"I love everything that's old; old times , old manners, old wine." Goldsmith. She stoops to conquer.
The gateway to the whole French riviera could be said to be Hyères. Set like a jewel well back from the sea, its charm and tranquility was such that Queen Victoria was a frequent visitor. Its broad avenues are lined with splendid palm trees. Situated on a fertile plain ideally suited for growing fruit and flowers, the new town managed to preserve its serene charm without being overly bustling.
Originally built in the Romanesque style of the twelfth century, its buildings were enlarged and modernised in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, conforming to the Gothic style. Other restorations have been carried out since, although none particularly noteworthy.
The old part of the town revolves around the Massillon Square - named after the town's unforgettable preacher, Jean-Baptiste Massillon who was born in nearby Rue Rabaton in 1663. Referring to his powers of oratory, King Louis XIV confided "Whenever I hear him I feel dissatisfied with myself."
These days a colourful market is held in the square. Vegetables, fruit and flowers, all grown in the area, provide their own distinctive aromas. The Romanesque church of Saint Paul towers over the rooftops of the old town. Beyond it lie the tangle of narrow, winding streets, some with evocative names such as Saint Pierre, Saint-Bernard, Rue Paradise, etc. As we stroll along we pass some Renaissance and even Romanesque houses, then pass through the gates and on to the town ramparts, which have long since ceased to play any defensive role.
THE HYERES ISLANDS
"He that walketh in the sun shall be tanned." - David Tuvill, Vade Mecum 1638.
During the Renaissance period the islands to the south of Hyères were known as the golden islands on account of the glistening reflections of the peculiarities in the rock formations. On the seaward side, these islands rise from the sea as sheer cliffs. The friendly beaches are on the north side. Visitors come here for one main purpose: nature. The sun and the moist sea air produce a micro-climate well suited to the lush vegetation - one of the island's chief attractions.
The Island of Port Cros is well known as being outstanding for nature walks, indeed it is today a national park and they say the water is so clear you can see down 120 feet. At Levant Island, a long rocky strip of rock jutting out into the sea is a favourite haunt for nudists, and in fact a thriving nudist colony is maintained, perhaps each of its adherents striving to achieve a 100% suntan. Strangely, this part of the island was at one time a prison island but in the 1860's it was turned over to the nudists, who called the island Heliopolis (the sun city).
Created, composed, and constructed by Virtual Riviera 1995