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Biot

For centuries, Biot has been known for its pottery made from the local fine yellow clay; today, they're also known for a burgeoning glassmaking industry. Its cobbled streets are lined with boutiques specializing in glassware and stoneware, and you will be able to find delicate glass art at every turn. Even though the commercial district here is well-developed and quite busy, Biot has not lost its Old Provence feel.

Fernand Leger fell in love with Biot long ago and bought a farmhouse here. You'll find it today, transformed into the Musee National Fernand-Leger. Elsewhere you'll find the local glassworks, founded in the 1950s and today putting on a fascinating daily show as artisans create beauty.

Biot is only 2 ½ miles from the beach between Antibes and Nice; despite its proximity to these sophisticated towns, it still retains its natural charm and feeling of antiquity. Biot was first settled over 2500 years ago, as a Ligurian outpost. The Romans annexed the town in 42 BC, when they took over the rest of the South France coast. You can still find traces of the Romans, from inscriptions and steles to the mausoleum at the Chevre d'Or. Later, the Counts of Provence controlled Biot until 1209, when it was given to the Templars. The village was nearly eradicated by plague in the 14th century, but less than a hundred years later it was fortified and repopulated.

Today, Biot is also a top choice for the rich and famous for second homes; even the Spice Girls came to Biot in 1996 when they were preparing an album.

Pottery and glassworking

Biot has supplied fine pottery to Europe for millennia. It sits in an area rich in fine clays, sands, manganese, and volcanic tufa, all vital to the best potteryworks for both creating the pots and making kilns. Amphorae made here have been exported worldwide for thousands of years. Lately, it's become known for fine glass as well, recognizable as clear or colored transparent glass filled with tiny bubbles. You can watch the process in several of the glassworks downhill around the outskirts of the village, and buy the results at the glassworks or at many of the boutiques in town.

An ancient volcano caldera can be found a little more than a mile to the northwest, but it may not be of interest to anyone besides volcano buffs; it's not active, not large, and not very visible from the ground. However, tufa stone has been quarried here for potteryworks since the village was settled.

Where to stay and eat

The Galerie des Arcades is very inexpensive, and very nice at the same time. There are only three large rooms, so you should reserve early; but the combination hotel/restaurant/art gallery is a unique taste of what it means to be Biot. And not only does it have comfortable, well-situated rooms, you can eat herbed rabbit, stuffed sardines, and a Friday aioli right there at the hotel.

You can also try the Chez Odile for an excellent family-run bistro. It's not expensive, the meals are filling and very good, and the terrace on a hot summer evening is a wonderful way to while away a little time.