Valbonne

This fiercely Provençal hill town has been adopted by the British and a smorgasbord of other nationalities, who work either at the nearby technology park Sophia-Antipolis (France's Silicon Valley) or commute to, say, London or Geneva during the workweek, thanks to low-cost travel from easyJet. Valbonne exudes a peculiar kind of mixed-country charm, with a plethora of tasteful restorations and restaurants (including Moroccan, Indian, and sushi). Its principal cachet is the novel layout of the Old Town, designed in a grid system in the 16th century by the monks of Lérins. A checkerboard of ruler-straight ruelles (little streets) lies within a sturdy rampart of wraparound houses; at the center, a grand place is framed by Renaissance arcades and shady elms, perfect for people-watching at one of the cafés. At the top of the village, follow your nose to Patisserie Lenoir and indulge in some baked chocolatey goodness; at the bottom of the village is the 13th-century Abbaye de Valbonne. Most weekends the village hosts a festival of some type (the first Sunday of the month there's an antiques fair), and despite the not-completely French environment, there's something quite captivating about this village.

You'll find upgraded versions of typical gifts to take home at the Friday Provençal market, one of the best in the region, as is the Maison de la Presse Libris newsstand, beside the pharmacy, with its outstanding selection of international press. Memorie de Famille (E18 rue Alexis Julien) has fabulous and affordable housewares that they decoratively wrap for free, while the English Reading Centre, steps from here, is run by an American and could give Amazon a run for its money.

A few kilometers west of Valbonne is "La Pitchoune," Julia Child's former Provençal home in Plascassier. For more than 20 years American Kathie Alex has run "Cooking with Friends in France" using Julia's kitchen very much as it was.

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