Alpes-Maritimes (06560) Population: 9,514 Altitude: 200 m
The village of Valbonne sits in the center of a vast residential area spread through the surrounding woods. This area outside the village includes luxury villas, housing estates for the nearby Sophia Antipolis high-tech park and homes of the old-time generations of Valbonnais. Market day Fri, Tue.
The old village, which has a large Anglophone population, has retained much of its 16th-century character, though mixed with an active town atmosphere. In contrast to the twisty little streets in the hundreds of other medieval villages of Beyond, Valbonne village is laid out in neat, symmetrical rectangles planned by the Abbot of Lerins, following the layout of Roman cities.
In the center of the village is the very lovely, 16th-century Place des Arcades. This central square is surrounded on all four sides by picturesque arcades, café terraces and little shops. The arcade at the "Hotel Les Armoiries" is engraved with a stone as "1628". Unfortunately, and unnecessarily, the square is also a parking lot for about 10 cars; not enough to be useful, but enough to spoil the view and the character of the square.
Dispersed through the little streets are more shops and a few, well-respected restaurants here and there. Our favorite is the Cadran Solaire on the rue Eugène Giraud (tel: (33) 493 12 13 30). For lunch or Sunday brunch try the Comptoir du Sud on rue Gambetta, at the edge of the old town.
At the bottom of the village, across the street below the rectangle of the center, is the 12th-century Eglise Saint Blaise, the attached Chalaisien Abbey (or "Ancien Couvent Chalaisien"), the Moulin des Moines (now a restaurant), and a very ancient-looking carved-stone monument. The Couvent Abbey is now being restored (June 1996), and is looking very smart.
Beside the village to the west, across the street, is a new, little shopping complex and a parking lot. It has at least one restaurant, newspaper shop, food and produce shops, and the post office is at the far end of the parking lot.
History of Valbonne
First record, 1200: Monasterium Vallisbone (Monastery of the "Bonne" Valley).
Prehistoric: There are numerous vestiges of prehistoric habitation.
Gallo-Roman: A Roman aqueduct is at Clausonnes, near the autoroute (now, not then) southeast of Sophia Antipolis.
Medieval: On the day of Saint Blaise, 3 Feb 1199, the Bishop of Antibes signed a charter allowing the Order of Chalais monks to build an abbey in the Valis Bona. By 1346 the Chalais order was gone, and the abbey was attached to the Abbey of Lerins. The monks of Lérin at the Abbey Chalaisien first granted an Act of Abode to allow settlement in 1519, and created the village in ints present form.
Market day: Fri, Tue. Fri market at Place des Arcades.
Brocante: 1st Sun
Jan (Last weekend) - Fete de la St Blaise, grape festival and produits du terroir - Carnaval, floats, folklorique
Mar - Fete des Jardins - Plants and gardens festival
Aug (Mid) - Fete Patronale
• GPS: 43.640815, 7.008553
There's no real hiking nearby, and private residences and golf courses (and the lack of clearly marked trails) make even good walks difficult.
• Sentier de la Brague -- False Trail
The path marked "Sentier de la Brague" by the road behind the church, goes down behind an abandoned building to the river, where it is again marked by a good sign. There's no clear distinction, however, between the public path and the farmer's private paths. We solved the riddle when we discovered a path with the same name at the nearby village of Biot. We hiked from Biot to Valbonne to see where the path would come out, and found ourselves by the cemetery. The section along the river approaching the church below Valbonne must have been fenced off by the "nouveau riche" who bought that fine land.
• Sentier de la Brague
This lovely trail follows the river Brague all the way between Valbonne and Biot, and is mostly in heavy shade through the woods -- excellent for a hot summer's day. The path is marked as a 3h10 hike from one end to the other, but that time is for a very leisurely walk.
To find the start, walk up the road that circles below the village past the church. Where the road curves up to the east past the cemetery, a small road (closed to cars) turns down to the right, with a "Sentier de la Brague" sign at the start of the road.
The woods are lovely, the river sounds fresh and nice, and the good path is easy to follow without a map. There's only one spot along the river where detergent flows in, with accompanying suds and smell; most of the length of the river is fairly clean and lovely, with lots of fish visible. (Spring 1997: the detergent, flowing from a side stream out of Sophia Antipolis, is worse, polluting the lower half of the river.)
Le Musée du Patrimoine
"Le Vieux Valbonne" (Was called the Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires)
Location: In the Couvent Chalaisien, beside the church at the bottom of the village
Open: Tue-Sun. Oct-May 14h-18h; June-Sept 15h-19h
Entry: 2 €; under 12 free
Tel: 0493 129 654
Guided visits of the abbey by rendez vous: tel 0493 129 654 (during open hours)