The first week of September 2015 found us in the Cote d’Azur region of France. This is the southeast region of the country hugging the azure Mediterranean and then heading inland to mountains and valleys. This is the France of olive orchards, lavender fields, famous artists, brilliant blue skies, and mega-yachts floating in harbors. We were in France scouting for new products to share with you. Our home base was the picturesque village of St. Paul de Vence, located about 15 miles north of Nice. Easy to reach with a rental car from the Nice airport. Join us for a quick tour of several of our favorite France discoveries.
Hotel La Grande Bastide—
Set on the side of a hill about 1.5 miles from St. Paul de Vence this charming hotel has it all. We loved that it is small, staffed by a friendly crew, and served a bountiful breakfast. Plus, you can’t beat the postcard views to the village and across the hills to the shimmering sea. www.la-grande-bastide.com
After traveling to France the last five years, I’m not sure you can experience a poor meal. On this trip (and wherever we journey), we always ask the locals for the places they would dine. Here are several of our favorites. I think I could have eaten tapenade and foie gras at every dinner. Wait! I think I did. A few of our favorites—
Le Tilleul—St. Paul de Vence.
Wonderful bistro set on just inside the walled village. A few tables inside, so hopefully you can get seated outside under the protection of one of the large shade trees. For lunch we sampled a classic goat cheese tart studded with bright pesto and sun-dried tomatoes. www.restaurant-letilleul.com
L’Olivier Rouge—St. Paul de Vence.
We ate at this restaurant twice. Loved it! Do order the foie gras with gingerbread. Both nights it was served with a savory rhubarb relish. One night I ordered the roast chicken and vegetables. The next visit was vegetable lasagna. www.lolivierrouge.com
Le Vieux Moulin—St. Paul de Vence.
Set in the old mill, this restaurant delivers on exceptional cuisine. We enjoyed perfectly grilled beef tenderloin and veal chops one evening. My side was fluffy, smooth whipped potatoes loaded with butter and briny chopped black olives. Sue’s side was a mind-blowing creamy polenta topped with a layer of bubbly cheese. Dessert? A Napoleon with layers of Chantilly cream and raspberries. www.levieuxmoulinsaintpaul.fr
Sue fell in love with the Musée Picasso in Antibes. If you stop by, do take the time to walk along the elevated seaside promenade behind the museum. www.antibes-juanlespins.com/les-musees/picasso Located in St. Paul de Vence is the Maeght Foundation, one of Europe’s largest collections of 20th-centry art. www.fondation-maeght.com
Take in the View
When visiting Nice, park the car (and feel your blood pressure lower), then head to the Le Meridien Hotel’s rooftop restaurant and lounge. Take in the amazing sea vistas while enjoying lunch and a glass of a local chilled rosé. www.lemeridiennice.com/
Trip to the Top
Drive (or take a tour bus) to the jaw-dropping village of Eze. Perched on the top of a mountain overlooking the sea, Eze is something out of a Disney film. Yes, it is crowded. Yes, the tour buses are there (although I’m not sure how they manage getting up the twisty road), but it is one of those places you’ll always remember. Be sure to walk to the very top of town and visit the garden. You have to pay about 5 Euros for a ticket, but well worth it for the view. Dine— Le Nid d’Aigle—www.leniddaigle-eze.com