Var (83590) Population: 2,566 Altitude: 180 m
Gonfaron is a fair-sized town located just past the northwestern edge of the Maures. Gonfaron doesn't have any particular attraction for visitors, but there are a number of old fountains and on one day a year there's a celibration for the "flying donkey".
The large central square, Place de la Victoire, is nice, shaded by its many platan trees and surrounded by terrace cafés.
We explored the town by looking for fountains (see below), discovering some long narrow streets, a few vaulted passages, interesting people and some ancient doorways. The pink building at the top of the hill (in photo-1 and photo-12) is the chapelle St Quinis, dated 1638 and renovated in 1968. There's a good view of the town rooftops and the surrounding countryside from the top.
A striking landmark in the center of town is the tall, hexigonal clocktower, topped with an elaborate 16th-century campanile, on Rue President Wilson. In addition to the campanile with its bell and the clock, the tower also has the pointer for a sundial. The pointer casts a fluted round shadow on the bare stones of the tower: the sundial face is no longer there.
There's at least one pair of buse (buzzards) living in the hills beside Gonfaron. We watched one hunting along the face of La Roquette hill at the northern edge of town, and another being harassed and chased away from the center by a magpie.
The town map of Gonfaron on display at the Place de la Victoire, in front of the Mairie, has a small photo and the location of 16 fountains. Wandering through the town in quest of the fountains is an interesting and pleasant way to discover the place. We found and photographed 11 of the fountains, of which we put two online here: photo-7 and photo-9.
While photographing the fountain at the Place Aimé Mario, an elderly lady living there talked with us about the history of the town, that square, and life in general. She then loaned us a photo she had of the same fountain, taken a long, long time ago: photo-8.
The village of Carcès, about 20 km to the northwest, has a similar "Circuit of the Fountains and Lavoirs", where you can discover the 19 fountains there.
Interestingly enough, Carcès also has an animal legend, but theirs is of a Golden Goat (Cabro d'Or).
Legend of the Flying Donkey
Gonfaron has a wonderful legend of a flying donkey, earning the village the saying: Gonfaron le pays où les ânes volent ! ("the land where donkeys fly"). Our own interpretation was a bit less aerodynamic, but it's fun anyway.
Our legend of a flying donkey page now includes a Flying Donkey poem.
History of Gonfaron
First record, 11th century Gonfanonum
Prehistoric: Prehistoric camps have been found nearby, with vestiges very faded and in places difficult to access. On the east side of the Gonfaron hill, a grotto was discovered with Chalcolithic period bones.
Celto-Ligurian: A Ligurian oppidum was on La Roquette hill at the northern edge of town.
Gallo-Roman: Vestiges of a Gallo-Roman villa and other artifacts have been found in the region. A Roman inscription from the Chapelle Saint-Jean northeast of Gonfaron was moved to Le Luc.
The Mairie has no tourist information about the town. They say (March 2006) an Office de Tourisme is planned for sometime in the future.
Market day: Thur.
Mar (Last weekend) - Flying Donkey Festival (Fête de l'âne volant)
• GPS: 43.320274, 6.288419
IGN (1/25,000) #3445 OT "Cuers, Pierrefeu-du-Var, Collobrières"
There a a few small café-restaurants and pizzarias in Gonfaron, but we didn't find any that seemed attractive to us. There were zero diners at the terrace-restaurants, inside or out, which doesn't give one much confidence. The situation is probably better in the summer.
The local wine co-op (cooperative vinicole) is Les Vignerons de Gonfaron, is located just a short walk out to the west side of town. The local wines are, of course, Côte de Provence. (see Provence Wines)
Cork Museum - Eco-Musée du Liège de Gonfaron
- This Cork Museum has information about the cork oak tree, and a partially reconstructed old cork factory.
- Location: Gonfaron in on the N97, 10 km northeast of Carnoules
- Open: all year; hours: 9-12, 14-19; closed Mondays
- Tel: 0494 782 565; Fax: 0494 78 25 99
Gonfaron is on the main railway line between Marseille and Cannes/Nice [map]. The station is out on the west side of town, just past the wine co-op. The TGV trains don't stop here [photo-11], but Gonfaron is served by the Regional Express Train (TER) [map] with a few trains a day between Marseille/Toulon and Les Arcs stopping at Gonfaron.
Department 83, Var Buses
- See Beyond's Var Department Bus Schedules for downloading the Var bus-lines map [Plan du Reseau] and bus-line schedules [Horaires] (link for PDF files).
- Schedules for the Var bus lines are on the VarLib Horaires-Ligne page (http://www.varlib.fr/horaires_ligne/?rub_code=6") - type the line number in the Numéro ... ligne box to access the bus schedule PDF link. (Type a couple of digits in the box to get a list of route numbers.)