Fires in the Var



Photo - twitter screen capture.

The fire-fighting Canadair planes may be impressive to watch as they swooped into the Saint-Raphael and Frejus bay yesterday to scoop up water from the sea, but they unfortunately indicate the presence of fires in the local area.

A few fires broke out in the Var department yesterday. One of them began in Saint-Aygulf by the Villepey lagoon around lunch time and forced the temporary closure of the seaside road that links Frejus to St Aygulf. The fire was quickly under control and the road re-opened.

Another more serious fire started on the RD4 road between Frejus and Bagnols-en-Foret. This one burned from 2PM until around 6PM ravaging around 20 hectares of dry land. Despite very strong winds and dried vegetation, over 200 firefighters soon had the fire under control. It caused no human physical harm, but destroyed a number of mobil-homes in both Pin de la Legue and at Holiday Green.

Over 5000 holiday-makers were evacuated at Pin de la Legue and 3000 at Holiday Green. Most have now returned. No one has been harmed, though clearly some were shocked at how quickly this all happened.

According to firefighters, the vast majority of fires are man-started (cigarette butt flicked carelessly, BBQ  when forbidden, etc ). The dry sunny terrain and winds quickly pick it up from there.

Take a look at our quick video of the Canadairs in action yesterday in the Saint-Raphael bay, French Riviera: 


The Forgotten D-Day



Winston Churchill aboard the HMS Kimberley. Souce: WikiMedia Commons

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landing of allied troups during World War II, to liberate France.

Lesser known but certainly no less brave are the allied landings which took place along the shores of South-Eastern France. These were code-named Operation Dragoon.

On the days and nights between August 14 and 16 1944, 100,000 allied troups poured into the shores of Provence on the beaches Cavalaire-sur-Mer, St Tropez, Fréjus, Saint-Raphael and Le Trayas.



Operation Dragoon Landings: source WikiMedia Commons.

Reinforcement came from land troops through Sainte-Maxime. Some 5,000 allied paratroopers dotted the skies and landed in the greater Le Muy area and over the Argens valley, on the Western side of the French Riviera.

Casualties were estimated around 10,000, which is too many but certainly far fewer than what could have been had the german military not been pre-occupied by the operations by then well under way in the north of France.

The operation does draw its share of small commemorative events. However, not nearly on the scale of what we saw today (June 6, 2014) in Normandy. 

. DragoonStRaphael

Above: 753rd Tank Battalion landing with Camel Force to support the 36th on the beach "du Dramont" by St. Raphael in August 1944 during Operation Dragoon. You can spot the Ile d'Or island in the background. Source: SudWall Superforum

Train Tragedy

Train des Pignes Hangs: Pic from VarMatin

The famous little Train des Pignes train that links Nice to the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence département in France was hit by a massive rock this Saturday morning and derailed between Annot and Saint-Benoît, in south-eastern France. 

The accident was as unlikely as it was tragic, with two people killed and one crtitically wounded. By all visual accounts, a large rock weighting around twenty tons slid down the mountain and hit the front of the slow-moving train, propulsing it off its tracks.

The weather and alternating periods of snow, frost and defrost could be partly to blame for the rock sliding off the mountain side. Investigations now under way should provide further information.

Train des Pignes Map

The Train des Pignes links the town of Nice to the picturesque town of Digne-les-Bains, runnnig over 150 kilometers, crossing gorges, valleys, tunnels and viaducs on what is ordinalily a beautiful track. 

Views along train


For more information on the Train des Pignes, consult the Train Provence Web Site.

Tour de France on the French Riviera

TdF 2013The Tour de France 2013 is starting and it's an exciting one.

Not because it is the 100th edition of the annual event. Not because of its endless "can't win it without doping" controversy . Not because 12 million spectators will take a glimpse from the sidelines. Not because 198 competitors are lined up to start. 

It's exciting because fierce competitors are battling it out, like spanish star Alberto Contador, UK Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome, belgian amazing rider Jurgen Van Den Broeck and Australia's veteran Cadel Evans. According to many, Froome starts out as the favorite. Despite all of the precise odds measurements, the Tour has a mind of its own. It's exciting because it harbors an element of surprise.

It is exciting because it's the first time the TdF crosses Corsica, this magical "island of beauty". 

Most of all, it's exciting to us because the Tour de France crosses the French Riviera!
If you live in south-eastern France or plan to visit this early July, this detail hasn't escaped you... 

When does the Tour de France 2013 cross the French Riviera?

The Tour competitors land in Nice on the evening of Monday, July 1 to race the team time trials in Nice the next day (Stage 4). 

Team Time Trial in Nice, Tour de France 2013

Then, for Stage 5 of the Tour, they'll go from Cagnes-sur-Mer to Marseille, crossing the French Riviera.

Tour de France stage 5 from Cagnes-sur-Mer

What are the best French Riviera spots to watch the Tour?

On Wednesday, July 3, 2013 cycling champs will dash out of Cagnes-sur-Mer around 12 noon and make their way to Marseille. The starting point is always exciting, as it's one of the few chances to actually see the competitors when they're not yet at full speed. 

From Cagnes, the Tour will zoom to Biot (expected around 12:05PM), near Opio, Chateauneuf-Grasse (approx. 12:30PM), Grasse (12:36PM), Peymeinade, La Val du Tignet, Fayence (1:17PM) ,Draguignan (1:59PM), Lorgues, Entrecasteaux, Carcès, Brignoles, La Celle (3:15PM), La Roquebrussane (3:32PM) and off the the Bouches-du-Rhône departement. Marseille expects them around 5PM.

Other good spots to see the Tour are on the hills, where you have a chance at a glimpse long enough to recognize the individuals. The Côte de Châteauneuf-Grasse should be a good hill for watching on-site. It comes after about 20 kms of stage 5, and is expected to generate a break among the peloton. The Col de l'Ange near Draguignan will be the second minor hill among 4 such hills in this stage. Another good spot to watch.

Of course, watching on-site means getting there very very early, before road closures and a maze of detours. It also means heading back late, much after competitors, entourage and security have cleared the area.


What are the route restrictions during the Tour de France 2013 on the French Riviera?

The Promenade des Anglais in Nice will be dedicated to plenty of cycling-related events and fun, culminating in the Team Time Trials in Stage 4 of the Tour de France 2013 on Tuesday, July 2 starting at 3:15PM on the Nice Prom. These team time trials in Nice are only 25 kms, but 55km/hour average speed is expected so it will be over in a half-hour. 

Access to the Nice airport will be impacted, especially on Sunday 30th June, 6.45 a.m. to 2.30 p.m.
and on Tuesday 2nd July, 11.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.

Closed areas during those times:

  • Exits A8 N° 50 "Nice Promenade" and N°52 "St Isidore"
  • Incoming roads and exits off the Le Voyageur roundabout
  • The exit after Terminal 1 toward La Promenade
  • St-Laurent-du-Var : diversion via Gerbault, closure of access to the RN98 Areas

What's expected for the French Riviera stage of the Tour de France?

EN - Analysis of the stage - Stage 5 (Cagnes... by tourdefrance

French Riviera & the Printemps des Musées

Over 1,000 museums across 27 countries open their doors for free visits on a spring day each year. This year, the Printemps des musées day is Sunday, May 2, 2010.

Note, there's also Internation Museum Day. That's different. It's on May 18 this year, and organized by ICOM

And which museums participate on the French Riviera? Many of them. We've picked a few tasty morcels:

  • The Musée d'Art et d'Histoire in Bormes-Les-Mimosas.
  • In Grasse, lots of nicely fragranced museums: the Musée Fragonard, the Musée International de la Parfumerie, the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire de Provence.
  • In Tourtour, the small Musée des Fossiles with its fossilised dinosaur eggs
  • Musée Picasso, Musée de la ceramique in Vallauris.
  • Musée d'Art et d'Histoire in Villefranche-sur-Mer, with some fencing animation.
  • Dany Lartigues' colorful butterfly museum, the Musée des Papillons in St Tropez.
  • Many museums in Nice, including MAMAC, with a guided visit there (in French) that begins at 10h30.

You'll find the complete list of participating museums on the web site:

Sentier du Littoral: When not to go

Sentier du Littoral on the French Riviera

On most days, the sentier du littoral or coastal path that winds alongside the Med, makes for delightful walks with views of the sea, sounds of gentle rumbling waves. 

However, there are days when you should stay away. When? Whenever it's very windy. On the Cote d'Azur, winds can pick up in the Fall and Winter. If the wind howls, don't assume that the coastal footpath is safe. It isn't. It gets wet and in some sections of the footpath, waves can leap overhead.

This New Year's day, a few folks learned this lesson the hard way. On the coastal path along princely St Jean-Cap-Ferrat, a few braved the winds to stroll along the footpath. Waves were crushing dangerously close. A strong whip of waves scooped six people off the path and into the sea. A family of three visiting from Germany thankfully made it safely back to shore. Two others also managed to struggle back to safety. A young woman wasn't so lucky and perished. 

Be safe. When the weather turns windy and waves start slapping the shore, stay off the coastal path. It won't be long before good coastal hiking weather returns.

Callas: Plane Crash

A single-engine Socata passenger plane crashed this morning around 10AM in the hills of Callas in the Var, France.

No details yet on causes of the crash - skies are mostly clear, winds are light. The likely explanation for the accident is an engine malfunction. According to witnesses on the ground, the engine coughed, stopped and the plane plunged and crashed and burned in flames.

All five passengers have died, including two children aged 8 and 13.