Today we will visit another of the many monasteries you can find in the area. Have you been to Monastère de la Verne in the Massif des Maures yet? To me it was a little more impressive, probably because it is still inhabited and not so museum-like. Nevertheless, my trip to Le Thoronet was worth it. Let me tell you why.
Some history in advance
The former Cistercian monastery was built around 1190 AD and is located about 5 km beside Le Thoronet, a tiny village in Var right beside the A8 highway. In the beginning. about 20 monks and many lay brothers lived in the abbey. There were always structural changes, but already in the 15th century began the decay of the complex. By 1790, only 7 monks were living there and shortly afterwards the abbey was dissolved. In 1854 the property was nationalized and since 1873 the renovation work didn’t stop.
Worth a visit
Already the way up is nice, even if you come by highway. You wheel down overland and come through a few pretty villages. As always, the French signage is left to chance. There are some signs at the motorway and also afterwards, but then suddenly they stop and we decided to use the navigation system.
The trip ends at a large, impressive car park in the middle of the oak forest. The remarkable thing is the bistro, situated very idyllically between the gnarled trees, and the tables, chairs and parasols are scattered everywhere. Do you also think it’s a pity that you can’t have a snack or drink at most of the highlights? Here you can – and we did. Even two times: first thing after getting out of the car because we were so excited that we had the opportunity (and because we were afraid it would be closed by the time we finished sightseeing) and after the visit for a late lunch. More about that later.
As it is our habit, we arrived at noon. The people had a picnic or a siesta under the oak trees and the man, the dog and I paused for cold drinks in the bistro. One should celebrate the parties as they fall… Then we separated, man and dog disappeared in the forest and I visited the monastery. And it was beautiful!
What to expect
The entrance fee is €8 and is paid in the souvenir shop. (It is best to check the opening hours in advance.) As soon as you step out of the cashier building, you enter a beautiful little garden with a fountain in the middle. This is the first thing I notice: here is a lot of water. You can hear the sound of splashing everywhere, quite impressive, because it is more than 30 °C and there is hardly any shade on the area. So hurry into the cool church.
The abbey offers a lot of program (see also the website). An exhibition took place and a concert ended just minutes before my arrival. But nevertheless, one lady of the choir was still singing – what an impressive acoustics in the church!
I tried to follow my way with the leaflet given to me at the ticket counter, but it was quite tedious. The buildings are very empty and I don’t think I followed the tour chronologically. It was beautiful anyway.
Take your time
Decelerating while walking through old walls literally happens without any effort. Already the oak avenue leading to the entrance, forces you to calm down. If you walk this avenue again after your visit, allow yourself some time and enjoy a treat in the Kiosque de l’Abbaye du Thoronet. But attention: only cash payment! (In Thoronet, about 5 km away you will find the next ATM). They offer warm meals all day long! Yeah! But I don’t know how long it is open. I think, only until 4 pm.
As in all French bistros we have tried so far, the food tastes great. We had salads (I finally enjoied melon & jambon again!) and for dessert a crêpe au citron – it was much too hot for a heavy meal. But there are also hot dishes and cakes as well as ice-cream. Very recommendable!
I like the peace and simplicity of such historic buildings. Also, the closeness to nature. Therefore, and because of the surroundings (the forest! The bistro!!) the visit was of great value for me.