Three kilometers up the road from St. Paul-de-Vence, through the hills northwest of Nice, past cypress and olive trees there is another beautiful, town perched on a summit. Vence is a bit larger (and a bit more relaxed). Although we didn’t do any shopping, its shops and art galleries are more affordable. Locals (not only busloads of tourists) actually eat at its cafés.
Vence looks like an old medieval walled town, but underneath its ramparts it is really a Roman one. A section of the old Roman road cuts through the center of town. The road, the Rue des Portiques ran right next to our hotel. I couldn’t believe that nearby stones dated from the 2nd century. Its cathedral, the Eglise de la Conversion de Saint Paul, is built on the site of a Roman temple dedicated to the god Mars.
We checked into our hotel and were astounded to learn our hotel room had a rooftop terrace. This was our view! I went crazy snapping pictures up there. We explored the medieval streets, patinaed squares and admired the Provençal architecture.
In Place du Peyra, the urn-shaped Vieille Fontaine is often photographed. I liked how the mineral content and source of the water was mounted in the ancient city wall. It tasted pretty good too.
After spending the last two days avoiding the crowds in Cannes, Antibes, Villefranche, Nice, Eze and St. Paul-de-Vence, it was a treat to sit a cafe and eat at a restaurant with locals. The “local” below became really friendly once our snacks were delivered. Believe or not, the puffs were actually peanut butter flavored! In France! We couldn’t believe it. It was so nice having a dog around that we got permission to give him a bit of cheese. He even did a couple of tricks for us.
Vence’s only disappointment was that the Matisse Chapel (Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence) was closed. If you want to visit, be sure to check the opening hours. The nuns who run it have better things to do than cater to sweaty tourists like us.
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