THE AUTHENTIC CHARM OF THE MEDITERRANEAN IN TOULON, HYÈRES AND PORQUEROLLES
This is a part of Provence and the Mediterranean coast that is a little less popular than elsewhere, with a reputation inherited from who knows where of being maybe a bit rough, perhaps even less beautiful and less interesting, than other more bling-bing, more glamorous, more camera and glitter parts of this coast that deploys ultra-mediatised spots like a magnet. Really, less interesting and less beautiful? What a big mistake! But this lack of interest, real or proven, suits us perfectly, it is a calmer, more peaceful corner of paradise, where in summer it is possible to enjoy the beauties of the sea without suffering the hordes of holidaymakers, even if it is necessary to have the addresses of the insiders, which we will give you here! So, let’s go to this coast made up of Toulon, Hyères and the islands of Levant, Porquerolles in the lead, to discover its wild and authentic sides, beautiful escapes as we like them.
IN TOULON, THE WORLD IN A CITY
Here is a city with a sulphurous past, a port that has seen the whole world pass by, sailors with a bad reputation, an image that is more military than seaside, but which is nevertheless a model of dynamism and creativity, the ideal combination of a big, beautiful and ultra-animated city and idyllic hidden coves to enjoy a sublime and less crowded Mediterranean.
We asked Rébecca, 4th generation of a family that has established its summer quarters since 1850 in a sublime Provencal mas on Cap Brun to the east of the city (which she rents out for a few weeks a year, just a stone’s throw from some of the most beautiful calanques, to give us her favourite addresses in this city that she has always known.
On the sublime cove of Magaud, calm and preserved, to enjoy a beautiful sea, and the restaurant La Calanque, a mythical place for Toulon inhabitants, timeless and delicious.
Another fabulous cove, the Méjean cove and its restaurant, L’Escale, a little paradise!
In the centre of Toulon, an Italian restaurant unlike any other, creative and contemporary, La Fabricca di Marco
On the most beautiful cove of the Mourillon, the restaurant Le Lido de Toulon, Ibiza atmosphere in Toulon with feet in the water, perfect to see magnificent sunsets.
In Le Pradet between Toulon and Hyères, restaurant L’Oursinado for the most beautiful fish and seafood of the region in a beautiful setting.
For swimming, the coves of Méjean and Magaud are the most sublime, not always easy to access by car in high season, you have to be ready to walk a little in the middle of a sumptuous nature, but at the end what wonders!
The beach of Monaco in Le Pradet is a magnificent wild crescent of 400 meters long, and the one of Bau Rouge, which you reach by a staircase, is also of great beauty.
In Toulon, you can shop at the Mourillon market and the Halles Municipales Esther Poggio, and visit the extraordinary Hôtel des Arts, dedicated to contemporary art, design and architecture.
HYÈRES, THE SEASIDE JEWEL
Here is a destination that ticks all the boxes: exceptional architecture, a legacy of the times when the town became a fashionable seaside resort and sumptuous and extravagant villas were built, unique vegetation linked to a micro-climate and above all a lot of sunshine, which makes palm trees, cactuses and mimosas grow, a real exotic garden, and a beautiful sea. Hyères, just a stone’s throw from Toulon, is a perfect complement for a stroll or a few days’ stay.
A must for any visit to this area, the Villa Noailles, a jewel of modernist architecture by Robert-Mallet Stevens, offers a wonderful programme of fashion and photography, with the added bonus of a superb view over the bay of Hyères and the Giens peninsula.
The Giens peninsula is worth a diversion, an astonishing space that is half-island, half-continent, with its ancient salt marshes, its migratory birds (including pink flamingos) and its beaches perfect for water sports.
Another wonderful address, between a design hotel (14 rooms each decorated by a talented designer) and a fantastic restaurant, La Reine Jane, directly on the harbour in Hyères, mythical shooting place of some scenes from the classic’s Pierrot le Fou, is a favourite address!
PORQUEROLLES, THE GENTLE WAY OF LIFE
Last step of this beautiful escape, we could not forget to write about Porquerolles, a small pearl on the Mediterranean Sea, 15 minutes by boat from the end of the Giens peninsula. An island that is not an easy gateway (especially in summer, when it becomes almost impassable with full car parks from the end of the morning), to be preferred for two days at least in order to let the day-trippers be gone and have the place to yourself. A small island that can be explored on foot or by bike, in a natural setting of pine trees, scrubland, fig trees, eucalyptus, and magnificent beaches (Notre-Dame and d’Argent beaches, Anse de la Treille).
A calm and gentle island, a little retro, without the snob atmosphere found elsewhere, where you take the time to do nothing much, between an aperitif with tangerine liqueur at Place d’Armes + a game of pétanque, and walks (80% of its territory is classified as a nature reserve). Ideally in spring or autumn, when it seems to be dormant, settle down at the Mas du Langoustier, which looks more like a family home than a hotel and whose name alone is a promise.
And of course, we marvel at the Fondation Carmignac between villa and gardens, to discover contemporary art from another angle, and we enjoy the Poisson Ivre, a magnificent restaurant in the foundation’s pine forest.