October 03, 2014

French Friday: Saint-Paul-de-Vence


France's hexagonal borders are formed by the English Channel in the north, the Rhone River in the northeast, the Alps in the east, the Mediterranean Sea in the south, the Pyrenees in the southwest, and the Atlantic Ocean in the west. I've had the pleasure of visiting much of this geographically diverse nation (that would fit inside the state of Texas), from the historic beaches of Normandy and Brittany's rocky coastline to the unique Basque country and the glamorous French Riviera; yet I can never decide which region of France I prefer. The north is familiar, reminiscent of home, and as Gertrude Stein famously stated, "America is my country and Paris is my hometown." However, my best friends live in the south and each time the TGV transports me through vineyards and lavender fields, through landscapes dotted with medieval chateaux and Roman ruins, I start to breath differently. The pace of life slows even as the train exceeds 200 mph. Maybe it's the heat or aromas and flavors. Perhaps its the luxury of being with friends who seemed so far away for so long, but the South of France holds a special place in my heart.

Mes chers amis: François, Sandrine, Laetitia, Brice 


One of my favorite towns to visit in the south is Saint-Paul-de-Vence, a ville perchée, a medieval town perched on a hilltop. Although there are several similar villages in Provence and along the Mediterranean coast, Saint-Paul-de-Vence has always been my favorite (actors Yves Montand and Simone Signoret, the poet Jacques Prévert and the artist Marc Chagall were also fans). What I love most about this village is the juxtaposition of historic architecture with numerous modern and contemporary art studios, galleries, and the Fondation Maeght, a museum of modern art that displays paintings, sculptures, collages, and ceramics.  

Take a virtual stroll with me today through the winding lanes.
Continue your ascent as countless stone steps 
lead you through the maze of shops and galleries.
Visit an artist's atelier.
Wash your hands or take a cool drink from a fountain.
 Enjoy lunch in a café.
Marvel at the view from the top.
As you make your way back down, beware of 
la Rue Casse Cou (Break Neck Street)!
Study artistic patterns in the cobblestone (click here for more)

« Le grand art commence là où finit la nature. »
“Great art picks up where nature ends.”  ~ Marc Chagall

[All photos taken in Saint-Paul-de-Vence in 1998 & 2013]