Var (83680) Population: 1,465 Altitude: 360 m
La Garde-Freinet is a medieval-style town sitting on a long narrow ledge of a pass, overlooked by high rocky peaks with the ruins of the ancient fort, the cross, and a great view out over the Maures in all directions. This is a pleasant town, with lots of shops, restaurants and such. There are narrow streets between the buildings, and several squares in different parts of town, but it isn't as picturesque as some of the smaller villages in Beyond. Market day Wed, Sun.
The town has two distinctive halves. The older part of town is around the 16th-century St.Clément church, with an 18th-century campanile. This part of town has the narrow little streets, sometimes carved through solid rock. The "newer" part of town has wider streets and 19th-century houses.
The town sits beside the D558, one of the main roads between the A8 autoroute and the seaside resorts around St Tropez. It's a nice place to stop, and it's a good location for visiting the Maures, either by the twisty little roads or the hiking trails that go off through the forested hills.
The town is quiet from October to April, then in May the tourist traffic begins building up for the summer. The surrounding hills of the Massif des Maures, stretching out 30 km to the southwest and 20 km to the northeast, are forested with oak and cork oak. The area near the town has chestnut groves (châtaigneraies), and chestnut jam (confiture marron) and chestnut honey (miel châtaignier) are among the local products you can get at the Confiturerie des Gambades shop in town.
Fountain and Lavoir
There are a number of nice fountains in the village, but the most interesting is La Fontaine Vieille [Photo-15]. This was once La Garde-Freinet's only fountain [in the 18th-19th centuries?], and the information plaque states that it was fully restored in 1812.
At the corner of the buildings across from the Old Fountain is a very nice old lavoir [Photo-16]. Called simply Le Lavoir, it was fed by the water from the Old Fountain. The lavoir was covered in 1791 and refurbished, along with the fountain, in 1812.
History of La Garde-Freinet
First record, 13th century Fraxinetum Guardia
Fraxinet was the name of the region and Le Freinet was the village. The original Provencal inhabitants called the village La Gardi. Fraxinet was a Saracen word, with Fraxinetum Guardia possibly meaning guard of the forest.
Prehistoric: Chalcolithic sepultures were found at the Baume des Maures, in a cavern at the foot of the hill below the château.
Gallo-Roman: Gallo-Roman remains were found at La Mourre, and at St. Clément, 1 km southeast. A Roman road passed by the town.
Medieval: The Saracens built the fortress here at the end of the 8th century, and used it as a base to ravage Provence for the next 200 years. In 973, Count William defeated the Saracens and took La Garde Freinet. In 1076 it became a fief of St-Fulcher. In the 14th century, the town was ravaged by the troops of Raymond de Turenne; it became part of the domain of the Pontevès, and was repopulated by Jean de Pontevè. The château was razed in 1589 by order of Maréchal de La Valette.
Market day: Wed, Sun.
Apr - Fête de la transhumance
Apr - Fete de Printemps - Spring Festival
Apr-Oct (3rd Sun) - Brocante
Oct - Fetes de la Châtaigne - Chestnut Festival
• GPS: 43.316404, 6.470601
IGN (1/25,000) #3545 OT "St. Tropez, Ste. Maxime, Massif des Maures"
Michelin "green (1/100,000) #114 "French Riviera - Var"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #25 "Maures Haut-Pays Varois"
The GR 9 (Grande Randonnée) passes through La Garde-Freinet.
To the east, the GR9 begins by following roads (D75, etc.) out across the Maures. About 8 km out, the GR 9 joins the GR51 Balcony of the Cote d'Azur ; here you can go south on the GR51 to Grimaud and Cogolin or southeast on the GR9/GR51 to Port Grimaud.
Leaving town to the south, the GR9 turns west and goes through the forested Maures, south of Les Mayons to the famous mountain-top site of Notre-Dame des Anges, south of Gonfaron. Further west the GR9 goes to Pignans and Carnoules, and branching trails, including the GR90, explore the southwestern part of the Maures.
There are a lot of good restaurants in La Garde-Freinet, many of them with outdoor terraces. The most centrally located ones are along the Place Vieille [Photo-11] and just around the corner at the Place du Marché [Photo-13]. Most recently (Oct 2009) we had lunch at Le Kiosque on the Place du Marché; an excellent, low-cost meal prepared by the new cook-owner who had taken over at the beginning of that week
Transportation La Garde-Freinet
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.)
Fréjus - Grimaud/Cogolin Bus
- Bus line 7601 from St Raphael and Fréjus has stops at St Aygulf, Les Issambres, Ste Maxime, Grimaud-St Pons, Port Grimaud, Cogolin-La Foux and St Tropez. From St Pons or La Foux, the line 7702 serves Grimaud and Gogolin. Links to Var bus maps and schedules are explained on [Bus Schedules, page-16 Var].