The towns in Provence and Cote d’Azur

Posted October 20th, 2013 by Deepa and filed in Travel
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My sister and family went back to Dubai after Paris. However my mom, Seejo and I traveled South to the French Riviera. We spent 3-4 days in the South Of France enjoying the beauty of French Riviera and Provence.  I have several lovely memories of the time we spent there including the train ride there where an elderly couple entertained Annika for a long time, the classic sight of  folks playing Petanque, the little dinky Cannes railway station, the sight of a mountain goat up on the Gorges Du Verdon loop, walking up and down tiny towns selecting sachets of lavender, grocery shopping at French malls and so on.  This is not to discount the marvelous natural beauty that we were fortunate to see.   We visited several small towns and was enthralled by the changing landscape. Also we were fortunate to be there during lavender season (albeit a week before peak) and got to see the fields of lavender as well. A brief description of the various little towns and cities we visited is below.

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Antibes: Antibes was our base for the three days we spent in the south of France. We had leased a  lovely two  bedroom apartments in a gated community . We spent the first evening we had in Antibes at the beach watching a gorgeous sunset. We tried to get annika to enjoy the water but she was not happy with the feeling of sand slipping away under her feet and refused to climb down to even pose for photographs.  We then had dinner at the lovely Mediterranean restaurant with a view of the Fort Carre – all lit up after sunset!

France-Riviera-Chosen-81Grasse is well known as the world’s perfume capital. About 50% of the world’s perfume uses some sort of extract that originates in Grasse.  There are three major perfume houses here. We visited the Fragonard perfumery for a free guided tour to see how scents are extracted from flowers, distilled, stored and used in various products such as perfumes or soaps.  A brief, informative and entertaining tour – not to mention it smells wonderful in there!

France-Riviera-Chosen-108Roquetbrrune Cap Martin is a tiny town close to the Italian border on the Cote D’Azur.  The guidebook told us that most buildings are painted a particular shade of brown which gives the town a striking view. I must confess that I couldn’t really see it but the fascination for us was the location of the township.  Carved into the rocky slopes and overlooking the azure seas are swanky villas that could only be owned by the real rich and famous.  Getting here was fun too…the road had so many complicated tunnels – there was even one that had a  roundabout inside the tunnel!

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Saint Paul de Vence: a quaint walled medieval town near Antibes. It is perched on a hilltop and has beautiful views of the Mediterranean sea. Inside the town, there are pricey shops, cafes and studios featuring local artists. The streets inside were narrow winding and despite the boutique stores and restaurants instantly transported you to an ancient time. Probably my favorite small town in the South of France

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Monaco: With extremely high end designer showrooms, the casino, the view of the port with luxurious  yachts, the town center of Monaco is very clearly the playground for the wealthy.  However by a quirk of fate we managed to find a beautiful rooftop garden with olive and apricot trees that was absolutely empty and had a fantastic view of the ocean.

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Eze is another hilltop town with cobblestone streets and  a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean.  It was a bit of of a climb to get ino the town . We were there only late at night but the views were terrific. We had dinner there in a tiny restaurant where we ( and a cat) were pretty much the only customers. France-Riviera-Chosen-54 Moustiers-Sainte Marie: A little hilltop village near the start of the loop for Gorges du Verdon.  There is also a 12th century chapel built high up in the mountains with a steep climb to get there like all self respecting shrines Seejo did go up and got some amazing pictures of the view from top but the rest of us only went about half way. The highlight here is a huge star that hangs between two cliffs on either side of the Chapel. Legend has it that it was hung by one of the crusaders.

France-Riviera-Chosen-38 Lavensole: While the lavender was a probably a week or two shy of the peak bloom, we still managed to see and enjoy some beautiful lavender fields.  I thought they were especially charming with they had red poppies amongst the purple lavender!  The lavender was extremely sweet smelling and we did stop to buy several sachets as souvenirs .

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Napoleon Road: We went from Antibes to Lavensole plateau in search of lavender fields along the Napoleon road. This is the road that Napolean took in 1815 after he returned from the exile at Elba to got to Waterloo. He was greeted by enthusiastic French supporters who gathered on both sides of the road cheering him on.  The road is a winding and twisting road but with fantastic scenery and you pass these really tiny –blink and you will miss them—towns.

France-Riviera-Chosen-61Gorges du Verdon : Often called the Grand Canyon of France, this spectacular formation offers a wonderful drive along both its northern and southern rims.  The scenic outlooks are few and far between and not as easy to spot but once you get to one, the view of the green canyon with a glimpse of the turquoise Verdon river far far below is pretty amazing. There was one tiny little town at the end of one loop that sold souvenirs and some extremely potent amaretto liqueur.

Nice : We didn’t really  stop at Nice for a long time even though it is most famous town on the French Riviera.   But we did see the wide palm lined promenade called the English Promenade along the oceanfront and the rocky beaches with the characteristic blue chairs!

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