The Hilltop Villages of France

Rain was gently falling this morning, but the forecast indicated it would be over by noon. We decided to visit some indoor museums, but on the way in the car, the rain stopped. This is bank holiday weekend in France so we expected a huge crowd at our first stop, St. Paul de Vence a hilltop town, but we were lucky. I think everyone stayed away thinking it might rain all morning. We hopped out of the car at the car park and followed a group of people along a winding road up the hill for about a mile, but it all seemed rather odd. They must know where they’re going, I thought to myself, but why wasn’t there a sidewalk and most important, where was the town? Suddenly a car sped to a stop. “Would you like a ride?” they kindly asked. “You are going the wrong way!”

St Paul de Vence was a beautiful old town of stone houses and cobblestone lanes. It seems to be a community of artists. Art galleries fill every space with paintings and sculpture and even the cobblestone Lane was artistically designed with stone flowers in some places. Each studio had colorful wooden flower boxes bursting with flowers and some had tiny wooden table displays with flowers or ceramic mugs. Even the church which was lit with prayer candles had beautifully displayed artwork including statues and paintings.

As the sun came out the crowds arrived. It turns out this is the most visited village in all of France. We ate lunch in a small cafe and I regretted not ordering a mushroom crepe. It looked and smelled amazing.

Our next stop was a tiny hilltop town the hotel had told us about called Gourdon which is in Provence. Along the way we pulled over in various spots for views across the valley. As we drove up the final part of mountain though, we began to wonder if it would be worth it. No one else seemed to be on the road and our guidebook didn’t mention it, but when we reached the top, we found a full car park and lots of happy visitors. The views from the top were stunning, almost as if you were in an airplane and in the distance the Mediterranean glistened in the sunlight.

Gourdon is very small but one of the prettiest hilltop villages I have ever visited. The stone houses were all beautifully decorated with flowers, tiny statues in the windows, or ceramic jugs. The shutters were painted in light blue and tiny lizards basked in the sunlight. We stopped at a cafe just to enjoy the view.

Dinner was back in Antibes in a restaurant with tables outside. We both agreed this is truly a beautiful and peaceful place to visit and are thankful we will be here for four days.

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