French leave

I spent last week in the Côte d’Azur (I know, get me.) It was a great holiday, the kind where you take loads of books and don’t read a word because you’re too busy drinking rosé by the bucket. Although we pootled around a few villages, most were too twee and overpriced even for me (to give you the idea, one shop was selling L’Occitane products for more than they cost in London, while those cloth bags of Provençale lavender you put in your knicker drawer – the ones that should cost a fiver, max – were 19 quid), so much of our time was spent at the villa.

But one highlight, and one I’d wholeheartedly recommend if you happen to be travelling Nice/Cannes way, is Le Colombe d’Or, a hotel and restaurant in a picture-postcard medieval village called Saint-Paul de Vence. It’s the kind of place where every cobblestone shines, and grizzled old men from French Central Casting play pétanque in the square for an audience of tourists sipping Oranginas and eating croque monsieurs.

Yep, so far, so cheesy. But it is beautiful. And this hotel – it has a history. Artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Miró used to come here back in the day and pay for their board in art, so this small and (relatively) unassuming place has the most gobsmacking collection, along with an idyllic outdoor terrace, the kind that makes you want to get married again just so you could consider it as a venue. I honestly think it’s the nicest restaurant I’ve ever been to, ever.

Which isn’t to say that the food was any good. The food, as with most of these places with a schtick, was a massive disappointment. And an expensive one too – you’re talking 24 euros for the cheapest main, but most are more like 40. Add your starter, wine, coffee and the rest and you’re talking at least £100 a head (our bill was lightened by the fact that it was the end of our trip and we were all boozed out).

Admittedly this isn’t a million miles from London restaurant prices, but in London for that you’d expect serious, if not Michelin-starred, food. My starter was a sub-Ottolenghi selection of tapas, which while not especially brilliant, was vast and utterly filling. Order this and nothing else, is my advice to you. Seriously, it’s a meal for three in itself. So by the time it came, my £39 sea bass felt pretty superfluous.

But here’s me, bitching like an old woman about the prices. It is steep, but worth doing once, simply because the place is so charming and special. It’s all the mid-priced mediocre crap I resent spending money on, not the stuff I’ll remember. Misha and I decided that, if we ever have some cash floating around, we’d love to come back and spend a weekend here. Rooms start at 250 euros a night, which, in the big scheme of world-class hotels, doesn’t strike me as too nuts.

You can check it out here, although the website does it no justice at all.

Here are some gratuitous photos of Emilio on our trip:

You’ll notice that I’ve been not-undeliberately styling him as Jim Morrison. We’re not quite at the leather-trousers stage, but sometimes I put him in a kurta. I was trying to work out if there was something dodgy about dressing your two-year-old as a dead, drug-addicted sex symbol – after all, I’d never dress a daughter as Anna-Nicole Smith – but have decided that, once again, with boys you can get away with certain things that you just can’t with girls.


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