Between the towns of Valbonne and Biot lies the Sophia Antipolis technology park, the French Riviera‘s answer to California’s Silicon Valley, which employs many expatriates. As a result both these towns and (others nearby such as Mougins and Opio) tend to have a large proportion of foreigners all the year round. This can make things easier for visitors who are nervous about their (lack of) French. Both Biot and Valbonne are extremely pleasant towns and nice to stroll through with stops of coffee or food – particularly on days when the coast is full of frantic sunseekers.
Biot is famous for its pottery and glass-blowing, something that has been done in Biot for hundreds of years. The walled town itself, like so many others, is full of quaint streets and interesting nooks. For reasons which are unclear Biot seems to have cats the way most towns have mice, they are everywhere and make for nice pictures.
Valbonne is a curiosity in that the old town is laid out on a rectangular grid around the main square. It was founded as part of an abbey and the church, at the bottom of the town, is the original abbey church.
Sophia Antipolis is not really anything special to visit although those familiar with Silicon Valley may find its pretensions to be the French equivalent rather amusing. However it is undoubtedly a far prettier place to work than the average anonymous Santa Clara office block. Sophia is built in and around an extremely pleasant series of nature parks which have many well marked hiking trails.
By Car From the A8 exit for Antibes (junction 44) go inland (away from the Carrefour Hypermarket) and follow signs as appropriate. Due to some fairly steep winding valleys roads in this area do not go straight. There is no really direct way to go here so just enjoy the bends.
Public Transport there are buses from Antibes and Cannes as well as frequent buses to/from Nice Airport.
Both Biot and Valbonne have extensive free parking near their respective town centres which are closed to traffic. You are well advised to use this parking rather than attempt to park on the streets. The hiking trails in Sophia all have parking places at the start of the trails.
- The Verrerie de Biot – glassmaker
- The ceramic museum
- The old town – near Christmas this has very pleasant illuminations at night
- The Fernand Léger museum – full of works by this artist and magnificent ceramic facade
- Old Town
Near the coast past the Fernand Léger museum – but still in Biot – is the Marineland amusement park. Wet splashy fun!
As mentioned above do hike in the Park Departmental de la Brague. The trails down by the River Brague are particularly nice in summer as they remain cool and shaded at all times. Near the A8 the park contains the remains of the Roman aqueduct that fed Antibes. This is completely unmarked and unsigned, you just stumble across if it you are lucky.
Ceramics and glassware from Biot. Vabonne has an antiques fair most weekends. Although much of what is on offer is trash, good stuff can be found too. Since Valbonne is so full of Expats the Champion supermarket between Valbonne and Biot has English speaking staff and a number of English and American foods that are hard to get elsewhere in France. If you come over with a craving Marmite or Peanut butter then this is where you can satisfy it.
- Out from the centre of Valbonne, the Blue Lavande restaurant, on the D3/D103 corner between Sophia and Valbonne but technically in Mouans Sartoux – does very pleasant local cuisine.
- La Pierre A Four, 15, Route de Valbonne 06410 BIOT 04 93 65 60 00, in Biot. One of the best restaurants in the area, it has wonderful food and homemade cheeses served just before your desert.
- Le Bistro de Valbonne, 11, Rue de la Fontaine F-06560 Valbonne +33(0) 4 93 12 05 59 Actually not really a bistro but a small restaurant in the old village. Offers high-quality local cuisine. You can sit outdoors (except in winter)
Do at least have a drink in the Valbonne square. Its a great place to sit, nurse a drink and watch the world go by. The Inn is run by expats but all the restaurants are used to English.