The outstanding location of Mougins on the hillside overlooking the bay of Cannes has been famous since antiquity. The Ligurians, who had lived here since the 1st century BC, were displaced under Roman rule when the settlement became a staging post on the Aurelian Way between Rome and Marseille.
In the Middle Ages, Cannes, its surrounding region and the fortified village belonged to the monks on the Ile de Lérins, who granted the people of Mougins the privilege of having their own courtroom under the terms of a charter signed in 1438. The Monks’ Courtroom is the beautiful vaulted room on the first floor of our restaurant, which we now call the ‘Salle des Moines’ (Monks Dining Room).
The village grew out beyond its ancient fortifications, but remained within the circular limit of its ramparts.
In the mid-19th century, Cannes began to attract winter visitors, made fashionable by Lord Brougham who ‘discovered’ this fishing village when, on a trip to Italy, he had to make a U-turn in Nice to avoid the plague.
It was this English Lord who brought Cannes to the attention of the English aristocracy, who later flocked here to overwinter in magnificent villas built around the hill of Le Suquet previously occupied by local fishermen.
These wealthy English winter migrants took tea and drank the local sparkling white wine here in Mougins, as depicted on the turn-of-the-century postcard showing an English sign outside the Café de France.
That café later became the Hôtel de France, before changing its name to the Rendez-Vous de Mougins
Mougins has since welcomed many guests, some of whom became very famous, including Picasso who, when staying at the hotel ‘Vaste Horizon’ for the first time in 1936 (now Les Muscadins), painted the walls of his bedroom. But since the artist was unheard of at this time, the hotel owner insisted that he make good the damage!
Picasso returned to Paris… in the company of the hotel cook Marinette, who continued to work for him for several years thereafter. If you are lucky, you might bump into her in the village. If you do, she may tell you in her own inimitable style a few of the excellent anecdotes she has about the man she still refers to as ‘Monsieur’.
Picasso would later return to Mougins and the Domaine Notre Dame de Vie where he spent the latter years of his life.
In 1936, Picasso introduced his friends Paul Eluard, Jean Cocteau, Man Ray and Rosemonde Gérard to Mougins.
Other celebrities were quick to follow. They included Edith Piaf, Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Winston Churchill, Catherine Deneuve, Roland Petit, Zizi Jeanmaire, Paul Anka and Jacques Brel (who came here to train for his pilot’s licence) and the Duke of Windsor, who came specifically to enjoy the bouillabaisse of Céléstin Véran at the Hôtel de France.
In 1969, Roger Vergé opened Le Moulin de Mougins in the lower part of the village, followed by L'Amandier, which made the village famous around the world. In those days, there were only two restaurants in the village!
But by the 1970s, Mougins was the most ‘starred’ village in France, with no fewer than 11 of these Michelin ‘macaroons’.
The cultural heritage of Mougins is worthy of a visit in itself, and includes the recently-renovated church and organs of Saint Jacques Le Majeur, the Chapelle Notre Dame de Vie, often painted by Winston Churchill, and the Chapelle Saint Barthélémy.
The Musée de la Photographie contains many portraits of Picasso by the world’s greatest photographers of the day. The old municipal washhouse or Lavoir now exhibits the work of a new painter or sculptor every month. As you wander the village streets, you will come across the work of many artists in many different styles.
Mougins is the only coastal community of the Alpes-Maritimes in which more than half remains a natural environment of open spaces and forests. The nearby Parc de la Valmasque offers the spectacular opportunity to watch the enormous flocks of migratory birds on the Etang de Fontmerle, fringed by lotus trees.
Sportsmen and women will appreciate the choice of two golf courses, one of which - Cannes-Mougins - was described by Severiano Ballesteros as one of the best in Europe!