Var (83440) Population: 459 Altitude: 811 m
The village of Mons is perched on a rocky spur that overlooks deep forested valleys to the south and west, giving it the feeling of solitude with a view. Mons is located on the small D563 road that connects Fayence (13 km and 20 minutes south) with the N85 Route Napoleon (12 km north). The village is very picturesque, with a classical "perched medieval" view from the St-Cezaire road [photo-1], and a pretty valley of pastures and woods at the "back" side, on the road from Fayence.
The village stretches along the top of the spur at different levels. There are several tiny squares in the village, with one slightly-larger "central" square where a large plane tree shades the café-restaurant tables and an old fountain adds the calming sound of running water [photo-3].
A large open area at the southern tip of the spur has an orientation table explaining the far peaks and other sites visible from here. Benches are set beneath large shade trees, including one gigantic horse chestnut. This park area is very calm, and the village itself was calm even on the July-August transition weekend which is one of the busiest weekends in France. A tourist information and art expositions center is located in buildings of light-colored native stone, set discreetly down at the extreme southern edge of the park area.
Some actually consider the village too calm, with no effort having been made to encourage tourists and no village market. New management of the Comité des Fêtes is planning more events next year (2000) to bring some activity to this lovely place.
Mons Roman Aqueduct
This section of the Roman aqueduct carved through solid rock, about 10 km from Mons, is described on its own page.
There's a small amount of commerce in the village, like the shop in our [photo-2]. The small Elysa shop has articles made by regional artisans and a collection of authentic Navajo items.
Lynx in the news
In July 1999, a large lynx was identified in the nearby hills of Esclapon, having dined on over 100 sheep, causing enough problems that most of the local flocks departed early for the summer Transhumance. The shepard's couragous dog kept the damage from being even worse. The lynx was observed basking on a sun-warmed rock and estimated to weigh over 20 kg (45 pounds).
The European Lynx has been reintroduced to the region, at Colomars and Castellane, and has expanded from there. Good for nature and the environment, the lynx, like the wolf, hasn't made the sheep and cattle farmers very happy.
Olives and Rock Walls
The land in this region is very rocky, and for the last couple of thousand years it has been cleared by collecting the stones and piling them, carefully and neatly, into dry-stone walls. This leaves long, cleared terraces where olives are grown, separated by the stone walls. Just south of Mons (on the D56 road) you can see some examples of the walls and terracing, with the olives being grown just as they were centuries before. Here, the cleared terraces seem barely wider than the rock walls.
Photos: 5 stones and olive trees; 6 wide stone walls
Gorges de la Siagne
Take the little D56 road from Mons towards St. Cézaire (past the olive trees and stone walls), turning left onto the D656 4.5 km from Mons. This road winds down through thick oak forests, with occasional views through the trees of steep rocky cliffs rising up from the deep, wooded valleys. In the summer time, you can hear the sound of the river, and probably faint shout of kids splashing in the pools far below. Down lower into the valley, the road becomes a tunnel through the overhanging branches of the trees.
The Mons schoolbus driver, Robert Audibert, has been building incredible model ships for 51 years (as of August 1999). He has a small shop in the center of the village, open whenever he has free time; often in the mornings from 9 to 12. He has nothing to sell, but some very impressive models on display, from modern warships to a series of large sailing ships [photo-10] that have over 5000 hours labor invested. The added amazing thing about his beautiful and precisely scaled models is that they're all made from match sticks. The largest sailing ship (in our photo) uses 32,000 of them.
M. Audibert is currently working on an exact scale model of the village of Mons [photo-9], which he plans to have finished when he retires in the year 2002. In addition to his own thorough knowledge of the village, he's using aerial photos and the official communal plans (cadastre) for precise information.
History of Mons
First record, 11th century Mons
Prehistoric: Signs of neolithic habitation have been found, with dolmens at Peygros, la Colle de Monsela Brainée and in good condition at St-Marcellin. There are also traces of habitation in the grotto de Peygros, southwest of Mons in the Malvallon.
Gallo-Roman: A fine sign of Roman occupation is the aqueduct carved through the rock, part of the aqueduct taking water to Frejus.
Medieval: In the 11th century Mons was part of the Principality of Callian. In the 13th century is was in the fief of Esclapon and of Tourette, and then belonged to Villeneuve until the Revolution. In the 15th century, Mons suffered the ravages of the Routiers, two epidemics of the Plague (peste) and then famin.
Antoine de Villeneuve repopulated the commune with 40 families, and olive trees were introduced. During the Wars of Religion, the inhabitants sided with the Ligueurs and destroyed the chateau. Fighting against a strond defense, including bee hives thrown from the ramparts, the Duke of Savoie took the town and hung 20 people.
• GPS: 43.692303, 6.714502
IGN (1/25,000) #3543 ET "Haute Siagne"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #19 "Haute Provence Verdon"
The Grande Randonnée GR49 trail passes through Mons in a north-south direction.
For a loop hike, go south down into the valley of the Siagnole river, cross at the ford and follow the aqueduct down the valley to the old mills where you cross back again at the bridge, and follow the GR49 back up to the village. You can see this itinerary from the orientation table. The valley is far below, following the river to the southeast where you can see the mill buildings and the bridge in the distance. The trail leaves the village along the eastern edge, passing beside the "lavoir" and heading south. You hike down to 480 m at the river, and the trail is shaded all the way. The ford at the river is a good place for a dip to cool off in the summer time.
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.)