Var (83570) Population: 2,270 Altitude: 138 m
Carcès (pronounced car-says') is a village in the Var, between Cotignac and the Thoronet Abbey. It's quite a large village, laid out in a rectangle, with the different parts of the village separated somewhat from each other. One part, perched on a low hill and called the old town (vieille ville), has a lot of stone walls and stone arches. The "newer" parts of Carcès, though, have narrow streets, vaulted passages and medieval portails and ancient houses and doorways. All in all, Carcès is a very interesting village to visit. We spent the good part of a day there, and will have to go back to see all the places we missed. Market day Sat.
The most striking things about Carcès (for us) are the trompe l'oeil wall murals and the colorful fish-scale wall tiles on some of the houses.
The mairie (town hall) and the library (médiatheque municipale) are located in a quiet little square completely surrounded by buildings, at the site of an old olive-oil mill, the "Huilerie St Charles". In a hidden little passage behind the library, the large iron waterwheel is still in place against the back of the building.
Commerce and Cafés
Carcès has a good variety of shops for every-day needs, including gift/souvenir shops, banks, and a post office.
The selection of terrace cafés seemed a bit limited, but we did find a couple that were nicely acceptable. One is located on the Place des Martyrs de la Résistance (Place de l'Hotel de Ville on the town map), shaded by enormous platan trees and bordered by ancient buildings and the picturesque bell tower with campanile on top and arched passage at the bottom. The fountain here, with a tall column and four carven faces is nicely grungy on one side, accentuating its age.
Saturday morning market day is a real event in Carcès. The market fills several streets in the central part of town, and there's a good variety in the types of stalls, including, clothes, baskets, cooked foods, Provencal and local specialities, olive-wood items, fruits, vegetables, and so on.
Lac de Carcès. The nearby Lac de Carcès, about 4 km south of town, is pretty, but doesn't have beaches, swimming, boating or water sports.
Cabro d'Or Legend (Légende de la Cabro d'Or). The legend of the mysterious golden goat is popular in Carcès, with the town's main hotel-restaurant named after it.
Trompe l'oeil Murals
There are four main trompe l'oeil wall mural locations, but smaller ones decorate buildings here and there in the town.
1 - at the Ofice de Tourisme building (corner of Rue Marechal Foch and Ave G. Clemenceau), depicts sacks and barrels being hoisted up the side of the building to be stored in the warehouse.
2 - at the top of Rue Marechal Foch, close to the Office de Tourisme, a group of Royals are standing inside an arched passage.
3 - Rue Hoche at the northern edge of town, a woman hangs clothes on an upper-floor terrace while a man presses grapes around the side of the ground floor.
4 - Rue Florentin Giraud, the long "maison de repos" building has a wonderful collection of different facades, pastel colors, shutters and balistrades, pillars, tiled roofs and drain pipes.
The wall paintings are all done by the same artist: Michel DEGUIL. His phone number is on the "maison de repos" facade.
A guidebook from the Office de Tourisme lists 19 fountains on a "Circuits des Fontaines et Lavoirs", similar to the (Gonfaron). Touring Carcès to locate the fountains would be a fun way to see the town, but you would have to mark the locations on a map yourself. We didn't do a "fountain tour" but we saw of few of them on our wanderings. We have a couple in our photo-2 and photo-12.
The village of Gonfaron, about 20 km to the southeast, also has a circuit of discovery for their village's 16 ancient fountains, and they have an animal legend with their "flying donkey".
History of Carcès
First record, 1047 Carcias and in 1085, in Valle Carceris.
Gallo-Roman: The name is thought to have come from the Romans who estabalished a prison here.
Medieval: The hilltop of Carcès dominates the confluence of the Argens and Carami rivers, and the first fort was built here in 1000 by the lords of Carcès and Chateaurenard. It became a fief of Gullaume de Cotignac, lord of the Pontevès, who built a chateau-fort on the hilltop around 1240. Important remains of this chatea remain, and are being renovated now (2006).
During the Wars of Religion, Carcès was the headquarters of the "Carcistes", a group of Catholics lead by Jean de Ponteves, the Count of Carcès. The fighting between the Carcistes and the Razats was ferocious from 1576 to 1579. Carcès finally became calm with the arrival of Catherine de Médicis, Queen Mother of Provence.
Market day: Sat.
• GPS: 43.465628, 6.183973
IGN (1/25,000) #3444 OT "Brignoles Le Luc"
There are excellent hikes from Carcès, with loop hikes of various lengths in different directions though the thickly forested countryside.
To the east, the "PR de la Vallée de l'Argens" follows along the river, with an "out" section about 8 km, or a loop return from about the half-way point.
To the south and southeast, loop hikes take you along the western edge of the Lac de Carcès. Another loop to the southwest goes to the St Vincent Chapel on the ridge top (395 m), around 4-5 hiking km away.
Dining possiblities are OK, but not outstanding. La Cabro d'Or (hotel-restaurant) is very nice, but the 27 euro lunch menu is a bit up-market for our preferred not-too-leisurely days of exploration. A couple of the other small restaurants have their terrace tables beside a noisy main road. We ate at a place in the center, beside the church, where the terrace is much quieter, once the market stalls finish closing down and packing up.
The Argens river valley is a bit hilly and forested, and has a lot of vineyards. There are seven caves and domains in Carcès, all with AOC wines.
We don't know of boat rental possibilities, but we watched some non-professional canoe-kayak boats launched from a park, then floating on the river going through a forested part of the town. The "rapids" looked like fun, and not at all dangerous.
The Tennis de Gombaud is open all year
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.)