Bar sur Loup, The city of Orange Trees
The Romans, as was the norm, were the first civilization to leave written accounts, arriving around 125 BC. Two Roman tombs were located under the present site of the Château. An engraved tombstone is built into the base of the church bell tower next to the Château. From 1218 until the time of The French Revolution the village of Bar sur Loup was ruled by the Counts of Grasse Bar. After the Revolution, of course, came the government that is familiar to modern France.
Showing the villagers respect for the past, the old village of Bar sur Loup has been lovingly restored in beautiful detail. The centre of the town is dominated by a thirteenth century château and the village church. The layout of the village is roughly circular. Some of the original ramparts still exist and can be seen from the rue Estrabarry.
The village of bar sur Loup is a place that appreciates peace, but is willing to share it with visitors. Tourists are welcome here, but they must leave their noisy, smelly cars outside of the city. This creates a peaceful haven, nearly unique in the modern world. It is a place where you can get way from the hustle and bustle and leave your troubles far behind.
The village of Bar Sur Loup is located between the towns of Grasse and Vence, off of the Cagnes sur Mer exit when coming from the A8. One must first follow the signs for Vence before encountering signs for Bar sur Loup. The village of Bar sur Loup is between 320 and 350 meters (or roughly 900 feet) above sea level and has a surface area of 1447 hectacres. It is part of the Sarrée Plateau above the Loup River Valley. It is home to more than twenty five hundred welcoming, and happy residents.
From this village, you can see many miles in any direction. Visitors can relax and enjoy the view of the villages below or the Provencale-style countryside that stretches back into the Alpes Maritime.
The town is proud of its present, but it is equally proud of its past. There is evidence of people here long before recorded history. Local archaeological sites date back to the Neolithic age. Occupation by the Celts is also evident, but rarely spoken of as a dark time. The first record of the town dates from 1078, when it was referred to as either Albarnum or Poncii Albarni. In 1235 the name was changed to Catrum de Albarno, which, roughly translated means “high fortress”. This change reflected the passing of rule from the Princes of Antibes to the Count of Provence. It was not until the sixteenth century that the town took the name Lou Barn, and later to simply Bar over the river Loup.
The village streets themselves are very medieval in appearance as some are still covered passages above the streets, troglodyte dwellings beneath large rocks, and a cayenne pepper tree presented to the village by Admiral de Grasse. The two dominant edifices of the town both date to the middle ages. The privately owned Château was built between the tenth and thirteenth centuries. It was rebuilt sometime between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, and was pillaged and partially burned in 1792, during the Revolution. The Château itself is not open to public viewing, but it is an important part of village history and character.
Another ruin of the Revolution that is worth seeing is the Place de la Tour, which now houses the offices of tourism. “La Tour” was the keep of the old manor castle. Though much was lost to Revolutionaries in 1792, even the foundation of the Place de La Tour is impressive.
Our information on the church is a little more detailed. It was built in the fifteenth century in the gothic style, and named St. Jacques-le-Majeur. The treasure of the church is the oldest painting in the region, a fifteenth century work, on wood rather than canvas. It is called the “Danse Macabre”. It is an allusion to a local legend of a Lenten ball given by the Count of Bar, during which the floor collapsed, killing a number of dancers. The picture shows the dancers and musicians dancing and making music with death creeps in carrying his bow and arrow. The artist of the piece is not known, but the picture includes a fifteenth century verse from Provence.
Another important thing to see in the city of Orange Trees is the town hall building, which was once the school of Celestin Freinet, who was a great pedagogue of France and a leader in modern teaching.
Of course, there is a lot of natural beauty too. It would be wrong to overlook the very important orange trees that grow in and around the village. These were so important to the village that they gave the village that had gone through three names in the last five centuries yet another nick name: The City of Orange Trees.
The most famous native son is the Admiral de Grasse, born François Joseph de Grasse in 1722. He is famous for the part that he played in the American Revolution as a Lieutenant-General in King Louis XVI’s Royal Navy. He led the victory of Yorktown and Chesapeake Bay. He was more honoured in America than in France, in fact, and was virtually forgotten in the land of his birth, especially after the Revolution made the exploits of His Majesty’s navy dated if not brutal.
Other points of interest include a candy factory, a pottery shop, and the shop of the local branch of the department of tourism, which sells honey, wine and pottery, along with other local products Other businesses include: restaurants, bakeries, butchers, a general store, a pharmacy and a post office.
There are two local fêtes in the village of Bar sur Loup. The first is the Fête de Patrimoine, which occurs on Easter Monday. This includes both the fête artisanale and the annual orange-wine contest. The Fête de la St-Jean occurs on the Sunday closest to June twenty fourth. There are also other various cultural activities that may change from year to year. Numerous activities including museums, art galleries, gambling, and wine tasting.
Guests may find accommodations in furnished rooms or they may opt to camp under the stars and enjoy the mild weather of Southern France.
Active tourists may enjoy a range of sports in The City of Orange Trees. These include tennis, paragliding, free flight, fishing, using the village’s sports centre, mountain climbing, cycling, swimming, sailing, scuba-diving, skiing, snow shoeing, tennis, golf, flying, go-carting, and canyoning (following the rapids down through the rocks, sometimes through the water itself). With all of these options, camping and hiking are still favourites of many Bar sur Loup visitors.
There are plenty of routes for hiking starting in the village of Bar sur Loup. The easier option is the walking tour that starts with the Office de Tourisme and is guided by a brochure available in German, English and French. Three other local hikes also start at the Office de Tourisme. They are marked in red, white and blue arrows, listed here by amount of time each is expected to take.
- White Trail (roughly one hour and thirty minutes): This first trail goes past the base of the cliffs, up a gentle slope and ends at the aqueduct that provides drinking water to Cannes. This trail will join the road and return to the village of Bar sur Loup.
- The Red trail to Gourdon is expected to take about an hour and forty minutes. Both red and blue trails follow an underground aqueduct through a lovely little forest and a small forest then up an old mule trail to a beautiful little drinking fountain. From here the trail is somewhat steep, but aided by steps. Once they have reached Gourdon, hikers can return the same way or loop back across the plateau through the Bois de Gourdon.
- The blue trail is the longest walk, lasting about two hours and thirty minutes. Like the Red trail the blue trails starts with the underground aqueduct through the forest, through the tunnel and up an old mule trail to the fountain. The blue trail then follows the canal that provides drinking water to Grasse. The trail will follow the Gtasse pipeline through several tunnels. These tunnels have some natural light, but a wise hiker will bring a torch. A few minutes after the villages comes into view the hiker will have to turn away from the private property through the woods, by a little dirt road. The trail will turn away from private property once more to join the white trail at a paved road. This red and blue trail will lead back into the village.
For people that do not like hiking there is regular bus service to such destinations as Grasse, Tourrettes-sur-Loup, Vence, St. Jeannet and Gattières. From Grasse one can get service to Nice and Cannes.