Behind its deep forests of sweet chestnuts trees, its tentacular cork oaks, its maritime pines that ooze of sap, its tiny streets of pebble stones that lead up to its 15th century Chapelle St Pons, the town of Collobrières appears untouched by time.
Its streets radiate out from the old church of St Pons, propped up on a promontory, down towards the bend of the Réal Collobrier river. The Romans, struck by the number of harmless green snakes (Collubreira) that serpented by the river's bed, named the area after the snake.
If you stroll among its streets, the rue Hoche, rue Gambetta, rue Jean Jaures (which town in France does NOT have a Rue Jean Jaures?), you will find a handful of épiceries painted with the fading letters of "Alimentation Générale", one boulangerie, a sentimental Pain de Jadis, one boucherie, one rusty gas service station, one Maison de la Presse the size of a shoebox overfilling with newspapers and glossy magazines.
Collobrieres may live a half-hour inland from the St Tropez peninsula, but it wears no make-up.
The town's 11th century bridge, simply called Le Pont Vieux, reaches across the river with one arch. On the other side, the Chapelle Notre Dame de Pitie, reconstructed in the 19th century, glows in dreamy blue murals.
Restaurants and cafés vibrate during the mid-day hours, some around the Place de la Republique, some hanging on terrasses by the Place de la Liberation, above the ever-winding river. They serve provencal plates: a main dish of roasted lamb, a daube of wild boar during hunting season, a main chocolate or chestnut infused dessert.
In its little haven of eternal green, Collobrieres is the self-proclaimed capital of the Maures. By many palates, Collobrieres also reigns as the delectable kingdom of chestnuts. Roasted, simmered
in sugar into marrons glaces or jams, crushed into flours, its chestnuts come in all shapes.
For those of us who love to also discover a place with our feet (hikers, that is ;-), Collobrieres is the perfect starting point of many adventures.
But we will keep some of Collobrieres' secrets for now...
Les jours de marché: Every thursday and sunday.
Office de Tourisme: 04 94 48 08 00
Confiserie Azuréénne: 04 94 48 07 20
Chataigneraie Godissard: 04 94 28 26 68
Cave Coopérative La Treille des Maures: 04 94 48 07 26
Restaurant de la Mairie: 04 94 48 09 22 (terrace over river)
Restaurant des Maures: 04 94 48 07 10 (terrace over river)
Restaurant Casa Mia: 04 94 28 19 57 (place de la republique)
Restaurant La Petite Fontaine: 04 94 48 00 12