Traveling to the French Riviera
I had one of the best trips of my life traveling to Les Issambres, on the French Riviera in the summer of 2017. We took the Chunnel Train from London to Avignon and then rented a car and drove to the villa that we rented for a week. The view was stunning…like movie scene stunning.
The roads are well marked, although we had some trouble paying the tolls on the French highways with our credit card. There was a call box at each at each toll which made it handy when the card didn’t work. We called and they told us to drop 5€ in this little metal box and then they opened the gate.
Make sure you know the road numbers that you will be taking because almost all signs indicate the road numbers, not always the destination towns.
We were in the Riviera in the beginning of June and the weather was spectacular…Sunny and warm every day. Our neighborhood overlooked the coast, not far from the beaches. Les Issambres is a small, Mediterranean seaside town on the French Riviera between Sainte-Maxime and Saint-Raphaël. It has several public beaches with restaurants nearby, or across the street from them. The drive to downtown was short, where there was a Spar grocery store where we got everything we needed to cook meals in the house. In the other direction on the D559, there was a bakery with fresh bread every morning.
The sea glass on that beach was quite plentiful. There was tons and tons of glass, but a lot of it was what I call “trashy glass”, about like craft grade. Sure it’s frosty and pretty, but it’s mostly green shards that aren’t that rounded or old. But every now and then we found a real gem. We found some beautiful turquoise and light amber pieces that were almost yellow. So if you can wade through the trash, and spend some time, you could find some real beauties.
That particular beach can be crowded, so we also went to one just to the south about 100 meters. It was a tougher climb down, because there are no steps. So you’ll be scrambling down rough terrain. That’s the one pictured with my daughter Corla sitting in the grass on the cliff. It had fewer pieces of sea glass, but we found some black glass there in the water, which was a pleasant surprise. They may look like rocks right off, but when you hold them up, they have a very deep olive green color. Those are the really old ones.
Places to Eat Near the Beach
We spent most days at the beach where there was a large public access area with plenty of parking. The best part, was the little burger stand right on the beach. They had the best french fries and burgers, but didn’t speak English. If you know just a few words of French, or can point at the menu, you’ll be ok. They were super-friendly and pleasant. We ate there almost everyday for lunch, the kids loved it.
Another of the restaurants that we enjoyed there, was Le Windy across the street from the beach. They were the nicest people, and one of the waiters spoke good English and even helped us with our French. We had the best dessert of profiterole with ice cream and chocolate sauce there. The people there made it such an enjoyable experience.
There was a Thai Restaurant, which was open air, on the beach near the burger stand. It was decorated as if you were in Thailand with large buddha heads and fountains. There were also some Indian influences with a large statue of Ganesh. It was so pleasant to sit and watch the beach in the sunset. We found the food excellent and servers pleasant.
There was a small coffee shop in downtown Les Issambres next to Le Bistrot Cafe, which had good coffee and conversation. I can’t remember the name, but it was owned by an Italian man who spoke good English. He was so friendly and accommodating. We went there almost every day. His was also the only place that we could find vanilla syrup for the coffee. 🙂
Things to do in Les Issembres
We rented kayaks with the kids one day, and paddled out into the bay. That was one of the best days. The water is so clear and blue! It was a little chilly for these Florida folks, but still not too bad. We rented those at the Skydiving and Parachute Center Nautique across from the Spar Grocery Store.
Overall, we loved this place. The locals were consistently friendly and helpful, and made us tourists feel welcome. There aren’t many people who spoke English though, so be prepared to learn a little French or use Google Translate. It was FAR less crowded than St. Tropez or Cannes. So we found it more relaxing…a true vacation while still experiences the French Riviera.
We found this area to be one of the best in Europe for sea glass hunting. The Riviera definitely had the best assortment of colors. Lots of turquoise, blue and light amber/yellow glass.