The road seemed to mimic les ruelles in a medieval village: it wound here and there and twisted up a hill. On a Friday morning I pretended to practice Les 24 Heures du Mans and drove up to Fayence, a perched village that is not far from the Mediterranean coast.
Fayence is different from other villages: it does not really sit on a hill that overlooks other hills and valleys. The terrain that surrounds it is flat. From the top one can get a wonderful 360° view of the countryside, but one sees homes and farm plots instead of the vast reaches experienced from the heights of Cabris and Gourdon, for example.
In order to see the views, one walks up to the Tour de l’Horloge, and from here you will have a 360° breathtaking view. The French would say, à couper le souffle.
Standing in the viewing area, one can look down onto the nearby rooftops and further out to see toy-sized homes before gazing on the mountains in the far distances, l’Estérel, les Maures, and le Lachens. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!
The village Seillans was a surprise. I had not intended to visit it. I was on the way to Fayence, and a road sign under the one for Fayence noted the short distance beyond to Seillans. A decision was made: the morning belonged to Fayence and lunch, and the afternoon would be devoted to Seillans.
Seillans is one of les plus beaux villages en France, a non-official designation by L’association Les Plus Beaux Villages de France that supports and promotes rural communities of no more than 2,000 inhabitants.
I was so charmed by Seillans that I imagined a weekend there, and I identified a hotel where I would stay and even a restaurant where I would eat my meals.
Others have seen its charms as well. Dorothea Tanning, the American painter, printmaker, sculptor, writer, and poet, and her husband the artist Max Ernst lived in Seillans during the late Sixties and early Seventies until his death.
Today, a local museum has many lithographs and engravings by both Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst. She donated to the village a bronze piece by Ernst, Le Génie de la Bastille, which is placed on the Place de la République. It is where she would often play pétanque with the people of the village.
By the way, did I mention that Princess Di and Fergie spent some vacation time here? Let’s see. Who else? In 1888, Queen Victoria visited Seillans to see the Vicomtesse de Savigny, founder of the perfumery of Seillans. My brochure tells me that Jacques Prévert and Man Wray would sometimes visit their friends Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!
To the west of Grasse, once the perfume center of France, is the village of Cabris, un village perché. It takes its name from the Latin word for goat “capra.”
French writers have been attracted to Cabris. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of Le Petit Prince, spent his childhood holidays there. Albert Camus, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957, stayed there on several occasions during the 1950s. André Gide, another celebrated French author, visited on returning from his journey to Egypt in 1940. Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir both either visited or lived in Cabris.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was the third child of Marie Boyer de Fonscolombe, la Comtesse Marie de Saint Exupéry. In 1932 she sold her house in Cannes and moved eventually from Cannes to Cabris where she lived for the rest of her life. Cabris took pride in her presence. She gave permission for the restaurant Le Petit Prince to use that name.
The certain highlight of a visit to Cabris is the panoramic view from the Place Mirabeau in front the Le Vieux Château. You will see the Mediterranean Sea, le Massif du Tanneron, le Golfe de La Napoule, le Lac de Saint-Cassien, and le Massif de l’Esterel. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!
Antibes est pour toi en France un de tes points de chute. –Françoise Nicolai
Graham Greene, who moved to Antibes in 1966, wrote a dozen books there . . . –BBC Culture
I landed in Antibes ten years ago and, as a French friend suggested, j’y réside [à Antibes] une bonne partie de l’année. During that time, I have often wandered the many streets of Vieil Antibes.
I think of Antibes as having three parts to the medieval village, le vieil village. The division is not official.
Above the Marché Provençal (the local market), between it and the Mediterranean Sea, is one quartier and possibly my favorite. It is small and can be explored in a short time.
The Mediterranean Sea is to the east of the medieval quartier of Antibes. The wall to the right is for the Picasso Museum.
The two other quartiers are flat, but the one above the Marché Provençal rests on a small knoll. One must walk up from the Marché and into it. Continuing through it, one descends slightly to the ramparts and the Promenade Amiral de Grasse and then one meets the Mediterranean Sea. But wait, there’s more!