The Secret Side of Provence - Hyères

The Secret Side of Provence - Hyères
Vineyard on the île de Porquerolles - accessible by bike only.

Paris is amazing, but we wanted to explore the French countryside, and what better place to do so than Provence, just a short train ride away. 

Our first stop was Hyères, at the very edge of Provence, right in-between Nice/Cote D'Azur and Avignon/Marseille.  Neither of us had been there before, but photos looked amazing and there was a great Hilton hotel that we could use our free nights and resort credit from the Hilton Aspire at, Le Hameau Des Pesquiers.

The front terrace of Le Hameau Des Pesquiers, booked via Hilton free night certificates

We took the high speed train from Paris to Aix-en-Provence, and grabbed a rental car from there.  A few hour drive and we were in the Giens Peninsula, connecting mainland France with Hyères the islet of Giens at the very bottom. 

Nobody has heard of this place - so check out the Google Maps here!

It was an incredibly scenic drive and arrival, and after we arrived at Le Hameau Des Pesquiers, we were greeted by really warm staff who showed us to our room, which had been upgraded from a standard king room to a hot tub/terrace suite.  What a great surprise, and definitely a perk of the Diamond status that you get from the Hilton Aspire. 

It turns out you also get free, restocked minibar, including alcohol (though the alcohol doesn’t get restocked).  Definitely a nice little perk that is there for anyone regardless of status, much like the Andaz brand by Hyatt, but taking it a step further by providing some beer and wine to start.

Upgraded to a room with a back terrace and hot tub!

We were pretty tired at that point, but took a dip in the hot tub and then passed out.  In the morning, we walked a minute or two to breakfast, located outside in a really charming terrace in front of the main building.  It was one of the best breakfast environments I have ever been in - sun, charm, and great food.  The buffet was not the largest I’ve seen, but it was good, and their a la carte items were quite good, in particular an avocado toast with salmon and a french toast - surprise, we’re in France.  No wonder the bread was so good.

Breakfast area - seriously the most charming breakfast area we had on our trip

The hotel is located on the beach, but it’s a bit spread out, so it took maybe 5-10 minutes to walk to the beach - or, they have bikes available. We just walked.  The beach was lovely - not private, but very quiet and serene, with gentle waves and great landscapes around.  We made it for sunrise a few of our days there, and also other times - definitely one of the best parts to the hotel.

This is NOT a sunset - sunrise on the beach at the hotel
Bikes - normally we'd take these, but this trip we just walked and enjoyed the walk

Because we love bikes so much, I’d have loved to take a bike on the road outside the hotel, but the road was two lanes, with not much of a shoulder, and surprisingly fast traffic - in fact, we could hear it from our terrace, which was a bit annoying, though we played some music to cover it up.  The traffic noise and having the traffic there was definitely the biggest downside to the hotel. 

That said - the hotel is right next to some salt ponds where they make salt, and it was REALLY fun to be able to walk there and walk amongst the salt pools.  There was even an event one of the days, where they gave out free salt, had a wandering band, and lots of fun activities and games.  This was definitely one of the biggest highlights for us.

Salt lakes right across the street of the hotel - free to enter and experience.

The hotel has a spa and a gym, and both were workable, but not amazing - the gym was rather small, with funky wooden gym equipment all from some designer - definitely form over function.  But it was quiet, and we were the only ones there in our time there.  The spa was nice and quiet too, but the water wasn’t really hot - it was fine.  There were some sauna cabins, too, kind of fun.

The gym - looks nice, but not so functional, to be honest


The single best day trip we had on our trip was to the Ile de Porquerolles, located a 45 min ferry ride from the Giens harbor - itself a 15 minute drive from the hotel.  There are NO cars allowed on the island, so you are among bikes and people only.  

The biking around the island was absolutely amazing

We were running a little late and just managed to make the ferry, thankfully.  Slathered on sunscreen and enjoyed the ferry ride over, full of happy people.

There are no cars allowed, but there are electric bikes for rent as well as regular bikes, and we opted for the electric, as we’d heard that in some places they could be really useful.  There were many places you could rent from, and most likely they were all the same, but we headed for one that had been recommended, and they were super nice with great bikes.  For the most part, the electric power was probably unnecessary, but there were 1-2 areas of great steepness where it was invaluable.

The first out of many beaches and coves that we visited

We spent the day biking from beach to beach, taking a dip here and there, stopping for lunch around midday before biking 15-20 minutes to one last beach, which ended up more of a rocky cove, but was the highlight of the day.  Only a few people, incredibly scenic, all things that describe the Ile de Porquerolles, but even more so in this little cove.  I’d recommend it to everyone, but you definitely need to be a swimmer to really take advantage of it (I’m not - but my wife is).  Even as a not-great swimmer, I really enjoyed the cove and environs.

The isolated cove that was the absolute best part of the island

After a full day in the sun and water, we biked back to the main area and hopped on the ferry back to the mainland, tired and happy.  

It was definitely the single best day we had on our trip, which was full of amazing days.