Var (83149) Population: 1,315 Altitude: 315 m
Bras is an old Provencal village of old houses stretched out in long "arms" along a low ridge beside a pretty river valley. The village is focused around a prairie with an ancient pigeonnier, and the ridge above is marked with castle ruins and a chapel on the top.
The very center of Bras village hosts a minimum of shops, including one butcher, one baker and a newspaper-magazine "tabac", along with one café (with not much of a "terrace").
The village church here in the center has a bell tower with a pretty, little campanile, and lined in very colorful Provencal yellows and ocres [Photo-07].
Just beside the center is the tall "gargouilles" fountain [Photo-08], in a rather drab setting.
A typical Provencal step-street [Photo-06] is marked with a plaque explaining its name "Farraïoun", the Provencal name for "iron". This strange name was attributed to the sound of the iron-shod horses that used the narrow street up to the village church that then stood on the top.
The village streets to the north are oldest part of Bras. Here we found a magnificent old doorway [Photo-11]. A bit further on is a building [Photo-12] that was the Chateau in the 18th century; later it became the village school, then the town hall and the post office; now a picturesque relic.
Continuing north, a track goes up the hill past the ruins of the old village to the little St-Pierre chapel on the top.
East of the center, slightly more modern buildings line the D35 road that leads in and out of the village. About a 15-minute walk out this direction leads to the little Notre-Dame d'Esperance chapel left by the Templars.
The best place to park here is beside the river at the west edge of the village. There's a nice view of Bras village from here as well, and the old pigeonnier sits nearby on the prairie. This Place des Allées is still owned by the town of Arles, kept clear as a halting place for the Transhumance between the lowlands and the Alpes.
Across the road to the west a lovely lavoir sits beside the Cauron river [Photo-13].
The very pretty little Tombereau Falls , the Cascade du Tombereau, is located 3 km north of the village.
At the bastide of La Font-Couverte, located 1-1/2 km southeast of Bras village, is a Louis XIII fountain.
History of Bras
First record, 1015 Brachium or Castrum de Braz Vel Bracio
Prehistoric: On a hill by "Signal", 2 km south, a protohistoric wall was uncovered, along with remains of an ancient cult, including pottery, coins, sarcophage and fragments of a funeral stele.
Gallo-Roman: In the year 101 BC, Bras village was a base of operation for the Battle of Pourrières, where the Roman General Gaius Marius destroyed the invading hordes of Barbarians (Ambrons and Teutons) in the fields 15 km west of here.
Medieval: The Medieval village began in the 11th century with a well-fortified Castrum on the St Pierre hill, with a castle, church and houses. This is the hill beside the current village where the stone ruins of the old village and castle are clearly visible, and with the Saint Pierre Chapel sitting on top.
In the 13th century, the Templars set up a Commanderie a few hundred metres to the southeast, where the Romanesque chapel of Notre-Dame d'Esperance is located. This Commanderie controlled a farming centeer that exported food via the port of Marseille to support the Knights Templars in the Orient.
More Recently: Bras suffered from the Plague and pillages in the 14th and 15th centuries. The hilltop village was abandoned for a new village along the bottom of the ridge.
• GPS: 43.4733, 5.95154
IGN (1/25,000) #3344 OT "St-Maximim - Barjols"
The GR99 (Grande Randonnée) passes by the eastern edge of Bras, between the village center an the Notre-Dame chapel.
To the south the GR99 passes by vineyards and a large forested area, crossing beneath the autoroute and then curving to the west.
The trail goes northeast from Bras, then north to Brue-Auriac. On the way it passes by the Tombereua waterfall (a side variant might be necessary), then crosses the "Roman" bridge Pont de St-Sumian, and passes beside the Notre-Dame chapel.
On a Saturday we asked the lads at the café if there was a restaurant in the village, and they thought that was quite amusing. With the village bakery and good weather, a picnic lunch is a possibility. We chose to drive to Brue-Auriac where we found a good little pizzeria-restaurant open. The 9-km drive takes only 10 minutes.
Department 83, Var Buses
- See Beyond's Var Department Bus Schedules for downloading the Var bus-lines map [Plan du Reseau] and bus-line schedules [Horaires] (link for PDF files).
- Schedules for the Var bus lines are on the VarLib Horaires-Ligne page (http://www.varlib.fr/horaires_ligne/?rub_code=6") - type the line number in the Numéro ... ligne box to access the bus schedule PDF link. (Type a couple of digits in the box to get a list of route numbers.)