Postcard from Provence: Sheep in the Streets of Saint-Paul

Postcard from Provence: Sheep in the Streets of Saint-Paul

Saint-Paul de Vence is known for its quintessential Provençal charm. Think cobblestoned alleyways, medieval ramparts, and views down to the Mediterranean from its hilltop perch in the hinterlands. In its heyday, countless artists fell under its spell, including Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse. And today, this sunny Cote d’Azur village continues to draw visitors at all times of the year. (In fact, some say winter on the French Riviera is the best season!)

But the most recent tourists were of a different ilk.

As recounted by Guy Hibbert, France Media’s founder and editor in chief, “we thought we were going slightly mad yesterday when we heard tinkling bells in our lane in Saint-Paul. The second time we heard it, I rushed out just in time to see a dozen sheep sans berger sauntering down the lane! It turns out the local vineyard owner keeps them in his domaine and they escaped for a Sunday morning promenade.”

Houses of Saint Paul de Vence

Houses of Saint Paul de Vence © Emmanuel Martin, Unsplash

Not only did the sheep parade through the labyrinth of cobbled alleyways, much to the delight of the local residents, but they also paid visits to the art galleries and nosed open the doors to boutiques. Who can blame them? Saint-Paul de Vence has a magnetic quality to it!

Keen to plan a trip yourself? Check out some of our articles:
Hidden History: The Dancers of Saint-Paul
Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul de Vence, A Photo Tour
Where James Baldwin Took Refuge in Provence
Saint-Paul de Vence: The Jewel of the French Riviera

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  • Guy Hibbert
    2022-01-20 09:00:27
    Guy Hibbert
    The transhumance of the moutons through the streets of Saint-Paul was once an annual occurrence. But in the 1950s the local residents began to complain about the sheep eating their flowers and plants and so the mayor Marius Issert authorised a ban on their passage through the village. He was a much loved mayor of Saint-Paul from 1945-1995 but this was not one of his most popular decisions. Pablo Picasso and the local poet Jacques Prévert protested and the story was picked up by the national press with much criticism for the mayoral intervention in this historic tradition ! This is not the first time the moutons have claimed their spot on the red carpet. They featured in a 1949 BBC film, shortly before being banned by the mayor. Perhaps their descendants still hold a grudge, which could explain their latest daring attempt to reclaim the streets, some seventy years later.