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Saint Paul De Vence - Hilltop Charm in Cote D'Azur

If you search for the "most beautiful villages in Cote d'Azur", St. Paul de Vence will come up every single time, alongside dramatic Eze and culinary Mougins.
This might be because of its' proximity to Nice and Cannes, or simply because it's a perfectly preserved, little medieval town, in a movie-like setting of manicured greenery and rolling hills.  

Remember, no cars allowed in the town so prepare for a steep climb in order to get within the walls. But once you are in the old town, just wander around, don't worry too much about looking at the map, you can't get lost!
The town has two main roads that run all along the old centre, one is full of antique shops and the other is completely quiet and empty, what a contrast, a few yards apart!

Approaching St Paul de Vence

Watering spots in the middle of the old town

Cheeky art in one of the dozens of galleries in town - off course we both proclaimed that "we want that gnome" as soon as we spotted it!

Strolling around the old town, you are spoiled for choice, when it comes to art.
Galleries open up in every little nook possible, stairs leading down to what can only be Aladdin's caves, staffed with paintings, classic furniture and all lovely things imaginable.

The quieter side of town

At the end of the main route you'll find yourself at the tip of the old town - climb up the old ramparts and absorb the view.
The first thing you see just below the ramparts is the town's cemetery, believe it or not, it's as well kept as the rest of the scenery,  impressive!
Allow your eyes to slowly follow the hills, all the way to the sea. It's a small but very satisfying journey.

View to the north and the Alps Maritimes
Follow the hills all the way to the Mediterranean...
The end of the road - literally! This is the southern tip of the old town.
Things you need to know:
No cars are allowed in the village, so if you are staying in the old centre, pack light, you don't want to be dragging an endless train of luggage around the pebbly streets.
Also wear flats or wedges, heels are a suicide mission!
I found this charming poet's corner house to rent on Aibnb - if you do that make sure to buy some provisions before hand, there are almost no groceries shops in the village.

It was time for a rest from the heat and a spot of lunch.
We picked a spot just under the old trees in Place de Tilluel, where restaurant Le Tilluel had set up  camp. Melon and prosciutto alongside some Pastis on ice, made everything better.
The occasional breeze and the view, also took our mind away from the heat.

Goat's cheese salad

Beautiful view and a refreshing lunch of fresh, fragrant melon with prosciutto.

We found just one shop open with lovely salamis, cheese, dried fruit and fois gras.
All the staples you really need for a picnic around here. It's right by Place de Tilluel and you must visit it! We bought this lovely salami with nougat and dried cherries. I made a little spread with our goodies, when we got back home and invited the family for a Sunday spot of lunch - a little nice way to bring back our lovely day in St Paul.

The views are spectacular, all the hills around are covered in honey-coloured and terracotta villas with light green and turquoise painted shutters - it's a real life post card.

L'Amandier de Mougins

On our first night in the South of France we ventured out to Mougins.
We had read about its' rich culinary history and we were hoping for a nice, easy meal.

As soon as we entered the old town we spotted L'Amandier on the left, squished between the hill and the other town houses. We decided there and then to make a reservation for a bit later.
It turned out to be a good idea, as it was already 8pm and they didn't have anything free until 9:30pm! L'Amandier was re-opened in 2010 and specialises in cuisine Nicoise, that means local dishes with a little twist.

Strolling around the old town, we built up a good apetite, so when we finally returned to L'Amandier and climbed up the two sets of stairs, we were overjoyed with the setting: a massive terrace, seemingly floating over the hills with amazing 360-degree views of the surrounding area.

All of the hills were covered in bright green, dotted with the traditional honey-coloured local houses and even splashes of blue from the pools here and there.
And far to the left, where the Alps Maritime slowly gather up higher and higher, the horizon was turning pink and coral, with the sun setting.
We went for the "menu Roger Verge", cooked by the 2006 "best young chef in French cuisine", two-Michelin stars, chef Denis Fetisson. 

*Amuse-bouche: a watermelon gazpacho, fresh, crisp and refreshing!
*Pan Bagnat: an interesting take on a Provencal classic sandwich with tuna - only in this case, it came in the form of a golden, bite-size creation. 

*Zucchini Flower Stuffed - they had me right there, no need to read on - with Chicken Breast, in a Creamy Mushroom "Velouté, with Noilly Prat vermouth.
My favourite dish of the whole menu hands down.
The chicken stuffing was succulent and the mushroom veloute a luxurious treat; not to mention the artistic presentation.  

*John Dory poached in Fish Soup, served with Purple Artichoke in a French Dressing with Pine Nuts.
A light, delicate dish - not entirely sure if we did it justice however, having it after the gorgeous and intense stuffed zucchini.

*Filet of Lamb Stuffed with Parsley and Garlic, served with Carrots on Swiss Chard Cushion, with Thyme Juice.
Lamb cooked to perfection, no doubt there! And the plate looked like an abstract painting...
*Goat Cheese from Mr Monteiro, Olive Oil, Onion "Cebette" and Thyme.
This is when things start to go slower - when the cheese arrives.
The initial excitement subsides and waves of fulfilment force you to take it easy. Not such a strong goat's cheese, flavoursome enough however, to keep us going!

*Black Forest  "Amandier’s Style" - Chantilly galore in other words!

Oh, but that's why we come to France, ma petite cherie! To indulge in butter and Chantilly with no regret and no shame.
That's exactly what we did! x

Mougins in the moonlight.

South of France - Mougins

Rolling Hills around Mougins

Mougins is for the romantics.
It's all about "that" South of France feeling...
Sitting in our patio, on our first afternoon in Mougins, sipping on coffee, taking it all in: the warm breeze, the pine trees swaying, splashes from the pool nearby and the excitement of discovering new places! 
During our trip to the South of France, we decided to forgo large cities and instead, rent a car  and drive around smaller villages; 
Mougins is one of them, a perfect little medieval crown on the hills of Alpes Maritimes, just off the coast of Cannes.
It might not be as famous as Eze, or Saint Paul de Vance, but it is a very special place, especially if you are a bon viver with appreciation for good food; there was a time in the 70's that Mougins was called the most Michelin "starred" village in France, with 11 restaurants carrying Michelin "macaroons"! 
Afternoons by the pool in Hotel de Mougins 
View from our patio: Orange trees, Olive trees and lavender bushes.

We stayed in Hotel de Mougins, a lovely property built around mature gardens full of Mediterranean natives; olive and orange trees, lavender and rhododendron bushes. A little oasis amongst swaying pine trees and singing cicadas that would easily rival your favourite Spotify list!  

The Pros: great location, on the hills behind Cannes; 20 minutes drive to Nice airport;
perfect for "that" feeling of Cote d' Azur; comfortable beds and lovely bed linen;
Nespresso machines in every room; Tesla supercharger, for your electric car, within the grounds!
Could be better: oldish bathrooms, tidy but in need of updating.
Starting the day off in he sun, with a shot of coffee and yes, it's in a wine glass!

Early evening around Mougins

A bit of afternoon rest by the pool and off we went into Mougins old town, on our first evening in Cote d'Azur. 
There is a car park just before the entrance to the Old Town, where lovely classic cars pop up from time to time, as a reminder that something of that 50's feeling is still to be found around these parts.
That's if you are a bit of a romantic like us, if you are into your modern supercars and humungous super-yachts, head to St Tropez, instead.
The entrance to the village has been renamed "Avenue of the Grand Chefs", because it runs by a few of the restaurants that used to carry Michelin stars.
One of them is L'Amandier, a gorgeous honey-coloured property lodged on the side of the cliff, with amazing views over the surrounding hills. We made a reservation for dinner for nine thirty and went on for a troll around the village.

Locals, tourists and expats were all starting their evening off with aperitif, around the old town square; we joined in off course! 
Aperol Spritz in hand, we watched the world go by.

Last rays of glorious sunshine in Mougins

Mougins has also played host to Picasso, who stayed here in a hotel in the 1930's and painted his hotel room wall; but the owner of the hotel had no idea of who he was, so he painted over Picasso's drawings!

Since then, lots and lots of artists have visited Mougins, with its' tiny streets, steep cobbled ways and majestic views of the surrounding hills bursting with all shades of green.
There is absolutely no rushing around here.

On our way to L'Amandier, we passed the main square where the local "old boys" were having a game of Boules, or..."playing with balls", as I like to put it. Such a quaint sight, we stopped and watched the game for a while.  

At that time, there was nowhere else we'd rather be; there were no cars, no shops open other than the restaurants and the setting sun was making everything warm and happy.  

At the end of our trip, we asked each other what was our favourite place and we both looked at each other and said... "Mougins" at the same time.  

© Life Love London

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