One of the nicest things in this part of our delightful world is the numerous medieval fortified towns which are dotted about, usually perched high on the hill tops of the Southern Alps. Saint-Paul de Vence is one such place.
We travelled east from Golfe-Juan on the main road to Nice (Route Nationale 6007) until we arrived at Cagnes-sur-Mer following the signs for St. Paul taking us inland along the Avenue des Alpes (D336). On arrival access into the town is barred to unauthorized traffic, but there are several car parks available on the outskirts.
As you approach the walled town you are confronted with a large area of compounded earth making up a terrace for petang players. This is edged by a large café on one side and a road on the other.
You enter the town through an archway and are delightfully confronted with a network of tiny laneways and passages whose pathways and steps are all cobblestoned. Its numerous shops, boutiques and galleries are a tourists’ heaven, and you find yourself uncontrollably photographing almost everything in sight. On occasions you may also come across one or two artists capturing some aspect of the town on his canvas using rich oils or subtle water colours.
As we walked passed the Atelier Galerie D’Art I found myself drawn by a spectacular life-like oil painting of a couple of racing sailing yachts. Stepping into the gallery all the paintings facing me were absolutely breathtaking. The richness of the colours and subjects were wonderful. The artist, Michel Degav, was on hand to talk about his works and as much as I would have loved to have purchased the painting which had captured me, the 850€ price tag made me settle for a signed print* copy of the same, even though Michel had offered to sell me the painting for 150€ less. I told him I may consider it at some later date – perhaps when I manage to sell enough copies of my novels. His website is http://www.degav.com or should you ever visit Saint-Paul des Vence make sure to call into his gallery.
* The print is a limited edition # 9 of 25. I’ve had it framed [by In The Picture located in Hornsby, NSW – they always do a great job] and is now on the wall in the study.
From the gallery we carried on with our slow walk up to the summit of the town where the Mairie (Town Hall) was no more than a doll’s house of Lilliput proportions across the street from the church with its impressive bell tower. Inside, the church was dark despite the large stained glass windows behind and above the altar and one felt compelled to kneel at a pew and offer a small prayer.
On the south side of the town a small cemetery and the chapel of Saint Michel overlook some spectacular views over the countryside. From here we walked in a westerly direction around the perimeter of the town and at one point we could see the Bay of Angels in the distance; the glittering sea beckoning us to return home.
There’s not much more that can be said about this town as words cannot really do it justice; seeing it with one’s own eyes is the best way to appreciate this beautiful little ancient settlement.
RLB – Tomewriter