Brignoles, located in the Var county of the French region Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, is a large market town, known for peaches, olives and honey. It is located within the arrondissment with the same name and has about 15,000 inhabitants.
A Medieval old town is a short walk up the hill from the town center. It was the residence of the Counts of Provence during medieval times. From the mid 19th century until the mid 20th century, the region was a major aluminium and bauxite mining center. It has since grown to specialise in light industry, wine and agriculture.
The rugged hills of the Brignoles area make excellent terrain for walking holidays. It offers fantastic walks, many of which pass through the old bauxite mining areas of Brignoles, or through the pre-historic dolmen sites scattered throughout the area. Brignoles is also famous for rock climbing. The rock climbing centres of Les Calanques are famous worldwide, drawing climbers throughout the year and from all parts of Europe. There are also schools for rock climbing lessons and a good selection of climbs are also available for the less experienced to sharpen their climbing techniques.
There are also some wonderful lakes in the Brignoles area, which are a perfect place to relax and swim if the beaches of the Cote d’Azur seem too far. Water sports including sailing, fishing and windsurfing can all be enjoyed in the region.
For more information about Brignoles and the vicinity check the official Brignoles tourist website (of course in French only).
The Brignoles area is quite sunny with an average of around 3000 hours of sunshine in a year. It is quite warm during the months of June, July and August with temperatures reaching the low 30s (Celsius) quite often and nights are pleasantly warm. Even during the peak winter season, temperatures rarely fall below 10 °C during the day. Frost is not unheard of though and even the rare flock of snow is possible during colder days.
The closest airport is the Toulon Hyeres (TLN) international airport, located south on the coast. Several (lowcost) airlines serve Toulon, including Transavia from Rotterdam, Jetairfly from Brussels, Brest and Ajaccio, Air France from Paris-Orly and Ryanair from Stockholm, London-Stansted and Bristol.
A little further away, Marseille Provence Airport (MRS) is one of the busiest airports in all of France with almost 7 million passengers in 2007 and has much more choice regarding (long distance) flights. The airport has direct service to almost every major city in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Currently the only flight to North America is to Montreal.
Le Train du Centre Var is a tourist train between Carnoules and Brignoles.
The closest TGV (Highspeed) train stations are in Marseille and Aix-en-Provence, while Les Arcs train station for coastal/local trains is 30 minutes away.
Brignoles is located just south of the main highway, the A8 between Aix-en-Provence and Nice.
France is one of the best connected countries in the world, with data speed for upload/download ranked among the top 5 in the world. Most hotels and hostels would have in-house facilities to provide free internet access. Many major cities also have initiatives put in place to provide free wi-fi connection in public spaces. Alternatively there are internet cafés available in most cities/towns at a reasonable rate. Some private businesses, such as local cafés (or even the Starbuck's chain), may also provide wi-fi connectivity - keep an eye out for the signs by the shop windows/doors. Also look for the @ symbol prominently displayed, which indicates internet availability. However, with most homes now wired for the internet, cyber cafés are increasingly hard to find, especially outside the major cities.
See also: International Telephone Calls
To dial an international number from France, the IDD is 00, followed by the country code that you wish to dial, the area code and the phone number.
To call France from abroad, start with the international direct dialing (IDD) code from the country you're in, followed by French country code 33, the area code (drop the first zero in front of the area code), and the phone number. French telephone numbers are rarely given without the area code. The telephone number, including the area code, is made up of 10 digits. They are written in a set of 5 pairs of digits (i.e. 01 xx xx xx xx xx).
In France, the area code designations are: 01 - Paris Area ("Région Ile-de-France"), 02 - northwest, 03 - northeast, 04 - southeast, 05 - southwest, 06 - mobile phone providers. From 2010 onwards, 07 will also be assigned to mobile phone providers in order to cater for the surging demands for mobile phones.
Emergency numbers are 15 (medical aid), 17 (police station) and 18 (fire/rescue). You can also use the European emergency number 112 (perhaps a better choice if you don't speak French). These calls are free and accessible from virtually any phone, including locked cellphones.
France uses the GSM standard of cellular phones (900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands) used in most of the world outside of the U.S. There are several companies (Orange, SFR, Free, Bouygues Télécom and some others MVNOs like Virgin Mobile) offering wireless service. The country is almost totally covered but you may have difficulties using your mobile phone in rural or mountainous areas. If you stay for some time, it may be advisable to buy a pre-paid cell phone card that you can use in any phone that supports the GSM standard on the 900/1800 MHz bands. Then incoming calls and SMSes are free.
La Poste in France is also referred to as the PTT (short for postes, télégraphes et téléphones). The mailboxes are painted bright yellow and often there is a slot for local city mail and another slot for "outside mail". Normally there is a queue in the post office, but most of the post offices have the self service machine installed which is quite easy to operate. Nowadays many of the tabac and even some of the souvenir shops also sell postage stamps. Normally an overseas postcard costs almost as much as sending a letter. Mails sent in France also have a zip code. The first two numbers represent the administrative department (e.g. in Paris' case that would be 75).
Post offices are generally open from 8:00am to 7:00pm Monday through Friday, and 8:00am to noon on Saturdays. Apart from the basic job of mailing letters, most of the post offices do some banking activities also and some even have photocopy machines and cyber cafes for internet access.
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