the road passing the big villas on 14 the hill behind the Tourist Information Office, over the top through the Sigou quarter and out at a little playground and park, right next to the tennis courts (off Avenue General de Gaulle). You start off by heading up what looks like a side street, between the gift shop (within the paper shop) and the green and white-fronted Tabac (Bar de la Fontaine). Keep heading uphill here (the rue Come Monier) and then follow this road (which becomes the Chemin de Belle Lame) until you come downhill again and go right at Chemin de Sigou. Follow this road until it brings you out at the little park and tennis courts at the Avenue Charles de Gaulle. From here, follow the main road back into the village to complete your loop. Down among the vineyards (see below). Walk down to the village and past the Dixmude memorial. After the bus shelter, take a left down a sloping path and steps down the hillside to the basketball/football courts at the bottom. Go over a wee bridge and stroll along the path among the vines, either following your nose or using the blue OS-style map from the house. One route is to go on a circular route to the little hamlet of Beauvais and back. Follow the road across the bridge from the sports arena, keep going along this wee narrow road (it’s called Serre Menu) as it winds through the plain of vines and when you come to a T-junction, turn right. A few yards on, turn left at the sign for Beauvais and follow this road into the hamlet. When you get to the few houses which constitute Beauvais, turn right past the mailboxes, continue for another 100 m and then turn right at a track through the vines. That will take you back to the road you turned off to get to Beauvais. The track ends at that road, you turn left and continue on the road until you’re back at Serre Menu. Turn left and head back to the sports arena. Watch out, though, even on these wee narrow roads. Cars can come along at quite a lick, especially in the morning and when school/work empties. Try to avoid walking back along the main road from Puget Ville into Pierrefeu; there’s no pavement and it’s a bit hair-raising, not to mention dusty! If you can’t face the steep walk down (or up!) hill to the footie pitch, you can drive to the start of this walk by taking the Cuers road out of Pierrefeu and turning right just before the bridge. Drive along this wee road which skirts the river Réal Martin (the Chemin de Redouron) until you reach the football ground and a small car park just before the bridge. Coastal circuit at La Madrague. A wonderful walk around the toe of the Presqu’île 15 peninsula. Or the heel, depending on which way you look at it. Anyway… the walk takes about three hours and is pretty scrambly in places. However, you’re rewarded with wonderful views of the Med from rocky outposts and steep drops and there a couple of places you can bathe en route. Well worth it, if you’re up for a quite energetic ramble. If you’re planning this in high summer, take tons of water. Coastal walk from La Londe to Les Salins (New!) This is a great 45-minute stroll along the coast, walking in the shade of trees, along strips of beach and by a nature reserve. This walk also takes you past the local nudist beach (as you near Les Salins), so don’t be startled at some of the sights to emerge from behind the dunes… Park at La Londe, go to the port and just keep walking to your right, along Miramar beach, across a wee beach, past a caravan site and on. The sea on your left is beautiful and you can stop whenever you feel like it to sit on a rock and just contemplate life. You come into Les Salins at a beach which is very windy and so very popular with windsurfers. It’s always fun watching the sights. Keep going into the village where you’ll find several places to eat and drink (see Restaurants). Walk from Bormes Port to Le Lavandou (New!) You can also do this walk the other way – both are equally enjoyable. If you’re going from Bormes Port, drive as if going to St Clair/Le Lavandou and when you come to the roundabout on entering the town, follow the signs for Bormes Port. which’ll be the second exit after the Casino supermarket. When you get down to the port, past the shops and the restaurants, park up and head for the headland on your left. You’ll see some steps leading up from the port, and then you’re on a path which climbs up to the left, rounds the headland and there, spread out before you, is the whole sweep of the Le Lavandou bay. The walk is along boardwalk and then promenade, hugging the beaches, passing lots of beach cafes and restaurants, and it takes about 15-20 minutes. Well worth doing. A further note about both the above walks: they’re part of the sentier littoral, marked paths which extend for miles and miles long this part of the coast. You can keep going for much longer in both directions. For example, at La Londe, if you go in the opposite direction from Les Salins, you can walk for miles along the beach and coast, as far as the beaches at Le Pellegrin and Cabasson. And if you turn right along the beach at Bormes port, away from Le Lavandou, you can walk all the way to Cap Benat. Beaches and resorts: Here are some specific suggestions and directions, with a patented star system to highlight particular favourites. Julie’s star rating: * = good ** = very good *** = a favourite!: Heading towards Hyères and Hyères airport on the sea road is perhaps the closest beach, which is very suitable for children and well maintained. It’s at L’Ayguade and has a little square where you can eat, drink, buy bread or sandwiches from a nice Boulangerie or get ice cream. This is called Place Daviddi and you’ll see it on your left as you come into L’Ayguade. There’s a one-way system to get in and out and you’ll need to take the second entry. At the far end of the wee square, over a promenade, is the beach, which is quite pebbly but wide. It gets quieter and a little narrower if you turn right at the promenade and go all the way along towards the little port. Heading the other way (towards St Tropez/Le Lavandou) is the beach at La Londe, the Plage Miramar which is about 30 minutes away. It's right next to a small port that is flanked by bars, restaurants and an amazing ice-cream stand, with at least 30 flavours on offer plus slushies and a quite repellent selection of garish pick‘n‘mix sweets. 16 Take the route out of Pierrefeu for Hyères and go left when you get to the N98, following the signs for La Londe, Le Lavandou, St Tropez. Once you've left the N98 and you're on the outskirts of La Londe, follow the signs for the Port and the Plages. You’ll come onto a long Boulevard bringing you to the seafront. Go right and you’ll come to the Miramar beach. The Plage Tamaris is to the left of the Miramar beach. It’s a bit smaller and slightly less exposed to the wind. You can either get to it over the little bridge from the car park at the foot of the boulevard (going past a sailing school), or coming down that road, keep your eyes peeled for signs for a car park on the left hand side. That opens right out onto the beach. * Beach near La Madrague on the Presqu’île About half a kilometre after La Madrague port, look out for a building with a sign reading La Grotte, from there, slow down as you'll pull in soon at a Parking area, or on the roadside. Once parked continue up the road until you see a sign for Camping Olbia. Opposite this sign is a road marked Allée Des Asphodeles. Although this says no entry, it's to stop cars going in. Walk down this road until it narrows to a wee path and follow this down the beach. Following the coastal path around a bit takes you to other little beaches and inlets. * The tiny beach at the Port de Niel on the Presqu’île is lovely and looks onto one of the most picturesque wee ports in the area. Head down the causeway towards the Presq’ile and go to Giens. As you arrive in the village, go left and follow the road down a winding hill until you hit a dead end, which is the tiny port. You can get parked by the sea (there are about 10 spaces) or you’ll have to turn back on yourself and park on the road. There’s a lovely - but expensive-looking - restaurant called L’Eau Salée at the port but nothing else so bring your own drinks/picnic. * Carqueiranne is a small town just along from the Almanarre beach (see below) and facing out to towards La Madrague across the sea. As you approach it, follow the signs to the left for Port/Plage and you’ll come to a sweet little port complete with brasseries and restaurants. Walk through the port, heading right, for a series of little beaches that are very popular with families. ** (for the port, beach and eatery combination!) L’Almanarre, at Hyères. A long (4km) beach on the other side of the isthmus (or tombolo) from the port. Drive past Toulon/Hyères airport towards the port and keep going until you get to a roundabout. Go left here and then take a right at the next roundabout that will take you along the top of the salt marshes. At the next roundabout, the beach is hard left. Parking is a little limited here so you’ll see some creative abandoning of cars along the road approaching the roundabout… This beach can be windy (it’s one of the most popular in the area for wind-surfing) but its size and mix of sand and pebbles makes it very popular with families too. Top tip: don’t be tempted to pull in at the first car park (the one next to the bar and restaurant) Drive on further down the road and try and get parked at the beaches at the Presq’Ile end. The beaches here can be quieter but at weekends you can drive the length of the 4km road without finding a single spot, even in some of the car parks at the Giens end of the causeway. Do what the locals do and don’t even attempt to come here during the day at weekend in the Summer. Instead come after 16.00 or so when families are packing up to go home. You’ll still get the sun here until at least 7 or so and it’ll be quieter. See over for a picture taking on my mobile from our beach towel the other year. 17 The beach at Cabasson is about 35 mins away (I think) but via a really lovely drive through the vineyards. You have to pay 7 euros to park there but it IS gorgeous. There’s a wee snackbar on the beach and picnic tables near the car park. ** Other ‘paying beaches’ on this road are Le Pellegrin and Estagnol, both before you get to Cabasson. St-Clair, next to Le Lavandou (below) is a family favourite - my parents had their first summer holiday here in 1960, having driven all the way from Edinburgh in a Morris Minor! A small beach with beach bars, parasols and sun-beds to rent. Very busy in July/August. There’s a nice, short coastal walk along the rocks nearby as well which will take you into Le Lavandou where you can watch some pretty high-level boules (all year round, unlike Pierrefeu, where they only play in Summer), have a drink or lunch and browse the wee shops. *** Ile de Porquerolles, off Hyères. Take a ferry from La Tour Fondue on the Presq’île. You can park in a secure car park for 6€ per day or do like the locals do and park on the road 18 heading downhill for nothing. Probably not a possibility in high season, however! The ferry over takes 20 minutes and at the other end the island is practically car-free so you can either stride out with your backpack full of towels and snorkels or hire bikes and cycle to the beaches. The Plage de la Courtade is about ten minutes walk from the port and the Plage Notre Dame (over) is about 3k walk/cycle away. *** The beaches here are frequently cited as the best in Europe and they are gorgeous with white sand and azure-blue water. The island’s tiny village has a selection of restaurants and sandwich stands, if you’ve not brought a picnic. Beach at Bormes (New!). This is the first beach you come to on the walk from Bormes from to Le Lavandou (see walk above). Lovely white sand, silky smooth waters (although it can get choppy if the weather is bad) and a beautiful view across the bay. There is a jet ski hiring place at the far end of the beach, so you don’t want to plant yourself too near to that. Petrol: You can top up at the Intermarché, Atac and the Carrefour petrol station at the Grand Var shopping centre. Other activities: Boules From mid July to early September there are ‘night boules’ at the Boulodrome near the Dixmude car park. The wee shuttered hut nearby sells chilled beer and rosé (of variable quality) and you can take your glass a few yards along to sit on the low stone bench that runs the length of the boulodrome to watch the games. A great way to soak up some local atmos in the cool of the evening while the sun sets over the Massif Sainte Baume hills off to the North. Tennis At the public courts off the Avenue Charles de Gaulle (behind the main road out of 19 town, towards Hyères). You can hire courts by the hour (for 8€) but, in the summer months, you’ll want to play early on in the day or in the evening as it’ll be pretty hot! (There are two fairly crappy racquets in the house you can borrow.) Restaurants: Note: Most of these I’ve tried, some I’ve just scoped out and vowed to try another time. All are - or look - good! Pierrefeu Hotel l’Univers - 04 94 28 20 19 A friendly welcome is guaranteed in Pierrefeu’s only hotel/restaurant. It’s recently changed hands and the slightly hit-or-miss character of the previous lunch/dinner menu has improved. La Grignotière - Looks expensive but does an excellent prix fixe lunch and has a chef who trained with Michelin-starred Alain something-or-other at the Lingousto, near Cuers. Pizza Celia - 04 94 48 12 00 Really good wood-fired pizza for delivery in the off-season while, in the busier summer months, a temporary, covered terrasse is set up across the road so you can eat al fresco. If you want to order a takeaway pizza, go down and order it in the shop rather than do it by phone. You always end up having it cooked then and there, thus jumping the queue of orders waiting to be made up and biked out! They’ve now opened up an air-conditioned room above the pizza kitchen, in case you want to eat in. Le Lingousto (just off the Cuers road) - 04 94 28 69 10 or www.lingousto.com Formally a Michelin-starred restaurant - and fighting hard to get it back – we know the English lady who runs this with her French husband. Still to try it out though it gets good write-ups, but isn’t cheap. Pizza Van A rather decrepit-looking red van makes wood-fired pizzas a couple of times a week. It’s either parked in the Place Gambetta (where the market is) on Wednesdays or at the bus stop on the Hyères road on two other evenings. Haven’t tried them yet (damn wheat-free diet!!) but they’re supposed to be good and it’s fun watching the pizzas being made in a tiny space and cooked in the wood oven. You do wonder how close the blazing fire is to the van’s fuel tank, though… Pizza/Brasserie at l’Atac (New!) A friendly pizzeria and brasserie opened alongside the Atac supermarket in late 2005. It has chairs/tables outside, looking onto the Hyeres road and up towards the village, and a clean, high-ceilnged interior. Along with an extensive and quite imaginative pizza menu, they do a couple of ‘plat du jour’. One to try if you want to eat out and not drive – it’s about 15 minutes walk from the house. Cuers (New!) Apart from the Lingousto, we’d always struggled to find anywhere decent in Cuers. Until we came upon the Resto Caprice, that is. It’s on the main square in the village (not the one where the market is but the one you go through to get there or the carpark nearby) at 7 Place Général de Gaulle. Good salads and a decent prix fixe lunch at around 10 € including a quarter of wine. There’s a nice wee terrace and a terribly friendly waiter. They open in the evenings too, it appears. We’ve only tried lunch, though, as it’s really handy if you’re coming 20 from the Grand Var, the Cuers market (though on market day you might want to book on 04 94 28 64 50) or the Intermarché. Collobrieres La Petite Fontaine – 04 94 48 00 12 Possibly my favourite restaurant in the area, if not in France. It’s not haute cuisine but good, honest Provençal fare. They do a choice of set menus at 23€ of 27€ which include a starter, salad, main course - usually with their delicious potato dauphinoise , desert, cheese and complimentary marc (aka local firewater) at the end of the meal. They only serve three wines, the rosé, white and red of the area. You can eat on the large terrasse out front in the Summer. Highly recommended. Casa Mia Right next door to the Petite Fontaine, this Italian restaurant has recently tarted itself up in a bid to win as much business as its neighbour. A good fallback if neither La Farigoulette nor La Petite Fontaine can take you. (Note: at time of writing, the much-loved La Farigoulette was still closed due to bereavement. If you’re in Collobrieres and it’s re-opened, give it a go!) Bormes-les-Mimosas La Tonnelle - 04 94 71 34 84 Tried to get in here on a Sunday lunchtime in March - and it was booked solid. A nice-looking menu, so I’d try again! Le Lavandou & St Clair (New!) La Favouille One street back from the port with its bars and the boulodrome, in a small, tree-covered square with tables spilling onto the terrace, this family-run restaurant is a real treat. They do a set menu for around 17€ (from memory, though this could be a little out…) at lunchtime. Treat yourself and do the Bormes Port to Le Lavandou walk on a Thursday, hit the market (the walk ends at that end of town, so you’re saving yourself the headache of trying to park in busy Le Lavandou) and then stroll into town for lunch. Then meander (or, possibly, stagger) back to Bormes beach and have a dip before heading home for a siesta. Café de la Plage at St Clair beach Right on the beach at the corner where all the shops are. Good plats du jour, pizzas and salads. Summer 05’s innovation is a series of timed mist sprays, which are meant to cool you down but tend to provoke general hilarity all round. Creperie 83 (I THINK it’s called) (New!) Just behind the bars and restaurants which overlook the boulodrome – and along from La Favouille (above), is a great wee creperie. Whose name I can’t quite remember but I heartily recommend. Les Salins (New!) Les Calanques The first wee restaurant you get to as you come off Les Salins beach. It’s a family-run affair with a set lunch with plat du jour for about 13€ (from memory). Friendly and with a large shady terrace. 21 La Salad’Hyères (geddit???) Haven’t tried this but it got a good review in Var Matin the day we left so I’m putting it in on that basis. Again, it’s just off the Les Salins beach and right on the port with a shady terrace looking onto the small yachts and fishing boats of the tiny harbour. It does a decent plat du jour and a good selection of salads, crêpes and snacks. Hyères Bistro Marius - 04 94 35 88 38 This little bistro tucked on the edge of one of Hyères’ oldest squares serves good quality provençal/lyonnais cooking. In the Summer, it has a large selection of tables on the cobbled old square in the old town where it’s based. La Coupole – a turn of the century brasserie with a good selection of dishes and handy for the bars and bazars of Hyères. La Taverne Royale - 04 94 65 21 88 Les Jardins de Bacchus - 04 94 65 77 63 or www.les-jardins-de-bacchus.com At Hyères beach/port Brasserie Tocco - 04 94 57 63 43 Even in the off-season, this brasserie is always busy. Reliable bistro fare and consistently good plats du jour. You can sit on the large terrace opposite the marina in the summer. Brasserie des Iles - 04 94 57 49 75 Just over the way from the Tocco, this is quite a bit more upmarket - with prices to match. A place to be seen or to take someone to make a good impression. Great for people-watching at Sunday lunchtime after a wander through the Sunday market. As of early 2006, La Baleine, from the same owners, has opened next door. On the outskirts of town La Colombe - 04 94 35 35 16 Just outside Hyères, on the road into town from La Crau, this lovely restaurant wins rave reviews from guidebooks and appreciative diners. You’ll probably need to book. Le Presqu’île de Giens La Bouillabaisse - 04 94 58 22 15 (at La Madrague) La Mangeoire - 04 94 58 22 87 (at the Port de Niel) Le Tire Bouchon - 04 94 58 14 51 (at the Port de Niel) L’Eau Salée - 04 94 58 92 33 (at the Port de Niel) Grimaud Le St Joseph - 04 94 43 28 84 Sweet and rather funky restaurant on the hill coming into Grimaud from Cogolin. Two tiny terrace tables immediately out front and several ‘booths’ set against the wall just over the narrow road. Le Café de France – 04 94 43 20 05 Classic brasserie fare on a shady terrace right in the centre of the village. Good local rosés 22 and friendly service. Note: the little bar on the Boulevard des Micocouliers, just down from the Old Square - Au Clem’ Bar - serves a daily plat du jour, plus omelettes, salads and sandwiches. It has a covered terrace plus tables on the pavement. Good for kids. Author’s note: If you find any wee gems on your travels, please leave a note of your thoughts in the visitor’s book in the house. Distances: Hyeres: 17km Toulon: 28km St-Tropez - 78km Marseille: 100km Aix-en-Provence: 110km Nice: 130km Useful numbers/websites: The local TV channel is France 3 and you can get short televised bulletins or weather forecasts on the web - http://www.mediterranee.france3.fr/ To get French news online and good weather forecasts, go to www.lemonde.fr or www.liberation.fr and check out the weather in Hyères Toulon Airport – 04 94 00 83 83 SNCF - www.sncf.fr Taxis – Monique Chazoule 06 24 34 37 69. But in extremis only. French taxis are very expensive! www.provencebeyond.com - an amazingly comprehensive and independent guide to towns and villages of Provence, created by Riviera resident and ex-pat, Russ Collins. www.provence-azur.com - official government tourist website for the region. www.provenceweb.com - some nice wallpaper of Pierrefeu for your PC’s desktop http://www.stanfords.co.uk - great online travel bookshop for maps and guidebooks For a sneak preview of the beach at St Clair – or to check the weather in the area – go to http://www.viewsurf-attitude.com. Log in as me (username: julieadair and password: stclair) and go looking at the beaches in Le Lavandou and St Clair. Or work out where the cameras are pointing and position yourself on the beach so that you can wave to friends and family at home! 23 ‘Barking Bobby’ at the window down the road. His owner, who’s pretty well housebound, sits right behind him and, if you call out, ‘Bonjour, Bobby!’, as you pass, Monsieur will reply with a cheery, ‘Bonjour!’ from the gloom of the house. Bound to freak kids out, so definitely good value… 24 25 Appendix 1 Comings and goings... On arrival: - Open all the shutters and windows – depending on the heat/weather - If the house has been empty for a bit, the hot water is likely to have been switched off. At the junction box on the wall by the front door, there’s a switch with sticker on reading B and eau chauffe. Flick this up. - Put the plugs back in around the house and shut the fridge door once it’s switched on again. - Make up beds and generally settle in. Finally, and this is not compulsory, it is kind of traditional to then get a chilled glass of rosé or a coffee from Michelle’s bar in the village (aka Bar Central) before casting an appreciative eye over the vines in the plain below the village, commenting on their progress to date and whether it’ll be a good vintage or not. This can be done from the overlook by the Dixmude statue or – if you feel more energetic pre or post-rosé – from the panorama look-out at the top of the hill, by the chapel. On departure: All of the above in reverse. It doesn’t take very long at all to leave the house in ship-shape condition for the next folk in. We tend to start from the top of the house with dusting and hoovering, then sweep and wash the main bedroom floor and stairs, dust and hoover the back bedroom with some adroit polishing as you go. The kitchen needs swept and dusted, surfaces cleaned and the mats on the floor swept and shaken out. Finally, a good wash of the floor. Same procedure in the bathroom: washing and polishing sink, taps and shower ( see note above about shower and cleaning filter), toilet cleaned and then washing down all the tiles. And that’s it! It generally only takes us about an hour and a half, working together. I tend to chuck in some bleach (aka Javel) into the sinks as I leave the house. Finally, it’s become something of a tradition for the outgoing visitor to leave some bottled water and a bottle of rosé in the fridge for the incomers. Once you’ve strugged up the steps of the old village with your luggage in 37 degrees, you’ll know how welcome this can be! Bon voyage! 26 Appendix 2 Evil Stove – The Lighting Of… Get oil from tank in basement, using watering can. Lift up top grill on stove and pour oil to right hand hole (under tin foil ‘lid’) (Note – be aware that the glass frontage of the stove is rather precarious and is liable to fall off (usually onto your foot). Keep an eye or hold of it as you’re lifting up the top grill or the metal bit underneath it) Open up the metal front bit (watch the glass again!) and remove the wee cream cap immediately in front of you. Turn on the knob behind the foil (to ‘ouvert’) and turn the knob at the back right of the stove until the 0 is next to the wall. Take out the wee ‘topette’ – or dipstick – which is set in a hole under the chain at the bottom of the stove. Dip it in the oil which you’ve just put in the top hole and light it. Stick the lit end in the hole which was covered by the cream top you took off earlier You’ll see flames begin to start at the foot of the stove (through the precarious glass). Keep the topette in there until the fire has taken and then gently remove it. You may need a couple of gos to put the wee cream lid back on so do it gently so as not to put the fire out. Replace the metal flap and get toasty! To turn off, simply lift up the metal grill (be careful as it’ll be hot!) and turn the first knob to fermé and close the other one so that the 0 is facing you again. Bon chance!