In June 2006, while I was attending Cannes Lions, a friend mentioned to me about this quaint place called St Paul De Vence. Northeast of Cannes and Northwest of Nice, this little 11th century village has survived the ravages of times, including crusades, and other medieval battering that Europe faced then. But, now it’s been taken over by designer boutiques and artists.
We took a bus to Nice to reach the village. It took a long time reaching Nice (approx 2 hours) since it was a local bus, which not only stopped every 5 minutes, but also took a winding route. From there, another 45 minutes took us to the village.
The first glimpse of the village took away the frustration of the entire journey. The entrance to the village was like an entrance to any of the north Indian forts – a huge arched door. The lanes were as wide as the ones in Chandni Chowk. The difference – it was extremely clean and well kept.
All the streets were lined either with boutiques or artists’ studios. Exceptions were the presence of a few elegant, touristy restaurants, serving Heinekens and varied European cuisines.
Shopping here was expensive, as they figured anyone who’s coming to South of France, and then making his way here, is likely to be loaded.
Old tower, dungeons, and other structures were fascinating. Like us, tourists of many nationalities were also roaming around these structures in search of the junk they may find at a bargain.
After having tired ourselves out, we decided to settle down at a restaurant – Cafe Le Tilluel Menthe. It afforded the best view to the valley around the hilltop on which St Paul is located. Food was good, and expensive like elsewhere in Europe (approx Euro 30 per head, including a beer). In the evening, we decided to take a bus back to Cagnes Sur Mer (half way to Nice), and take the SNCF back to Cannes. This trip took us just an hour.
All in all, a different experience – since we do expect medieval and ancient monuments in Europe, and also the areas filled with buzzing modern structure that now dot the skyline – but seeing something like this was different, unexpected, and relaxing.
As a conclusion, all I can say is that if you are fed up of the museums, ancient monuments, and expensive shopping malls, then this is the place to visit.