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L'île Saint-Honorat.
Highlights in France.

L'île Saint-Honorat

by Bert Schwarz

One day off of work. Unbelievable. Our press friend from Grasse suggested to visit L'île Saint-Honorat, a small island off of Cannes. Getting to the island is simple. The only way is by boat from the ferry terminal located on Quai Laubeuf on the western side of Cannes. The boats are centrally run by the island administration and you can either buy your tickets on the spot, or online on their website.

A bit of historical background.

Ile Saint Honorat is named after Saint Honoratus from Arles who landed on this uninhabited island at the start of the 5th century AD. Initially, he came to the island to be alone but unfortunately for him, word went out of his presence and disciples quickly joined him, leading him to found a first monastery which quickly became extremely powerful. Legend says that even Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, spent time studying on the island.

Over the last few decades, the island has developed into a tourist heaven for those seeking peace and silence and it is even possible to come and “cool down” for a few days here enjoying to be right in the middle of nature just a few kilometres from the hustle and bustle of Cannes. The wine growing business has also taken off in a major way since the 1990s.

In order to maintain the atmosphere of the island, the monks decided to limit the number of visitors. Being there at the season's end we did not notice this, but read that it's impossible to combine a trip to Ile Saint Honorat with a trip to Ile Sainte Marguerite without having a private boat or returning to Cannes.

Once you are half way around the island, stop by the beautiful Cistercian abbey close to the southern tip, which was dedicated in 1088, even though all that remains of the original abbey from the 11th/12th centuries is the medieval cloister where the monks still live. The spectacular main church, set in some beautiful Mediterranean gardens full of palm trees and flowers, was built between 1874 and 1878.

Behind the Abbey there is the probably most spectacular sight on the island, the fortified monastery. This was built as it was necessary to protect the strategically located island and its monastic community from invaders, mainly the Saracens in the 10th century.

Today, like all of the other attractions of the island, entry is free and although the inside isn’t in a great state, the main structure of the tower is definitely worth visiting to understand how the monks lived and protected themselves at the time. Since we had been there "completely stupid" and with no background information at all we - fortunately - were equipped with some homemade sandwiches and something to drink. It turned out as some good idea as we felt the prices in the island's restaurant were a bit on the high side. Well, the homemade food wasn't enough so we bought some sandwiches at the shop opposite to the restaurant. The food proved our feelings right: lot of money wasted.

Too bad.

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