October 2001by Anne Marie, Deirdre, and Ellie
When asked, "What is the meaning of life?" a French painter once replied, "Paris in springtime."
We passed through Paris this spring on our way to Provence and the Côte d'Azur and found our own little pieces of paradise tucked into Provence's picturesque countryside and along Europe's most celebrated seaside, the Côte d'Azur.
Traveling to Provence and the Côte d'Azur for the second time in two years, we were returning to see new villas on the market, as well as inspecting existing villas and hotels in our product line. Deirdre assumed the roles of driver and coordinator. Anne-Marie, a French national, was the navigator and interpreter. Ellie, an avid photographer, shot more than a thousand photos. We don't know if we could possibly have seen more, or laughed more, if we tried.
Our first night we arrived at the colorful hotel Les Muscadins located in Mougins. Mougins has become one of the most sought after vacation destinations in the region. The area provides easy access to the countryside and hilltop villages, and is only a 20 minute drive from Cannes and the beaches. Laced with olive groves, orange trees, jasmine, and violets, the countryside serves up with each season an array of abundant colors. In late April, we were blessed with blooming iris and gardens full of sage and rosemary. The roadsides displayed patches of brilliant red as the poppies emerged from the rich soil. Mougins, like nearby St. Paul de Vence, sits perched on the craggy hills above the sea, looking down on some of the world's most famous coastal resorts: Cannes, Cap Ferrat, Villefranche, Monte Carlo, Antibes and Nice.
Our first night we had a light meal at a restaurant fittingly called La Mediterranée. When the waiter brought a plate of grilled vegetables, generously coated with the freshest extra virgin olive oil, we knew we had indeed arrived in the Mediterranean.
The next morning, after coffee and croissants, our first day of business required us to join up with our local representative, Didi. Our old friend Didi arranged for us to see 25 villas in three days! Her energy and charm, along with our curiosity of what lay around the next bend, kept us going villa after villa. We set out to see villas and hotels from Antibes to Cap Ferrat.
Cap d'Antibes, with its narrow streets, flower boxes and brightly colored houses, was our first stop on the coast. The Mediterranean Sea seemed to shimmer with a vibrant azure, not quite like the turquoise of the Caribbean or the teal of the Atlantic, but moving nonetheless. Sunlight reflected off the water and bounced through the alleys, highlighting the vivid colors of the coast. Antibes is home to the Chateau Grimaldi, which served as Pablo Picasso's workshop in 1946 and now houses the Musée Picasso. One could easily imagine the painter here, deconstructing his subject and splashing brilliant colors across his canvas.
The next day we explored villas from Mougins, to St. Paul de Vence. St. Paul de Vence is a beautiful 13th century village inhabited with artists and galleries. Just outside the entrance of the rampart is a noteworthy restaurant called La Colombe d’Or. In the 1920’s a clutch of artists settled in St. Paul and settled their checks with paintings that are now priceless; the walls are hung with works by Picasso, Matisse, Dufy and many other notables. Reservations are required, and you must be willing to part with a small fortune if you’re willing to dine in these rarified surroundings. La Place is a bistro located nearby, and it is a wonderful spot to watch locals compete at petanque and to sample the favorite local beverage, pastis.
Returning to Les Muscadins for our final night in Mougins, we had reserved a table for dinner in the hotel's restaurant. The restaurant at Les Muscadins is arguably one of the finest restaurants in Mougins both for the cuisine and the view. The experience turned out to be one of the most enjoyable evenings of our entire trip; the food was excellent, and we were able to enjoy the restaurant's incredible view of Cannes. Candlelight flickered from each table.
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