rediscovering the côte d’azur

by Sharon Santoni

terrain de boules, valbonne

Although I’ve lived in Normandy and Paris for very many years, a part of my heart still resides on the Cote d’Azur.    The town of Nice is where I met my husband, and it was the first place I ever lived full time in France.     We had some good years in St Tropez too, all at that precious time of life, when we were young adults, starting out on what was obviously going to be a great adventure, but still without the responsibilities and ties of a house and children …. or even dogs.

archway in stone village of valbonne

Today, when we return South to see family, we are light years from those younger jet setting days; we aim to avoid the crowds, and we no longer need to be stalwarts of the local nightlife.    Today the coast holds other pleasures and we enjoy the company of good friends and look for quality over glitz.

cat in street with ivy covered houses

As we visit with friends this week I’ve enjoyed re-discovering the little town of Valbonne, and I thought that if any of you are coming this way, you may like to know my favourite addresses.

Valbonne is a smallish town, up on the hills behind Cannes.   I love  that the heart of the place is the old town, with its narrow streets, square paving stones and tall buildings with mismatched doors and windows.   It’s easy to while away a few hours wandering the streets, admiring the architecture and stopping for a coffee.


If you come at the weekend,  there is a brocante fair on the first Sunday of the month, it takes place on the Place des Arcades, which also happens to be my favourite spot for breakfast.   The staff at the Café des Arcades are charming and eager to please and I love to watch the town wake up as I enjoy a coffee and croissant.bread fresh from the oven at valbonne

baguettes fresh from the oven

Should I need to buy bread, then the Valbonnais or the Fournil d’Eugene is the place to go.  You could easily walk straight past, because it isn’t a conventional bakers, but simply a stand set up in the street in front of the door to the bakers

For pastries or divine chocolates then I stop off at Jean Jacques Lenoir, whose name is a byword for indulgence.   He has a little tea room, but if you don’t have time to stop then a selection of cakes or chocolates is beautifully wrapped to be enjoyed at  home .my-french-country-home-valbonne-cote-dazur2 my-french-country-home-valbonne-cote-dazur7

Just across the street from Jean Jacques is the wonderful home decor and antiques store of Jean Luc Charrier and Sara Giunta.  Both gifted interior architects and stylists.   They carry Astier de Villatte, as well as some other brands that blend seamlessly with antiques and textiles.


I could have spent hours in this store, and will certainly be back soon to purchase and be inspired.

interior of home decor store La Maison de Charrier


And finally as the day draws to a close, there are many addresses to choose from to eat or have a drink.    One of my favourites is the tiny italian restaurant, Little Italy, in a narrow lane .   Good food, great wines and friendly service.

little italy shop sign in valbonne

Voila!  I hope you like these suggestions for a lazy day wandering down the sun drenched streets of Valbonne.    The addresses are below.  Thank you for reading me!  And if you’d like to see more pictures of the south of France, then follow along on Instagram , HERE

street in old town of valbonne

Little Italy – 7, Rue De La Mairie 06560 Valbonne

La Maison de Charrier – 1 Fbg St Esprit, 06560 Valbonne

Patisserie Lenoir – 14 Bvd Carnot, Valbonne

Le Fournil d’Eugene – 16 rue de la Fontaine, Valbonne

Café des Arcades – Place des Arcades, Valbonne


Therese August 11, 2016 - 5:40 pm

Lovely…thank you for sharing.

Donna August 12, 2016 - 4:36 am

Dear Sharon,
Thank you so much for telling us about this lovely town and it’s beautiful shops! Would love to hear more about other favorite places you have been in France and the Cote D’azur …….ah…one day! Merci…..

Pat Catherall August 12, 2016 - 7:51 pm

I’m going to be in Paris with my daughter the first week in September. I’d like to know if you can recommend some smaller restaurants where we could enjoy the ambiance of Paris without the higher price and larger crowd. Thank you!

Jill Ladbrooke August 17, 2016 - 11:28 pm

Thanks for sharing Sharon. I have a small townhouse 30 mins from there so will go visit.

Cwirth August 11, 2016 - 6:01 pm

You have no idea how your focus on French towns tugs at the heart strings….sigh.. This was a lovely inspirational read and makes the heart wander.
Thank you for sharing.

Irene Peterson August 11, 2016 - 6:03 pm

A sigh of envy for the sight of France as I remember visiting a small town in the Dodonne. My friend’s daughter bought a castle to restore and Betty and I stayed in the darling chateau beside it. Keep your photos of travels coming.

Irene Peterson August 11, 2016 - 6:05 pm


How I adore the small towns of France. I stayed in the Dodonne in the south of France
years ago. My friend’s daughter purchased a castle to restore and Betty and I stayed in
the Chapel. It’s little market was a gem.

Kim August 11, 2016 - 6:21 pm

Beautiful and I will probably just have to live through you. I wish I could visit France again.

Taste of France August 11, 2016 - 6:25 pm

The light is so lovely in the south. Your photos really capture the spirit. France is an incredibly diverse country, but despite the differences in climate and architecture, the food is always fabulous.

Colleen Taylor August 11, 2016 - 6:26 pm

These are definitely keepers to be seen! Thank you for this, I so want to be there now. I’m salivating at all the delicious baked goods.

Jeanne Visser August 11, 2016 - 6:35 pm

Thank you Sharon, this has poured in through my eyes and fed me until I could feel I was there…

B.M. August 11, 2016 - 6:40 pm

What an absolutely charming place with so much to offer. It speaks to me and my needs at this moment.

Brenda Chambers August 11, 2016 - 6:45 pm

Beautiful. Thank you so much for this post. It took me to a beautiful place that I wish but know I will not be able to visit.

franki August 11, 2016 - 6:48 pm

This was just superb! Brought back such fond memories of Cannes…*sigh* franki

Darlene North August 11, 2016 - 6:50 pm

You thank us for reading you oh my Thank You for sharing with US your world, your life it’s a beautiful one !
Darlene. USA

Gina August 11, 2016 - 6:58 pm

Charming and interesting as ever. You help us to escape the mundane.
I feel I have been on holiday just hearing your stories and seeing your beautiful photos.
Look forward to the next read.

Anita August 11, 2016 - 6:58 pm

I’m always looking for our next place to visit in France. Leaning towards Bordeaux and returning to the Dordogne. Thanks for sharing the places you love.

Anita August 11, 2016 - 7:05 pm

BTW, we just returned from a delightful two-week stay in Louviers, renting Susan Hermann Loomis’s house. I think it was through your blog that I learned of Susan (Your ALMOST French friend??) Alors, I wish I could have met you while we were there.

Brijou August 11, 2016 - 7:08 pm

Valbonne is a lovely place. But if you have time enough, don’t miss Mouans Sartoux, near Valbonne . The old part of this little village is also lovely, not very known, but charming. And the “ice cream” is real “tuerie”.

Tina August 11, 2016 - 7:12 pm

Inspirational! Well done and thank you.

Linda August 11, 2016 - 7:13 pm

My first visit to France was as a 15 y.o. in 1970. For all the intervening years since then, it has been trips and daydreams, and even a 20 year career in the airline business …all in order to fill my heart; and it’s need to be in your part of the world. Your blog and pictures have blessed me more than you could possibly know. All I can say is thank you!

Martha Lander August 11, 2016 - 7:34 pm

Love this post! Seeing life outside of the big cities is most appealing. I would like to ask if you were fluent in speaking French before you moved to France or did you learn the language there? I so enjoy your posts!

Our French Oasis August 11, 2016 - 7:57 pm

I loved this tour around Valbonne. What I love most about France, how everywhere is so different, it’s nice to rediscover places too and see how they have changed over the years. Hope you have a wonderful tie in the south of France. Susan x

Pamela August 11, 2016 - 8:04 pm

Love this post about Valbonne. I m doing extensive research on living abroad
and it seems very doable, I have a question though, it looks like most city’s you don’t need to have a car which ok by me, so if at some point if one would wanted to venture outside of your local area are there places to rent a car or is taking a train an option?
Have a great day

Lynda Griffiths August 11, 2016 - 8:28 pm

Oh how wonderful!
It makes me want to drop everything and head south!
We are returning for the fifth time to our favourite house in the Dordogne – near Bergerac – later this year ,but I must admit we have a soft spot for Nice .It was where my husband and I holidayed when we were first married – like you – child and pet free .We would love to have a home there – perhaps in our retirement – who knows ?! But till then, I will indulge my self in a little day dreaming as I read your newsletters.
Thank you xx

Rosalie August 11, 2016 - 9:24 pm

As a young child I lived in Cannes for a time with my family, returned several times on extended visits as an adult. I can close my eyes and vividly picture the narrow streets, interesting old buildings, and wonderful shops in the surrounding smaller villages. The scent of the sea, and the fragrance of freshly baked bread are inbedded in my memory bank. Your photos bring back lovely memories.

Sandy Bloomer August 11, 2016 - 9:34 pm

The pictures are so lovely and what a charming community, thanks so much! Enjoy the lazy days of August

Vicky from Athens August 11, 2016 - 9:46 pm

What a treat for you to take us to that precious village! Wish I could’ve stayed!

Loreen August 11, 2016 - 9:54 pm

Thank you Sharon for taking the time to write this lovely post. And the pictures are such eye candy! I will have to pass on the croissant today and be happy with just a look or walk 6 miles. 🙂

Have a great day!

Judi August 11, 2016 - 10:05 pm

I’m aching to go! Small towns in France are just so fantastic, almost dream-like, only the pastries, bread, and wine are real, as you indulge and just keep your eyes roaming around on every square inch of the buildings, flowers, squares, and fountains! I’ve saved this post, thank you!

Janice August 11, 2016 - 11:23 pm

All those places look and sound so divine
You could say it’s the good life

Debra Sams August 11, 2016 - 11:23 pm

I truly enjoyed this post. This is an area I would love to visit. Thank you for sharing.

Sheila in SF August 11, 2016 - 11:40 pm

What a great town to visit. Thank you for the personsl tour…certainly a place to visit.

Splendid market August 12, 2016 - 2:54 am

Merci! I’ve been wanting to explore Valbonne, these are great recommendations, hopefully I can make it next trip. Enjoy my favorite part of the world!!

Mary August 12, 2016 - 4:39 am

Oh how wonderful it would be to spend a long time exploring here. So envious! Maybe some day!! Some day.

catherine Anderson August 12, 2016 - 9:17 am

was just in those super streets in June. was lucky enough to be staying near Grasse and drove through Valbonne on a Thursday – which is market day! visit all your spots recommended and loved them all!! thanks so much for the lovely blog!

Christine Hooker August 12, 2016 - 10:39 am

MJ & D & K…are you reading this? Sounds like heaven!
Sharon, how could you have known we were just speaking about a trip like this?
Thank you for the mention of so many wonder sounding destinations.
It was so great to be able to see you here in SoCal!
Bon Voyage, mon amie!

Darina August 12, 2016 - 4:36 pm

Lovely post! I love the villages in the South!

Marsha August 12, 2016 - 5:16 pm

Ahhhh, Sharon, so true…there is no where like this. My first experience was on my honeymoon 17 years ago, staying at the Carlton in Cannes in a beautiful room overlooking the sea. My husband took me to Moulin des Mougin, the multi-star restaurant, where we returned often over the years with friends. Just SO beautiful and the cuisine is beyond.
Lovely post, my dear. sending love…..

Laura August 13, 2016 - 12:31 am

Valbonne looks wonderful! A couple of summers ago, we went to France and spent a week in Paris and a week in Lorgues, in the Var. Easy access to the Cote d’Azur, lovely hill towns, and even the Gorge du Verdun. We absolutely loved it and want to return soon!

Gretchen August 13, 2016 - 1:37 am

I have a photo of my daughter petting a cat in the street of the charming Valbonne. It is one of my favorite places in France.

Merci for the lovely reminder and photos.

Anna Harrison August 13, 2016 - 5:35 am

Thank you Sharon, what a lovely town. Thanks for sharing.

Angela August 14, 2016 - 8:47 am

Hi Sharon,

We just arrived in Valbonne last night fresh from St Remy de Provence and St Tropez. We are staying in a beautifully stylish villa and after reading this post, I cannot wait to get out to the village and explore. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, it’s always appreciated. Are there any more of your wonderful videos on the horizon? Enjoy the remainder of your holiday. Are you still in Valbonne by chance?

Angel X

Susan Devere August 15, 2016 - 10:28 am

We are off to the Côte d’Azur next week and of course have visited Valbonne several times. Your photographs brought back many happy memories. On our first visit it was raining very heavily, but as happens in the south it soon stopped and the sun came out. If you haven’t been it’s worth a visit as Sharon’s photographs show.

Donna M. August 16, 2016 - 9:25 am

In addition to the brocante, Valbonne has a terrific vide grenier (flea market) every now and then. It’s studded with antiques and other vintage items, and the prices are often considerably lower than at the brocante. If you are interested and in the area, you can use Google to find out when they are happening. Donna M. (happily retired in Nice for the last 2 1/2 years!)

Sharron Zweig September 15, 2016 - 2:07 am

I just found this entry as I was catching up with my blogs after a full summer. I suspect that I was in Valbonne on my annual visit, even as you were posting it.
Like you, my son met his wife in Nice, while they both were at the university. She was a resident & he was there for a year of study. Many years later, after living in various far-flung places, they now own a home in Valbonne where my grandchildren get to spend their whole summers & I get to visit.
Valbonne is my idea of heaven. Not just the Valbonnais bread that never quite lasts through the walk home on market day, but the magical town. It is especially wonderful at night with the twinkling lights & wonderful bistros. And this year, though I missed the Grand Aioli, I did get to see an old fashioned family circus, as only the French can do it.
Not only does the village provide an endless treasure hunt, but the surrounding area offers many beautiful villages. One of my favourites is La Colle sur Loup, where Jacquilene Morabito has her shop & studio. We never miss a visit.
What a heavenly locale. Thank you for sharing it with your readers.

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barbara November 6, 2022 - 4:07 pm

Hi Sharon
Thanks for sharing these lovely pictures and recommendations!
I will be working in Sophia Antipolis and am looking for an appartment to move in. Where do you think is the best place to look for an appartment?


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