A Photographic Tour of Saint-Paul-de-Vence (English Version)
(Cliquez ici pour lire une traduction de cet article en français: https://philhaber.com/2013/03/29/un-tour-photographique-de-saint-paul-de-vence-version-francaise/.)
My wife and I spent a week in Saint-Paul-de-Vence in late October, 2011. Saint-Paul-de-Vence is a spectacular and well-preserved medieval hill town, located in the foothills of the Maritime Alps, about a half hour’s drive northwest of Nice. It is mentioned in official records as early as the 11th century, and was first fortified in the 13th century. A second defensive wall, still almost entirely intact today, was built in the 16th century, upon the order of King François I following a royal visit to the town.
Today Saint-Paul is almost entirely devoted to the creation, exhibition and sale of modern art. During the summer months, the town is extremely crowded with tourists, but by late October it was much quieter. In fact, at the time we arrived, the famously art-filled restaurant and hotel La Colombe d’Or, located at the northern entrance to the town, was in the process of closing for the season. We had wanted to return to Saint-Paul-de-Vence ever since, some years earlier, we had stayed in the town of Vence — further up in the mountains — and on the way down to the Nice airport had spotted the striking view of Saint-Paul that is visible from the Route de la Colle. I had vowed then that I would some day return and take a photo of that beautiful view of the village. This time we had decided to stay at Le Hameau, a charming hotel on the Route de la Colle just outside Saint-Paul.
We arrived late in the afternoon and, after checking in at Le Hameau, I grabbed my camera and tripod and headed out to the Route de la Colle. From the road, there is an unforgettable view of the entire western side of the village, complete with its fortified walls. Here it is, illuminated by a reddish sun about a half hour before sunset (click on any image in this posting to see a larger version):
Back at Le Hameau, I took the time to wander through the semi-enclosed outdoor corridors of this beautiful hotel:
From Le Hameau, it was only a 10-minute walk up the Route de la Colle to the entrance to Saint-Paul-de-Vence. I could thus be in the town before dawn every morning to get shots of its beautiful and marvelously preserved streets, buildings and courtyards, at first light and without interference from cars and pedestrians. After entering the town from the north, past La Colombe d’Or, you enter the Rue Grande, which runs nearly the entire length of the village from north to south, passing under centuries-old archways:
The Rue Grande is lined with art galleries and artists’ studios. Here you see art galleries on the Rue Grande:
There are also many artists’ studios on the Rue Grande:
In the center of the village, off the Rue Grande, is the Place de la Grande Fontaine, which was the center of activity and the scene of a weekly market during the 17th century:
A little further to the south is a charming courtyard with a smaller fountain, known as “La Placette”:
One morning, as I reached the southern end of Rue Grande, the rising sun was just illuminating the tops of the buildings:
There is no shortage of medieval stone archways in this village:
From the eastern ramparts of the town, there is a wonderful view of the Maritime Alps to the north:
The old cemetery of Saint Paul lies at the southern end of the town, outside the village walls. Among the tombs one can find that of Marc Chagall, who lived in Saint Paul from 1966 until his death in 1985. The top of the tomb is strewn with small stones in the ancient Jewish tradition, several inscribed with loving tributes to the great master.
Today, Saint-Paul-de-Vence has a permanent population of only about 3,000. With its many art galleries, studios, shops, hotels and restaurants, the town would not seem to have a lot of room for residences. Yet there are numerous examples of striking medieval architecture in the houses that one does see:
Of course, there are many good restaurants in Saint-Paul, including the very quaint “La Petite Chapelle”:
In fact, there is a beautiful sight at just about every corner of the town:
As you can see, a stop in Saint-Paul-de-Vence is a must for anyone visiting the Côte d’Azur.
The photos shown in this article and other photos of Saint-Paul-de-Vence and of other villages in Provence and the Côte d’Azur are available for viewing and purchase in full original resolution on my photo website, in the gallery Provence-Côte d’Azur. For additional information about my photography, please see my photography Facebook page.
Copyright © 2015 Philip A. Haber