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Mons and surroundings

On the border of the Var and the Alpes-Maritimes, situated between the Gorges of the Siagnole and the Siagne, Mons lies just 12kms south of the Route Napoleon (Napoleon's crossing into Italy) and some 100kms west of the spectacular Gorges du Verdon, Europe's answer to the Grand Canyon.

The long history of Mons is still evident today. The Romans built an aqueduct from Mons to carry water to Frejus and the spot where they cut into the rocks to maintain the natural incline exists still, just a few kilometers away. (Rochetaillee.)

Stone dominates in this relatively unknown part of Provence. The houses are built on rock foundations (still visible in Number One in the ground floor apartment), the walls are thick stone, the windows have stone surrounds.
There was never much to cultivate on this stony land which mostly fed flocks of sheep. The Coat of Arms of Mons shows a sheep on the mountainside and, still today from time to time, a shepherd will be seen with his flock by the roadside.

The people of Mons were as flinty as the surrounding countryside and were called “The Chinese of Provence”, in the sense of parsimony and strong-headedness. Their local dialect, the “figoun”, was incomprehensible just a few kilometers away.

The countryside is nonetheless beautiful and the atmosphere of the village is reserved and slightly introspective, as befits a place pretty much removed from the bustle of modern life. Even so, Mons is reached in just over an hour from Nice airport.

From here there is much to explore. The southern Alps are about 100kms to the north with the first, beautiful pass of the Col d'Allos leading down to Barcelonnette, the Alpine town with a strong Mexican heritage, and gateway to other majestic mountain passes.

Even closer is the nature reserve in the Parc of the Mercantour with its stunning, mediaeval fortress village of Entrevaux.

50 kms to the South, clearly visible from Mons, are the sea-side towns of Cannes and Frejus. Boats leave regularly from Cannes to St. Tropez and other coastal destinations. Aix-en-Provence lies 150kms to the west and in between are scores of vineyards, fields of lavender and groves of olive trees.

Grasse, the perfume capital of France, is 30kms to the east, across some spectacular countryside.

Want a cycling holiday? Mons is a wonderful centre for quiet roads, demanding climbs and splendid plateaus.

How about a golfing holiday? The two new golf courses, just 20 minutes drive away, are, by all accounts, sensational.

Fancy a walk? Follow the paths into the hills where wild boar, deer and badger will have preceded you.

Need time to think? Even in the high season you can sit quietly under the plane tree outside the front door and watch the village go by or chat to Isabelle as she lays the tables for lunch at next-door restaurant, Le Petit Bonheur.

And there is food and wine of the highest quality, Michelin-rated, in Grasse, Montauroux, Seillans, Mandelieu, Cannes, and Mougins.

It is not surprising that the New York Times recently described Mons as "The only unspoiled village in Provence."

--pictures above:
• Mons
• Aqueduct Frejus
• Gorges du Verdon
• Fortress Entrevaux