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Posts tagged ‘Vence’

My travel sketchbook: The Peyra Gate, Vence

I was more than grateful, when we visited the little mountain town of Vence in the South of France, for my own sense of foresight which had prompted me to take along my black bound moleskin sketchbook with me on our trip. For the town was so idyllically beautiful with its pastel-coloured shuttered houses and little cafe-filled cobbled streets that I knew that I would be promptly inspired to create an artwork there. And so it was that after a little exploration around the old town, and a trip to Matisse’s chapel, we settled down for a very english afternoon tea and ice cream besides the ancient Peyra Gate and its equally historic fountain, two such monuments which provided the inspiration for this quick sketch completed in situ.

The Peyra Gate, Vence (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

The Peyra Gate, Vence (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at

The Honeymoon Chronicles, Part V: Vence

Just up a lush winding mountain road from the beautiful little village of St-Paul de Vence resides its bigger sister, the no less pretty town of Vence. Despite having spread into quite a substantial modern town, not all of which exhibited the most picturesque of sights, the core little old town, nestled within a tight ring of medieval walls and set up on a high hill above a cool mountain spring in the valleys below, is the very epitome of a quaint Riviera gem.

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Through the ancient Peyra Gate into the pastel-coloured square bearing the same name, we entered a medieval fairytale of a town whose shuttered houses, little gift shops and typically French restaurants spilling out onto the cobbled streets and squares made for the most idyllic of scenes. Photographing the picturesque sights as rapidly as I took steps to discover them, I was completely enamoured by this beautifully appointed little gem of a town, from the grand Peyra fountain at the entrance dating back to the early 1800s, to the stunning Place Clemenceau, whose baroque little cathedral is allegedly the smallest Cathedral in France.

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However in addition to the little old town, Vence boasts another attraction which we trekked the 20 minute hot walk out of town to see – the Chapelle du Rosaire designed by Matisse himself. I remember extolling the originality of Matisse’s designs for this little chapel when I visited his cut-outs retrospective at Tate Modern last year. But nothing in that exhibition came close to seeing the Matisse Chapel in reality, with the light shining through his vivid blue and yellow stained glass and bouncing off the white walls of the interior. I wasn’t as sure about the rather sketchy ceramic tiles which otherwise dominate the interior and fell somewhat flat compared to the magnificence of the windows, nor the exorbitant entrance free for such a small space, but seeing Matisse’s chapel surely made our visit to Vence complete.

Chapelle du Rosaire, by Matisse

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The Honeymoon Chronicles, Part I: La Colombe d’Or

To say that my wedding and the honeymoon which followed was a whirlwind of emotions would be no exaggeration. Within minutes of cutting our sensational ombre wedding cake in Chelsea, we were whisked off in the old fashioned style, straight to our honeymoon, leaving our guests behind, and sadly no tied up cans trailing our vehicle. Our destination was the French Riviera, and with only further wedding cake to keep post-wedding hangovers at bay, we tried to prepare ourselves mentally for this further change in circumstances as we were whisked through the night to the South of France.


Our arrival in the tiny village of Saint-Paul de Vence near Nice could not have been more different from the city we had departed. Utterly at peace, with a distinctive fragrance of pines and cypresses freshening the air. As darkness had already descended, the village was permeated by little yellow street lamps, subtly illuminating the central plaza where pétanque balls lay in wait for the following day’s play. And amidst the darkness, one sign glowed more than any other: Lighting a golden dove on a blue and yellow sky, it was the sign of La Colombe d’Or – we had arrived.

Our bedroom at La Colombe d’Or

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La Colombe d’Or (the golden dove) is a legendary destination in the South of France. First opened in the 1920s by Paul and Baptistine Roux, it began life as a quaint little inn nestled against the magnificent ancient ramparts of the village of Saint-Paul de Vence. Its stunning garden terrace abundant in shady fig trees together with its cosy restaurant interior soon began to attract a faithful clientele, and as the French Riviera became progressively more a centre for thinkers and artists, so too did La Colombe become a gathering place for the crème of the artistic set.

Around the pool and in the gardens

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As the years went on, and the Roux family continued to welcome and befriend some of the world’s most famous artists and intellectuals, so too did La Colombe’s remarkable collection of modern art grow, much of which was swapped in exchange for accommodation and their famously delicious Provençal cuisine. So La Colombe d’Or grew, both physically (gradually subsuming neighbouring buildings) and reputationally, and its art collection today stands as one of the most staggering private collections of modern art you could ever hope to see. On its walls, original works by Picasso, Braque, Sonia Delaunay, Calder, Miro, Chagall, Cesar and so many others hang; its leafy terrace is dominated by a stunning ceramic mural by Fernand Leger; and its most stunning swimming pool languishes alongside a remarkable Calder Mobile, a mosaic by Braque, and a recently installed ceramic mural by Sean Scully.

Interiors, and La Colombe’s incredible collection of modern art

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For any enthusiast of 20th century art, or indeed for anyone beloved of the utmost aesthetic tranquility, La Colombe d’Or is a paradise on earth, beyond mere description – it has to be experienced. In the unpretentious little chairs which are clustered on its restaurant terrace, one can see the ghosts of the famous writers and artists who used to sit there in the shadows of the fig trees Jacques Prévert, Yves Montand, James Baldwin, Pablo Picasso… In the unapologetically rustic walls and furniture, you feel as though invited into the warmest of family homes. And in its paradisal gardens, fringed by pillars and scattered with fallen blossom, and alongside that most sensational of swimming pools, you feel as though you have entered some kind of parallel world. Utterly at peace. This was paradise found.

La Colombe’s stunningly cosy restaurant terrace

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And so in La Colombe d’Or, we happily stationed ourselves for the first four days of our honeymoon. And so the rush of emotions which had commenced at our wedding continued. It was to be the most sensational few days imaginable.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.