In the last couple of days, I’ve been contemplating a feat of extraordinary mental and physical capacity, but I’ve lacked the strength to execute it.
This morning, I wake up to a semi-clear head and totally clear, blue skies. I know this is the day. I’m going to Les Arcs.
Les Arcs is about 6 kilometers from Vidauban. Now, if you bother to do the math, you may be scoffing at me right now. That’s like 3 miles!!! You could walk that! Yeah, right. I don’t think there are a lot of little shops from here to there, and there might even be hills. And lets not forget I don’t even know which way is up. Or north. And these people don’t speak English! So don’t mock me, you with your fancy cars, streets lined with little shops, subways, mother tongue and sense of direction! It’s frightening, I tell ya!
While I don’t know much about Les Arcs, I do know it’s very important to go there ASAP, because that’s the home of this part of the Var region’s (they call it the Dracenie) major SCNF/TGV train station. You can get anywhere from Les Arcs, with super-fast trains to Nice, Marseille, Cannes, Aix, Avignon, Paris, Bordeaux, Grenoble, Strasbourg, Amsterdam, Brussels…you get the picture. It’s kind of like a transportation hub, where all bus and train lines intersect.
So, how do I get to this mystical place, Les Arcs? Unfortunately, the Vidauban train station isn’t exactly what you’d call bustling, which is kind of too bad because the station itself is a nice little building. Not a lot of trains stop here. And most of them are at an ungodly hour of the morning. But there are a few every day. There’s also the #9 “Tedbus” that runs a little more frequently.
I opt for the bus, which leaves at 12:47. Now I just have to figure out from where. I know it’s somewhere in the Place de Clemenceau. Fortunately, a sign on the sidewalk makes it pretty clear. The bus arrives, I pay my Euro to the bus driver, who is friendly and helpful and doesn’t drive like she’s pissed off, which seems like a refreshing change to someone who has only ridden on NYC and SF buses. It’s one of those tour bus type buses with reclining seats, so it’s pretty cushy. Ten minutes later, after some rolling hills and vineyards I’m at the Gare de Les Arcs/Draguignan.
Turns out, the actual village of Les Arcs is about a quarter of a mile down the road from the gare. At first, it’s positively residential, a little girl scolds her doll on the front lawn, another family works in the garden. Then it starts resembling a cute little French village/town, with little shops and cafes (phew!).
The main square is tucked in at the bottom of a hill with a ancient looking church, monastary or fortress (I’ll have to look it up later) looking over it. I wander all the little streets leading off the square, assiduously avoiding anything resembling a hill. Until I see a sign reading “medieval village” with an arrow that points up a tiny street that can only lead uphill. I’m a sucker for a medieval village, so I enter the maze, knowing full well, once I enter, there’s no turning back.
OMG, it’s so cute. All these cobbley stone buildings with colorful shutters and doors are stacked on top of each other, connected by little spiraling alleyways festooned with greenery, stone arches, steps and bits of serendipitous art.
The further up I go, the more I want to live here. I see people sunning on quaint tree lined terraces and covet their lives. It gets quieter and cooler (counter-intuitively) as I near the top. All I can hear are birds and trickling waterfalls.
At the top, I stop to pant for a few minutes, looking out at the amazing view. An elderly French man (meaning he’s about my age) lights a cigarette and tells me about … something. I assume he’s giving me a tip about a beautiful spot nearby, because I hear the word “arbes” and l’eau. I oooo and ahhhh at his description and thank him for his advice, even though for all I know, he’s describing his hernia operation.
As I admire the magnificent view I start to wonder. How much would an apartment up here cost? How annoying would carrying groceries up the hill become? How do you get a couch up here? Hell, how do you get a bag of cat litter up here? And do I really care? It’s heaven. I’m sure the groceries, couch and cat litter would float up. I must live here!
After surveying my domain for about a half hour, I reluctantly head back down to civilization. I consider eating a light repast at one of the cafes on the square, but am not emotionally prepared for conversations, or trying to figure out what “tete au veau”or onglet de bavette is. Instead, I hungrily eye the pictures in the real estate office windows, which make me realize I may have to give up food completely if I want to live here (which would eliminate the problem of lugging grocery bags up the hill, I suppose).
I catch the 15:25 bus back to Vidauban and make it home without a hitch. Fortuitously, I’m greeted to dinner delivered on my doorstep – escargot! Maybe I won’t have to starve after all.
Filed under: france on a budget, mileage, Provence, tourism, trains, transportation, travel, travel humor, Var, Vidauban Tagged: | Dracenie, Draguignan, Les Arcs, medieval hilltop town, medieval village, Region Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, SCNF, Ted Bus, Ter, Val d'argens, Var, Vidauban