The Garden of Hyères
A description of the most Southern Point of the FRENCH RIVIERA
by ADOLPHE SMITH
Reproduction de l'édition de Londres,1880
extraits : Pages 107 108 109
As we near the island, the water becomes more and more clear, and soon we notice, to either side of the little harbour, a semi-circular beach of unparalleled whiteness. One of these has been happily termed the plage d’argent and the prospect of resting on the Silver Beach of the Golden Island, to enjoy the contemplation of the coral studded rocks that rise from the blue waters is irresistible. Nor are these beaches the only points offering themselves for the enjoyment of nature and repose. The island is divided into seven ranges of small hills, and in the numerous valleys thus created are walks sheltered from every wind, where the umbrella pines throw their deep shade over the path and mingle their balsamic odour with the scent of the thyme, myrtle and the tamarisk.
The island, also, is far more civilised than Giens. It has a. military station where the convalescent soldiers from Algeria are placed undo the care of Dr. Bernard.
There are some fortifications and it is probable that at an early date far more important defensive works will be constructed on this island, while the steamer flying to and fro from Toulon, bringing the provisions for the soldiers, shells for the artillery, etc., gives a certain life to the place. Finally, though not least, there is an admirable local museum, entirely the creation of the military chaplain M. Ollivier. This gentleman is himself a good illustration of the. salubrious climate of the island. He had been suffering from chronic laryngitis, and but little hope was entertained of saving his life when he was sent to Porquerolles. In three month’ time, however, the sent of the pines and the effects of the climate began to produce a change ; and this without the assistance of any medicine.
M. Ollivier has now resided for many years at Porquerolles. enjoying good health ; devoting his spare time, energy, and profound scientific knowledge to collecting specimens of every object of interest that can be seen on the island. Thus we have in M. Ollivier’ museum specimens of all the typical plants to be gathered at Porquerolles, including such varieties as the Delphinium requienii, the Genista Linifolia, the Pelargonium capitatum, and such local specialities as the Cistus olbiensis, the Cistus Porquerollensis and the Galium minutulum, which can only be found on this spot.
By the side of these plants, are exposed the geological specimens that demonstrate the formation of the rocks and the soil of the island ; then there are a number of shells collected on its stores, the fish caught within sight of the island and finally the birds that settle under its foliage. All these curiosities carefully stuffed, preserved and sorted in scientific order and labelled with the Latin, the Vulgar French, and the Provençal names, by which they are known, institute a most interesting demonstration of the resources of this small but choice island. Among the birds, I noticed the Merops Apiaster, or Guepier, the Bec Fin (Troclodyte), and the Stormy Petrel. Here also are some magnificent specimens of Porquerolles coral witch Pliny described as being the best commercial coral that could be obtained. Then there is a pearl found in a Porquerolles shell, some good spunges from the beach, an excellent specimens of the strange shell witch is so often compared to a donkey’s foot. Nor has M. Ollivier limited his researches to natural history.
He has also a rich collection of coins found in the island, and witch might serve as a basis for its history. There is not, however, a single Greek coin in this collection, but the Roman money, beginning with Augustus, includes ten out of the twelve Cæsar and all the principal Emperors down to Julian the Apostate. Then for about 300 years, during the Merovingian and Carovingian periods, the island seems to have been deserted; no coins are found be testify to the presence of any inhabitants, but, soon after, there comes a number of Moorish coins, and then there are coins down to the present day of almost every reign, showing that the island was constantly peopled.
The probabilities are that Porquerolles, lying on the high road between eastern and western civilisation, was inhabited in turn by a great variety of peoples, including the Ligurians, the Romans, and though there. is no coin to testify to their presence —even the Greeks.
It has already been mentioned in the chapter on the “History of Hyres” that Francis I. drove the Moors away from the island ; it was then that the fortress was built that still dominates the village and can easily be seen even from Hyères. This structure would be of but little use now, for even at the beginning of the century during the Napoleonic wars, the English fleet sent several cannon balls crashing through its walls. The island now belongs to M. le Duc de Vicence, the. son of the Marquis de Caulaincourt, the celebrated diplomatist of the First Empire.
extraits : Page 111
At Porquerolles life is easy and cheap,—eight francs a day at the Hotel du Progres, and, if required as low as five francs at the maison Roux ! For this very small sum, cleanliness, sufficient food and the pure wine of the island can be secured, together with the exquisite fish, fresh from the sea. Many persons who cannot afford to live at Hyères, might with advantage spend a few months at Porquerolles from whence they could visit all the neighbouring islands returning in the evening of the same day. These pleasant excursions will suggest that after all Hercules did not endure any great hardship when he came here to pick the oranges,—that is, the golden apples—from whence, it is said, the islands derive their present name.