Urban sketching. Travel, Architecture and Art.
In this post I would like to talk about some one-day trips from Antibes or Nice. For me, sitting in one place and swimming in the sea, enjoying sunny beaches and cuisine is fine for a couple days, then I need more. Provencal cities are so close to each other by distance and are so rich in history, art and architecture, it would be a “crime” not visit some of the local small towns in the neighborhood.
Provencal ceramic tableware with sun-drenched harmony of Provence in single handmade plates with vibrant colours found in the South of France and Italy
Our Provencal Itinerary. This trip was started in Nice – Grasse – Mougins – Moulins d’Opio – Waterfalle sur Loup -Tourrettes du Loup- Gourdon.
We always travel by train or bus… but this time we decided to save our time and travelled with a tour operator.
Old Train station in Nice was recently renovated – it seems to beinviting to join one of the most beautiful cities that is conveniently located near the sea.
Our tour started from Nice. You might be picked up from your hotel by the tour operator. In our case we lived in Antibes. As an option, a driver could pick you up from your city, with an additional cost. We decided to take a train from Antibes to Nice, just 10 -15 min, cost 4 Euros and another reason to visit Nice.
Blue train brings people to Mediterranean Sea every day
The 1st stop was in Grasse, the capital of perfumery. According to the legend of the 17th century, the city had numerous leather shops and the skin was soaked with flower essences to remove an unpleasant odour, and thanks to Louis XIII and his beautiful wife Anna of Austria, a Spanish-born queen… she provided some Spanish and Arab secrets of perfumed skins. So perfumes came to us from the city of Grasse. You might want to visit Parfumerie Fragonard.
The whole city is covered in flowers; a local perfume factory acquaints visitors with its spirits. During our previous visit to Grasse several years ago, we walked several times through the local central square near the town hall to admire the views of the mountains from a huge cliff. It was blooming with floral aromas, the local fountain freshened the air with water. And only then I realized that the fountain was spraying perfumed water.
Sketch of our excursions perfume factory and olive store at Le Moulin D’Opio, Opio. Legendary Fragonard was the mayor of the city. The city has the Fragonard Museum is located at: 14 rue Jean Ossola, Hotel de Villeneuve, Grasse
Some interesting facts about Fragonard: he was the artist and pioneer of the Rococo style. There is a famous painting “The Swing” by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Fragonard was a distant relative of my beloved impressionist artist Bertha Morisot. We visited museum D’Orsay in Paris this year, Morisot’s personal exhibition in the museum. Stay tuned for more information on it in my future posts.
The next town we visited was Mougins, is a city of art galleries and artist’ workshops. On a small plaza, I saw a mysterious lady in a beautiful hat near the city’s legendary museum.
The city has a famous Mougins’ Museum of Classical Art; it’s a private museum and costs14 Euros (2019) but it’s worth it. Address: 32 Rue Commandeur, Mougins. The Mougins museum has the world’s largest private collection of antic helmets. I never would have thought that there was such a variety of helmets.
In the museum, the lighting was dark so my sketches reflect the overall impressions of the gloom. I like to observe museums’ visitors; it shows the general impression of direction of exhibits in museum. We visited the museum on Monday when there were no visitors so the whole museum was ours. I was surprised to see such a rich collection outside the Louvre or British Museums.
One of my artistic goals is to paint the combination of houses, people, café, streets, landscapes, food, Provencal ice creams: everything is in one bottle of flavour that brings together the image of a city or place.
On the way to the city, our tour operator told us about an interesting annual festival ‘International Gastronomy Festival of Mougins’, or ‘Les Étoiles de Mougins’. The festival used to be an event that brought lots of tourists and media attention to the town of Mougins. However, effective this year it was decided to hold the festival in other cities in the world and send Mougins’ Michelin chefs to the festival to demonstrate the culinary art of the city’s chefs. So, understandably, the residents of the city are disappointed and would like to return the tourists to their city. To get here, you can take a train/bus from Antibes or Nice. At the end of this post, I will provide instructions on how to get to this town.
Our next visit was a small place at Moulin d’Opio mill, with its olive grove and a small store. When you visit this place, you will immediately remember Van Gogh’s painting. Its owners are the fifth generation of this family; they were telling us how olive oil is produced for many centuries and we tested different varieties of olives, French oil, tapenade on toast and drinks.
I would never have thought that I would try olive oil on its own. It was an interesting experiment.
Stroll through the medieval streets and admire the stone façades and fragrant flowers of some of the prettiest settlements in France.
One of local legends says that the English Queen Victoria was driving through on a donkey with her staff, and after this uneasy journey, she ordered to build a road to this town so that everyone could see the beauties of this place. And it was completed, so now you can enjoy them too. The main square of the town is named after the Queen.
As you walk around town, you will notice violets everywhere: painted on the asphalt in the ice cream… Violet ice cream was a pleasant discovery for me, it’s worth coming to this mountainous town just for its sake!
The next stop was Mountain waterfalls that called Cascades du Saut du Loup. From French language saut du loup means the mouth of wolf.
I don’t know what kind of mouth of a wolf it is; I personally saw a huge muzzle of an orang-utan in the rocks.
The highest town of our trip was Gordon and its magnificent castle perched 750 meters above sea level on rocks.
A little comment regarding the tour. Part of our goal for this trip was to see Provencal lavender fields but our tour operator, driver and a cheerful guide in one, dashingly driving a car along the mountain spiral roads of Provence, said that there was a mistake and it would take another hour to get to the lavender fields from this town. There are 2 similar cities- Gourdon and Gordes, there are 2 different places and tour company made an error … well we have a reason to come back! It was our joke throughout this long day; we were looking for lavender bushes or small patches of planted lavender saying “Well here’s lavender! “and laughing.
The locals told us that in previous years the lavender fields really bloomed around the town, but one year it was a cold winter and lavender bushes could not survive. And after that, they were not planted again, what a pity!
Serpentine mountain road that leads to mountain towns Gourdon and Tourrettes-sur-Loup, the medieval town…and in the sky we saw a cloud “goose”.
And then on another direction, the second trip was a separate one-day independent trip from Antibes to Cannes and Le Cannet.
Provence is famous for its art museums in every small town or village. Le Cannet is a small suburb of Cannes. In North America this suburb would be part of a big city, for example GreaterToronto or GreaterVancouver.
The Central Train Station in Cannes is located in the heart of the city. To get there, take the bus # Bus Palm’Express n°1 and within 10 minutes, you will reach Le Cannet’s famous museum Bonnard. Address: 16 boulevard Sadi Carnot, 06110 Le Cannet
House-museum artist Bonnard. Bonnard lived in Le Cannetfor25 years and created his Provencal paintings, saturated with sunlight, light and air. We were waiting for an exhibition that just opened during our vacation in Antibes. The temporary exhibition of collection Nahmad (De L’Impressionisme À Bonnard et Picasso) represented the Impressionist artists and organically blended into the permanent collection of Bonnard museum.
The city Cannes we visited on our way back to Antibes.
We were planning to visit Cannes’ famous Red Carpet
in my picture the celebrities’ prints go to the sky like a road up
The topography of the area is a mountainous terrain and if you are not a fan of renting car in a foreign country, there are a few alternatives to driving.
The first option is the train. They are convenient, quick, comfortable, inexpensive, and all trains have an efficient schedules with small gaps in between 2 trains. For example, from Nice to Grasse the train’s cost was 10 Euros (2019). However, this option has a disadvantage that you rarely can get to see small towns by trains.
The second option is the bus. The advantage of buses is that their routes are reaching even the smallest mountain towns, and this is the cheapest option. The inconvenience is that sometimes you have to take a transfer between interregional buses and local city’s buses and most importantly, the bus trip will be longer than any train.
The third option is a combination of the first two OR a travel company. If your goal is visiting several small mountain towns within 1-2 days then local or international tour operators might be a good alternative for you. At the end of this post a link to Viator as an example of a tour.
Tools used for my painting Watercolour used Charvin and Van Gogh brands, Derwent watercolour pencils and Faber Castell artist pens. Paper Strathmore Watercolour and Mixed Media albums, 15×20 cm (6×8 in.)
Bon voyage! Until the next travel:)
All paintings belong to the author. No image is to be copied without permission.
You can visit my personal website pages here and find out more about the artwork I am offering in oil and watercolor paintings; purchase canvas prints, framed prints, and more artwork.
How to get from Antibes to Le Mougins. Take Train to Cannes, then bus to Mougins. Lines 25-27. Cannes – Ranguin <> Gare Routière des Messugues <> Collège Eganaude – Sophia Antipolis, par Mougins
How to get from Antibes to Le Cannet . Take train Antibes to Cannes, bus #1 and 4(?), 15 min =10 stops to Musee Bonnard, Bus Palm’Express n°1, arrêt « Mairie du Cannet
Town of Grasse. http://www.ville-grasse.fr/
Moulin d’Opio http://www.moulin-dopio.com/olives/en/. Address 2, route de Châteauneuf, OPIO
Mougins museum https://mouginsmusee.com/en
Le Cannet museum http://www.museebonnard.fr/