La Colombe d’Or – a hotel you’ll never want to leave in Saint Paul de Vence, France

May 12, 2012 7 comments

There is a small hotel in the South of France, in the arriere pays of Nice (the ‘back’ land), which you’d truly never want to leave. I’m normally quite restless when I travel. Always on the go, checking things out…Well, we’ve just spent 3 days for a family reunion at La Colombe d’Or and I could have stayed there forever.

The view from our bedroom with the golden dove aka La Colombe d’Or…

A few months ago, I was asked to choose a place to celebrate the 60th birthday of my mother in-law (the whole family lives in Istanbul and flew in thru Nice international airport). I had stayed once with my husband at La Colombe d’Or, the year we got engaged. Back then, we were travelling casually on the Cote d’Azur, and thought we’d give a try  to this mythical hotel for a night. We had gotten a good deal by chance, last minute during the Cannes Film Festival. The place was filled with Hollywood producers, round bellies and big cigars. I thought I was in movie myself. La Colombe d’Or made a big impression on both of us.

Over the years, I kept on hearing here and there how it’s a favourite place of such and such person (celebrity or not). I thought to myself, it’s also my favourite place, but I never got a chance to go again.

This is Saint Paul de Vence, the medieval village where La Colombe d’Or is located, just a 20min drive from Nice international airport.

So when I was asked the delicate task of organising the family reunion, I jumped on the chance to go back to La Colombe d’Or. Everyone (and absolutely everyone in the family from 2 to 72 years old) fell under the spell. Behind the walls of the hotel which opened in the 1920’s, it’s another world. Time has stopped in the 1950’s/60’s, you feel pampered by the spirit of a family-owned place, you eat like a king, and best of all, it’s a feast for the eyes.

   

The hotel is filled with art donated over the years to the owner Mr Roux, who entertained a special relationship with many of the artists. Fernand Leger, Picasso, Miro, Braque, Chagall, Calder…Read the story of the hotel here. It’s fascinating.

   

You’d think so much art, so much history would make the place a difficult one with children. Not all all and it’s the beauty of it. Thanks to the family-spirit of La Colombe d’Or, which still belongs to the same owners as in the 1920’s, you feel as if hosted in someone’s home. Nothing feels too precious that you can’t touch it. It’s a place that’s lived, that’s seen it all hence making everyone comfortable. Parents having a lazy breakfast under the fig trees, with a basket of fresh croissants and baguette, while the children are wandering around, playing hide and seek behind the big statues.
      
BozAround tips
– The hotel is composed of the main house and an annex a short walk downhill. I’d recommend the main building for a family stay as you are right by the swimming pool (a dream pool, huge and heated all year long at 28 degres) and by the garden where meals are served. A family stays very comfortably in one of the 4 apartments as they’re extremely spacious and quite frankly good value for the beauty & quality of the place compared to many luxurious hotels. We stayed in #16. Loved it with the view from our bed onto Saint Paul de Vence and the Colombe d’Or statue. And it’s just one set of stairs from the dining room so there’s no need for a babysitter at night if the children prefer to stay in bed watching a DVD. The other 3 apartments look onto the pool and are calmer, albeit a tiny bit further away from where you have your meals. #36 is quite grand with its beautiful main bedroom. #37 is a duplex and has the advantage of a large private terrace…I think they’re all worth trying.
Inside apartment 36 at La Colombe d’Or:
   
– I was told some families come for an entire week and arrange a swimming instructor daily for the children. Tres chic.
– There are no DVD players (bring an iPad or laptop) in the rooms, which are more of the old-chool style, but with such taste and simplicity that it’s really not an issue.
It’s worth staying just one or two nights at La Colombe d’Or, and not moving anywhere apart for a short walk to the village or to the world-famous Fondation Maeght, a stunning private collection of art in an equally stunning modernist house and a garden filled with scented pine trees.
   
– You don’t necessarily need a car rental if you come to relax and stay put in Saint Paul de Vence (a taxi from the airport is Eur60). However, for a pleasant day trip, head to nearby Antibes where the Picasso Museum in the old town is a real treat, easy on the whole family. And if you feel you really need to do something kid-centric, there’s always Marineland, one of Europe’s most famous aquatic park located in Antibes.
– Oh, and don’t get me started on the food. We had 3 meals at the restaurant of La Colombe d’Or (in addition to all our breakfasts) hence giving us a chance to try many dishes in the menu. Not one was a disappointment. Homey French cooking with the freshest mediterranean ingredients. De li cieux.
      
For a family reunion, for a getaway with the children, for a romantic escape, for a glamorous week end, for a pause away from busy life, La Colombe d’Or fits everyone and every taste. That’s what makes it perfect. It’s not  pretentious, it’s not trying too hard. It’s just one of the most special little hotel in the world…

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