Not Venice, Vence

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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13 thoughts on “Not Venice, Vence

  1. This is so heavenly to follow along on your travels to my favorite places. What a shame you couldn’t see the Matisse chapel.. It’s lovely though I’ve not managed to see it when the light was right to get the full effect (I think that’s much harder to manage than to get in at all…). Thanks again.

      • In that area I love the Chagall and Matisse museums in Nice. And the Foundation Maeght at St. Paul de Vence. Renoir’s home. The village of Gourdon is lovely and similar to St. Paul de Vence without the million tourists. A little farther north I stayed in a lovely hotel called Clos de Buis in Bonneiux owned by a terrific chef–I liked the town but mostly eating his food. And Lourmarin near there — lovely place. I’ve traveled a few times to Italy too so I can name places there if you’re asking about outside France.

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