I arrived in Le Pradet, about 20 minutes past Toulon, in Provence France a day ago, and spent today walking up a mountain and learning much about this fantastically beautiful place with guides who are working with the MEET Program. Meet stands for Mediterranean Eco-tourism Experience of Travel, and aims to knit together a group of national parks from countries all around their common sea to offer people environmentally friendly trips that bring people into nature and away from cities.
Our guide in Provence is a wonderfully outgoing and intelligent man Jerome Vian, who has spent decades as a local tour operator specializing in trips to the Port Cros National Park comprised of the islands of Porquerolles and Port Cros. The aim of this trip is to take us from the most densely populated tourist area of France, Marseille and Toulon, and transit by foot, bike, boat and public transport to the pristine beauty and uncrowded space of the islands. It is hoped that this tour will appeal to people looking for a true eco-adventure, with a little French decadence in food and wines thrown in.
Today we hiked up through the Colle Noir Mountain at Cape Garonne where until 1917, there was an active copper mine operation. Today visitors can tour the old mine, donning hard hats and see how the mine worked and see an splendid array of crystals and gems down inside the subterranean chambers. After we emerged from our hour-long history lesson, we enjoyed a spendid picnic with china plates, real glasses and actual silverware…and food prepared by the chefs at La Chanterelle, the gourmet restaurant at L’Escapade hotel where we are staying.
Later we met Janick Utard, who brings a new meaning to the concept of biodynamic wine growing at La Navicelle Vineyard. It’s not just that he shuns the use of pesticides…it’s an entire philosophy that includes filling cow horns with manure and burying it for six months, and a lot of faith that the Cosmos is connected to said horns and that cows have a sacred place in the world thus, they connect the wine to the universe and…well, maybe some of this got lost in the translation. Anyway his vines look great with their herbal treatments, and they taste superb too. Maybe he’s on to something.
A nature guide, Vincent Blondel, joined us for our tour and gave us fascinating descriptions of the flora and fauna and some of the history he knows well about this pretty location. The tour will include bicycling, kayaking, exploring and no driving. I’ll be happy to share more as it unfolds, right here.