Like many of the towns and cities in southern France, there is an old village up in the hills above Cagnes-sur-Mer called Haut-de-Cagnes. I have been looking forward to spending some time in the old town since I was notified I would be working in Cagnes in July. This past Saturday I met up with two of the Italian assistants, one of which works at the same lycée as me, and we explored Haut-de-Cagnes; on one of the windiest days of the year might I add.
There is a free shuttle that takes passengers to the Bourg Medieval from Centre Ville every fifteen minutes. Part of this trip involves driving through extremely narrow ‘streets’ with nothing but inches between the shuttle and the buildings lining the road.
We arrived around 12:30 which meant we had an hour and a half to walk the streets of the old village until the Château Musée Grimaldi reopened for the afternoon. Be aware that most museums close for lunch, usually from 12-1:30 or 2 each day. It’s best to plan your visits around this so you don’t wind up having an hour or two of wasted time with nothing to do.
Haut-de-Cagnes was as picturesque and quaint as the internet had lead me to believe. I and the other assistants working in Cagnes had been talking about visiting the medieval village since we arrived in September. Thankfully it did not disappoint. We even stumbled upon the oft-photographed home in the following picture. There was a display in the Château Musée Grimaldi dedicated to photographs and postcards of this very building.
We eventually came upon a church that stood empty with its doors wide open, welcoming us inside. All of the lights were off but the few lit candles and minimal light streaming through the stained glass windows was just enough to capture a few photos.
After walking the streets of Haut-de-Cagnes we decided to find a place to get un café while waiting the last short while for the museum to open. Lunchtime in the off-season meant the village was practically deserted, which of course meant a seat with a view for us.
We finally entered the Château Musée Grimaldi at 2pm. Thanks to my technically-still-valid Student ID (unexpired but not enrolled counts right?) I gained entrance for free. The way to get the best deal is to visit the Musée Renoir and Château Musée Grimaldi in the same day. With the lunch break it works out well to visit one in the morning and one in the afternoon. If you purchase a ticket for entry to one museum, it will be valid at the other during the same day. Unfortunately for us, due to the heavy winds, the rooftop was closed.
I particularly enjoyed two of the displays: Le Musée de l’Olivier and La Donation Solidor. First, Le Musée de l’Olivier. Anyone who knows me knows that I am olive oil obsessed. I don’t think the amount of olive oil I consume is healthy. I use it for everything. The maps and photos of olive tree groves and olive oil presses fascinated me. There are several rooms in the castle dedicated to the history and traditions of olives and olive oil in the Mediterranean.
Next is the Grimaldi collection of paintings of Suzy Solidor, a famous cabaret singer. Solidor donated the collection of 40 portraits to the museum in 1973. It was interesting to see so many different styles of paintings, created by various artists, all depicting the same person. My personal favorite is pictured below (on top).
P.S. As I write this I am sitting in a tiny café called Emilie’s Cookies. The cookies and the coffee are as delicious as I was told. The cozy atmosphere is much needed on the first truly chilly day since I’ve been in France. I’m lucky I found a seat. I recommend Emilie’s Cookies to anyone visiting Nice. There are two locations in Nice, both just a few blocks from the Opéra – Vieille Ville tram stop. On my walk here from the tram I passed a man carrying an armful of shopping bags…full of Christmas gifts. No Thanksgiving means that Christmas starts early in France. Stores have been advertising holiday sales and setting up Christmas displays for weeks. The weather today is starting to put me in the holiday spirit.