It is probably no exaggeration to say that St. Paul de Vence is one of the most charming villages I have ever visited. Because it is not coastal, the village is perhaps not as stunning as Cinque Terre, but picturesque in its own right. Perched on top of a mountain, this medieval town is about an hourlong bus ride away from Nice. To allow time for my 13-mile training run in the morning, however, we decided to leave after lunch rather than early morning.
Our journey to St. Paul de Vence was fraught with difficulties that day. First, we stood at the wrong location for the long-term bus pickup, even though we followed the hand gesture of the information booth lady and the location was confirmed by a separate bus driver. By the time we saw the #400 bus and ran towards it, it was too late. The driver had already left the stop and refused to let on any additional passengers.
We waited another half an hour for the next bus, and finally got on our way. Then, the worst part of the day happened – we GOT OFF TOO EARLY IN THE MOUNTAINS! As soon as the bus left and chugged along uphill, we knew we had made a mistake. As we looked skyward, we could see a beautiful hilltop village far, far in the distance, high in the clouds. Since it was already 4 p.m., we wondered whether we should even continue, or just turn around to get on the next bus go home. In the end, we opted to trudge along, me with my flip flops (my feet hurt after my run), and AK with his heavy camera bag and backpack. Luckily, we had a hearty lunch at the Chinese/Vietnamese place next to the bus stop, probably the cheapest meal we’ve had in France (big portions too – I just could not finish).
We were so desperate we even tried to hitchhike, but I guess we didn’t really know how to do it? No one stopped, or even slowed, to give us a ride. But eventually, we arrived on foot (without blisters). It was like a pilgrimage!
The village consists of a labyrinth of steep, winding cobblestone streets, lined with rows and rows of art galleries on each side. It is an art lover’s paradise!
Much of the old city walls are still visible today, including some old cannons that were probably used to fend off invaders. I wish I had done more reading about the history!
We really could have stayed here longer to enjoy the village life, but since we didn’t get there until past 5 p.m., it was soon time to go home. Best part is that we survived the day without any harsh words to each other, despite the circumstances. That is probably the best accomplishment of the day (rather than the 1-hour hike uphill)!