I had one of the best trips of my life travelling to Les Issambres, on the French Riviera last summer. We took the Chunnel Train from London to Avignon and then rented a car and drove to the villa that we rented for a week. The view was stunning...like movie scene stunning.
The roads are well marked, although we had some trouble paying the tolls on the French highways with our credit card. The handy thing was, that there were call boxes at each one. When the card didn't work, we called and they told us to drop 5€ in this little metal box and then they opened the gate.
Make sure you know the road numbers that you will be taking because almost all signs indicate the road numbers, not always the destination towns.
We were there in the beginning of June and the weather was spectacular! Sunny and warm every day. We were in a neighborhood overlooking the coast, not far from the beaches. Les Issambres is a small, Mediterranean seaside town on the French Riviera between Sainte-Maxime and Saint-Raphaël. It has several public beaches with restaurants nearby, or across the street from them. It was a short drive to downtown where there was a Spar Grocery store where we got everything we needed to cook meals in the house. In the other direction on the D559, there was a bakery with fresh bread every morning.
We spent most days at the beach across the street from a restaurant called Le Windy. It’s a large public access beach with plenty of parking. The best part, was the little burger stand right on the beach. They had the best french fries and burgers. They didn’t speak English, but if you know just a few words of French, or can point at the menu, you’ll be ok. They were super-friendly and pleasant. We ate there almost everyday for lunch, the kids loved it.
The sea glass on that beach was fantastic. There was tons and tons of glass, but a lot of it was what I call “trashy glass”. Sure it’s frosty and pretty, but it’s mostly green shards that aren’t that rounded or old. But every now and then we found a real gem. We found some beautiful turquoise and light amber pieces that were almost yellow. So if you can wade through the trash, and spend some time, you could find some real beauties.
But that beach can be crowded, so we also went to one just to the south about 100 meters. That one is tougher to climb down to because there are no steps. So you’ll be scrambling down rough terrain. That’s the one pictured with my daughter Corla sitting in the grass on the cliff. That one had fewer pieces of sea glass, but we found some black glass there in the water. They may look like rocks right off, but when you hold them up, they have a very deep olive green color. Now those are the really old ones.
One of the restaurants that we enjoyed there, was Le Windy across the street from the beach. They were the nicest people. One of the waiters spoke good English and helped us with our French. They had the best desserts of puff pastry with ice cream and chocolate sauce. The people there made it such an enjoyable experience.
On the same beach across the street was a Thai Restaurant, right near the burger shack on the beach. It’s open air and decorated as if you’re in Thailand. It was so lovely to sit and watch the beach in the sunset. The food was excellent and servers were pleasant.
For good coffee and conversation was a small coffee shop in the downtown Les Issambres area next to Le Bistrot Cafe. I can’t remember the name, but it was owned by an Italian man who spoke good English. He was so friendly and accommodating. We went there almost every day. His was also the only place that we could find vanilla syrup for the coffee. :)
One day we rented kayaks with the kids and paddled out into the bay. That was one of the best days. The water is so clear and blue! It was a little chilly for these Florida folks, but still not too bad. We rented those at the Skydiving and Parachute Center across from the Spar Grocery Store.
Overall, we loved this place. The locals were consistently friendly and helpful, and made us tourists feel welcome. There aren’t many people who spoke English though, so be prepared to learn a little French or use Google Translate. It was FAR less crowded than St. Tropez or Cannes. So we found it more relaxing...a true vacation while still experiences the French Riviera.
We found this area to be one of the best in Europe for sea glass hunting. The Riviera definitely had the best assortment of colors. Lots of turquoise, blue and light amber/yellow glass.