Tuesday, June 10, 2014

France 2014: Aups, Sillans-la-Cascade, Fayence, Tourtour

After four weeks of driving around to so many pretty little French villages, not to mention living in one, they are starting to all blend together in our minds.  Arriving at a new village and seeing narrow streets with quaint shops and restaurants, fountains, and churches isn't as unique of an experience as it was at the start of the trip.  So now when we decide to tour a new place, we are looking for something different that makes it memorable.

When we visited Aups on their market day, we noted that it was a much larger market than in Bargemon with a greater variety of fruits, produce, cheese (including a green pesto cheese!) and non-food offerings.  It had the now familiar Medieval feel, with its narrow cobblestone streets, stone walls and archways.  Had this been the first village that we visited, we would have been thoroughly charmed, but now it was just one more in the long list that we've been to.  That was OK, because touring the town was not the main reason that we went to Aups.

We went to Aups for the express purpose of making new friends with a couple that we met on our LoveHomeSwap website.  They had requested a swap with us in September, which unfortunately we could not agree to since we had already used up our annual vacation budget on our 7 week France trip.  Hearing that we would be staying so close to where they are summering, they invited us over for lunch, which we gladly accepted.  We shared a very lovely meal with them out on their beautiful covered front porch, had great conversations while getting to know each other, and invited them to come visit us when they are in Toronto in September.  This was such a wonderfully generous gesture that we plan to adopt with future home swap requests that we cannot accept.  What a great way to make friends all around the world.  So our visit to Aups was a very special and memorable occasion after all.

Our visit to Fayence was a bit of an unexpected adventure when we could not find our way back to our car which was parked at the base of the town, after getting turned around while meandering up and up through many little narrow streets to reach the centre of town.  Taking a photo of a landmark near the parking lot doesn't help much when you can't find the landmark again.  We had become accustomed to little villages that have only a few main streets and were unprepared for the size of Fayence.

There was not much new to see in the town centre, other than a tiny museum dedicated to communal ovens from the 16th century, featuring a cheesy wax-figured family baking bread.  Luckily there was also a temporary exhibit on World War I memorabilia which was quite interesting.  In particular, the handwritten journals and drawings from servicemen, depicting their experiences during the war were quite both moving and fascinating.

Sillans-la-Cascade offered a pleasant stroll through olive orchards and woodlands in order to see a 42 meter water fall.  I would have enjoyed this walk more had I not spent that entire morning and early afternoon climbing slopes and stairs to get to tops of cliffs in Cotignac.  We've done quite a bit of climbing in the various towns of the hilly Var region, so hopefully my thighs are getting stronger and I'm working off all the cheese and croissants that we've been eating.

We did not plan to visit Tourtour on the day that we drove home from Cotignac and Sillans-la-Cascade, but our route took us right through the middle of the town and it was so beautiful that we had to stop.  The far edge of the town square had a fabulous view overlooking a sculpture garden and then the countryside in the background.  Large metal sculptures of a butterfly and a grasshopper stood prominently in the square, beside a town hall building that looked like a chalet or mini castle, flanked by four round turrets.  In the large open space of the square, we saw more games of boule being played against a gorgeous backdrop.  At some point before the end of our stay, I hope to have the opportunity to try this game.

The other thing that made us stop in Tourtour was the fact that most of the shops and art galleries were open, despite it being late Sunday afternoon.  In Bargemon, everything closes by 12:30pm on Sundays.  Tourtour has a great selection of art galleries and gift shops.  From one pottery store, we ended up buying a pretty bowl with an attachment for dip or olive pits or something (we'll figure out the usage of it later) and a cute clip-on ceramic hedgehog that holds toothpicks.  We also picked up a cherry liquor that went great with a can of Sprite (but don't tell the saleslady that we mixed the drink - I am sure she would be horrified since she warned us several times that we should not dilute the liquor with ice).

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