Quick guide to... Draguig­nan

France - - Travel News -

Leg­end has it that the Provençal city of Draguig­nan got its name, de­rived from draco, Latin for dragon, af­ter a bishop called Saint Her­men­taire slayed one of the fire­breath­ing beasts that ter­rorised pil­grims on their way to Lérins Abbey. Nowa­days, Draguig­nan is bet­ter known for a dif­fer­ent kind of fire: gun­fire. As the self-pro­claimed ‘ Cap­i­tale de l’ar­tillerie’, it is home to the École Na­tionale d’ar­tillerie and the École Na­tionale d’in­fan­terie. From hum­ble be­gin­nings as a small vil­lage thriv­ing off olive and grape cul­ti­va­tion, the Mid­dle Ages saw Draguig­nan be­come an im­por­tant bas­tion on the me­dieval Aix-en-provence to Grasse route. A Ro­man fortress once stood proudly on a hill­top above the city, only to be de­stroyed three times be­tween the 11th and 17th cen­turies. It’s not just the Ro­mans who have in­flu­enced the ar­chi­tec­ture here; Ge­orges Hauss­mann was once pre­fect of the Var dé­parte­ment and his trade­mark plane tree-lined boule­vards dis­sect the city. With the azure wa­ters of the Ver­don Nat­u­ral Re­gional Park to the north and the Mediter­ranean al­lure of Saint-tropez to the south, it is an ideal base for tourists seek­ing a true taste of Provence.

What can I see and do?

You can’t miss the im­pos­ing Tour de l’hor­loge, con­structed in 1661 on the site of the be­sieged fortress. The 24m high clock­tower topped with in­tri­cate iron­work of­fers amaz­ing views over the ter­ra­cotta rooftops and is par­tic­u­larly worth a visit on a clear morn­ing for the best photo op­por­tu­ni­ties. A des­ti­na­tion on ev­ery agenda should be the Musée de l’ar­tillerie at­tached to the École Na­tionale d’in­fan­terie, a leisurely half-hour walk from the cen­tre-ville. It in­cludes a well-cu­rated dis­play of old weapons with ex­pla­na­tions in English. Head­ing back to­wards the city cen­tre, along the same road as the mu­seum, stop off at the Rhone Amer­i­can Ceme­tery. The fi­nal rest­ing place of 860 sol­diers, the 12.5 acre site was cre­ated to com­mem­o­rate those who lost their lives in the Sec­ond World War, mostly dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Dra­goon.

Where can I eat?

For high-qual­ity Provençal cui­sine, Auberge Pier­rot (menus from €28, aubergepier­rot.fr) of­fers an ex­ten­sive se­lec­tion of re­gional fare. Look out for the in­trigu­ingly-named

Steak du Dragon Flambé,

which fea­tures a fil­let of beef topped with a tangy pep­per sauce. La Boîte à

Crêpes (menus from €13, laboite acrepes83.fr) of­fers a good va­ri­ety of crêpes, omelettes and sal­ads, and you can even de­vour them al fresco on the pave­ment ter­race. For a lo­cal twist on a clas­sic, in­dulge in the spe­cial Provençal galette made up of mush­rooms, egg, sour cream, Em­men­tal and lo­cal herbs. If meat is not your thing, La Musar’dîne (menus from €28, lamusar­dine. wordpress.com) is a par­tic­u­larly good vege­tar­ian restau­rant in the city cen­tre, prid­ing it­self on to­tally or­ganic, lo­cal and sea­sonal pro­duce. How­ever, it is reser­va­tion only, so make sure to book 24 hours in ad­vance.

Where should I stay? The 2-star Hô­tel du Parc (dou­bles from €71, hoteldu­parc.fr) in the city cen­tre is full of rus­tic charm. The 17 rooms, some air­con­di­tioned, all in­clude a TV and mini­bar, and guests can also en­joy a shaded ter­race in hot weather.

Get me there!

Nice Côte d’azur is the near­est in­ter­na­tional air­port, around 82km away, and is reg­u­larly served by UK air­ports. Toulon-hyères Air­port, 87km away, is also a vi­able op­tion.

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit tourisme-drace­nie.com

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