Tourrettes-sur-Loup - You can't escape the scent of honeysuckle in this town that hangs on the edge of a formidable cliff hundreds of feet above the river below.
Sweet, with a slightly tart undercurrent, the flowering vines are everywhere, sometimes covering whole walls of buildings. The aroma of the tiny white blossoms, blown by the light mountain breeze, follows us wherever we walk in this medieval town. You can smell honeysuckle before you turn a corner and see the vine.
Tourrettes is one of dozens of so-called perched villages built on rocky spurs in this rugged section of the Maritime Alps, a short drive from Nice and Cannes. In fact, on a clear day you can see the Mediterranean in the distance, with tiny white dots of boats standing out against the blue of the sea.
The area has been settled for thousands of years. The Romans invaded in the third century BC and held the site for hundred of years before invasions by Huns, Lombards and Saracens. As with most perched villages, the location was ideal for defence and surveillance purposes.
Cliffs define the southern side of the village, while tall, thick walls pierced with only a few entrances surround the north side of the medieval part of the town.
Towers guarded those narrow doors hundreds of years ago, but now they stand open to admit the tourists who walk the circular streets, investigating the shops of local artisans and sampling Tourrettes' manufactured goods. Houses are built into the outer defence walls.
The town is in the centre of violet country and in fact has an annual violet festival in March, when the blooms are picked and sent off to be processed into candies, jams and a syrup of pale purple, delicious when mixed with wine or champagne.
The leaves are used to make perfume essences and medicines.
Nearby Grasse, now the perfume capital of this section of France, also once produced leather gloves. The tanning process was a smelly one, and perfumes from local flowers were used to improve the gloves' odour. The perfume industry, we're told, spread from there to Tourrettes.
The area used to be a centre for olive oil, too, and walking from the parking lot to the old village we pass a mill that once pressed oil for trade to places as far away as Rome.
The oil industry isn't so important now, but you still get regional olives in any restaurant to prepare the palate for a meal; some are flavoured with garlic, others with Herbes de Provence or fennel.
But we're here after the violet season and before olive harvest, so it's the town itself that holds our attention.
Bathed in a bright, sharp light, the smooth paving stones have a rich patina. Some have been gently hollowed by the generations of feet that have walked these same paths.
Explosions of bougainvillea and oleander - pink, red, fuchsia, orange, white - colour the creams and cool yellows of the sun-bleached buildings. Shadows are deep and cool, in sharp contrast to the heat of the sun.
The Clock Tower door, one of the entrances to the town, has its date, 1776, chiselled into the stone above it, and another wall further down the street proclaims that it was built in 1661. Occasionally you can see the ancient wooden beams that hold up an arch.
A small door at the bottom of the steps at #42 Grand Rue isn't the entrance to a dark room for punishing disobedient children but, rather, to a tiny enclosure where goats were kept. The old village used to be a self-contained community where all needs could be met without leaving the village or the surrounding hills. The only thing the villagers traded was olive oil.
Fortunately for us, that isolation preserved this lovely medieval village.