We approached Bargème from the south, via the D25 road that cuts through the Camp Militaire de Canjuers, the largest military training camp in Western Europe (35,000 hectares or 1,351 square miles). The camp is used for training in artillery, armored tanks, and infantry. Sonic booms and artillery fire reverberate throughout the entire region, often for days on end. From the road, we see the ghost town of Brovès, empty since 1970 when the camp was built and its inhabitants uprooted. The deserted and decaying town is sometimes used today for urban warfare training.
Bargème lies ten km. north of Brovès, on a steep, rocky hillside, the highest town in the Var. On our arrival, it seems deserted. There are fresh footprints and tire tracks in the midday snow but no sign of life. On this raw, windswept but sunny March day, every building was tightly shuttered.
Since the creation of the military camp, the town's population has steadily decreased to about 85 residents and many of the homes are secondary residences. But, once the tourists and summer residents arrive, Bargème perks up with a lively restaurant, salon du thé, cafë and bakery. Every July the town even hosts a Baroque music festival.
Major attractions in Bargème are the 11th century stone Église Saint Nicolas, and the crumbling Château Sabran de Pontevès , which dates to the 12th century. On the edge of town is the Chapelle Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs (Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows), a small chapel built following the murder of the town's tyrannical feudal lord in 1595.