What to see and do in Vence, Provence | EUROtoday

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Fountain at Vence, Provence

I leaned my bike in opposition to the centuries previous stone fountain and crammed my water bottles with the contemporary, chilly water streaming from the spout. Across the road I may see the traditional entranceway that led into the previous city. It was my first go to to Vence and I used to be instantly enthusiastic about this picturesque medieval city located on a small plateau overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Less than ten years later my spouse and I’d pack up every thing we owned and transfer from Nashville, TN to this charming little nook of southeast France. We've been right here 5 years now and I've by no means appeared again as soon as.

It's exhausting to consider that Cannes, Antibes and Nice, these glittering, dazzling, luxurious mainstays of the Côte d'Azur recognized for his or her extravagant, lavish inns, villas and casinos are all inside only a thirty-minute drive from Vence. Even with a inhabitants of shut to twenty,000, Vence feels extra like a small village than a city or a metropolis. The tempo of life here’s a bit slower. The streets will not be as busy or crowded. Still, there's an environment of power and vitality, an pleasure and spirit that runs by way of the energetic markets, squares and companies.

Street view of Vence, Provence

History of Vence

The historical past of Vence goes again hundreds and hundreds of years. It is likely one of the oldest cities alongside the Côte d'Azur and actually, all of France. For over 400 years it was a Roman city, recognized on the time as Vintium. Though it was not a very giant Roman city it was necessary, because it lay on a well-known Roman street known as the Via Julia which linked the coastal cities alongside the Mediterranean Sea with these within the hills and mountains to the north.

Evidence of the Roman metropolis could be seen all through the city, from a lovely carved marble sarcophagus within the Cathedral to 2 tall Roman granite columns that have been a present from the folks of Marseille to the town of Vence within the third century. Throughout the previous city you'll additionally discover giant items of stone engraved with Latin signifying the go to of an necessary Roman dignitary or celebrating a particular incidence. Since the autumn of the Roman Empire the city has been constructed, destroyed and rebuilt time and again by way of the centuries.

What to see in Vence

This is a group the place many individuals spend their complete lives elevating households and dealing typical middle-class jobs. Though we see our fair proportion of vacationers, Vence shouldn’t be a “tourist” city. Things don't shut down in the course of the off season. As an American who spent my complete life within the suburbs, I really like with the ability to open my entrance door and stroll to absolutely anything I want in just some minutes. Grocery shops, pharmacies, eating places, bakeries, banks and way more are just some steps away. It's uncommon for me to stroll anyplace on the town for quite a lot of minutes with out operating into somebody I do know.

The coronary heart of Vence is its previous city, an rectangular assortment of buildings and homes surrounded by fortified ramparts. This is the place you'll need to begin any go to to the city. Before you enter by way of one of many 5 “doors” which permit entry to the previous city, ensure that to see the “Grand Frêne,” an ash tree that’s virtually 500 years previous. Located simply exterior the Porte du Peyra this tree was planted by King Francois II in 1538 and is likely one of the native treasures.

As you step by way of the Porte du Peyra into the previous city the very first thing you'll see is the great Peyra Fountain. Built in 1822 it changed an earlier fountain that had stood in the identical place for a number of centuries. Throughout Vence you'll see many extra fountains. All are fed from the Foux Spring which is situated simply exterior the city. Numerous sources of fine, clear water (two springs and three small rivers) is likely one of the most important the explanation why Vence was dwelling to indigenous tribes hundreds of years in the past. In the Twenties and Nineteen Thirties folks traveled from everywhere in the nation for this water, because it was mentioned to have the ability to remedy many illnesses and illnesses.

Inside the previous city you'll discover slim streets that wind and twist their well beyond eating places, squares, outlets and boutiques. You'll discover quite a lot of small, stunning squares with giant chestnut and oak bushes offering shade. Most of the homes situated right here date again to medieval occasions. Everything is in remarkably good situation and the city prides itself on preserving issues clear and orderly.

Baou des Blancs, Vence, Provence

Vence has lengthy been a favourite location for painters, sculptures and different artists. They all cite the landscapes, the local weather and particularly mild as to why they like to work on this space. Henri Matisse is simply one of many many, many well-known artists who’ve known as Vence dwelling. Just after the Second World War he created what is likely one of the largest vacationer points of interest on this a part of the French Riviera, the Chapelle du Rosaire, typically merely known as the Matisse Chapel. Matisse spent the final a number of years of his life designing this chapel and he thought-about it to be his life's “masterpiece.” It's a should see if you’re visiting Vence.

Vence has a protracted and necessary spiritual historical past. It is alleged to have had a Catholic Bishop as early as 363AD. Today, one of the vital well-liked landmarks within the city is its Cathedral. It's the smallest Cathedral in all of France. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Nativity dates again to the eleventh century. Two different church buildings stood on the identical place earlier than this present cathedral. Destroyed by invading tribes from the north, items of not less than considered one of these previous church buildings can nonetheless be seen as we speak inside the present church.

The Cathedral homes a big assortment of treasures and relics together with elegant wood stalls carved within the mid-1400s and an interesting assortment of wood polychrome statues from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century reconstructing the varied Stations of the Cross. The hottest attraction although is the large, stunning mosaic entitled “Moses Saved From The Waters” which was created by Marc Chagall in 1979.

Its shut proximity to the seashores within the south and the grand peaks of the decrease Alps within the north, make Vence a great place to dwell. There's a unique market virtually each morning on the big sq. within the heart of city, the Grand Jardin. The climbing on this space is simply magnificent. A hike as much as the Baou des Blancs, a small cliff that overlooks the city, is an excellent technique to spend a morning or afternoon.

Tourettes-sur-Loup, Provence

One of my favourite issues to do in France is to go to small villages, particularly these remoted little enclaves that appear to exist in one other time. Our division (the Alpes-Maritimes) is filled with an astonishing variety of tiny villages that by no means fail to astound me. From Gourdon to Tourrettes-sur-Loup, from Saint-Martin-Vésubie to Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée, from Saorge to Sainte-Agnes, this space is a wonderland of villages to discover. All of those villages could be simply reached by automobile from Vence in simply an hour or two.

As with most French cities the folks of Vence are very pleased with their historical past and heritage. It is widely known consistently all year long with numerous festivals, parades and commemorations. Some of the highlights embrace the Fête des Fontaines (a competition celebrating the quite a few fountains in Vence), the Libération de Vence (commemorating the liberation of Vence on the finish of World War II) and the Hommage à Saint Véran and Saint Lambert (a parade celebrating the 2 patron saints of the city).

Vence is simple to succeed in from anyplace alongside the Côte d'Azur. It's a brief drive off the A8 motorway and there's ample parking within the city. While there isn’t a direct prepare service you may take the prepare to any city alongside the coast and join with a bus that may deliver you into city. There are quite a few inns together with the Château Saint-Martin, a spa and luxurious lodge situated on the fringe of city within the ruins of an previous Templar fort. The Tourist Office is open virtually daily and might give you all the data you want.

Steve Wilkison lives in Vence together with his spouse Carole whom he persuaded to depart America for a French journey. They write about their life at steveandcaroleinvence.com

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What to see and do in Vence, Provence