While in Var Provence during the past two weeks, we discovered Hyéres.
If you’re an English speaker, you’ll pronounce Hyéres passably if you think of the word “yeah.” And pronouncing it as such is perhaps appropriate, because touring this beautiful town left me with an indelible impression that could be characterized as, Oh Hyéres!
Hyéres is indeed a special place. Tourism in the south of France as we know it today has its roots in Hyères, which is the oldest resort on the French Riviera.
Lord Albemarle, the British ambassador, stayed in Hyères during the winter 1767-1768, but it was the two visits of the Prince of Wales during the winters of 1788 and 1789 that put Hyères on the map with the British.
In 1883, Robert Louis Stevenson came to Hyères and for about two years lived first at the Grand Hotel (the building still stands in the Avenue des Iles d’Or).
In later years he wrote: “I was only happy once; that was at Hyères.”
The British presence culminated in the winter of 1892 when Queen Victoria came for a stay of three weeks at the Albion Hotel. At that time, the British influence was so strong that shop signs were in both French and English. There was an English butcher, a chemist, two banks and two golf courses. There were also two English churches.
We strolled through the old town, clustered around the Castle of Saint Bernard, which is set on a hill.
Between the old town and the sea is the pine-covered hill of Costebelle, which overlooks the peninsula of Giens. We stayed nearby at La Bastide du Plantier, a wonderful bed and breakfast that I would highly recommend for anyone doing cruises from nearby Toulon (about 20 minutes away).
La Bastide du Plantier features only two bedrooms, one in the main house and one in a guest house that has a nice terrace (covered and open) and even a small Provencal kitchen. For me, the experience was in fact quintessential Provence.
We stayed for three nights and typically dined under the covered terrace for breakfast and delicious dinners, which owner Brigitte Martin prepared for us with ingredients from her garden.
Brigitte was an extremely warm hostess, and on our last night, she and her husband, who had been away for business, invited us to join them for a bottle of the delicious rosé wines that are so popular in Provence. Staying at La Bastide du Plantier was certainly one of the highlights of my two weeks in Var Provence.
Check out more photos from La Bastide du Plantier in our Flickr slideshow.
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