The following is the story of what forced me to get back behind the steering wheel in France and discover more of this lovely part of the planet.
In the interests of seizing the day and not dying of cabin fever, we walked into town yesterday arvo (a very pleasant 15 minutes) with the distinct intention of booking something to do, via the tourist office. When I sidled up to reception, there were literally 6 or 7 women behind the counter, some of whom were hunched over 'les plans de la ville', genuinely assisting people with their enquiries. When it was my turn, I decided to ask in English, as I thought I may be missing something, because my use of French the previous few days before at the tourist office, had come to nothing.
I asked if I could speak English and the answer was “Yes” , so I proceeded as follows.
“Can we book a tour to do something in or around Hyeres tomorrow? We don’t much mind what it is” I eagerly asked, happily in the knowledge that I would fully understand the answer to that question.
|Old Town Hyeres France|
The lady said. “There was a walking tour of the old town this morning.”
“Anything else?” I asked.
“Non”, was the distinct reply.
“OK well we’ll take the walking tour.”
Madame came back abruptly, almost with an eye roll.” That was this morning, there are no more tours this week.”
This was Tuesday, so I said “What? No tours at all?”
“Yes that’s right, nothing.”
Call me old fashioned, but I must say being Tuesday, I was somewhat surprised.
One does wonder, what is the point of having a tourist office manned by 7 employees, if there are no tours to sell, but there you have it. You just have to cop it sweet. This is France and my role is not to question why. But, I am reminded of say Noosa, which in some ways has a similar feel to Hyeres and I cannot not help but think of all the companies there, lining up to take money from holiday makers, if they are willing to part with it. Hell, I would have even taken the kids deep sea fishing if I could have.
So here’s a hot tip!!!! There is a shed load of money to be made for anyone willing to create some interesting tours showing people the sites of Hyeres and environs on a regular basis.
So failing any organised tourism, I thought I’d have another go. Whilst there is a distinct fear of getting on a train (not possible as Hyeres station/line is closed for an upgrade) or bus and never being able to find my way home again, after a week in Hyeres, I think it would have been safe to call myself and the kids desperate to find something to do. So I continued, by querying the lady about taking public transport down to the Port of La Tour Fondue, a short 7kms from Heyres, in order to get the ferry over to the Island of Porquerolle. That tour was supposed to happen in any case via the regatta, Mr Beach House was sailing in, but the lay day and associated events were cancelled due to there being a lack of wind at the beginning of the week. There seemed to be no consideration of the spouses. The sailors weren’t available, so they cancelled the trip to the island. OK then. There seemed to be an issue with numbers as well, but every time we tried to find the lady at the yacht club to book the tour to LÍsle de Porquerolle, we could not find her. She was always at lunch.
|Kite surfing at Heyres|
So back at the tourist office in Hyeres, in response to my query about public transport down to the ferry port….this was what I got…..“Oh yes the bus number 67 goes to the port.” Oh great I thought, that bus stops at the end of our street. So I went through the details with her to make sure all was clear and resolved with the kids that this would be our adventure for the next day, Wednesday.
So the next morning we bid Mr Beach House farewell, as he drove off and set off ourselves for the bus stop about an hour later. When we got there, the electronic ticker tape thingy said “67 Pas de Service” which means ‘ Bus 67, no service’. It also said '63 Aeroport Hyeres 10 minutes'. I tell you what, at this stage a 14 hour trip to Berlin without luggage was staring to look attractive.
On closer inspection of the timetable on the bus stop wall, it said the 67 bus ran. Mon, Tues, Thurs and Friday, but for some reason not Wednesday. Maybe because it starts with a W or something, And of course today was Wednesday. You could probably feel the heat from where you are, half way across the planet, as the steam shot out of my ears. I was a little gobsmacked as to why the lady at the tourist office, I had spoken at length with the day before, didn’t tell me about Pas de Service on Wednesday, when she knew we were going to attempt to catch the bus today, ON A WEDNESDAY. Maybe she couldn’t be bothered, but really, call me old fashioned, but this woman is being paid to help tourists. Clearly she didn't see it like that.
|Gum trees in the exotic section of the Parc Oblius Riquier in Hyeres|
So at that stage we had 2 choices, return home and continue to be bored stiff, or get on the other bus, to Hyeres Aeroport, which came in 10 minutes and coincidentally, went down past the yacht club Mr Beach House was sailing out of. I thought to hell with it. I am going to find our car and we are going to get down to that flipping port if it kills me. I hadn’t driven the car since I was nearly taken out in the round about 2 days before, but it was time to get back on the horse, whatever the outcome.
|Old Town Hyeres|
Luckily I had the second set of keys in my bag, but I hoped to find Mr BH down at the yachtie, so he didn’t think the car had been stolen, upon his return to shore. As the wind was howling early, the sailors had already left the port and I can tell you it was no easy feat finding his sailing bag amongst the 500 plus competitors' bags, but I knew where he rigged his boat and just started lifting up boat covers until I found it. I left a note on his bag to the effect of what I was doing and said if we were not back by 6pm, to come looking for us.
Now to find the car. Happily my husband is a creature of habit and I started looking in the general vicinity of where he usually parks and bingo, we had found it within 15 minutes. The driving is actually pretty easy on the wrong side of the road, it’s just the multi lane round abouts that get me. This time I hung in the outside lane and all was well. We found the Port, had a lovely lunch (another funny story in itself, but if I tell you, you will start to think it’s me and not the French, God knows I am questioning it myself)
Although we resolved to go to L'Isle de Porquerolle later in the week, I tentatively drove the 7kms down to the jumping off point at La Tour Fondue (the Melting Tower), just to check out the tiny port and to have lunch. The parking lot was bigger than the village, but it was a lovely little spot, with a fort, a few shops and restaurants and a some holiday houses. It was still before 12pm when we had had looked around, but we decided to have some lunch in any case. There were several lovely restaurants with views of the Med, and the kids decided they wanted pizza, so pizza it was.
We took a lovely table by the window next to the sea and had a fabulous afternoon checking the place out.
We got back to the club before Mr Beach House in the end. All in all it was a lovely day and just goes to show, if you get off your ass and face your fears things can work out for the best.
The funny thing is one of the other wives had also tried to catch the 67 bus down to the port that day and failed after having visited the tourist office as well. She told her partner that the 67 bus didn’t run on a Wednesday and he didn’t believe her. At the post race drinks, she told me she was glad I had turned up as I could confirm this crazy phenomenon of being directed by those who should know, to take a bus that doesn’t show up. So now I have a new friend. I said to her come out to lunch with us today and we can cheer each other up. Stay tuned for more adventures on the French Riviera.
|L'Isle de Porquerolle|
Post script: I ended up taking my new friend Zeena down to the port La Tour Fondue later in the week and we did make it to the lovely Island of Porquerolle after a few false starts. Check out all the sea glass we found over there.
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