Thursday, 22 October 2015

Walking to Taradeau

I have this belief that you can never really know a place until you have walked it.

The panoramic view back towards Les Arcs with vineyards in the foreground.

It is why I prefer to explore cities - and the countryside - on foot. With the right shoes and enough water, I can walk all day.

So when we were told that you could walk to Taradeau from Les Arcs-sur-Argens, we decided to give it a go.

There are various routes, but the most interesting is along access tracks through vineyards, which in turn become fire tracks and later stony footpaths used by randonneurs - bushwalkers - or mountain bike riders.

An unmade road leads off the Chemin de Beauveser at the western edge of Les Arcs. There are boom gates here which can be lowered in times of high fire danger or forest fires.

About halfway along the walk en route to Taradeau.
The road meanders around the side of the hill with its steep cuttings and houses tucked away in the bush, but it soon gives way to the region's vineyards.

Being a long walk with a tough, rocky climb at the end, I prefer to go in the milder autumn weather.

The blue shapes of the Maures mountains make up the southern horizon across the Argens Valley and in the distance you can see the pointed sugarloaf hill - with the Sainte Brigitte Chapelle on top - that marks the location of the town of Vidauban.
Vidauban with Ste Brigitte's Chapelle crowning the distinctive sugarloaf hill.

Further along the walk, you strike the high, limestone hills that shelter the village of Taradeau and this is where you need solid soles on your shoes to counter the stony track that winds steeply upwards.

My reward for the climb is taking a number of pauses 'for the view' - and it is a stunning view - well worth the walk just for that.

In autumn you not only have the changing colours of the vines, but their beautifully ordered rows which pattern the fields below in stripes of ochre red and pale green.

The tower and chapel at Taradeau.
The soil reminds me of the fabled 'terra rossa' of the Coonawarra region in South Australia. But here they grow Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvèdre varieties for their excellent dry Cotes de Provence rosé wines - many of which are an incredibly pale pink.

Part way up the hill, the path divides and you have to choose whether you will take the left-hand fork that continues to wind around the hill to the distinctive tower and tiny chapel that can be seen for miles in silhouette and dominates the village below.

Unfortunately the tower, which has been privately owned, is in disrepair and sealed to the public, but the chapel is beautiful in its simplicity.

A panoramic view over the Argens valley from the summit.
From here, an extraordinarily steep sealed road hurtles you down into the village, where you can enjoy a coffee or lunch or a very welcome glass of something cold.

Of course you may prefer the right-hand fork in the road that will take you even higher, to an orientation table and cairn on the top of the highest peak.

From here you can sit back, relax, catch your breath and enjoy a panoramic view across the lush Argens plain, before either retracing your steps to Taradeau (where you can catch a bus back to Les Arcs) or, if you're up to it, retrace your steps  through the vineyards and bushland. At least from here, it's downhill all the way!

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