Tourettes sur Loup: The Violet Village
The first records of the city are from 1024, when the city is listed as Castrum de Torretis. Later, from the sixteenth century until the French Revolution destroyed the existing order, the town was called Tourrettes-lès-Vence. In 1982, a bureaucratic error somewhere lost an r, which left the village Tourettes sur Loup, the villagers, who have a strong sense of their identity, chose to ignore this change and stick with the town’s real name.
Of course, the village’s history goes back before any of this. Back and back, it goes, well before recorded history. In fact, it extends all the way to the time of prehistory’s Palaeolithic age, and possibly even further.
Archaeologists have discovered evidence of Celtic-Ligurian dwellings in the area. Roman presence is still obvious in many places of the area. The most notable evidence of this in Tourettes sur Loup is a first century altar dedicated to the Greco-Roman messenger to the gods, Mercury. This altar is now housed by the village church. In 1387 the area of Tourettes sur Loup was put under the control of Guichard Villeneuve, who his subjects christened “the bastard of Vence”. It remained part of the Seigneurie des Villeneuve until the French Revolution, which overthrew them in 1789.
Tourettes sur Loup, or “The Violet Village”, sits four hundred meters above sea level on a narrow spur of land. It covers two thousand nine hundred and twenty eight (2928) hectares, though it only has a population of around four thousand. It is only 14 kilometers (a little less than nine miles) from the coast and sits between Nice and Cannes.
During the medieval period it was a fortified village. Some of the fortifications still remain for the amusement of tourists and natives.
There are very many things for tourists to enjoy in this village of violets. One of the best and favourites is eating. Most tourists will agree that French cuisine is one of the greatest French things. There are several restaurants in the area of The Violet Village. One of the greatest is The Relais de Coche. It is very rare for a tourist to leave this restaurant feeling unsatisfied, or even dissatisfied.
After a good meal, one may want to wander the streets so that one can drink in the beauty of the place. There is a lot of natural beauty that can be seen for miles around. The village itself sits on a rocky outcrop that is not naturally beautiful, but which has a lot of charm when seen as part of the complete picture of the village Tourettes sur Loup. In the background of the village there are high hills, raised strong yet somehow gentle to the sky. Prickly pear cactus grows naturally nearby, adding some green to the rustic beauty of the land. From the village, one can also see the Loupe River a mere two kilometres (a little more than a mile) away. There is also a gorge with a small stream below the buildings.
Then there is the beauty of the buildings themselves. The buildings have both the solid grace and the commanding presence of all medieval architecture. Local architectural marvels include arched passages, ramparts, narrow streets full of carefully, lovingly, and authentically restored façades, vaulted passage-ways, stepped passages, and flower baskets set out that they may add beauty to the path.
There are also a couple historic buildings that may hold special interest to guests of the city. One of them is the Church St Grégoire. This church was built as a tribute to God, but also to be the center of the village geographically and practically. The church would be not only a gathering place of the saints, but a central place for the whole community. Village churches of this era are a testament to human achievement.
Another building that may be draw a visitor of Tourettes sur Loup is the great Château des Villeneuve, whose belfry and square may be of particular interest to the architecturally inclined. It is now both the town hall and a kind of local museum, which hosts numerous interesting exhibits all throughout the year.
There is also the artistic beauty of actual art represented in this small violet village. There are so many galleries, artist’s workshops, crafts classes, and various other things of interest to artists. An enterprising tourist can find all kinds of art and crafts objects and exhibitions and sales that range from pottery to leatherwork, as well as jewellery, sculpture, painting and etc.
The violet village hosts two fêtes: the first is appropriately enough the Fête de Violettes which happens the second or third Sunday in March. It is celebrated with floats, a flower battle and, of course, flowers. The other is the Fête patronale which falls on the Sunday nearest to Ste-Madeleine. There is also some mention of a local produce fête, though the details of the particulars do not seem to be available.
Many tourists may be interested in the Saturday morning market. This is a chance not only to see the village as it is, but to experience a quaint custom that is almost dead. For centuries villagers have shopped at and sold from similar markets. This is a part of history that they happily share with tourists, guest, visitors, and their fellow villagers. The market is a chance not only to shop, but to get in touch with the culture and “life” of the village.
Another quaint thing that may be of interest is the “lavoir and bouvoir” situated in the pétanque court at the end of the parking lot next to the road. These are the old drinking troughs and laundry washing basins that had been used in the village for generations before the invention of such luxuries as efficient plumbing and washing machines. Studying them will help people understand the harsh simplicity of our recent ancestor’s existence.
Parking is very hard to find here. It is much better to come by bus from one of the other villages. However, parking is not the only draw of the parking lot; there is also a wonderful little park right beside it.
The more athletic tourists may find many activities in the area. These include water sports (fishing, swimming, diving, boating, etc.), fields to play football (soccer), basketball or other such things, horseback riding, climbing, cycling, and others. Tennis courts are available in the village itself. However, camping and hiking are still among the most popular.
Tourettes sur Loup has two hiking trails. One of them goes south and the other north east.
The southern trail goes through an arched passage and a forest, with mostly natural beauty as points of interest.
The north western trail is slightly more interesting. It too has woods in the beginning. Then it crosses the Gue du Malvan Ford and goes past the Chapel of St.Raphaël, which is on a prehistoric site. The other point of interest on this hike is the ruins of the Château de la Reine Jeanne.
One has several options of where to stay in the village of Tourettes sur Loup. Some of the options include hotels, bread and breakfasts, guest houses, holiday rentals, and group accommodation houses. There is also the ever, popular campsites.
Restless tourist will find that the village is convenient to two other cultural centers of the region. Vence is only 4 kilometers (two and one half miles) away, while Bar sur Loup is 14 kilometers (nearly 9 miles). Vence is a center of the arts. Bar sur Loup, “the city of orange trees” is full of old world charm and natural beauty.
Public transportation is very good in this part of France. The bus to Tourettes sur Loup also runs to Grasse and Bar sur Loup to the west and Vence, St. Jeannet and Gattières. From Grasse one can catch a bus to the tourist Meccas of Nice and Cannes. Unfortunately there isn’t any train service in this region.