I am currently sat on the terrace to my hotel, under an umbrella, that is trying to shelter me from the engulfing heat that is South France – dress stuck to my back. Clammy. Inside, it’s a sauna, outside, at least there’s a vague hint of a breeze. The laptop on my knee that insists on operating at a temperature of 38 degrees celsius only adds to this. But I can find some kind of solace in the fact that a quick dip in the Mediterranean is a mere 350 metres from my doorstep. Life ain’t all that bad.
My friend and I arrived in Bormes-les-Mimosas a week ago, and on the eve on my departure I thought it high time I wrote a post about it. With several other blog posts pending, I am acutely aware it’s been a while but I guess having a consistent internet connection is something you take for granted until you are on the road again. So while it’s top of mind, here we go.
Bormes-les-Mimosas is a small community, situated in the Var region of Provence, on the Côte d’Azur. It comprises of several sub-communities, Bormes Le Pin (the commercial centre and business hub, on the Western limits of the region), Bormes le Village (the old village, tucked away in the hillside, to the east, above Le Pin and beneath the ruins of an ancient château) and Bormes La Favière (the Port). The geography can be particularly confusing when trying to get here unless you understand this. But if you are thinking of coming somewhere different, to beat the crowds (and the sky-high prices) of St Tropez and Nice and holiday with no one else but the French, then you can’t miss it.
Everything about this holiday has been full of surprises. The first was the arrival at the hotel. Travelling with a friend, and for want of any youth hostels in the vicinity, and our spare-of-the-moment decision to make this trip, we opted for an affordable and, during peak season, one of the only available options in the region, the Parenthèse hotel. Not expecting all that much, we were pleasantly surprised upon our arrival.
We found a cute, boutique hotel in La Favière, a few steps from the sea that was clean, tidy, fully (and very friendly) serviced, complete with ensuite and terrace – with optional breakfast and a wonderful outdoor amphitheater where you can go to relax under the trees.
The second surprise was the food. We’d expected it to be good, just not this good. In La Favière, there are countless restaurants, bars and bistros to choose from. Two of my faves were a gorgeous bistro serving food typical of Brittany – the name unfortunately escapes me but it’s really not difficult to find. They serve gallettes and crêpes of all imaginable flavours, exquisite salads and amazing mussels. All tried and tested! For a main, dessert and wine, you shouldn’t expect to pay more than €15.
The other, slightly erring on the more pricey side (€18 for a set, three-course menu, plus a half-bottle of wine for €6) is Bormeo. It’s perfectly situated on the path down to the beach. Here, I had a phenomenal beef carpaccio as an entrée, an incredible pot of coconut curried mussels with fries for my main and an apple and chocolate tart for dessert. The servings were generous so I’d recommend you arrive hungry (small tip: don’t eat an ice cream beforehand). This was a special treat for us, but well worth the extra cash.
There are also a number of really good cheap options too. There is an incredible pizzeria on the boulevard that serves incredible gourmet pizzas to-go. For one gigantuous pizza, you won’t pay more than €12 and that could easily serve three (though we ate it between two). I recommend you accompany this with a nice bottle of the region’s rosé. There are also a couple of good Créole restuarants and a good kebab joint. The only thing to watch is that while the supermarket will always be cheaper, it is more expensive to shop here than it is say, in Marseille or one of it’s neighbouring big cities. I guess it’s just because it is so isolated. The fruit from the fruit stall is to die for. Some of the best pitted fruit I have tasted.
The third and final surprise was the beaches. You can’t get much better than the Mediterranean for offering up crystal blue, tranquil, warm waters. The beaches I have swum at this week have been among the best in my life. Our hotel is about a two-minute walk from the port, which offers up a perfectly lovely beach for swimming. Just around the corner, five minutes on foot, is Le Lavandou, a bigger, more-built-up resort town but with magnificent beaches. If you stay close to the Bormes end of the beach, you will find there is a lot more space to stretch out and relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. But what we didn’t realise is that not all this coastline has been touched by tourism.
We were sitting in a café, eating breakfast one morning when a French man heard us discussing our plans for the day and decided to start talking to us. Mistaking me and my friend for a couple, he willing offered up the suggestion that we visit Lover’s Beach or La Page des Amoureux. He explained very generously that we can get there easily by following the coastline past Le Lavandou, down a Cliffside to a secluded little beach. Very thoughtful of him. Not on this occasion, thank you.
He then went on to say that we can also walk the other direction too, where we would find plenty of plages sauvages, or wild beaches that remain virtually untouched by people. He told me that I couldn’t do the walk in my flip flops and that I would need trainers. Right he was on both counts. By the way, the above photo is not a photo of me and my friend.
The walk itself is not for the faint-hearted. It passes along some pretty sheer cliff-faces and over plenty of rock. But the path itself is clearly marked out and as long as you follow the coastline, you will be fine. One of us (he shall not be named) thought his leather, walking flip-flops with the robust sole would do. He may or may not have regretted this decision. Regardless, it was worth every pain-staking step. We passed beach after beach of stunning sand, rock, pebble and sea. Some were public, most were private. We passed a Calanque, a rocky bay that the region is renowned for and came to a private beach and port where we launched ourselves into the pristine waters and swam for several hours. Amazing.
So now it’s time to take a reality check. I am off to Reims in the morning on the TGV (a nice 5 hour journey from South to North) but I really need to book some accommodation.
Until next time – this time, hopefully it won’t be so long!