The perfect relaxed informal place to enjoy an inexpensive meal in a perfect unhurried atmosphere, surrounded by real people. No coachloads of tourists, just a human scale.
There are four or five restaurants/ pizzerias here, but the Grimaldi is consistently the one that is full.
The cooking here is outstanding. While we were taking a leisurely Sunday lunch, the chef , who had finished his labours at around 3 o'clock , walked out through the restaurant - and was greeted by spontaneous applause from the diners. No tourist fast food this, each meal cooked individually and carefully from quality ingredients, and appreciated by those in the know who come to lunch here.
Update July 2009
This restaurant has gone through a change of hands, It was closed briefly. It had a real following, deservedly so, I can only hope they haven't made a mess of it. Its such a fickle business.
Thirties Parisien cabaret singer Suzy Solidor had the idea of having all her bohemian artist friends paint her portrait. The Chateau houses over forty of the hundred and fifty paintings of this final collection, and the effect of totally uniquely intriguing.
The same figure and face is captured by totally different artists. This lady got around!. The Lempicka has glossy cubist forms, the Cocteau signature economical black outlines.
The subject is the same. The theory that art eschews photographic rendering but somehow captures essence is challenged. What is revealed is the idioscyncracy of artistic vision, the triumph of style over substance.
For the three euro entry ticket to the Chateau, you feel you have been undercharged
Here a house in Haut-de-Cagnes proudly displys its age - 1315.
It is difficult to imagine life 700 hundred years ago, its brutality and cruelty, its community , yet before you is this legacy.
Fifty years before Dick Whittington became Mayor of London, when William Tell not yet set to music led the Swiss to rise against Austria, they were building fairy tale houses into the rock of Haut de Cagne.
Passing through Cros-de--Cagnes, Cagnes-Ville, or Cagnes-sur-Mer you will catch a fleeting glimpse on the skyline of the rising battlements of the Chateau Grimaldi, crowning the medieval bourg of Haut-de-Cagnes.
If you make the effort, you will find in Haut-de-Cagne the most wonderful unspoilt fortified medieval village, mercifully preserved from the mass tourism that submerges St Paul or Eze. Its winding twisting alleys and densely packed bijou terraced houses are beautifully preserved by their priviledged contemporary occupants.
The walk from Cros-de-Cagnes is a fierce upward climb. So the Bourg thoughtfully provides a Navette Gratuite - a free 12 seater minibus service four times an hour - that will take you the two kilometres from the Cagnes "Gare Routiere" up to Haut-de-Cagnes in ten minutes flat. The journey is thrills and spills itself as many of the narrow lanes into the town allow only inches either side for the coach.
Once offloaded at the Chateau Grimaldi, your exploration begins.
Having had the benefit of the Navette Gratuit shuttle uphill, there's no excuse for a leisurely stroll back through the village downhill. The force of gravity is on your side. There are marvelous tiny restaurants which look like they are built into peoples own homes and which never seem to be open. Beautiful view out to sea as you make your way down.
Sums it up really.
The villa name captures the official non-existence of the Haut-de-Cagnes and its treasures. Which is fine by me.
Suffice it to say the owners of Number 32 enjoy a magnificent location half way back down towards Cagnes ville.
You can't imagine a contemporary architect drawing plans to create this. Its another time and place. No building regulations, no urban plot ratios, no investment return profiles. just the result of human interaction with craft skills. Somewhere the modern urban planner left out the "beauty", things with cost but without function.
Much restored, the Chateau boasts beautiful interior arches and vaulting, with an ascent that houses many rooms full of contemporary art.
In the basement are other artifacts of medieval times, like gigantic olive presses carved out of hardwood, and stone storage jars for the precious juice of the olive.
The choice of location by the Grimaldi's for their fortification is immediately understood once climbing the Chateau steps to the viewing tower on top. Commanding uninterupted views over the Var valley as far back as the mountains, and seaward from Nice to Cap d'Antibes, a 360 degree panorama assaults the senses. It is something unusual to be able to see in every direction at once.
Marvelous square at the entrance to Chateau Grimaldi. One adventurous visitor scuttles by. Where are the coaches? There are none.
Not for Cagnes the rich dark Venetian Red walls and Terracota hues of italienate France - more the gentle pinks that offset wrought iron balconies decked out by proud owners in rich floral displays .
Squeezed within the ramparts are homes worthy of Gandalf The Hobbit.
Tiny doorways and eccentric windows, the very opposite of modern factory symetry and standardisation