Wife and I are are finally getting into our groove as far as getting around Frantalian Rivera . All the narrow roads, climbing and descending if not becoming second nature at least are no longer completely terrifying. We're getting better at deciphering the instructions and map directions given by our GPS. We're even getting better at ignoring some of the GPS' habit of sending us down crazy ass roads.
(An aside here - Our Tom Tom GPS in general has been a very trustworthy machine over the 6 years we've had it. It in particular has done a good job for us on our European trips. However, it has two settings for routing - Fastest or Shortest. When you select Shortest, you get a warning notification that "The shortest route may not be the easiest and may take you on dangerous and scary roads" [not the exact wording but the gist of it]. On the other hand the Fastest from time to time has you take these weird ass short cuts through narrow road, dirt roads and other places too.)
Our target of photo carpet bombing opportunity was a the hill town of St-Paul-de-Vence, known by locals as St. Paul. Even though every guide written and on the web refers to this town as the former, our GPS and the town itself only use the latter (that took about 15 frustrating minutes working with the GPS to figure out).
St. Paul was quite a bit different than some of the other places we've been to. Yes, it had the same Medieval roots, structure and design. But it has a very interesting history which you can read more about here. What make it different in the more modern period were the community's buying the city walls to preserve them in the 1870's, the coming of artists in the 1920's and the town putting in artistic cobblestone roads in the 1950's. The artist Marc Chagall made his home here for the last 17 years of his life and his buried here.
As such St-Paul is a lively, living city filled with art and art galleries. During the peak season it is crawling with tourists. Now in mid to late October, there are enough tourists that most things are open, but it is also easy to get away from just about everyone. I really expected to not like St-Paul because it is so tourist oriented but in fact I did. We even ended up buying a table cloth (a special cotton impregnated with stain resistance) we've been looking for for years and a painting.
Welcome to St Paul
(If you need the "de-Vence" fine)
Guess what. We are like every other old fortified hill town and you need to park way the heck down and climb up.
We love you though. Please come and spend money
Alors Mon Ami, let me take you through this beautiful city of artistes
Mais non, he is a skinny stick figure of a man. I will show you the REAL St-Paul
Zees other Statues. Zey make me sick. I'm leaving this place
Entering the city gates
Example of the artistic cobblestones
Wandering around the old central square
Art was juxtaposed with the main part of the city everywhere
One of the statues that Wife had me studying from different angles
The grave yard was interesting both by itself and as a platform for looking at the town and away from the town
As always in the Medieval old town there are the visions of the walls, the narrow streets, the buildings
And we are in Provence so there is the color
Things are really starting to look up gastronomically here in Frantaly
We were having some frustration trying to locate the places I had researched when we turned a corner off of the main street and found...
Unlike the other places in town, it had no terrace for eating outside.
It's advertisement was "No Terrace Just Good Home Cooking"
Two specials of the day, a Beef Lasagna and a Daube de Bouef (a traditional Provencal beef stew) were listed again as 'homemade'
A lot of times I'm skeptical of such claims. But the prices were right and we gave it a try.
Bingo! Home Run! Excelsior! Goooooaaaaallll!
Wife had been craving for a Lasagna that was mostly meat and not overly tomato. This was it
And the Daube with gnocchi was so rich flavored. I'm not a big gnocchi fan but these were so soft. I ate every drop of the gravy soaking it up with bread.
Afterwards I made a point to compliment the owner that his food was real, not tourist food. He told me that his Mom does the cooking and the Daube recipe has been in their family for ages.
If you are ever in St-Paul-de-Vence, this is a place to go to.