14 – 15 May: Endless gorgeous villages

Author: Mrs A

Location: Bagnols-en-Forêt, Saint-Paul de Vence, Fayence & Tourettes, France

Tuesday: Curious about the joys of riding an e-bike, we took our friends out for a cycle along some of the forest paths where we were staying…we can safely say they approve!

David & Mr A head off down a woodland path on a ride
Jenny admiring the view down to the coast

It was just a short ride in the morning before we headed back to wind our way by car across the mountain villages, past Fayaence, Tourettes and Grasse across to the small walled town of Saint-Paul de Vence.

Nestled among the olive trees and overlooking Nice
Cat sculptures

Approaching the walled village

Saint-Paul de Vence is a perched village located about 12km north east of Nice. It was originally settled in about 400 bcd and then was renamed in the year 120 when the Romans called it Castrum Sancti Pauli (interpreted as St Paul’s Fortress). In the late 1800s and 1900s the village was discovered by impressionist artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Marc Chagall (who is buried in the little cemetery there). The poor artists enjoyed the clean light and spectacular views – to the coast in one direction and the snow capped Alps in the other.

The Colombe d’Or restaurant and inn started life in the village in the 1920s and had a great reputation for good food and dancing on its terraces. It became a popular place amongst the artists, who often exchanged a painting or two in return for food or accomodation.

Today the whole village remains full of artists and galleries selling everything from today’s modern art to older Chagall and Picasso paintings and prints.

The Colombe d’Or restaurant – we didn’t lunch here
Entering into the village

Lunch was our first port of call, having forgone breakfast for a ride. We found a little terraced cafe with a fabulous view. It was a little tourist trap really with overpriced average food and wine from a sack, but the views made up for it!

Lunch with a fine view

We continued our exploration of the village, visiting Marc Chagall’s grave, covered in stones in the Jewish tradition and admired the views down to Nice and across the mountains. We wandered around the little lanes, admiring paintings with high price tags (€65,000 for an original Picasso artist’s print thank you very much – that’s around AU$106,000 /£57,000 /US$73,000 for our international readers).

A cemetery with a view
Exploring the village…So much to look at here…oh for an endless bank account!
The Alps in the background

Perched with a view

Beautiful multi-toned roses blooming
Front row seat at this hotel with a view down to the Mediterranean

Every alleyway entices you down
Di admires an artwork from a prize winning Macedonian artist

An Apéro Spritz on the terrace concluded our afternoon before returning back to Colin’s feast of fish and prawn gumbo – delicious!

Cheers…though I think Di is sad we’re all leaving

Wednesday: Our final day with our friends in France – it was time to give Colin and Di back their peace, serenity and healthy livers and Chris, Karen, Jenny and David were to be off back to Australia. The weather greeted us with appropriate sadness with a fine rain falling, and the morning was spent sharing stories, photos and doing the final packing and washing.

Di then took us up to the little village of Fayence, which had overlooked us on our Monday night farm meal. Mark and I visited here with Diane three years ago – then it had been sundress weather and the streets were bustling with the Saturday market. This time, it was jacket weather and other than the odd cat, the streets were largely abandoned.

“I might have fleas but I’d still like you to rub my tummy s’il vous plait.”

The cats rule the streets here
Closed today…looks like this cat had a run in with a slamming door

We walked across to the next village of Tourettes, enjoying the unique doorways and artworks on the walls, and admiring the views down across the valley towards the coast.

The evening saw us get suited and booted for our final meal together.

Our final glass of champagne from Epernay

Dinner was held at Moulin de la Camandoule an old olive mill with a history that dates back to Roman times.

The old Roman aqueduct – tiles have been found suggesting a villa was located here too

It was a delicious meal and a fitting end to our time together in Provence. Many thanks to Di and Colin for putting us up for the past few days and being such fabulous hosts.

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