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MAIN Arrow to  Wines of Europe Europe Arrow to  Wines of France France Arrow to St-Paul De VenceSt-Paul De Vence

Marriage of Mountains and Sea
in Provence St-Paul de Vence

St-Paul De VenceAfter checking 'off the beaten track' activities online, we decided that a visit to St-Paul De Vence would be a wonderful experience while we were staying in the Cote d'Azur.

Getting to the medieval walled village couldn't be easier. We rode the train to Cagnes sur Mer, a bustling town between Nice and Cannes. Cagnes is a mix of the medieval Haut de Cagnes and modern lower city. There are plenty of seaside resort activities here, but it is also a city of artists, with a history of painters such as Ziem, Derain, Cezanne, Renoir, and Modigliani who all helped to make this city famous.

To pass the short time waiting for the bus into the hills, we stopped at a small shop across from the train station where the coffee, sandwiches and prices were all excellent.

Ready for the next leg of the journey, we walked down the street and caught the number 400 bus to Vance. The bus runs from Nice to Vance and the fare is just €1. As we climbed the winding roads, we began to catch glimpses of the object of our quest on the opposite side of the valley.

St-Paul de Vence is a cluster of white building surrounded by a stone wall perched in the foothills of the French Alps above the sparkling Mediterranean waters and white beaches of the Riviera. The hamlet has retained the beauty of narrow, winding cobblestone streets and colorful patchwork houses while evolving into a thriving, modern day, artists' colony. The streets are lined with studios and galleries as well as many small shops offering herbal treatments, perfumes, as well as places for intimate dining experiences.

Cobblestone Street  in St-Paul De VenceThe incredible scenery of this area, the juxtaposition of mountain and sea, has inspired artists through the centuries. Mark Chagall chose to be buried in the Saint Paul-de-Vence cemetery. Henri Mattise designed the Dominican Chapelle du Rosaire (Chapel of the Rosary) in the nearby village of Vance of which he wrote, "Despite its imperfections I think it is my masterpiece…the result of a lifetime devoted to the search for truth." The small artist's studios and galleries are complemented by larger collections of painting and sculpture. One of the finest art museums of the region, The Marguerite and Aimé Maeght Foundation is located here.

Local villagers play petanque in the squareWe were warned about the crowded streets,but this must be more of a problem during the height of the summer tourist season when all of Provence and the Riviera are alive with visitors!

The afternoon of our trip, the tourist traffic was barely noticeable. Some of the locals gathered in the square to enjoy a game of petanque as diners looked on from the local eatery. Everyone had smiles for the visitors who snapped photos of the leisurely action.

In the warm and sunny Riviera, even in the nearby hills that belong to the French Alps, outdoor seating is used all year round. Wandering through the maze of narrow streets, the sun is pleasantly warm and brings out the colors of the greenery and scenery that astounds you at every turn. Small, narrow streets open onto vistas that bring glimpses of the Mediterranean below with the Maritime Alps towering above.

We returned to the main square after hours of happy wandering to catch the bus back to Nice with our cameras and minds full of colorful, sunny pictures of this hilltop walled village. If you are in the area, add it to your list of places to see.

More about St. Paul de Vence around the Web:

Official site of St Paul de Vence (Site officiel de Saint-Paul de Vence)

also see in Travel -> Train Travel | The Wines & Wine Routes of France


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