Exploring the countryside south of France in the area around the cosmopolitan town of Nice. Discover a wealth of things to fall in love with from sleepy old towns to stunning views. With something to please everyone, a day off from the glorious beaches to discover the scenery and life in the country is well worth the effort…
Sleepy towns in the countryside south of France
Whenever the South of France is mentioned, many immediately start to imagine the deep blue Mediterranean, the beaches of the Cote d’Azur and the famous towns such as Nice, St Tropez and Cannes. However, the region has much more to offer, and a short drive inland was the perfect opportunity to discover what there is to do away from the glamour of the coast.
This weekend was the first time I managed to escape Nice and head to the hinterland, and the region was a pleasant surprise. About a forty minute drive from Nice (if you take the motorway) are the beautiful ‘perched villages’ of Provence. Whilst this is not the Provence of the lavender fields, this is very much old, ‘typical’ France, full of sleepy towns, ancient architecture and traditional cuisine. These perched villages are located in the Var and include; Fayence, Montauroux, Callian and, at a stretch, Grasse – famous for its perfumeries.
Whilst they can look similar, each has its own charm, Callian has its castle, Montauroux has the most fantastic panoramic views of the valley below, Fayence has slightly more to offer in terms of shopping and Grasse, of course, has its perfume museums. This makes a day trip around the area fascinating, yet also very manageable given that there are just a few kilometres between each village. Each village offers the perfect chance to relax with a coffee and there are plenty of restaurants to discover after a walk around (and places for your dog to relax in the sun, like mine did!).
In addition to the charming towns and the stunning views offered by the villages of the regions, there is plenty to discover for the more adventurous traveller, or perhaps a family with kids. Located just 10 minutes away from Montauroux, the Lac de Saint Cassien is the perfect place to cool off in the long summer months. There are a series of beaches around the lake which beg to be discovered, especially if you are looking for a bit of privacy. In the summer months, the lake has water sports such as rowing and kayaking and the rolling hills which surround the lake provide the perfect backdrop for a bit of sport and adventure on a beautiful sunny day. The lake is easily accessible by car and there are plenty of parking spaces, from which you can discover a bit of privacy and nature.
I really would recommend going out to the countryside away from Nice. It offers views over the valley below which stretch out as far as the Mediterranean Sea, it is a chance to discover the true cuisine of the region, such as the Pissaladiere – a type of onion tart with olives and anchovies, and the chance to be transported to a simpler, more relaxed time. This is the case whether you would like to visit the villages or the surrounding countryside.
by local Tim Beecroft