Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Cote D'Azur and Vence

Scenery to take your breath away.
We left Frejus this morning after walking through its Wednesday's market - the village was alive with stalls and people. We decided to take the route to the Frejus Plage or beach and St Raphael before taking the coast road to Theoule. We thought lunch overlooking the Mediterranean would be nice.

Just a drive of 42 kms before reaching Cannes we actually took almost two hours not including lunch but well worth the effort. The scenery just takes your breath away with the the blues of the sky and the ocean fighting for your attention while on the other side of the road are the Maritime Alps. This rocky formations take on the contrasting colours of ochre and almost pinks and you can see where the buildings of Provence get their colour influences.

We finally arrived at the town of Theoule, again by chance rather than plan. There was a really nice terrace cafe which was exactly to our liking. How does Fritto Misto with a small bottle of rose in the sun overlooking blue skies sound. We could see Cannes and Antibes from where we sat. Once again we found a friendly waiter who was working at the cafe for a friend who owned it.

Having enjoyed our view for much too long we needed to get to our next overnight stay at Vence, some 15 kms or more in the hills behind Nice. Driving towards Vence, the roads start to become narrower as you get closer and as you enter the village, buildings seem to enclose upon you. It sits perched 1000 metres above sea level.

We knew there would not be parking available at the Hotel la Victoire and dreaded the thought of lugging two heavy suitcases to the hotel. By luck our GPS took us directly to square where the hotel is located and underground parking was available under the open square. Quite amazing really when it goes down probably three or four levels and you wouldn't know. In Melbourne our city car parking is above the ground in unsightly filing cabinets for cars.
Vence has many colourful shops. This Florist shop seems to cover them all.
I prefer the dark colours of shadowed lane ways as they take you to what Vence was really like all those centuries ago.

With a walk of no more than 100 metres we were at our hotel and ready for a discovery walk of the historic village of Vence. Our hotel was only 30 metres from one of the entrances or "Ports" of the walled old town. As you enter, there is a fountain built in 1822 but replacing the original 1578 one. It really is a town restored for the tourists but so enchanting with its narrow streets and covered walkways in some areas. You need to work your imagination to picture what the town must have been like over the centuries. The cathedral built in the 4th century is on the site of a Roman temple and several chiselled plaques that were saved are set into the walls of the cathedral. The fortified walls that surround the village, although much different to what they were in the middle ages, actually retain the original masonry from early 200 AD.
No clothes dryers here.

Vence even has its own bike race.
Both Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse are sons of Vence. In the late 1700s it had a population of 2600 people and stayed pretty much there for the next 200 odd years. In 1968 it had grown to just under 10,000 but now, 50 years later it now has around 20,000 people living in and around Vence. You look out into the hills and newer homes are scattered amongst the trees as far as the eye can see.

One of our readers, Dianne from "Adelaide and Beyond" said she would be interested in our thoughts on Vence. After wandering its streets, both inside and outside its walls, having dinner within the historic village, all I can say is its a place not to be missed in your lifetime.

One of the ancient Roman tablets found during Vence's many  transformations.

Looking out from Vence to the mountains we cross later today to Castellane.

Although a sunny and warm day, we ate along with others inside the restaurant in the historic centre of Vence.

In 1578 sat a fountain replaced by this one in 1822. Vence is also known for its natural spring water.
Today's drive takes us to Grasse, the town famous for its perfume production, where we will probably enjoy a light lunch before venturing off into the mountains and the Canyon Verdon. We stay at the town of Castellane.


  1. Oh, thank you so much for the wonderful pictures which bought back memories of my visits there in 2004 and pretty, and I agree with you that it should definitely be on everyone's "must do once in a lifetime" list. Enjoy!

    1. Louise,
      Its our pleasure to stir some wonderful memories but 2006 is much too long. When will you return?

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  2. Lovely photos.
    We haven't been to that part of France for such a long time - the buildings are so different from the creamy crumbliness of the Loire and the scenery so much more dramatic.
    So glad you are having a wonderful time - it's no surprise of course !!

    1. Jean - you would love where we are staying. Its on top of the world and our B&B hosts are Harley owners. The went from here (Castellane) to St Tropez for the day.
      They left Belgium 4 years ago. Beautiful bikes and heaps of Harley mementos on the walls. Nice people.
      Yes there is a difference between the Loire and Provence but both beautiful in their own way.

    2. Leon, tha last time we were in St Tropez was for a European Harley-Davidson rally in. There were about five thousand Harleys there. It was pretty amazing.

  3. One of my favorite part of France, so familiar in terrain and weather to California.
    The first time I went to Vence, I saw Yves Montand playing "petanque" (bocce).
    I am enjoying your trip as if I was there with you. Thank you for taking the time to write. I know it is not easy but it is deeply appreciated.

    1. Oh Nadege, you are a little name dropper Nadege. Lucky you but I bet in your business you have many more names to drop. Did you say hello to him? You must tell us in a quiet little email some time. BTW, I love writing so no effort but just as must we both get great pleasure from hearing from people who read the posts. You never know if anyone does except for comments and site hits.

  4. Ah! These pics warm the cockles of my heart ... That fountain is right by the petit boulangerie where I went each morning to buy chouquettes still warm from the bakers oven. I'm so pleased you enjoyed this wonderful hilltop village.
    Your lunch at Theoule overlooking beautiful Cannes looks a real treat
    Travel safe

    1. Dianne,
      We thought this post might warm your cockles, whatever they might be. Our hotel hosts were great and we just seem to meet nice people where ever we go.
      You are planning your next trip soon - Oui?

  5. Just popping in for a quick catch up. Glad you have blue skies and sun. We are wet and cold her in the UK!! Your photos are fantastic. See you soon Diane

  6. Diane - I feel so sorry for you. Our son Andrew returns to Leeds today after staying with my Daughter in Paris. He will rejoin us in Paris at the end of our journey. Very much looking forward to meeting you and Nigel soon.
    Sorry to make you sad for nice weather.


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