Cagnes-sur-Mer France is about 13 miles from Nice, making it another perfect day train trip. We went to check out the Musee Renoir, the Chateau Grimaldi museum and the historic Haut-de-Cagne neighborhood. As a bonus, we visited on a Saturday during a monthly Italian Farmer’s Market selling produce, sausages, cheeses, wines, and more. The steep climb through Haut-de-Cagnes to Chateau Grimaldi and the hilltop restaurants were well worth the trip.
Renoir lived and painted at this farm, house and studio in Cagnes-sur-Mer for the last 16 years of his life. The building is left pretty much as it was since Renoir’s death. It contains 12 of the master’s paintings, several paintings of the Renoir estate and family by Albert Andre and other artists, and pottery made by two of Renoir’s sons. The carriage house showed clips of his son Jean directing his first movie.
Rainier Grimaldi, Lord of Cagnes, built this chateau in Cagnes-sur-Mer at the top of the town’s historic Haut-de-Cagnes district in 1300. The fortified castle supported the family’s assaults and sieges on neighboring villages over the 14th and 15th centuries. In 1620, it was converted into a stately palace by Baron Jean-Henri Grimaldi. The large beautifully restored palace contains colonnaded stairways and balconies, an incredible marble fireplace, and ceiling murals of the ballroom.
The museum has three exhibits.
- Olive Tree Museum traces the history of olives and olive oil that is so essential to the region’s economy through an extensive collection of historic artifacts and maquettes and reconstructed models of traditional olive oil production and storage. It also includes examples of olive-based arts and crafts, such as carvings from olive trees and roots and even a rosary made of olive pits.
- Suzy Solidor portrait gallery has 40 portraits of the famous cabaret singer and actress. Artists include many of the country’s most famous painters including Picasso, Braque, Dufy and Picabia.
- Maurice Mendjinsky‘s paintings traced the artist’s career through series representing self-portraits, family portraits, intimate sketches and paintings of his mistress, landscapes and most poignantly, a series of works expressing the tragedy and suffering of WWII that served as a tribute to soldiers and victims of the Warsaw Ghetto and concentration camps, including his parents and sister.
Surrounding the fortified Grimaldi Castle is a medieval hilltop village. The narrow, steep, winding, patterned pebble streets are lined with well-maintained limestone houses, covered passageways, and many flowering vines. Atop the hill, next to the Chateau, are several restaurants, bocce ball courts, and the former site of Suzy Solidor’s nightclub (now an exhibition space devoted to contemporary jewelry). The Maison des Artistes, which hosts exhibitions by local artists, was still temporarily closed during our visit. The views are well worth the steep climb.
We had lunch at Le Village. This lovely outdoor space conveniently overlooks an expansive view of the surrounding landscape. We shared two very good dishes: watermelon and feta salad with apple, mint, and grilled almonds; and sauteed mi cuit veal liver with mashed potatoes and carrots.