I am always traveling light and the more I travel, the more I learn how to pack just the things I will actually need.
At the Colombe d’Or in Saint Paul de Vence I do not need much, just a sketchbook, books and a few things to cover up and feel comfortable at this classic maison paysanne of French folklore.
La Colombe d’Or was founded by Paul Roux, a local Provençal farmer from Saint Paul de Vence. During the war, many Modernist painters and writers fled Paris and found refuge in the south, in places like St. Paul. Roux befriended struggling artists like Léger and Braque, who were drawn to the secluded informality of La Colombe. Roux had no formal training, but he began to develop an eye for the art he saw that some of his more illustrious guests like Picasso and Chagall were creating on his premises, and so he offered artists free accommodation in exchange for their work. This could even be read on a sign on the hotel’s entrance: “Ici on loge à cheval, à pied ou en peinture.” (Here we lodge those on foot, on horseback or with paintings.)
Today his son Francois (Francis) has taken over with his wife Danièle and nothing much has changed. The paintings are still on the walls, nowadays next to works by some lesser known artist yet and reservations can be only made by phone or in writing. The menu is as casual and honest as the garden terrace and the bar still hosts a great atmosphere at night when everyone comes by for an aperitivo.
Here are IRMA’s tips for a fabulous weekend stay at La Colombe d’Or in Saint Paul de Vence.
- Plan a morning at the Fondation Maeght, which is in walking distance from the hotel or walk up the hills for a mountain hike in the lush surrounding nature.
- Most importantly, bring your favourite books to lounge at the hotel pool, where a giant mobile sculpture by Calder is hanging above the emerald green tiled pool.
- But these are just a few things to mention that this country chic hotel above Nice has to offer. It is like living in museum. A dinner table with a ceramic vase with hand-picked roses waits for us in front of a Braque rendition of a lobster oeuvre and works by Mirò make the south of France evening light reflect all the warmth.
- Of course the famous creative crowd still comes by, including the French-born American writer and former French Vogue editor Joan Juliet Buck who brought her mother’s ashes to the hotel. “The Colombe d’Or is the fantasy of the simple life,” says Buck. “It’s the fantasy of being authentic — and rich.”
And here are some of IRMA’s favorite pieces for a weekend in the south of France.