Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Travelogue: St. Paul de Vence

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  I haven’t done a travelogue in awhile and I received an email inviting me this Friday to a special member only preview of the Chagall and Russian avant-garde exhibit at the Ontario Art Gallery. The installation comprises 118 works in painting, sculpture, film, photography and works on paper including 32 works by Chagall and 8 works by Kandinsky. Other Russian modernists included in the exhibit are Malevich, Goncharova, Delaunay and Tatlin. This got me thinking about one of my favourite travel locations, Saint Paul de Vence in the south of France, since Chagall’s tomb is in the cemetery on the north end of the village and it fits my travelogue criteria of being relatively unknown, great place to visit and I’ve been there in person so the information is first hand.

  The village is an old medieval town in the French Riviera about an hour’s drive North West of Nice in the  Alpes-Martimes department of south-eastern France and is well known among the cognoscenti for its contemporary art galleries, hotels and restaurants. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the area was threatened by barbarian invasions so the local inhabitants built “perched villages” on the high grounds of the region.

Saint Paul from the south

  The present ramparts were constructed under the orders of Francois I in the renaissance period in order to repel the attacks in the area of the troops under the command of Charles Quint.
The fortifications were abandoned at the end of the Empire. However, in 1832, a committee of military engineers decided to restore them. When Saint-Paul was demilitarised in 1870, the ramparts were sold off at auction. The mayor of the commune, deeming the fortifications of public importance, negotiated with the French government to save them from demolition. In 1872, the commune bought the ramparts for 400 Francs!
Imposing ramparts rear out of the Provençal countryside. Glowing in the Mediterranean light they structure a prestigious village that gradually, with the increasing popularity of the French Riviera, proved irresistible to artists and tourists. (website)

Entrance to St. Paul

  Many well known artists including Matisse, Soutine, Chagall, Renoir, Signac, Modigliani and Dufy have lived in the village during the last century. Today there are many upscale galleries owned by local artists in the heart of the hamlet but make sure you can afford the pieces before you’re tempted and if you have a good eye then you might find some great bargains. Don’t buy anything that you can’t take with you. I learned about this the hard way when I bought a silk on silk Sultan`s weave rug in Turkey and had it shipped home but never received it so I was out about $5000.

Lane in St. Paul filled with tourists
Art studio
Side Lane looking east
Marc Chagall, artist, tomb
   Marc Chagall lived in Saint-Paul from 1966 to 1985. During that time, he relentlessly incorporated the village and its ramparts into his paintings. Enveloped in the Mediterranean landscapes he found so fascinating, Marc Chagall painted love: couples in love and multi-coloured bouquets swirling above the village in an eternally serene sky. (website)
St. Paul cemetary looking north

  Lots of one and two star Michelin restaurants in the village. I would recommend La Table de Pierre.
Une nouvelle collaboration entre le Chef Emmanuel LEHRER et Michel ROSTANG, Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux, 2 étoiles Michelin à Paris. Les deux chefs partagent le même goût pour une cuisine passionnée et généreuse et signent la carte du restaurant.
En soirée, place à une gastronomie colorée toute méditerranéenne.
Terrasse panoramique ombragée ou salle à manger avec sa majestueuse cheminée.
  If you have to have a Big Mac then there’s a MacDonald’s about 4km south of the village. They serve wine and fresh croissants so it can be different from home.
Fountain near hotel

   Quite a choice in hotels and B&B. The old mainstay is the La Columbe d'Or.
"Connue dans le monde entier, l'Auberge de la Colombe d'Or est un lieu privilégié qui associe la douceur de vivre en Provence à une étonnante collection particulière d'art moderne. Au fil des décennies, la famille Roux qui garde le secret de cet art de vivre inégalé, a vu son destin mêlé à des êtres d'exception tels que Pablo Picasso, Jacques Prévert, Yves Montand ou James Baldwin. Habitués de ce très bel endroit, Matisse, Braque, Léger, Calder, César et bien d'autres, y ont laissé des oeuvres magnifiques qui font désormais partie de ce cadre unique." M. Assouline.
Piscine découverte chauffée, terrasse, jardins, sauna, voiturier.
Restaurant : cuisine traditionnelle régionale. Terrasse.
Map of St. Paul de Vence

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