St.-Paul-de-Vence has been discovered. Around 2.5 million people visit the tiny, 16th century medieval hilltop village each year. It is filled with art galleries, boutiques and cafes. The picturesque walk along the Rue Grande (aka Main Street) from Vence Gate to the Nice Gate, is way more beautiful and much more enjoyable than any shopping mall. Tourists love to photograph magnificent old medieval and baroque facades for good reason. It is beautiful. Scenic and charming, it is hard to take a bad picture here (unless other tourists photo-bomb you).
We found ourselves ducking into side streets and back alleys to avoid the hoards of tour bus passengers and students on field trips gushing down the streets like a lava stream. St.-Paul-de-Vence is quaint and its backstreets are enchanting. These who only shop the main drag are missing out.
I loved the potted plants outside doors, vine-covered stone walls, weathered squares, trickling fountains, narrow alleys, statues tucked into nooks, wrought iron gates, intricate door knockers and delicately worked wrought-iron shop signs . It seemed as though there were adorable details everywhere I looked. For example, the sidewalk stones are laid in patterns. I’m just lucky to keep my floor relatively clean, forget about tiling flowers into it.
St.-Paul-de-Vence is built on a natural defensible spot, a rock outcropping in the Alps Maritimes on the Cote d’Azur. French king Francis 1st made it a stronghold and ordered the construction of massive defensive walls. Good call Frankie. I wouldn’t want to lose this town to the enemy either. Paul’s medieval fortress walls surround the town and are some of the most intact in the region. We walked the perimeter taking in the breathtaking views of mountains and sea.
The cemetery is just outside the city walls on the Mediterranean side. The painter, Mark Chagall, is buried in the Saint Paul-de-Vence cemetery. His simple white tomb has small stones on top. They are added by visitors as tributes pursuant to both Russian and Jewish tradition.
In case you were wondering, St.-Paul-de-Vence is also known as St. Paul. Since there are a lot of other towns named St. Paul in France, it is typically referred to as the one by Vence.