Seillans, a tiny town in Provence, is one of the prettiest villages in France. But you don’t have to take my word for it, or even decide based on these photos. That’s because Seillans is officially one of Le Plus Beaux Villages de France. This prestigious association began in 1981 when the mayor of Collonges-la-Rouge published a book of the same name to celebrate the heritage of exceptional villages. Now there are 152 villages in the association; villages can apply but only approximately one in seven are successful. Not only do you have to be extremely beautiful, but you have to be tres petite (2,000 or less inhabitants) and have at least two protected sites or monuments.
Seillans definitely fulfills all of these requirements. As hard it as to tear myself away from the pool at Terre Blanche and to tear my son from the world’s best kiddie pool, we decided to go sightseeing one night before dinner. We had been seeing Seillans and Fayence at a distance, nestled in the mountains. We only had time for one and we were told that while both were nice, Seillans was more special. This tiny perched village was only about a 15-minute drive from Terre Blanche.
It had been raining on and off for the past two hours that evening, but it stopped raining for good as soon as we parked in the village. The grey skies (which were clearing up as we left) and wet cobblestones actually gave the village an even more romantic feel. And it was so quiet! The village is very hilly (not surprising as it’s in the mountains) and I didn’t see a soul as I started my descent and came across La Place du Thoroun (photo at top). So many chairs and tables surrounded the fountain but alas it was completely empty. I loved the trees and I also loved the Max Ernst hanging sculpture! Max Ernst, a painter-sculptor, and his wife Dorothy Tanning lived in Seillans in the 1960s and 1970s and he donated a lot of his artwork to the village.
I continued totally alone (husband and baby were blowing off some steam in the Place Republique area that doubles as a parking lot) uphill along a little path. It’s a pedestrian-only village and for parts of it, I don’t even think you could comfortably walk two-abreast. So it was just me, some Max Ernst pieces and some black cats.
And then I started my descent again, and encountered a dragon! This was the second piece by artist Ivan Ivanoff, as a spiky fish greeted me at the start of my walk. Soon I started to hear voices… This would have been disconcerting but fortunately I was around the corner from Hotel Les Deux Rocs and I was hearing the lively din from the restaurant. The restaurant is supposed to be terrific but they weren’t seating anyone outdoors this evening because the chairs and tables were all wet. As neither the menu nor atmosphere seemed child-friendly, we decided we would head back to Terre Blanche, where we had an excellent meal.
It was too bad that we couldn’t sit outside at Les Deux Rocs because the setting was magificent. The chairs surrounded the Fountaine Font D’Amont and were next to the crumbling Porte Sarrasine, an entryway that dates back to the 11th Century. I enjoyed my walk back on the slippery cobblestones in solitude but couldn’t help but wishing that I could return to Seillans on a bright, sunny day when more things were open and when I could ask people to point me to all of the Max Ernst art.