May 01 2011
Sanary-sur-Mer, a pretty Provençal seaside town about 45 minutes east of Marseilles, has long been one of my favourite corners of France. I first went there 10 years ago to research an article about the late Sybil Bedford, whose wonderfully evocative novel, Jigsaw, is set in and around Sanary and neighbouring Bandol during the 1920s and 1930s. Bedford’s friends and neighbours included fellow novelist Aldous Huxley and a coterie of German artists and Jewish émigrés who headed for the Mediterranean when the Nazis took power in Berlin.
They were part of Sanary’s café culture, and the Bar de la Marine, in a terrific location overlooking the harbour on Quai Général de Gaulle, has retained something of the vivacious ambience of that era. My wife and I first stopped for a drink there on a trip eight years ago and enjoyed the atmosphere and the people-watching so much that we’ve been back many times since. On our most recent visit in March we saw an elegant couple arrive by yacht for their wedding service in the adjoining church and then leave by boat for the reception an hour later.
If you decide to stay for lunch, the freshly-caught fish, which will have been on sale in the open-air market that morning, is the best bet. I’d recommend the big plateau de fruits de mer with oysters in season, bulots and tellines, the fried catch of the day and the moules gratinée which come floating in a sea of garlic butter.
A lunchtime platter of fruits de mer for two costs €53.