November 2003by Anne-Marie Caye
Although most of my September trip to the South of France was spent viewing the dozens of gorgeous villas available along the Cote d'Azur, the trip helped me develop an itinerary I'd like to pursue on a return (non-working!) trip. Nathalie and I stayed in the quaint town of Mougins during the first half of our trip and at the ritzy Le Martinez in Cannes during the second half. Mougins provides an ideal base from which one can day trip to surrounding hill towns such as Tourrettes sur Loup, Vence and St. Paul De Vence and still reach the coast in less than 30 minutes. Staying in Cannes, one can enjoy the glamour of the film-festival city and easily day trip through the coastal towns along the Riviera north to Monaco.
Nice is the gateway to the Cote d'Azur, and direct flights are available from New York to Nice and from Boston to Paris with travel on to Nice. My colleague, Natalie flew direct from London to Nice, rented a car and drove 40 minutes to Mougins. I flew to Nice from Paris and met up with my father (who lives in Marseille) for a short trip down the coast. We stopped at a sunny seafood cafe right on the beach while I ignored my jet lag for a couple of hours, reuniting with family over a feast of oysters and lobster. The delicious meal and lazy afternoon caught up with me eventually, so I retrieved my bathing suit from the car and took a nap right there on the beach. When I awoke we drove to Mougins, where I met up with Nathalie.
This was my third visit to the adorable little village of Mougins and my second stay at the charming Les Muscadins. Mougins, an old stone village on the crest of a hill five miles north of Cannes, lures visitors with its art galleries and its restaurants - the former with links to Picasso and the latter enticed into the area by renowned French Chef Roger Vergé. Picasso lived out the end of his life in the area, while Vergé and other notable chefs continue to attract visitors seeking gastronomic excellence. Surrounded by sunny hills dotted with olive groves, pine trees and cypress, Mougins has a panoramic view of the Bay of Cannes, the Lerins Islands, Grasse and the Prealpes. The village’s narrow streets - closed to car traffic - are lined with picturesque buildings and adorned with colorful flower boxes. At the entrance to the village sits the charming 11-room inn, Les Muscadins. The unique style, shape and size of each room and the view of Cannes and the ocean beyond all add to the character of the boutique hotel. One night we had a chance to dine at Les Muscadins’ sister hotel, Le Mas Candille. Our meal of scallops in champagne cream sauce and mussels with mushrooms, followed by roasted figs, spiced mango and praline ice cream convinced us that Mougins rightly deserves its reputation as a dining Mecca.
Nathalie and I spent five days touring the region's villas from our base in Mougins. Our schedule included spins through Tourrettes sur Loup, Vence and St. Paul De Vence, three towns that make ideal day trips from Mougins. All three towns are only about 30 minutes from Mougins, and one could spend a whole day in each. The old stone villages and their provençal lifestyles stand in striking contrast to the swanky development along the coast. I fell in love the first day with Tourrettes sur Loup. This little village is simply a gem, cut from the same coast as Cannes but polished with the slow pace of the Provencal countryside. The "Tourrettes," or the stone towers, rising above the wall of close-knit homes were built to defend the once-fortified town. The entire village seems to cling to a narrow spit of land jutting out from the surrounding rocky countryside. Tiny shops line the winding streets, and purple flowers cover the old stone walls and archways like a fragrant blanket. I discovered later that the village grows more violets than any other town in France. Numerous artists have set up shop in the town center, and they spend their days earnestly capturing on canvas the pretty village and the surrounding hills splashed with orange plantations.
Plan Your Cote d'Azur Vacation