Bandol is a gentle seaside resort in a sheltered bay, cradled by hills and protected from the wind, known as the “ville tranquille” for good reason. It is popular in summer but especially pleasant to visit out of season when the crowds have gone and you can savour the beauty in the clement climate of a Mediterranean winter. It has long been a quiet retreat for artists and writers and famously accommodated Katherine Mansfield and the German author, Thomas Mann, at the turn of the 19th century. These days it is popular with French families from Paris or Lyon who descend to their summer houses for the long summer vacation, jealously protecting their privacy from the eyes of the world.
The sheltered situation of Bandol provides excellent conditions for grape growing and there have been vineyards here since 600 BC. There are five different appellations grown on a variety of terrain producing terrific whites and rosés on the coast (a marvellous accompaniment to fish and seafood) and stronger red wines grown on the terraces inland. Thousands of people visit for the annual Fete du Vin in December.
There are three sandy beaches, facing east, west and south, and rocky coves further along the coast. There is also a yachting harbour, and tuna fishing on offer, and many beautiful villas surrounded by pines and mimosa. The seafront is a delightful promenade shaded by pine, oleander and palm trees, and there are plenty of bars and restaurants, as well as the casino.
The old douanier’s path is now a footpath following the coast for 12 km towards Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer. It passes the Ile de Bendor, bought by pastis magnate Paul Ricard in the1950s, a car-free rock in the sea, where you can visit art exhibitions, go for quiet strolls, swim and dive. One of the main attractions is the Exposition Universelle des Vins et Spiritueux, a vast collection of drinks bottles. Three km to the north of Bandol is the Jardin Exotique and Zoo of Sanary-Bandol, with a park of tropical plants and cacti, and a wide variety of animals: monkeys, llamas, parrots and flamingoes.
Every morning there is a market on the Place de la Liberté in the centre of the town.
OFFICE DU TOURISME
Site Internet: http://www.bandol.fr
Text Copyright © 2011 Rosemary Bailey
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