The town of Garéoult, in the Var department, is a nice, family-fun, place to visit in Provence.
The village is located about 30 minutes north of Toulon in the French countryside. There is no longer a chateau here and no “tourist attractions” per say, but even so, the village offers a nice day trip to those wanting to get off of the beaten path and spend a relaxing, casual day out with the family. It also offers some nice pieces of history to see, a couple of good restaurants and a tea house. There is a newly-made parking lot just off of the main highway D554.
It is situated on a plateau surrounded by hills and vineyards. The forest to the north is called the Garéoult forest and is around 700 hectares. It is made up of mainly white oaks and Scottish Pines. It also serves as a great place to hike and gives an impressive view of the landscape when you are up in the hills. The southern area is made up of around 500 hectares of vineyards. This area is called La Provence Verte (Green Provence) because it is an area where it rains quite a bit. It is also an area where the famous Mistral winds can blow very violently.
Gallo Roman Times and Middle Ages.
This village dates back to the Gallo-Roman time period, but the majority of its known history began in the Middle Ages. During a renovation project in 1988, when the city was putting in a public swimming pool, excavators found 90 burial sites. Archeologists were called in and after careful examination of the remains, found that the oldest dated back to the Gallo-Roman times and the most recent ones dated back to the Middle Ages. Today, in the small town hall (Mairie) museum called, La Nécropole Louis Cauvin, a set of one of the remains from the 1st century A.D. is on display along with some of the earthenware artifacts that were found.
There are also illustrated panels on the excavation and the burial rituals of that time period. I encourage you to start here so you can get in a bit of history and also find some brochures in the lobby area of things to see and do in the surrounding area.
Around the year 1500, an animal powered olive oil mill was constructed in the center of the village. The mill continued to operate until the year 1956 when the olive fields that surrounded the community froze.
The Village Fountains
There are eight fountains in the village that are continuously fed by the spring called Saint Medard. The oldest of these fountains was built in 1745 and restored in 2000. You can see this fountain just outside the town hall in a square by the church. It is called “The 4 Seasons”. The restoration was done by the village’s stone cutter. It has a dagger shape to show the power of the Lord and the four faces that surround it are to represent the four seasons. It is surrounded by trees that are several hundred years old.
Saint Etienne Church
Facing the Four Seasons fountain is the original church which was built in a Romanesque style between the years 1045 and 1048. On top of the church is a wrought-iron, ornamented, bell tower which was built in 1842.
The church was partially destroyed, but rebuilt in 1848 using the original stones.
Inside the church are fifteen classified works, some of them being statues and busts, bells, a pulpit, an alter and a painting of three saints.
The Ancient Bread Oven
Walking just north you will find the “four banal” or tax oven. It has been in the center of the village for over 500 years. Here was where the villagers had to pay a tax to the overseeing lord in order to bake their bread. Nowadays, villagers and visitors may go and get some freshly baked bread here twice a year, near Christmas and on Saint John’s day and participate in the celebration of the history of the village.
Buying Community Wine
Continue making your way north to a street called Avenue Etienne Gueit and walk towards the west. Here you will find a wine cooperative which was constructed at the end of the 20th century. It’s called Le Cellier Provençal and has been newly restored in the year 2016 with a new store in which you can by wine from the community vines. I encourage you to buy a few bottles as souvenirs of your trip. Currently there are several domains in Garéoult which carry on the important tradition of wine making in this area. They are: The Domaine de Cambaret, Domaine de Garbelle, Domaine de la Bastides des Oliviers and Domaine de Château de Chaberts.
The Chapel Saint Felix
Make your way to the northern, outer rim and located just outside the village center you will find the Chapel Saint Felix on a small hill. This religious building was built in 1885 and dedicated to the saint who came to Garéoult during August 1854 when a Cholera epidemic killed 70 people in 25 days. He is considered the town hero for helping to save the rest of the population.
The chapel has been newly restored during the last few years thanks to the generous donations and time of the people of the town. It is open each Thursday afternoon and the first Sunday of September, there is a procession to it.
In order to get to the chapel, you must make your way across the street and follow the walking path to the cemetery.
Just passed the cemetery, you will see a small house at the edge of a vineyard. Pass by the house and you will see the sign indicating the chapel. Take the stony path to the left of the sign and in about a one or two minute walk, you will see the chapel. On the far side of the chapel is a little area to sit and enjoy the view.
A Walk Around
After a small break, go back down the path you came up on and when you reach the street, turn left. Continue down this street and it will open up to vineyards. Take a right turn at the first intersection you come to. As you walk down this street, vineyards will be on your right and both houses on the hill and vineyards will be on your left. The road wines around for a while.
When you come to the end of the street there will be a stop sign. Turn right here and this street will take you back to the center of the village. You will pass the tennis courts and the public swimming pool (where the ancient burial site was). Then you will see the main, town round-about. Cross the street to enter into the old part of town. This is the main street where all the stores are.
If you are in the mood for the best cakes you will probably ever have, stop into the bakery just on the left after the round-about. It’s called La Fournee de Bella. There is something for everyone at this patisserie. My review on Google Local Guides is here along with some photos.
Continue to make your way down the main street. If the hunger bug hits you, I recommend the two restaurants in town. One is a pizza place called La Table de Lilou and the other is an Asian restaurant called Saveurs d’Asie and as luck would have it, they are right next to each other on Boulevard du Mourillon. Both offer delicious food and in the spring and summer they have outdoor seating under the trees.
The town also offers a cute, little tea house called Variations Autour du Thé. The inside is very inviting with a small table area. They offer all sorts of teas, coffees, hot chocolates, crepes and a host of other small meals and drinks. It’s a very cozy place and my personal preference, the dark hot chocolate. They give you a large cup of milk with a block of chocolate next to it and you swirl the chocolate around in the milk to make your own hot chocolate. Very tasty!
They also sell, tea pots, cups made from a local artisan, chocolate, and a host of things that are great for gifts or souvenirs. My review on Google Local Guides is here.
Please note the days and times that specific places are open. Typically, things to see and visit are closed during lunch time and on Sundays and restaurants adhere to a pretty strict lunch schedule between 12:00 and 2:00 and a dinner schedule of 7:00 to 9:30ish.
I hope you take time out and enjoy your adventure here. I would love to hear how your visit went and what you enjoyed the most so please let me know by leaving me a comment below.