VISIT GRASSE AND ITS SURROUNDINGS: NATURAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGE
Saint-Cézaire-sur-Siagne / Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey / Grasse
Do you want to visit Grasse and the surrounding region? Here is a suggested one-day plan for you. With an exceptional location between the Alps and the Mediterranean, the Pays de Grasse has extremely diverse treasures of natural heritage: mountains, caves, waterfalls, natural bridge, wooded parks, and vast plains, a setting in which flora and fauna can thrive and provide deliciously authentic local products to delight the taste buds. Over the course of history here, human hands have also erected many structures, from prehistoric dolmens to Roman huts, including the medieval episcopal palace and countless cathedrals, churches, and chapels, from austere to elaborately painted, all awaiting your visit.
1 : EXPLORE AND PRESERVE NATURE
2 : DISCOVER THIS AMAZING LAND, SO PROUD OF ITS OUTSTANDING HERITAGE
3 : LEARN ABOUT LOCAL HISTORY, CULTURE, TRADITIONS, AND ANCIENT STRUCTURES
Highlight #1: VISIT GRASSE AND ITS SURROUNDINGS: EXPLORE AND PRESERVE NATURE
We started this day by exploring Saint-Cézaire-sur-Siagne and Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey. Saint-Cézaire-sur-Siagne is a pretty, cliff-edge village typical of the once-fortified region, at 1,500 feet in altitude overlooking the untamed valley of the Siagne River. This authentic Provençal community is a place of picturesque lanes, a charming main square with a beautiful fountain, and terraced land planted with olive trees. It is home to the remarkable Puits de la Vierge, an extraordinary site with nine wells built in the 16th century on Roman ruins and the source, at that time, of drinking water for people and animals. Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey is a pleasant stopover town on the Route Napoléon, set at a higher altitude than Saint-Cézaire. There, we saw the Ponadieu natural bridge, a naturally formed tufa arch spanning the tumultuous river along 1,700 feet. It is said that its intriguing toponym, lou pont à Diou, was meant as an offering to the divine hand that shaped it.
VISIT THE PAYS DE GRASSE : DISCOVER THIS AMAZING LAND, SO PROUD OF ITS OUTSTANDING HERITAGE
12:00 p.m.: Fun on the farm
After this troglodyte tour, we came back to Earth’s surface and set out to visit a farm in the Grasse high country. And what a rewarding experience! The owner of this 19th-century farming estate, with architecture that is typical of the region, took us everywhere on the property, explaining to us in a clear, informative way how the animals were raised, from the cows and sheep that went to graze in the high meadows, to the pigs and farmyard animals. It was perfect for the kids to learn all about the farm and see newborn calves and lambs! This enchanting farm deep in the Provençal countryside also produces excellent farm treats: meats, cheeses, honey, pâtés, yogurts, eggs, and more.
Since our visit to the farm really got our mouths watering, we stopped to eat on the terrace of a cabin at the foot of the slopes. This restaurant is an institution, serving generous homemade cuisine expertly produced for more than 50 years by the owner of the premises. In this mountain setting, we could truly appreciate all the homemade meats (country cured ham, homemade terrine and head cheese, garlic bread, sausages, and a tossed salad). The main dishes were simple, but perfectly cooked with top-quality ingredients: old-fashioned beef stew, stuffed quail, leg of lamb on the bone. Not to mention the cheese platter and desserts, each more delicious than the next. The word “generous” describes both the quality and the quantities served us, and even the biggest appetite would be satisfied here!
Highlight #3: A TOUR OF GRASSE: LEARN ABOUT LOCAL HISTORY, CULTURE, TRADITIONS, AND ANCIENT STRUCTURES
The Riviera’s best view
After this tasty lunch, we came back down the mountain to explore Grasse and the surrounding area. We first went to Cabris, a small community that is a magnet for famous writers, where Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, André Gide, and other celebrated authors have stayed. This marvelous hilltop village was built on the ruins of a handsome medieval castle, the remains of which could be seen everywhere as we wandered through this little Provençal paradise. The village has historic structures at every turn: the clock tower, the 19th-century Château Lobanov, many religious buildings. Petite houses are clustered together in the village center, with little shops where craftspeople practice their arts: carved olive wood, stained-glass windows, little Provençal santon figurines.
But the most spectacular site in Cabris is the extraordinary view of the Mediterranean, the entire Bay of Cannes, from the Gulf of La Napoule to the Lérins Islands, all the way to the Esterel and Saint-Cassien Lake. Cabris isn’t called the “Belvédère de la Côte d´Azur” for nothing!
The scent of history
Following this lovely walk through Cabris, we headed to the perfume capital of the world. We rode the little tourist train for an entertaining and educational 30-minute trip through the narrow streets of the Grasse old town, from the Place aux Aires that Jean-Baptiste Grenouille crossed when arriving in the city to the episcopal palace and neighboring 13th-century Notre-Dame-du-Puy cathedral. In the historic center, we saw (and smelled) several artisanal perfumeries, which made us want to learn more about this art. After going to the International Perfume Museum, with exhibits tracing the evolution of perfumery techniques and the 4,000-year history of fragrance, we toured one of the city’s emblematic perfumeries. They explained the perfume manufacturing processes to us and we were offered the chance to join a perfume-creation workshop, but it was getting late. Next time, we’ll definitely take the time!