Vence and The Hills Above Nice

Sunday, June 09, 2013
Nice, Provence, France
We picked up the car in Nice and drove the short distance into the surrounding hills to St Paul de Vence where we had booked the Les Bastides de Saint Paul resort.

The car was an automatic Citroen C5 which had every gadget possible including a GPS none of which we knew how to work at that stage so we got completely lost as we drove out of Nice – both Sue and I stayed amazingly calm which was a good sign for the rest of our trip around France . I did wonder whether it would stay that way as Sue has a habit of telling me the turn-off after we pass it and has been known to hold the map upside down. Luckily we found the Tourist Bureau and eventually reached our accommodation. The Les Bastides de Saint Paul was actually much better than it looked on the net when we booked, and the surrounding area looked fantastic. We also learnt how to program the GPS which was a real plus in this area as was the calmness of Yvette, our name for the voice telling us the directions. Whereas we would be yelling at each other with lots of expletives when we got lost, Yvette would calmly tell us "At the first opportunity do a U-turn".

Our first venture was to the village of St Paul de Vence, a 14th century hilltop town famous for art and craft. Chagall lived here for the last 19 years of his life. It is one of the most picturesque places you could ever imagine. As you would expect, I had to accompany Sue into every art gallery and craft shop and thought for a while I wouldn't have time to take a photo . Nearly all the buildings in the centre are original. We finished an exciting day with a meal at a nearby 15th Century abbey.

The next day we visited a number of different villages in the area. Vence is the main town in the region and had a medieval centre area with lots of activity especially around the open air market where we bought some fresh produce and a good bottle of wine to have for dinner that evening.

There are literally medieval villages around every corner in this region and we could only visit a few of them. We chose Saint-Jeanett, Carros and La Rochette-sur-Val. They are all every different with some being quite lively with lots of locals enjoying the sunshine and others just quiet, sleepy villages. All are amazingly beautiful as can be seen by the photos.

One great thing about our accommodation was that we had a terrace and really appreciated being able to have a couple of quiet relaxing meals on the terrace. If you are in the south of France, we would thoroughly recommend staying here at the Les Bastides de Saint Paul as it is close to everything you need to see in the region.

Grasse is another hill town which is famous as the centre of the perfume industry of Provence. We spent nearly a day there exploring the town and visiting several museums dedicated to the perfume industry as well as to the history of the area. The most famous perfume in the town is Fragonard which commenced operating in 1880 and really pioneered the industry in the region. It has a number of museums and shops in the town all of which are free.

We had the most wonderful and relaxing time in this region and would recommend it to anyone traveling in the south of France.
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