a trip to the verrerie de biot (glass factory/museum of biot) is worth the 5 euro guided tour and peak into the lives of glass artisans, and the process of glass making.
dogs are allowed entrance for free.
classes to make your own glassworks are offered from time to time so please contact them if you're interested, and plan a bit ahead.
This hilltop town always attracted artists and artisans. As far back as Roman times, Biot was a Potters' Village. In the 15th century, it was decimated by the plague and was completely repopulated by 48 families from Genoa. As a result, Biot then continued to flourish thanks to trade with the Genoese. Towards the end of the 19th century, clay pots used for transporting foods were gradually falling into disuse.
It was not until the middle of the 20th century that Biot resumed its expansion, with the development of glassworks and decorative pottery. Its glassware typically a clear or colored transparent glass with little bubbles. Yes, you can buy its amazing bubble-flecked products at several local stores. One of the most popular is Verrerie de Biot at 5 Chemin Combes. This Glass Factory / History Museum of Biot is worth the €5 guided tour and allows you to peak into the lives of glass artisans, and the process of glass making.
The main church in Biot, Eglise Sainte Marie-Madeleine dates from the late 15th century. It was built over the ruins of a 12th century Romanesque church, which had been destroyed a century earlier, while the site itself is believed to have held a Roman temple during Roman times. The church is located on Place de l'Eglise, a small hidden square accessible from Place des Arcades via an arched passage. Above the side entrance of the church is an inscription bearing the name of the architect, Tadeus Niger (see attached photo).
Place des Arcades is a beautiful square that owes its name to the ancient arcades of the surrounding buildings. Most of them date from the 13th and 14th centuries, but some of the arches are thought to be older belonging to the castrum that once existed in Biot. In fact, place des Arcades was the centre of this castrum. When I visited Biot in July 2008, a long table was prepared for some feast later that evening. It was unclear what the celebration was for, but it looked as though it was a fun local tradition.
Medieval villages are a bit short on gardens - that is, mostly, they don't have any. So much the nicer that outside houses separated by narrow lanes residents put out plants in pots and windowboxes in thick profusion. Watered daily, they reach up for the little sun that that passes overhead briefly between rooftops.
You cant do this in big cities. I had a beautiful big bay tree in a roman decorated pot outside my front door in London. It was beautiful and lasted nearly six months before someone stole it. Thats what big cities do to people - the anonimity grants some people the opportunity to improve their lot at your expense with little risk of consequence. Imagine in Biot if one morning you found your bay tree sitting outside the front door of Madame Lafarge opposite. "Knock knock! Madame!"
As a Catholic country in Europe, many French churches feature alcoves with nativity scenes like this. Its a strange mishmash of biblical context and French village folklore and tradition. Costumes anachronistic without irony. Local peasants, farm animals, and the baby Jesus. The little figurines are known as "santons" - "little saint" and are native to Provence
Wiki tells me "a traditional Provençal crèche has 55 individual figures representing various characters from Provençal village life such as the scissors grinder, the fishwife, the blind man, and the chestnut seller. A maker of santons is a santonnier, and the creation of santons today is essentially a family craft, handed down from parents to children"
The main street in the centre of Biot, rue Saint Sébastien is lined with cafés, restaurants and numerous glass and pottery shops. Much of the artefacts sold in these shops are made in Biot itself, known for this sort of artwork. The street is extremely charming with the typically Mediterranean architecture on both sides. Except for residents, cars are not allowed to drive through rue St Sébastien or any other street in the old town.
The village still seems to be inhabited by locals, and although I am sure there a number of houses are second homes, there seemed to be a lot of families going about their daily routine. This included a group o pre school children who watched me while I did some watercolour sketches. Again, if a picture is worth a thousand words, here are a "few thousand words" about Biot, an absolutely delightful village.
My girl and I took a driving tour of Southern France and stopped in Biot to see the famous glass blowers, and were very happy we did! There are more than one places to see actual blowers, but this one had a very large cat, who did not seem to mind the heat coming off of the glowing ball of glass the artist was shaping right on the table next to him. Artists are extremely friendly and willing to talk to visitors when not actually making something. Definitely a recommended spot to stop on any tour of the area.
Like most Mediterranean villages in this part of Europe, Biot is perched on top of a hill. Although not as high as other towns, such as Saint Paul-de-Vence, the site is nonetheless quite dramatic. Such positioning often reflected the need for strong defences against foreign invasions in ancient times. The attached photos show the town's position on top of a hill.
What makes Biot different from other hilltop towns in the area is amazing Fernand Léger Museum (1km southwest of the town center towards the coast). You will not miss it – huge mural made by the artist, is easy recognizable from the distance. Famous artist made his first ceramics here in 1949.
In the beginning of his artistic career Fernand Léger (1881-1955) was a major figure in the development of cubism; later he concentrated more on urban and machine imagery. During the Second World War Léger lived in the U.S and taught at Yale University. His painting at this time consisted of compositions featuring mainly acrobats and cyclists.
After his return to France in 1945 his works reflected more prominently his political interest in the working classes.
The museum was built in 1957 on the initiative of his wife Nadia. It houses a unique collection of his works tracing the stages in Léger’s artistic career from 1905 to 1955.
Address: Chemin du Val de Pôme, Biot
Open year round, every day except Tuesday, 10AM – 12:30, 2 – 5:30PM. Admission €4 adults; €2.60 students.
Remember though that Biot is not on the coast. The Biot train station is on the main Cannes-Nice rail line, but it's on the coast 4 km from the village. Museum is 2 km from the station.
Every French medieval village must have a central square with an urn-shaped water fountain.
Biot is no exception.
In the background relaxing cafes to soak up the calm slow pace of village life.
Local artists works decorate the pretty village. I assume these two are works of artistic interpretation. That or the villagers of Biot have very large and unusual faces, and some have two heads.
The cathedral at Biot is deceptive from the outside. Its plain square exterior belies its spacious and richly decorated interior
Here's another glass artisan but in the old village of biot (not the factory).
My guess is one day he got a little too close to the heated glass and it burned all the hair off his legs.