For almost as long as we have been down here, we have come across references to Sanary-sur-Mer, which, the sat-nav program tells us, is a mere hour’s drive away. Hitherto, we’ve avoided making the trip. The main reason for this has been the monstrosity of the Toulon Tunnel, which is a near 2 km-long stretch of autoroute that goes underneath the town. It’s frequently the site of accidents and closures and the thought of being caught in it during a heatwave is a considerable deterrent, not only to us, but also to most other people. Anyway, we braved it the other week and were very glad we did.
Sanary is a lovely coastal town that reminds you a bit of what St Tropez might have been today if it hadn’t been ruined by Mme Bardot and the Jet Set. It is also an interesting town with a lot of history. Cunningly, we arrived early and were able to park on the seafront, enabling us to easily wander around the edge of the harbour.
It would be foolish to claim that Sanary is unspoilt, but unlike St Tropez or Cannes, it was possible to mingle with the crowds for a long time without hearing any other language than French. There is also a thriving Saturday market and clearly a very active trade in fishing. [Note: the photos below are in a ‘gallery’ format so if you want to see them larger, just click and move between them using the arrows]
One particular speciality of Sanary is the old painted boats which – this being France – are now declared national monuments and, are no doubt, now surrounded by a weight of legislation.
One remarkable curiosity about Sanary is that shortly after Hitler’s take-over in Germany much of the beleaguered artist community there (some, but not all, of whom were Jewish) saw which way the wind was blowing and decamped en masse to Sanary. Most of them stayed there until the Fall of France, at which point they either met a grisly fate in the concentration camps or escaped to other parts of the world. A commemorative stone outside the tourist office lists a galaxy of German artists (including Mahler’s wife and Thomas Mann). One slight aberration is that Aldous Huxley also found his way down to Sanary and wrote Brave New World while here. A curiously utopian place to write a dystopian novel.
On a final note, all is proceeding well with the house move and we are somewhat gratified at the slight improvement in the state of the pound. May it continue!