On a sunny Tuesday morning in April I found myself getting quite lost in the maze of narrow streets and lanes in the stunning, and slightly quirky, hilltop town of Biot.
The 15 or so minute journey by local bus from the centre of Antibes to the hilltop village of Biot makes Biot one of the easiest towns to visit if you happen to be staying in Antibes. If you are coming from further afield then the SNCF train that journies along the coast stops at the central bus station just outside Port Vauban (Antibes) so that you can make the quick transition to the local Envibus service.
With the sun high in the sky, I decided to spare myself the rather steep climb up into the village and waited until the bus reached the top of the town before I got off. Many of my fellow travellers I noticed got off at the bottom of the town so that they could take the ancient steps up and snake through the narrow lanes to reach their destination. Whichever you choose you will not be disappointed...although maybe a little out of breath with the latter route.
As the weekly morning market was in full swing I began my day with a coffee and a pain au raisin at one of the many cafes that line the main street through Biot. With market stalls on either side, selling a variety of fresh fruit and veg, as well as clothes, jewellery, Provencal herbs and oils and, of course, a wonderful selection of Biot glassware. Amongst other arts and crafts, the town is known for its 'bubble glass' and the art of glass blowing. Not only can you buy the pretty pieces of glassware but you can also try your hand at blowing it yourself...or just watch the professionals at work!
There are plenty of signs to direct you around this little town but to be honest part of the charm is being able to loose yourself in the streets and explore the narrower lanes lined with flowers and clay pots. With a cat on every corner, there are so many photo opportunities that you feel yourself having to do a second lap just to make sure you haven't missed anything. I went looking for a couple of specific houses that I had seen in photos of Biot and was happy to find them and get those 'special' pictures that I was looking for. There are also a few view points dotted around the exterior of the town where you can glimpse the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean or the slate and orange rooftops of the houses that surround it.
You will find several examples of rather garish modern art as you travel around Biot, not quite to my taste, but I can certainly appreciate the contrast with the medieval style buildings and enjoy the jolting compositions.
Although not very visible from the outside the central 15th-century Eglise de Biot (church) is surprisingly large inside and offers some welcome respite in the midday heat. Calm, cooling and filled to the brim with wonderful works of art you can also see some examples of the original frescos on the walls. There is a rather good guide that you pick up from the tourist office that tells you more about the history of the town and of the church. Worth getting to fully appreciate the amazing art within these walls.
Next stop was lunch and I was spoiled for choice. One thing, one of the many things... that Biot does well is cafes and restaurants. Home to the Michelin-starred Les Terraillers restaurant and the lovely setting of Le Jardin du Mas restaurant, if you are looking for gourmet food then you are in luck. The Creperie du Vieux Village is another popular stop, serving up delicious Provencal style crepes and more cafe-style fare. As it was such a beautiful day I decided to grab a quick sandwich and to sit at one of the viewpoints that looked out over the coastline, making the most of the high vantage point.
Leaving the medieval village behind I descended the steep steps that led down to the lower reaches of the town of Biot and down towards La Verrerie de Biot, the hand-made glass factory. Watching these artists at work in the blinding heat of their furnaces is quite an experience and they certainly make it look easy. If you've ever tried glass blowing, you'll know that this is not the case!
A little further along the road and you can reach the Musee Nationale de Fernand Leger, a museum entirely dedicated to the life and works of this incredible artist. If you enjoy the art of the Cote d'Azur masters such as Chagall, Picasso and Signac then Leger is yet another treat for you. The audioguide here is available in seven languages and gives you an insightful commentary on the life and loves of this artist, and how he ended up living in a farmhouse near this town of Biot.
Jumping on the bus once more, paying my €1 fare, we travelled back along the road towards the sea and on to Antibes. You have the option to take a trip into Marineland as the bus passes right by the entrance, allowing you to enjoy some of the best sights and attractions of the region without needing your own vehicle.
A day trip to Biot should definitely make your holiday bucket list if you are staying in Provence. Easy to access from the train and central bus station of Antibes, it is one of the many glorious hilltop villages that are scattered along the Cote d'Azur. With museums, galleries, shops and Marineland Waterpark on its doorstep, it offers the perfect day out for all the family.