Possibly the world's most artistic village?

Trip Start Mar 06, 2010
Trip End Apr 26, 2010

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Flag of France  , Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur,
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This lovely village, St-Paul-de-Vence, is, we are reliably informed, the third most visited place in France, following on from Paris and Le Mont St Michel. We can understand why.

Not only is it an old stone fortified village, with most of the town walls and gates remaining intact, but it has been developed into a centre of art, with even the stone pavings on the footpaths made in a pretty pattern! Many of the buildings have been turned into art galleries and shops for hand-made and home-made products.

Several galleries had magnificent bronze sculptures, beautiful paintings, carvings and more on display - we particularly liked the huge bronzes in many different styles but all way too expensive for us.

We had lunch in a lovely restaurant full of atmosphere called the La Colombe D'Or. Inside they had a beautiful fireplace and painted timber ceiling, and outside in the courtyard there was the backdrop of the old town wall and plenty of artful decoration. The food was very good and to our surprise (and no doubt the chagrin of Sam Kekovich) the French lamb was the most tender, tasty lamb we've ever had...and we're no strangers to a nice piece of lamb, that's for sure.

After lunch we wandered past the boules courts in front of a big cafe-bar where loads of young people, mostly tourists it seemed, were trying their hand at games of petanque. Seems the French version is gaining as much popularity as a young person's sport as lawn bowls is at home in Oz. Walking through the town a lot of history is on display, like the lovely fountain square, the church and next door chapel, the old dungeon (now used as the town hall), and the stone houses themselves with their laneways and cobbled streets.

There are many artisans in the town with little shops, the most exciting one we found was Guillaume, who sits all day at his industrial strength sewing machine making unique handbags from quality leather. We couldn't resist a couple of them - not cheap but unique and ours are personally signed by the artist himself.

At the end of the cobbled streets of the town is a vantage point on the town wall where you can look out over the surrounding countryside, and at one point over the cemetery to the mountains inland. Looking back towards the town and the stone houses is also an attractive view.

So, a very pretty, historic village, with great shopping - what a combination. A great destination to please almost everyone!

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