There’s nothing more blissful for a person who loves French Country style than visiting the actual French countryside and spending a charming few hours in one of the most picturesque towns. I had that privilege not that long ago when we traveled to the South of France and found ourselves one late afternoon in the prettiest hilltop village in France, Saint-Paul-de-Vence.
Now, I should clarify in case you’re not one of my regular readers, this is a design blog and so you won’t find practical travel information here. But I realized it’s been a while since I did a travel post and with spring on the horizon and the travel season near, I wanted to share the visual beauty of this place and how its oh-so-French lifestyle is such an inspiration to me.
For starters, Saint-Paul-de-Vence is way up on a hilltop, with magnificent vistas of the lush countryside below. Now, anyone who knows me well, knows I don’t do well with heights, but the ride up here was tame and while the roads were narrow, they were mostly free of hairpin turns.
The medieval village is set up like an enclave, literally rimmed by stone ramparts, apparently once needed for fortification. As you approach, you can’t help but be struck by the beauty of the terraced stone structures that lie within.
Just barely inside the town entrance, one is met by the fabled La Colombe D’Or, a restaurant (and hotel) with an impeccable reputation and an even more storied artistic heritage.
Wandering the streets is an absolute joy and our arrival near dusk played well to that spirit. I’ve always loved the late afternoon. There’s a quiet in the streets as the day is winding down, yet there’s an undercurrent of excitement for the coming evening. For me, it’s one of the most relaxed times of the day.
These days what Saint-Paul-de-Vence is most well known for is an array of delightful shops and art galleries that pepper the town, paying homage to its past as home to many brilliant artists, some of whose work remains in town. Chagall is buried here in an ancient cemetery and Picasso, Matisse and Miró have all passed through.
As a counterbalance to all that beautiful stone, the village is graced with lovely plantings, as well, in fact just what you’d expect from a French country garden.
Shuttered windows and terra-cotta pots add color to the landscape and Provençal charm.
Narrow winding streets are perfectly suited for meandering about the village to enjoy all it has to offer. We arrived just in time to catch most of the shops still open, but the afternoon crowds had already departed.
Windows and doors are often the most enchanting aspects of European villages and Saint-Paul held it’s own on that score. This graceful gated balcony with potted topiaries is only one example in a town brimming with such gentility.
As the galleries began to close, we found our way back to La Colombe D’Or for an early evening drink as they started to set up for dinner. This stunning terrace is graced with works of art, as is the rest of the grounds, and when I say works of art, I’m referring to the brilliant artists I mentioned above.
Inside at the bar, a more rustic ambiance reigns.
The lovely hotel that adjoins the restaurant casually displays pedigreed artwork even around the swimming pool.
Can you think of anything more relaxing than a pre-dinner drink at an iconic restaurant in the prettiest hilltop village in France?
As the day draws to a close here, it’s hard to remember what stress is. My only thought is bring on the night…
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