We were heading to St Paul de Vence later in the day but decided first to make a stop en route in the smaller and less well known little town of Vence – a good call. Just an easy thirty minute drive from Cannes, it was just gorgeous. We all loved this old town, nestled in the pine and cypress covered hills.
A free car park put a smile on Husband’s face – a rarity indeed in this part of the world. We walked the short distance to the old town area and spent an hour or so just wandering.
This place has long been a magnet for writers and artists – very easy to see why that should be. Matisse, Chagall and many other artists were attracted by the town, countryside and beautiful views. DH Lawrence died here in 1930 and was buried in Vence for a few years before being exhumed and his ashes sent to Mexico.
The town still attracts well heeled visitors who want to escape the crowds at the coast. Apparently the open-air market is one of the best in the region. Held on the main square on a Tuesday, we visited on a different day so didn’t get to check that out.
I loved the old town – so different to most of the other medieval Provencal places we explored. First up it is not on a rocky outcrop with views to the sea.
The main difference though is that the historic centre is circular and retains all its fortifications intact. These are now a ring of ancient houses rather than stone walls with five gateways allowing entrance and access into the centre.
These 13th century fortifications are so well preserved because in the 15th century it was agreed houses could be built against the walls. Later these could not be demolished to make way for streets and boulevards as happened in many medieval towns – the clever planners of Vence.
We walked through one of those gateways and just wandered. Numerous small art galleries, a labyrinth of narrow streets all cobbled and close together it is strolling heaven.
Son was particularly taken with the vast number of cats hanging out and laying claim to a sunny spot here and there.
A thoroughly delightful place, empty of tourists and another gem we had all to ourselves, I was glad we’d detoured from St Paul de Vence to experience its lovely neighbour.