Sunday, 7 August 2016

The Secret 'Green Pearl'.

The hidden waterfall at Sillans-la-Cascade.
There is a secret place in La Dracénie - the tourist region in the centre of the Var based around Draguignan - where, despite the summer heat, it is a cool and inviting oasis.

Called Sillans-la-Cascade, the village is located in the shade of tree-covered hills tucked between Cotignac and Salernes.

Sillans-la-Cascade is a pretty village filled with ancient shuttered buildings in the Provence style - pale yellows and pinks with shutters in different shades of blue, and of course, the curved terrcotts tiled roofs.

Known as 'la perle verte' or the green pearl, its ancient tree-lined streets hide many surprises.

Firstly, La Mairie - the Town Hall - a large, four-storey rectangular building, was constructed in 1800 by Rolland de Sillans on the site of an ancient château once surrounded by high stone remparts, the remains of which are still standing.

In the heart of the village are narrow streets, called ruelles, which snake between the old stone buildings. A number of artists and artisans have made their homes here.
La Mairie, built on the site of an ancient château. Photo: Var Matin.

Below is the church of Saint-Etienne and opposite it, in top of the hill above the town, is the recently restored chapel of Saint-Laurent. The view from up here shows the small village completely surrounded by luxuriant green vegetation.

The vegetation is nourished by the River Bresque and in the square behind the Mairie, there is a large underground stone tank which was once used to store water from it for the town's fountains.

Of course, water is the source of Sillans' attraction - and after exploring the village, it is a must to discover the cascade - or waterfall.
The path leads through a 'jungle' of undergrowth.

Following the blue-green - really more of an aqua - river, is a walking trail which starts from the village in the shade of leafy plane trees.

When we visited, we didn't go to the lookout at the top of the waterfall, where there is a panoramic view of the countryside and the river valley - but not the cascade itself.

Instead we continued along, through native scrub which became more and more overgrown with strands of tree climbers hanging down like string curtains from the branches above making the area look like something from a fantasy film.
Cooling off (illegally) in the pool below.

It was a hot day, but as we wound our way down the path - and some slippery steps thoughtfully provided with handrails - we could sense a freshness in the air from the moving water.

Distant shouts from people already there told us that despite warnings, some were swimming in the water below.

Then all of a sudden we emerged into the most beautiful cool, green light and the bridal veil of water tumbling 42 metres down the cliff face. A wooden viewing platform directly opposite the waterfall is ideal for taking photographs.

Sunbaking on the rocks in the Bresque River.
What surprised me most was not that people were swimming - against regulations - in the pool below, but the colour of the water itself - a brilliant opaque aqua.

The only other time I have seen this colour is in the Verdon River which travels through France's 'Grand Canyon' to the north and into a similarly-coloured Lake Ste Croix.

They are related.

The colour comes from the calcium and fluoride in the water. In fact the amount of fluoride in the water is so high that people are advised not to swim in - or drink - it.

And despite the fact that it is also very cold - only 14'C even at the height of summer - it was such a hot day that I couldn't blame the young people frolicking below.

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