Hyeres marks one end of the Côte d’Azur just as Cannes marks the other. It is 122 k from Cannes and 22k from Toulon. There are no cities in this stretch of coast, but Hyeres is the largest town along with the St Rapheal-Fréjus conglomeration. The dark wooded hills and their many hidden villages form a backdrop to this most gentile of towns. In the highest season because of traffic jams and general crowding it can seem over busy, but out of season it can be a delight. Somehow the area behind the town has managed to achieve some sort of balance between the need for development and the needs of growers of vines, vegetables and all the rest. The town is an exporter of exotic plants, especially date palms. In fact the full name of the town is Hyeres-Les-Palmier. The town is the oldest resort on the coast and was visited by Napoleon, Queen Victoria and Leo Tolstoy. Much of that early charm remains with many buildings from the Belle Epoch still in use, which makes it a favourite with film makers.
The medieval town lies 5 km inland on Casteou Hill and it is here that you will find the ruins of a castle that once defended it. There are salt marshes to be seen from here as well as the modern town and Presqu’ile de Giens, connected to the mainland by an isthmus and sandbar. It is also here that you will find the bustling market place. There is also a flea market on Sundays. The modern town has wide tree lined streets and stuccoed walls. It isn’t all modern though – the ruins of an ancient Greek town dating from the 4th century B.C.E. can still be seen as can Roman and medieval remains including the12th century base of the Knights Templar at the Tour de St Blaise.
There are consistent winds here which make it a perfect place for sailors, surfers etc and for over 40 years the town has hosted the Semaine Olympique de Violes – more than a 1,000 competitors enter what has become a rehearsal for the Olympic Games. For those who prefer luck rather than skill there is a casino as you might expect in this part of the world, but also a botanical garden and zoo with a miniature train for the young and young at heart.
There are lots and lots of food markets on various days, with organic produce being available several days each week in Place Vicomtesse-de -Noailles. The tourist office will be able to tell you details of these and the many other markets in the area.
Food and Drink
Restaurants are to be found in abundance around Place Massillon and it would be difficult to pick one out. Being so close to the sea there is a North African influence as at Les Jardins de Saradam in Avenue de Belgique, near the bus station , where brik, tagines and cous cous are on the menu, but I am assured that the best ice-cream in town can be found at Pâtisserie Bionna in Place Clemenceau.
For food La Reine Jane in the port of L’Ayguade is slightly out of town, but is friendly and has a good terrace restaurant. It offers food to suit the whole family, with lots of Provencal dishes and of course sea food. Expect to spend between 15 and 36 euros each. Service is quick, there is a great view of the port and the food makes your mouth water. For those with a sweet tooth the Crème de Marron is quite something.
- La Hôtel-Restaurant La Reine Jane, Port de l’Ayguade, 83400 Hyeres, Tel: 04.94.66.32.64 22€
- Hôtel Le Ceinturon ** – Boulevard Front de Mer L’Ayguade – 83400 Hyeres les Palmiers Tel no : 33 (0)4 94 66 33 63 23€
So this is a town for all year round activity, though naturally a little quieter in the winter, there is never a really shut down period. This has the advantage of keeping prices a little lower as everyone isn’t trying to make enough money in a few weeks to last them all year. It seems a great place for your future home.
Think carefully at this point. What exactly do you want – somewhere modern or an older property? In town or up in the hills? A tiny manageable garden or rolling acres? How many bedrooms do you need? Is a pool essential to your plans? Is this to be a holiday home or somewhere to retire to? Perhaps both? What is your maximum budget, remembering to allow for any fees? Contact Sextant properties and they will be able to put you in touch with a local bi-lingual agent who will be able to tell you how much you can expect to pay over and above the agreed purchase price for notary fees and all the rest. Then you will know how much you have to work with and come up with a list of possible properties for you to view. So check out those plane or train times, find your passport and you are off on a treasure hunt.