The tiny port town near Marseille boasts clear, blue beaches and seafood unlike any you've tried before. A tip? Don’t miss the bouillabaisse – fish stew made with garlic, saffron, bay leaves and white wine.
By
Kirsty Manning-Wilcox

5 Jul 2013 - 10:37 AM  UPDATED 24 Sep 2013 - 9:37 AM

Bonjour from Bandol 
Bandol is a sheltered little port town on the Cote d’Azur about 35 km south-east from Marseille.

Why go?
The hills surrounding Bandol act like a little amphitheatre, protecting the harbour and beaches from the wind. This means the clear, blue beaches are very calm and not nearly as busy as some other spots on the coast in the high summer tourist season.

Must eat
Fresh seafood, grilled, fried and lightly seasoned with local herbs, garlic and olive oil.  Don’t miss the bouillabaisse – fish combined in a stew with garlic, saffron, bay leaves and white wine.

As with all Provençal cuisine, olive oil, garlic and herbs like rosemary, thyme, marjoram and salads go with the hotter climate.

Goat’s cheese dominates in this area and the wild goaty aromatics pair well with the strong, vibrant wines of the region. Look out for Banon, brocciu and even fresh feta goat’s cheese varieties.

Must drink
Rosé is popular right along the coast and who can blame the weary traveller for imbibing a glass or two during a lazy waterfront lunch or dinner. The Bandol version, however, is darker, dryer and punchier. And don’t miss the opportunity to try a red Bandol AOP wine. Made from 100 per cent mourvedre grapes, this is a big, powerful rustic wine (read massive red!) with strong tannins that need a bit of time in the bottle to settle down before it can be enjoyed. Bandol is not a large area, and the wines are rare, which is reflected in the pricing.  Look for labels from Domaine Tempier and Château de Pibarnon.

Best food souvenir
A Bandol red – it will last 20 years in the cellar guaranteed! Serious cooks should shop for a special bouillabaisse pot – it comes with curved sides so bits of fish don’t get stuck on the edges and burn. Le Creuset makes the best quality pots in a variety of colours but it will weigh a few kilograms.

Getting there and around
Marseille airport is about 35 km away. The TGV from Paris­–Marseille takes just three hours and twenty minutes. It’s recommended to hire a car from Marseille so you can drive along the coast and explore the rolling hills behind Bandol.