Header image by Natalie Rapoport. Antoni Gaudi. Sagrada Familia. Barcelona.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

St. Paul-de-Vence

What always has been astonishing to me is the loving care, pride and willingness of people to preserve their historical past and sacrifice quite often the comfort and advantages of  modernity. They seem to enjoy belonging to and sharing with.

I’ve decided to start our journey through France not in chronological order from Paris to Nice, but randomly following the mood of the day. It’s December, cold and windy.

I’d love to take you to a sunny, warm and enchanted place filled with cicadas screeching, craftsman’s tuck-tuck-tuck, and delicious smell of freshly baked baguette, into the streets were time has actually stopped long time ago so much to our delight.

Tiny medieval village St. Paul-de-Vence is a well known tourist Mecca in Provence, Southern France.  It’s proudly listed in every guide book thus quite a popular destination. During high season narrow hilly streets can hardly bear the constant lava stream of visitors .

It is so scenic and picturesque from any angle, at any corner that you actually don’t have even to point and shoot, just bring along camera and it will do the rest.  Every step brings a sigh of admiration. The only trick is to come early ahead of fellow visitors crowds and you will be rewarded beyond your imagination.

This is exactly the picture every tourist expects to find in la Belle France , the 3D live of  the best books on  the style of  douce Provence. You hear your own steps on the cobble stones and don’t believe it’s real.

St. Paul is genuinely beautiful with all it’s patina, wrinkles and scars, lush green vines climbing freely the walls, flower pots and evergreens, painted shutters, wrought iron gates, door knobs and knocks and all those shop signs slightly moving in the scented wind.

I wish the word charming wasn’t overused and reduced to cliché, because it’s the best one I can come up with. Graceful ageing. Passage of time. Stories to hear. Two rusty horse shoes embedded into the beam above the heavy solid door which has seen centuries passing by.

You see a tired vagabond knocking at this door on a rainy night hoping for auberge , a bit of bread and wine and a warm place near the cracking fire in exchange for his pilgrimage stories.
Or this window  encased in a thick wall  the only way for the wandering eyes of a handsome passer by to catch a glimpse of a shy local beauty weaving thread behind it.

Can’t you see a gracious little hand throwing a few coins out of this open window to an anxious minstrel performing his ballads on a tiny square below and hoping for more then a coin? So romantic.

St. Paul-de-Vence is not only a historical site, a heritage jewel in the treasure box of Southern France marvels, but a very creative symbiosis with modern art.

Dozens of  contemporary artists ateliers are scattered throughout the village and quite a few modernist sculptures perfectly compliment the traditional views. Artistic community brings lots of life and vibrancy to otherwise sweet and sleepy village so it’s not a cute jar of a tasty homemade fruit preserve but a cool glass of freshly squeezed juice  or wine with a distinctive bouquet.

A touching funny couple. Will she say Yes to his proposal?

A tiny town of fine craftsmen and sculptors who always eager to decorate every possible spot with their art or display collectibles, or just put out a few ceramic-metalic-glass ware with local ornaments and patterns.

Some studios are housed in traditional tiny spaces with raw stone walls and wooden beams, others more spacious in glass and steel carefully inserted in archways and alleys.

This place is so heavenly beautiful, authentic, so unpretentious and natural . The Alpine mountains on horizon, green hills spotted with red roofs, majestic sun light and quietness (let alone tourists). No wonder great artist Marc Chagall made his home here long before the summer nomads took it over for a season.

Happiness to be there is floating in the sky on his paintings like this enchanted flying duo over the St. Paul-de-Vence. 

And this plain and funny gentlemen, ordinary as he could be, questioning the sky with endless stare and standing on his tip toes to be closer, is probably St. Paul himself, just his modern incarnation. He is the first one to meet you at the entrance to the walled village. He is the last one to say a bientot .


  1. Oh Natalie, I can hardly wait to share the beautiful fruits of your travels. You have shared an armload of lovely images today. My daughter visited this jewel of a village on her honeymoon and I"ve longed to see it for myself. Now I have, with you!

    Merci, for letting me be the first follower and commenter here. I look forward to many more visits. I will tell my readers about your blog tomorrow if that is OK!


  2. Dear Virginia, your very first comment is so precious for my heart and so encouraging!
    It's a pleasure to have our virtual walks together.
    See you soon in other beautiful place.

  3. Natalie,
    Being your first commenter is very special for me. Thank you my new friend for reaching out to me. I look forward to many wonderful chats!

  4. Natalie, welcome to Blogland. I've come here thanks to dear Virginia ~ what a lovely place you've created already. The couple of sculptures in the window are very sweet. Enjoy the journey you're embarking upon...

  5. A beautiful blog and fabulous photos...I've found you via Virginia @ Paris Through My Lens...
    I adore the couple and the tall gentleman...wonderful images.
    I'm a follower...welcome to the blogging world!
    Best wishes

  6. Bonne chance.. just found your blog via Virginia ..

  7. Gorgeous photos! Thank you, Virginia, for bring me to Natalie's blog.

  8. Hi to all my new friends and thank you very much for your welcoming and supporting comments.
    Can't thank enough to my dear friend Virginia for introducing me in such a lovely way, I feel very honoured.
    As becoming a blogger is absolutely new thing for me I'm learning technical aspects on the way and there will be improvements.
    I'm so happy to make new friends!
    It's a pleasure to share with you the treasures I found.
    Thank you and hope to see you often.

  9. Your blog is simply delightful and I wanted to welcome you to the group of bloggers. Virginia and I met through her blog and she helped me set up my Paris blog... She is a dear friend!

    Your photos are wonderful and capture the gorgeous elusive light of Provence.


  10. Bonjour Natalie. I also found you on Virginia's blog. I was so happy to see this post on lovely St Paul de Vence. You may know it is a bit of a mythical village in France because of all the artists who stayed or lived there over the years. Simone Signoret and Yves Montand, Chagall... Ah... The good old days. I confess I have another reason for loving this post: I was in St Paul de Vence this summer and took a lot of wonderful pictures of the village. A few weeks ago, burglars broke into my house and stole my laptop... with all the photos of my trip to the Côte d'Azur. I will never get them back, but thanks to you, I can revisit one of the places that made the trip so special. Merci et bienvenue! Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  11. I too have come to visit by way of Virginia. Thanks to her for introducing me to your blog. And thanks to you too—I just got to spend my lunch hour in picturesque St.-Paul-de-Vence!

  12. Hi Natalie,

    I hope you don't mind if I tag along too! I love France and go there often, in person... and also through visits to Virginia and Genie's blogs. We have rented houses in two areas Provence..loved it.
    Just returned from a week in Basque Country and also the Dordogne Valley.
    I look forward to your travels!...Janey

  13. I'm also here via Virginia. This is a wonderful post and I look forward to the ones to come.
    For Janey & Co.- the Dordogne is one of my favorite areas to visit. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

  14. Grâce à Virginie je découvre votre blog et je viens de faire une agréable promenade...
    Saint Paul de Vence est un village que je connais bien, puisque mon travail y est exposé dans une des nombreuses galeries.
    Je reviendrai vous visiter prochainement avec grand plaisir.
    Gros bisous

  15. Grace 'a Virginie de Birmingham, j'ai touve' votre blogg et vos fotos tres belles!
    Bonjour d'EAGAN daily photo 'a Minnesota


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