Virtual Vacation: St.-Paul-de-Vence

Virtual Vacation: St.-Paul-de-Vence

There’s no shortage of charming villages in France and while there are still many on my bucket list, I’ll never tire of Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Between the winding cobblestone streets, the remnants of some of the greatest artists and literary greats, and quaint restaurants with breathtaking views, Saint-Paul-de-Vence is worth venturing the short (and beautiful) drive on the winding roads if you’re visiting the South of France. Perched high on a hilltop, It just might arguably be one of the most beautiful villages in the Cote d’Azur…if not the entire country itself. 

Fun Facts

Singer Line Renaud: © Office de Tourisme de Saint-Paul de Vence – Photographe: Jacques Gomot

—Originally known as Saint-Paul, the village acquired the name Saint-Paul-de-Vence because of its proximity to the commune of Vence. This was a smart idea as it differentiated this dream world from nine other French villages bearing the same name. The cognomen Saint-Paul-de-Vence became official in 2011.     

—Saint-Paul was a border stronghold in the Middle Ages (1388) when the County of Nice switched its allegiance from Provence to the County of Savoy. It remained a border town until 1860 when Savoy was annexed to France.

—The village became more accessible in 1911 due to a newly erected tramway between Cagnes-sur-Mer and Vence, via Saint-Paul. Aside from attracting curious visitors, the new method of transportation also made it possible to export

—During the roaring ‘20s, Saint-Paul started to attract what we now know as some of the greatest artists in the world— Paul Signac, Chaïm Soutine, and Raoul Dufy were among the artisans at the forefront. Captivated by the rich array of colors and natural lighting, the tranquil village was their muse.

—While the Côte d’Azur  has long been associated as a playground for the rich and famous, Saint-Paul-de-Vence was on their radar, too. The paradisiacal village has attracted the likes of an array of notable personalities, to include Ernest Hemingway, Zelda and F Scott Fitzgerald, Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, James Baldwin, Marc Chagall, Charlie Chaplin, Vittorio de Sica, Curt Jurgens, Orson Welles, Line Renaud, Liza Minnelli, Kirk Douglas, Gene Wilder, and Michael Caine, to name a few.

—When you’re walking on the beautiful Provencal-style cobblestone streets, take note that they were barren until the ‘50s when Mayor Marius Issert turned the streets into what you can see today. Also interesting, the very first cobbles were brought back from the beach at Cagnes sur Mer.

Where To Stay

Photo courtesy of La Mas De Pierre

La Colombe d’Or: One can’t discuss lodging options in Saint-Paul-de-Vence without suggesting this historic gem. Back in 1920, the property was known as a cafe and bar called Chez Robinson. In an effort to support his wife Baptistine (Titine), its proprietor—painter/art collector Paul Roux—made additions to the property so that it could facilitate a small three-room inn known as Colombe d’Or. At this time, it served as an artist’s playground for legends such as Picasso and Matisse. Their work, along with pieces from several other greats, still resides in the hotel today for your viewing pleasure. Over the years, the property became a sought-after retreat for celebrities and A-listers alike. Luckily, the Colombe d’Or of today can accommodate more guests—it boasts 13 rooms and 12 suites to be exact. You’ll find modern-day conveniences such as dry cleaning and room service. Speaking of food, even if you’re not a guest, you’re going to want to eat at the on-site restaurant. The menu features quintessential Provencal-style dishes such as stuffed baby vegetables, baked Provençal tomatoes, and a variety of fresh fish and meat dishes. If you visit in the warm weather months, you’ll be treated to the secret garden-like outdoor terrace.  As of the this post, room rates range between 250 and 430 euros per night depending on room selection and season.

Le Saint Paul: Also conveniently located within the village, this five star property (a previous residence from the 16th century) possesses 16 rooms and terrace suites with sweeping views of the Medieval village and area surroundings. Take a meal out on the sprawling terrace where you can choose from menu items that correspond with the season. It’s worth taking an extra cup of coffee (or glass of wine) to soak up the awe-inspiring environs the French way—by taking your time. As of this post, room rates range between 250 and 630 euros per night depending on room selection and season.

Le Mas de Pierre: I had the pleasure of recently staying at this Eden and let’s just say that I didn’t want to leave! Le Mas de Pierre is a five-star boutique hotel (Relais and Chateaux) that’s located just on the outskirts of town. A mas, to be clear, is defined as a Provençal-style farmhouse, which is exactly what this place feels like on an elevated level. The property is surrounded by spectacular landscape that includes commanding mountains; centuries-old olive trees; and aromatic fig, orange, and lemon trees that dot the hotel grounds. As there are less than 60 rooms (cleverly divided amongst several buildings for the utmost in privacy), the feeling here is more like staying at a private estate than a big hotel. The service is impeccable, the decor is on-point, and I love that every room has a private (and generous) balcony or garden. Flying doves (literally) make their way around the grounds, on-site herb and vegetable gardens provide inspiration for the chef, you can visit the hotel owner’s birds in the exotic garden, and the last greenhouse in this historic area of greenhouses is used to cultivate all the orchids and plants in and out of the hotel. As of this post, room rates range between 215 and 1848 euros per night depending on room selection and season.

Where To Eat

Le Tilleul: Photographed by Rebecca Taras

Le Tilleul: Not only is this charming eatery perfectly positioned for people watching and immersing yourself in village life, the food is fantastic. The seasonally changing menu is gastronomic, yet comfortable—you can even find a simple sandwich on the lunch carte if you aren’t in the mood for a feast, but still want to enjoy the views. When I visited with my boyfriend, it was a crisp fall day, but blankets were available at all of the chairs. We used ours (and a bottle of red wine) to keep warm. Along with the complimentary olive tapenade, we shared two of the starters of the day: shrimp with avocado cream (artfully nestled in a small, clear glass) and cured salmon gravlax, which was served with a mini salad lightly tossed in a zesty citrus dressing. For the mains, my S.O. had a filet with nicoise olive mashed potatoes and I opted for the linguini con le vongole—aka linguini with clam sauce. Even though we cleaned each and every plate, we still managed to save room for one of the house-made desserts: a berry coulis and cream trifle.

La Brouette: While this restaurant is not exactly French, the Danish cuisine is as delectable as the owners (and hosts) are charming and hospitable—it wouldn’t be around for 40-plus years otherwise! Specialties include Baltic herring, house-marinated and smoked salmon, smoked trout, and a selection of Danish desserts. During the warm weather months, make a reservation for the rustic, lush patio where you can catch the fireworks on selected nights during the summer. When the chill hits the air, the inside is just as cozy, thanks to a warm burning fireplace.

(See above for information on the restaurant at Colombe d’Or.)

Where To Shop

La Maison Godet: Photographed by Rebecca Taras

Galerie Frédéric Gollong: This illustrious gallery one of the first art spaces to open in Saint-Paul de Vence. Along with works from historic greats such as Matisse, Picasso, Valodon, Alechinsky, Braque, and Miró, you’ll also find more contemporary pieces from Van Velde, Wimmer, Berthois-Rigal, and Coignard, to name a few.

Galerie Le Capricorne: A diverse gallery that features a wide array of classic and contemporary works in various styles, to include landscapes, street art, abstract, pop art, and illustrations. You’ll find stunning pieces from great masters like Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, and Braque, as well as contemporary creations from artisans such as Michel Dejos, Isabelle Plante, Sylvia Karle-Marquet, Claude Fauchere, and Christophe Gallard, among several others.

La Maison Godet Parfum: A personal favorite, this perfume house dates back to 1901, and has since then whipped up umpteen fragrances that pay homage to everything from cognac (the family’s first business) to the muses of some of the greatest artists milling around Saint-Paul-de-Vence back in the day. All fragrances are made locally and it’s not uncommon that they contain ingredients found right in the village—like figs from the tree at Colombe d’Or. The current “nose” is the great granddaughter (Sonia) of founder Julien-Joseph Godet. If you’re lucky enough, she’ll be in the shop the day you visit; brace yourself for a real treat.

La Petite Cave de Saint Paul: Housed in a 14th century wine cellar, this cavernous shop offers an array of wines from the region of Provence. Wine and spirit aficionados will appreciate the well-curated selection of Cognac, Calvados, Armagnac, champagne, Bordeaux Grands Crus, and some of the best bottles from Burgundy and the Rhone Valley.

Where To Visit

Cimetiere de Saint-Paul-De-Vence: Photographed by Rebecca Taras

Fondation Maeght: Going on 50-plus years, the Fondation Maeght features the largest and most influential collections of 20th century art in all of Europe.

Musée de Saint-Paul: Take a deeper dive into the artistic history of Saint-Paul by visiting this well-appointed museum that’s housed in a stone house from the 16th century. Exhibitions change regularly and typically feature the works of artists whose works are associated with the village.

Cimetière de Saint-Paul-De-Vence: Dating back to the 16th century, this quaint cimetière is the resting place of famous locals such as Chagall (known for his paintings of the area) and Marguerite et Aimé Maeght, art gallery owners and dealers who lost their son Bernard at the age of 11—he is also buried here. Fondation Maeght became their project to get through this tragedy.

Jacques Prévert’s House: Ask a local to point you in the direction of French poet and screenwriter Jacques Prévert’s house, an unapologetically charming stone abode where he lived with his wife his wife Janine. Prévert was friends with Pablo Picasso and Paul Roux, owner of the Colombe d’Or.

Place de la Grande Fontaine: A vaulted washhouse serves as a memory for the old town square. Today, it’s a spot for locals to sell farm fresh produce.

Planning Your Trip

Le Village de St.-Paul-de-Vence
© Office de Tourisme de Saint-Paul de Vence – Photographe: Elisabeth Rossolin

By no means are my suggestions a complete list of what you can eat, do, and, see in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, but they are definitely both personal and popular favorites. Don’t be afraid to visit in the off-season as summer can be overwhelmingly crowded, which makes it difficult to book a table at a restaurant, a room at a hotel, or to full enjoy the shops and sites. Have you ever visited this charming French village? What are your favorite places?

In Paris With Julien Pruvost Of Cire Trudon

In Paris With Julien Pruvost Of Cire Trudon

If you’ve ever visited the Palace of Versailles, then you’re well aware of its magnitude in both size and stature. Even if you haven’t, the numbers speak for themselves: Imagine 700 rooms, more than 2,000 windows, 1,250 chimneys, 67 staircases, and a capacity for 20,000 people. As long as we’re talking stats, equally astonishing is the 3,000-plus candles that illuminated the palace—out of necessity, not a craving for ambiance.

But indispensability is what ultimately laid the groundwork for the Trudon family legacy. In 1643, Claude Trudon opened a boutique on rue Saint-Honoré that specialized in candles, among other provisions. It wasn’t long before the court of Louis XV and the kingdom’s most commanding parishes were demanding the pristine white beeswax candles. In 1737, Claude Trudon’s descendant, Jérôme Trudon, purchased the Manufacture Royale des Cires (a.k.a. Royal Wax Manufacturer) in Antony, France from Péan Seigneur Saint-Gilles, expanding the firm’s capabilities.

To learn more about the rich history of this fascinating luxury candle company, I strolled over to the Cire Trudon offices at Place des Victoires to meet with Julien Pruvost, executive director for the brand. Among other things, we discussed how the Trudon family formula wound up in the French encyclopedia (encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers), his favorite Trudon company legend and how the brand survived into the modern-day world.

With a view of the Basilica of Notre-Dame des Victoires from the office window and the intoxicating aroma of Trudon candles in the air, it wasn’t hard to imagine a time when all the world was bathed in the incandescent glow of candle light.

Photo courtesy of Cire Trudon.

Photo courtesy of Cire Trudon.

In your own words, describe the history of Cire Trudon. “The history of Cire Trudon is short. The brand [as you know it now] was born in 2005. We cannot speak of a notion of brand survival, nor of survival here. The point is about transmitting, protecting and developing know-how. Cire Trudon condenses all of this into one entity. Cire Trudon tells the true story of over 350 years of candle and wax knowledge. Through its art, Cire Trudon tells the story of a people, a country, while speaking to the modern world.”

“I think that the main focal point is that we’re speaking to the former Royal Wax Manufacturer. When the Trudon family purchased the company from the former manufacturer, it had only recently become a thriving business that catered to the royals. They also improved the quality of the product to the point that a whole section of the French encyclopedia on arts, sciences and crafts is based on Trudon know-how. The engineer who was in charge of that section went to the Royal Wax Manufacturer and wrote down everything you would ever need to know about candle manufacturing—you could literally relaunch a candle produced in the way that it was done in the 18th century.”

What has enabled the brand to survive—and thrive—for so many years? “We don’t really consider ourselves ‘survivors;’ rather, we consider ourselves carriers of  the heritage. We were able to reinvent ourselves. In a way, the Trudon family reinvented themselves when they improved the manufacturing from the previous [Royal Wax Manufacturer] owner. They were able to adapt the business to a time when gas and electricity were making their appearance. As for today, we’re not here to light a home—but we are in the decorative realm still producing candles, so that’s the important point.”

Photo courtesy of Cire Trudon.

Photo courtesy of Cire Trudon.

Since the candles were originally a home necessity versus a decorative item, when was the fragrance introduced? “I found a late record of a lavender and citronella candle produced by the Trudon company—but later, in the early 19th century. We know for a fact that Paris was not the cleanest place on earth back then, and malaria was around, so you needed all sorts of propellants. Citronella candles—which we still use today—were used to keep the inside air purified. The homes were not that clean, so we assume that lavender candles were mainly around to purify—not scent—the room. It was a modern invention.”

Photo courtesy of Cire Trudon.

Photo courtesy of Cire Trudon.

When a company has been around for so long, there are generally a few great stories from its past—what is one of your favorite Cire Trudon legends? “My favorite legend is about the tunnel that might have existed between the Louvre and the Trudon store that used to be right behind the Louvre castle on Rue de l’Arbre Sec. Since Paris had an amazing tunnel grid beneath its surface that was exploited all through the Second World War, essentially for commercial purposes, it was very plausible that a tunnel existed between the Louvre and the Trudon store. The tunnel grid goes back to the Roman period when rocks were carved out of the Paris rock-bed. The grid served many purposes over the centuries, from simple rock source to catacombs to bomb shelters, etc. So legend has it that there was a horse carriage that brought the goods back and forth.”

What makes a Cire Trudon candle so special? “A candle is meant to melt. If the surface of your candle isn’t completely molten, then the scent won’t be released. It’s also important for the candle to overburn. You need to adapt the wick to the the fragrance. Some will encourage the burn, while others with larger fragrance molecules inhibit it. Each of our 100% cotton wicks is specifically calibrated for each scent. Other features include: Non-drip, don’t omit smoke, complex and highly sophisticated fragrance compositions, and unique natural beeswax formula.”


Photo courtesy of Cire Trudon.

Photo courtesy of Cire Trudon.

How do you go about creating the scents? “We have an in-house team that comes up with the types of notes we would like to associate with each theme. For example, from a historical theme like Josephine. We looked at a certain part of her life when she lived in the Château de Malmaison after divorcing Napoleon. She loved tending to her rose garden and was fascinated by birds and plants, so it was very easy to work with that in terms of developing notes. Next, we bring the idea/concept to one of our perfumers.”

How long does it take to develop a scent? “We were never able to develop anything in under six months. However, when a scent comes out of the lab, it will not smell the same weeks down the line. The more you let it settle, the closer it will be to what the end result is. You cannot rush this process. It needs to mature because we try to work with the maximum amount of natural ingredients. They’re rounder, deeper and more interesting—these types of raw materials need to mature.”

What are the essential oils/fragrances you use? “They come from around the world, including France, and are transformed in Grasse, France.”

Photo courtesy of Cire Trudon.

Photo courtesy of Cire Trudon.

Tell me about a few of your favorite offerings, past and present. “I personally use these days Bartolomé, Madeleine and Positano. I also use a lot the Cire Trudon travel room sprays—especially in my car or when I am travelling extensively. Watching our wax busts being made is also fascinating. We have a partnership with the French National Museum Council to have the exclusive rights to reproduce in wax certain references in their catalogue.”

How did you get involved in this business and what do you love about it? “I joined the company as head of private label in 2009. I slowly got involved in the manufacturing part of the business, and that’s when I really fell in love with the company. For me, it’s very grounding to know that there’s a place where I can go and see the products that we’re offering while working on ways to constantly improve them. I also love the fact that we are selling an ancient product into our modern, high-speed world.”

Photo courtesy of Cire Trudon.

Photo courtesy of Cire Trudon.

Why do you think France has had so much success in creating luxury products over the years? “During the mid-17th century under Louis XIV, France made the market luxurious. Everything came from France and everyone wanted things from France, whether it was perfume, furniture, clothing—even architects, gardeners and scientists. Everything had been promoted so intensively under Louis XIV that there were thriving companies in France making all sorts of things. In a way, France is still living up to that, though it obviously had to adapt.”

WTB Signature Questions: 

What do you always have in your carry-on bag? “For the last year and a half I have been carrying around fragrance samples with me. I try to smell a single fragrance in a variety of environments and situations. The home and/or the office are not always the best places to evaluate a fragrance because you’re used to their scent/environment.”

What is one of your favorite travel destinations and what is a destination on your bucket list?

Favorite destination: Lanzarote Island “It’s part of the Canary Islands. One, there is fantastic surfing over there and two, it’s a very wild and untapped place. Even so, the mayor of the main town is a man called César Manrique; he is also an artist, so he built a variety of structures on the island that are simply amazing. They’re built in lava tunnels or fields, so there’s a combination of this really rough landscape and modernist architecture. It’s like nothing that I’ve seen elsewhere.”

Bucket list destination: The Roden Crater (Arizona) by James Turrell “James Turrell is an American land artist who bought a crater in Arizona and turned it into an experimental art piece that you can actually penetrate and walk around. It relates to the sky and the stars, and it’s a real experience, from what I heard.”