Last week I visited La Colombe D’or, a beautiful little Hotel in the hilltop fortress town of St Paul de Vence, half an hour north of Nice on the Cote D’Azur. Lucky old me.
It’s a unique place; quaint, gorgeous and special with history in every nook and cranny. Outside, fat-boughed fig-trees shade the worn stone floors and tall, clipped Cyprus stand guard by the pool. Inside hang paintings by an army of famous French artists and sculptors: Picasso (he paid for his stay with two pictures) Leger, Chagall, Matisse and many others. It’s artisan chic.
It’s also a paradox; poor furniture, small, basic rooms (although comfortable) and a menu that has remained unchanged since the year dot would send most Hotels to the bottom of the league. But Colombe D’or (that’s Golden Dove not Golden Column, stupid) is a haunt for celebs (Kate Moss and Roger Moor are regulars) and the adman community who have built its reputation over many, many decades and probably will for many decades to come.
Service is brusque and waiters perform impossible pirouettes through narrow corridors and between tables. The food is good without being amazing (go to Les Terraillers in nearby Biot for that) but still the people return. I spoke to one guest who was on his 45th visit. Cannes Festival-goers flock there for respite and multiple bottles of the Provençale rose wine Minuty.
As we kick back by the jade-green pool after a long, lazy lunch in the shaded dining yard, all at once it’s 1931 and I glimpse the ghost of founder Paul Roux and his wife Baptistine negotiating a bar bill with Pablo Picasso…