“Pardonnez-moi, Monsieur? What do you mean, ‘Complet’? It’s taken us an hour to find the bus stop and another 45 minutes to wait for your bus to come along and now you’re saying you’re full?
How are we supposed to get to Saint-Paul if every bloody bus…Ok, d’accord, Monsieur, you only drive the damn thing. Nice beard, by the way.”
We know there often isn’t a lot of public transport into walled mediaeval villages perched on Provencal hilltops. But Saint-Paul-de-Vence isn’t just any mediaeval village. It’s now a tourist mecca, thanks to the artists, past and present, who have lived and worked there. A lot of us want to see it.
After further searching, a visit to the Office de Tourisme, Cagnes-sur-Mer, lunch and a short wait, we found bus 400. For one euro (are there cheaper buses anywhere in Europe?) it took us half an hour inland.
Saint Paul de Vence was made famous by residents Marc Chagall and James Baldwin, Simone Signoret and Yves Montand, who legend has it was a whiz at petanque in the town. Now it draws tourists by the busload to clog its narrow streets and browse its ateliers and souvenir shops.
In a way, Saint Paul serves as an elaborate gift shop for one fabulous museum just out of town. We particularly wanted to visit the Fondation Maeght (we were pleased that even our French friends didn’t know how to pronounce ‘Maeght’), Marguerite and Aime Maeght’s wonderful private collection of paintings and sculpture by Miro, Leger, Bonnard, Gloria Friedmann and others, set in beautiful forest on a hillside.
But first to wander through Saint Paul itself…
…after which, with rain threatening, we tramped about a kilometre up the hill to Fondation Maeght. Few others took the trouble. The museum was almost empty – everybody else’s loss and our gain.
Entry to Fondation Maeght costs EUR15, plus EUR5 for photographic rights. I made sure I got my money’s worth.
The bus 400 arrived two minutes after we found the bus stop and took us all the way into Nice (about an hour away) for a euro.