Picture-perfect Porquerolles island: the place where dreams are made
The Mediterranean sea. Imagine a place some call the last refuge of the French riviera. Or the last frontier. Pristine provencal landscapes. Similarly imagine a wisp of land off the Southernmost tip of the Côte d’Azur region. Imagine in addition a magical island with no cars or public transport. Small enough to explore by foot or bike; At the same time big enough for perfect silence. Our road trip through Provence now takes us on a long awaited journey. A voyage to picture-perfect Porquerolles island in les Iles d’or.
It’s 8am. The temperature outside dazzles an alluring 25 degrees celcius. The sun rays filter through the huge window bays of our rented apartment in Hyeres as we devour our toasts and coffee. We decide to throw our net wider than the usual day trip most settle for. We therefore set out to explore the island over several days. It’s still early morning when we reach the port ready to board our boat. I cannot though take my eyes of the water as the sun bounces of the jade mirror surface like a dust of diamonds.
Picture-perfect Porquerolles: a secluded sanctuary
Like many villages, towns and cities in the south of France, the history here is one of war. Turks; Moors; British; Dutch all attack the island. By turns it is a state prison. A penal colony for children. Or a retirement centre. Then comes the douceur de vivre when in the early 1900s a Belgian gold prospector buys the island for his wife Sylvia. Am a soapy romantic so my heart just melted when i first heard this story. The name of the prospector is FJ Fournier. Later on in the early 1970s the state buys the island from Fournier’s descendants who are on the point of selling it to Club Med. Since then the picture-perfect Porquerolles island is a national park.
I have vague souvenirs of day trips to Port-Cros and Porquerolles island from my childhood. In short les Iles d’Or are mainly Ile du Levant, ile Port-Cros and ile de Porquerolles. The journey to our destination is a mere 20mn boat ride from Hyeres. We hop on board the boat and settle ourselves as we wait for departure. A mild haze lies over the water halfway through the journey as we sail forth. The warm air is infused with the smell of sea, salt and heat. Spindrift greets us as we reach the harbour of the croissant-shaped island. It is above all this raw and unstyled douceur de vivre that we are hoping to experience more over the next days.
The picture-perfect Porquerolles island is like something out of a Disney movie
Secluded, the island literally tiny village. In other words it is a newspaper kiosk; One post-office; a chemist; one food shop; a handful of cycling shops; a handful of cafés and hotels’ type of affair. A busy harbour where ferries leave for the mainland complete the picture.
A little over 30mn after a quick stint at our hotel, we are roaming the back lanes of the village. Our feet take us towards La place d’Armes, the main square. It is nothing short of picturesque. Picture a square shaded by a small cluster of eucalyptus. Over here a game of boules is played (boules as it is everywhere in the south of France is an obsession here). The binary is simple. Tu tires ou tu pointes? in other words do you aim for the jack, or do you smash your opponent out of play? Forget the image of the game being played by old men in string vests. Certainly here, it’s a happy jumble of several generations.
Over there on the other side of the square kids running and screaming. Further an invisible tailwind seems to add spring to their footseps. Their uninterrupted games blow dust as bemused adults watch from the side benches, sunglasses firmly in place. Unimpressed birds dust bath in addition to devouring everything that resembles food. Unspoiled charms. Unstyled beauty.
The village’s true image for the happy few
Later at dusk we emerge from our room freshly showered. Maplessly we amble over to la place d’Armes. At this time all the day-trippers have left the island. The atmosphere is much more magical. More secluded. More intimate. This quietness is the antidote to the flashy hubbub of the French riviera on the other side.
It seems the cafés’ verandas are the place to be. Places where aperitifs ou apéros as local would say, soon stretched to dinner are in full swing. Whispers and laughters fill the warm air. French songs linger in the background. It is an atmosphere that makes you feel as being part of the happy few. Peaceful. Raw.
The croissant-shaped Picture-perfect Porquerolles island has remained unspoilt and low key. As such it is often said that this side of the South of France is the one artists such as Jacques Brel wrote songs about.
6 hours of sleep later…
It’s 4.50am when the buzzy sound of the alarm nudges me to get out of bed. Today is a special day. To clarify I am heading over to the other side of the island. To watch the sunrise. Getting out of bed though is nothing short of challenging. My mate joins me for this morning exploration. Our eyes are still a bit blurry as we exit the hotel. However, excitement grows as we grab our bikes.
The warm morning air hits our faces as we pedal through dawn light. We follow the road nearest the shore along the northern coast of the island. Dirt paths meander through some beautiful and wonderful areas. In addition, as we cycle a trail of dust grows behind us, creating ephemeral and ethereal red clouds. These have got to be one of the most emotion-filled bicycle rides I have taken in a long time.
You can read the second chapter of this Porquerolles adventure here.
xoxoM. Let’s share our travel inspiration