Valbonne is a really pretty small town, and a popular place to visit in the summer. The town centre is on a pedestrianised grid system which is unusual but effective. All the streets run north-south or east-west, forming a chequerboard pattern. It's easy to find your way around from the map to be found at the entrance to the grid area. The main square is where the majority of the restaurants and bars are and is a lovely place to stop and have a drink or lunch.
The lanes in the grid system have some interesting shops; there is the self-acclaimed 'Best chocolate shop in Europe' (go there and put their claim to the test!), and an English book shop, together with some lovely artisanale-type places. There is also a church over a 1000 years old, part of which is used as an exhibition area .
Valbonne is a town of two quite distinct parts. The old town with its grid system built on a site that goes back to the Bronze Age and which is now distinguishable by its 'Arcades', and the second part, Sophia Antipolis, a huge science park founded in the '70s and often referred to as the 'French Silicon Valley'. It is now is the location of some 1400 companies, including such diverse interests as Chanel's perfume laboratory and the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Maths.
In the old town, the houses are all narrow and high and, surprisingly, all identical; the ground floor was used as a barn, the first floor was the living space, the second floor for sleeping, and the top floor for storing supplies which would have been swung up by a pulley system, some of which can still be seen today. The front of the houses was set back a little allowing for the walkway to be covered, hence 'Les Arcades'.
The town's proximity to the Mediterranean, with Antibes and Juan les Pins only about 10 miles away, make it an attractive destination. Far enough away to escape some of the mayhem of the French coastal roads in the high season, but near enough to make for an easy trip to the beach.
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