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part 1: 1 friday, 2 villages perchés–seillans

The village Seillans was a surprise. I had not intended to visit it. I was on the way to Fayence, and a road sign under the one for Fayence noted the short distance beyond to Seillans. A decision was made: the morning belonged to Fayence and lunch, and the afternoon would be devoted to Seillans.

Seillans is one of les plus beaux villages en France, a non-official designation by  L’association Les Plus Beaux Villages de France that supports and promotes rural communities of no more than 2,000 inhabitants.

I was so charmed by Seillans that I imagined a weekend there, and I identified a hotel where I would stay and even a restaurant where I would eat my meals.

Others have seen its charms as well. Dorothea Tanning, the American painter, printmaker, sculptor, writer, and poet, and her husband the artist Max Ernst lived in Seillans during the late Sixties and early Seventies until his death.

Today, a local museum has many lithographs and engravings by both Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst. She donated to the village  a bronze piece by Ernst, Le Génie de la Bastille, which is placed on the Place de la République. It is where she would often play pétanque with the people of the village.

By the way, did I mention that Princess Di and Fergie spent some vacation time here? Let’s see. Who else? In 1888, Queen Victoria visited Seillans to see the Vicomtesse de Savigny, founder of the perfumery of Seillans. My brochure tells me that Jacques Prévert and Man Wray would sometimes visit their friends Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

I had an afternoon to explore Seillans. I wished that I had a day. I knew I would have good afternoon when I spotted a narrow medieval street. I stood in the middle of it and stretched out my arms. I could touch both walls on either side. I could not see where it meandered because it serpentined into the village.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

My brochure from the tourist office listed a number of sites I could visit;  but as I walked, I was often sidetracked by something I saw elsewhere, and I wanted to look more closely.

The labyrinthine, cobblestone streets, narrow and enclosed, wind between ancient buildings and through shaded squares, some with fountains. Sometimes after walking into the light, one sees staggered terraced houses that seem to mimic the landscape and stone.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

My brochure suggests looking for the medieval castle (11th century) and the Church of Saint Leger, the original stone gateways called the Porte Sarrasine and built in the 12th century, the Place du Thouron, where a trio of old plane trees shades the ancient stone fountain.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

Of interest, too, was La Rue de la Boucherie where the butchers cut and sold their meat, and nearby was La Rue du Mitan-Four where one could see the placements in the wall for the bread ovens.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

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