On our last day in Nice, we had a private all-day tour with our guide, Franck Balbi, who took us out into the countryside. The day was completely customizable and we told Franck that we wanted to see a picturesque village and to do some wine tastings to try the local wines. He picked us up from our hotel at 9am and we had a nice big mini-van all to ourselves.
Our first stop was about 35-40 minutes away at a small stone village perched on a hill called St. Paul de Vence. This beautiful little village is known for a number of artists that lived here, including Matisse and writer James Baldwin. As we got there fairly early in the day it wasn’t too crowded so we walked through the village, visited the medieval church and walked the ramparts for some incredible views of the Provencal countryside. I loved the old stone fountain in the middle of the village.
Following our visit to St. Paul de Vence, we headed further west into Provence and stopped at the village of Draguinens. Most people are familiar with the WWII cemeteries at Normandy but there is also one other American cemetery in France outside of Normandy and it’s located here. This is the Rhone American Cemetery and approximately 850 American soldiers from WWII are buried here. These were soldiers that were killed during the southern invasion of France. The D-Day beaches get all the attention but Operation Dragoon was the Allied invasion from the South that moved up the Rhone Valley to meet with the guys coming from Normandy and the D-Day beaches. It was really quite a moving experience. There was an incredibly nice woman that gave us a tour and explained the invasion and the battle plan and maps and told us several stories about some of the particular people buried here. This was an unexpected stop for us but I’m so glad that Franck brought us here.
We stopped into the nearby village and had a lovely lunch on the town square and then Franck took us into the countryside for some wine tastings at some wineries. Thsi entire area is known for one wine – rose! We stopped at Chateau Esclans, which is known for making Whispering Angel wine. We sampled two roses, a white and a red. Of course, the rose wines stole the show. Following that we went to Chateau St. Roselines, which had a beautiful facility and a 12th century church and monastery on the property. We ended up buying a bottle of white and rose here to take back to Antibes with us.
Following our wine tastings, we headed back to Nice. I was pretty wiped out by the end of this day and ended up napping in the car on the drive back (I’m sure the wine helped). Franck dropped us off right at our hotel door step and he was such a helpful and informative guide. My virtuoso travel agent set up this private day tour and, as usual, it was exactly what we wanted! My husband and I agreed that we would love to come back to Provence and head further into the Rhone Valley and the Luberon area via rental car to experience more of what it has to offer and to see the lavender fields when they are blooming.