We spent the past Sunday exploring the numerous small towns that are nestled in the hills behind Nice and Antibes. These hilltops towns, in many cases medieval, have been wonderfully restored, each with their unique characteristics and charm as they look out over the Mediterranean Sea. A number are part of affiliations such as the “Most Beautiful Villages of France”, and rightly deserve it. Each of these towns do not take long to walk, but they also offer many interesting shops, galleries and exhibits you should take time to explore. They are often not far from one another, so you can visit and explore a number of them in a day.
This is a great scenic drive that you should give a whole day towards doing. From Nice, take the A8 until Cagnes-sur-Mer (worth visiting as well, but that’s for another day and another post) and then follow D46 up to Saint-Paul-de-Vence.
Saint-Paul-de-Vence is situated about halfway between Nice and Antibes, a few kilometers in from the coast. Many of these towns have becomes magnets for galleries and ateliers (artist workshops). Saint-Paul has attracted numerous galleries with outstanding displays of artists while it’s neighbor just a couple of kilometers down the road, Tourettes-sur-Loup, is made up mostly of ateliers. Their artwork is displayed on the walls and tables of quite small rooms, with the artist in the back, working on his/her latest work. To get to Tourettes, follow the signs out of Saint Paul first to Vence, and then you’ll see signs directing you to Tourettes.
It’s a lovely drive along rue de Grass, or D2210 heading west, following along the east bank of the Gorge de Loup. It winds its way along the canyon, getting narrower and narrower, until both sides nearly touch and tunnels become necessary for the highway to pass. The D2210 turns into the D6 and continues to head up and north, meeting up with the D3. Take the D3 and it will lead to Gourdon. Gourdon is amazing. The drive to it from both sides is also amazing, one of the prettiest drives we’ve taken, as it follows along the Gorge du Loup. The town isn’t very large; you can do a tour of it in less than 1/2 an hour. But when you walk up into it, through to the back side and see the view, you’ll want to spend more time there enjoying it. And fortunately there’s a restaurant there to serve you!
Once you’ve had your fill of Gourdon, continue along D3. You’ll see signs for Grasse, follow them. You may want to visit Grasse, but we weren’t crazy over it, but then it’s a hard act to follow after St. Paul and Gourdon. The road will continue to take you back to the freeway (A8) and back to Nice.