Brignoles, La Provence Verte

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( I took this photo in Bormes Les Mimosas)

Check this out: I am now relaxing on a comfy garden chair on the beautiful patio of my friend’s auntie, overlooking their amazing property with the sun setting behind the farthest trees. The garden is insane. Around every corner there is something else. For example, the place I am sitting in now is a gazebo with some beautiful oleander bushes around it. Further up the hill there are some terraces with a few small olive trees and some vietnamese sculptures. On the other side of the house there is an outside kitchen with a stone grill, a built-in barbecue, and a pizza oven. Home made, or better even, garden made pizzas are the best. Around the corner again, there is a small elevated swimming pool, perfect to cool down all day long, of course with the accompanying chairs to relax. I could spend days discovering every nook and cranny this garden is still hiding from me.

But this area of course has more to offer than just these wonderful people’s garden. I am now in Brignoles, about one hour drive inland from Marseille. We haven’t been to Marseille though. There is so much else to see and do in the area, Le Var! Also, it is insanely hot, and the blue-eyed fair-skinned easily burned person I am, no matter how much I enjoy being outside, all day adventuring simply will not happen on this holiday. Which is why that pool is so insanely welcome. And my two jugs of sunscreen are too.

Barjols

Our first day, me and my friend visited Barjols. The small town has 27 fountains, and we saw 19 of them. The coolest one by far, was something that looked like a tree covered in moss with water dripping from its leaves. We finished our walk with a petit café in one of the many cafes, and what a bon petit café it was: small and strong, like you simply do not get them at home. The smell alone gives you a caffeine boost and your nose an orgasm, just imagine what a few sips of that black goodness can do for you!

Cassis

When we were in Cassis, we took a boat tour to Les Callanques: the small bays in the impressive cliff shoreline. The cliffs got higher and higher, the bays smaller and smaller, and the overal feeling more out of this world. Just being on a boat always entertains me more than enough. The sun not being as fierce anymore with the strong gusts of wind and splashes of seawater, the rocking of the boat and the thumps as it goes over a bigger wave, the feeling that you don’t have to be anywhere or do anything but sit, wait, and smile. Add to that the open sea on one side and the lively cliffs on the other and I am a more than happy girl. Rounded off with some banana ice cream and another one of those heavenly coffees.

Bormes les Mimosas

The people I’m staying with own a deux chevaux oldtimer. In this weather, I wasn’t really prone to taking an unairconditioned tiny car for our next trip, bit since it was a convertable, what would’ve been a simple one hour drive suddenly turned into a whole adventure. The car wasn’t that tiny either. It was just as big on the inside as it was on the outside, no airbags or any kind of “fortification”. So all four of us had plenty of space to make ourselves comfy and enioy the wind in our hairs / try not to lose our hats and caps. After one hour of puffing and tuffing, the good ol’ deux chevaux got us to Bormes Les Mimosas, a beautiful village on a hillside close to the Mediteranean. This place wasn’t just another French village with cheerful yellow and orange houses, red tiled roofs and the bright blue sea in the background. What made it so special were the flowers. Oleander bushes in purple red and yellow, bougainvilliers climbing up the walls trying to hide the blue green white window covers, mimosa trees providing lovely spots of shade, and a thousand more flowers I don’t know by name. It was more than stunning. The colours were so vibrant and the city felt so quiet. The whole place smelled like lavender as well. What an experience.

Cotignac

But the cherry on top was Cotignac. First records of the city date back to the 11th century, and the little town is full of history. With the cave dwellings as the highlight. Cotignac is again built on a hillside. On top of the steep rocky hill, there are two big towers overlooking the city. The hill itself consists of many caves, and little houses built into them, which you can still visit nowadays. Just walk to the back of the town, then go up hill and scramble up some rocky stairs to enter the caves, don’t forget to duck (I am quite short and even I had spiderwebs all over my hair), and enjoy a view of the typically southern French village. Back down, we caught our breath at the only not overpriced cafe we found on our holiday, Le Temps des Pose. It was by far the best one as well. We had a good view on the hillside, a nice table in the shade of a pretty flowery tree, another delicious coffee, and the company of a small black cat stretched out completely over the ice cream freezer to get its bearings.

Holiday-style relaxing

As I mentioned before, the holiday wasn’t all exploring and discovering. We enjoyed a fair bit of sieste time. First on the sieste schedule: food. De-li-cious food. The people we’re staying with have a fairly mixed background and as such, bring the most varied and amazing dishes to the table. To name just a few: We had some Vietnamese nems, a sort of spring roll but better, rolled in a leaf of lettuce with some snips of mint and other unidentiefied herbs, and dipped into a home made fish-chili-garlic sauce. Or some couscous, with courgette, pumpkin, chick peas, lamb steak and merguez sausages. And every morning and lunch we have baguettes and cheese. For those of you who know me: cheese! Lots and lots of French cheese! It’s like being in cheese heaven.

I’m reading the perfect holiday book as well. Usually I like to read about the place I am actually visiting, some book about the Provence or southern Europe would’ve been ideal. But instead I went with one about Australia (because I can simply not get enough of the down under storiesto add to mine): The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville. The story takes place in the first British settlement in Australia, Sydney Cove. It doesn’t seem to be very historically accurate, not describing any of the difficulties the first settlers ran into (or I feel they would’ve run in to) like the extreme weather conditions, the spinifex, the lack of food, the creepies and crawlies,… But it is only a novel, and a very fluent and fun one at that. Perfect pool literature.

We’ve also been playing a fair bit of The Settlers of Catan. For those of you into board games: it’s not the board game, it’s the card game. The one specifically designed for just two people. It has the basic game, which is difficult enough to start with. But we’ve been playing this for a while now, so we like to play some of the theme sets as well. On this holiday, we finally played the full game for the first time, with the three theme sets. It’s a really good game, it takes so much tactics and knowing how the other person plays. We finally got the hang of it, and tonight, I will beat my friend… Ending our holiday in a high note and all 😉

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