When you drive through this old village in the Maures hills on your way to Saint-Tropez you will not be unmoved by the beauty of the scenery.
It owes its name "la garde" (the guard) that later became La Garde Freinet, to its position at the top of the pass. You can enjoy its authenticity while strolling through the narrow sloping alleyways to the village center where you can admire old stone houses with roman tiles, little passages carved in the rock and shady squares. Many artists have chosen to live here.
La Garde Freinet - (Photo : golfe-infos)
La Garde Freinet is the ideal place to start a hike from to discover the Maures hills with its many circuits. It is also the point of departure of the "Transhumance" in June.
. A touch of history : click here
Contrary to legend, Fort Freinet - the first site of the village - was not a Saracen headquarters; it was actually a Medieval site inhabited from the late 12th century by people from the villages of Saint Clément and Miravals (now Miremer), who decided to join forces.
In the late 13th century, the villagers left this hilly abode progressively and went down to "Col de la Garde", located between today's Rue Saint-Joseph and Rue de la Planète. The hub of the village as we now know it was hence formed.
In the late 15th century, the site of Fort Freinet was completely abandoned. After the Religious Wars, it was destroyed in November 1589 by order of Maréchal de la Valette.
. In the village : Discover a kiosk at the place du marché, beautiful fountains, ancient "lavoirs" (stone wash houses)... following the arrowed route.
La Garde Freinet - (Photos : L. Caille)
. The Fort Freinet : A listed monument, this stone settlement was built in the late 12th century; the inhabitants deserted it later for the current village of La Garde. In Medieval times, men carved houses, a chapel, a seigneurial residence and a wide moat in the rock - an impressive show of skill. Legend tells that Fort Freinet was inhabited by Saracens, who were present in the region in the 10th century. However, archaeological digs undertaken in 1980 revealed no traces of these Spanish-Arab warriors.
Access : either from the Tourist Office, Place Neuve car park, towards "Aire de La Planète" - signposted footpath, length 60 mins return. Or from "La Croix des Maures" car park - signposted footpath, length 40 mins return. The fort being at an altitude of 450 meters is a remarkable viewpoint over the Maures, the Argens plain and the Alpes of Provence.
. La Croix des Maures : mission cross below the fort Freinet with a view over the village.
La Croix des Maures à la Garde Freinet - (Photos : L. Caille)
. Les Roches Blanches (white rocks) : the highest point of the commune at an altitude of 638 meters with an unbeatable view. You will note a vein of twinkling quartz emerging from a schist rock. The site was destroyed by the forest fires of 2003 but nature is already growing back.
. Chapelle Saint Clément : click here
You will discover this chapel on the way to the village from Grimaud. Take the small road winding down to the bottom of the hill, on the right just before La Garde Freinet. The chapel, which combines simple Romanesque and contemporary styles, is known to date back to the Middle Ages. It was beautifully restored by the sculptor Di Teana.
Church of Saint Clément (the village's Patron Saint) : The church is home to a very curious bust of a pope's reliquary, an 18th century baldachin polychrome marble altar and a listed painting (dated 1702), representing Saint-Bernard and Saint Jeanne de France kneeling at the feet of the Virgin Mary. The porch was reworked in 1789 in Renaissance style. The clock tower's superb ironwork dates back to 1875.
Chapelle Notre Dame de Miremer : Situated on the road leading to Grimaud, this chapel was rebuilt in the 19th century and contains an interesting collection of ex-votos proffered by followers whose lives are said to have been saved by divine intervention. Magnificent panoramic views over the Maures.
. Visit of the "Conservatoire du Patrimoine" (Heritage society) :
is an association whose task is to protect the natural, historic and traditional heritage of the Maures hills. click here
. Take a walk : click here
- Permanent exhibition : on the every day life of the inhabitants from Prehistoric times to the Middle Ages.
- Temporary bi-annual exhibitions : Until April 30th 2007, Exhibition «Couleurs Nature» (colours of nature).
- Workshops (educational or paleographic) : First Wednesday of the month from 3.00 pm to 5.00 pm at the town hall.
- "Restoration of the rural heritage" workshops : At the moment, drystone workshop open to all volunteers every Thursday at Miremer (Friday in July and August)
. Provençal market : (Wednesday and Sunday mornings) Place Neuve
. Have a bite : There are many restaurants in the village, 2 bakers with local specialities such as bread made with chesnut flour, "patiences Fraxinoises" or Marrons glacés. Pâtisserie Le Surfin, and home made jams and chesnut cream at "La Ferme des Gambades".
Restaurants à La Garde Freinet - (Photo : golfe-infos)
. Library : books for hire and a writing workshop ( every last Thursday of the month from 6.00 pm to 8.00 pm ).
. "Piscine Municipale" (Public swimming pool) : (Phone : (33) 04.94.43.61.28). Open every day from July 1st - August 31st. Chemin du Moulin.
. The Tortoise village : a few kilometers from La Garde Freinet, at Gonfaron via the D 75. This village was created to protect the Hermann tortoise who is threatened by forest fires and deforestation.
. LEADING EVENTS : click here
Bravade de Saint Clément : traditional event in late April
The procession starts at 9.00 am at the Place du Baou.
Fête de la Transhumance : mid-May
Arts and crafts market and Provençal market, music, poney rides, donkeys. The sheep go through the village at 10.30 am. Shepherd dog demonstrations every hour. Sheep shearing at 11.00 am and 3.00 pm. Exhibitions "Silk worm breeding" and "Corks" at the Heritage society. Tourist train. Lunch at Le Pré a 12.00.
Village Fete : Early August
2 days of festivities, dance every night, boules, traditional music processions.
Fête du Hameau de La Mourre : mid-August
boules and music.
Fête de la Châtaigne : fin Octobre
Provençal market all day, every kind of chesnut for sale (grilled chesnuts, marrons glacés, chesnut liqueur, jam, cake...) Guided tour in the forest with a forester technician.