Sunday, 14 June 2015

Travelling from Victoria to Var

The countdown has started. My suitcase sits on the floor like an open mouth waiting to be filled. By the end of this month we will silver bird it away from Victoria’s cold winter for a slice of sun in Provence.
The town of Les Arcs-sur-Argens in the Var
Travelling from Victoria to Var each year never loses its excitement. And the delightful part is that we are now welcomed back to Les Arcs-sur-Argens by our voisins – neighbours – like old friends. I was quite startled the first time Madame V next door took me in her arms, gave me three bisous and a great big smile as we arrived, giant suitcases in tow, for another sojourn.
This year we plan to spend all our time in the Midi, so I’ll be taking mainly casual clothes, together with perhaps something dressy for the warm evenings when the Place Général de Gaulle is filled with families eating, drinking and enjoying the summer soirées.

Summer afternoons in the main town square
Most evenings, a band is playing in the Kiosk Offenbach – the bandstand in the square – everything from French chansons to jazz, rock and blues. There is nothing better after a long, hot summer’s day, to sit in the shade of the sturdy platanes – plane trees, surrounded by the ambience of a noisy, joyful crowd of villagers and tourists together with food, music, a bit of people watching and yes, sometimes even dancing. This year we will also enjoy the celebrations of Bastille Day and the town’s four-day medieval festival, held every second year, in mid-July.
It is just over six years since we discovered a perfect little maison de village in the town of Les Arcs-sur-Argens located in the Provenҫal department of Var.

The Var is part of the PACA region (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur) in south-eastern France. Its capital is Toulon, the main port of the French Navy. Although Var is highly forested – almost 60% – it also has 420kms of coastline, including offshore islands. Its population of just under one million is mainly centred on the urban area of Toulon.

Les Arcs-sur-Argens is part of a smaller region, called Dracenie, made up of 15 small towns plus the former capital of Draguignan, with its population of almost 40,000. The Dracenie region is agricultural – livestock such as sheep and goats, products such as olives, figs, honey and market gardens. But the main activity is viticulture. In fact there are around 450 domaines and co-operatives and four AOCs (appellation d’origine controllée) across the department.
The Var leads the world in the production of rosé wine. It is an absolute must to enjoy it chilled in summer. However, les Arcois only drink rosé between May and October, when the weather is hot and the wine is cold. There are at least seven small wineries within walking distance of Les Arcs-sur-Argens and the town boasts the famous Maison de Vins where you can enjoy a fantastic dégustation dinner. At the Cellier des Archers you can taste and buy a whole range of Provenҫal wines. 

Outside the little maison de village in 2008
So, back in October 2008 – just as the Global Financial Crisis began to swallow up the Western World – we decided to buy our little 17th century stone maison de village in Les Arcs-sur-Argens. It was a shaky start. We initially pulled out of negotiations when we realised the extent and the real cost of the crisis. But after this stop-start beginning, and a generous price reduction by the seller, we realised the purchase was meant to be. ‘C’est le destin’ – it is your destiny – Anita, our real estate agent told us. How could we resist?  With a lot of belt-tightening and bonne chance, we found ourselves both stunned and delighted to end up with our own little piece of Provence.


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