The second day of our trip to Monaco we had planned to visit the medieval town of St Paul de Vence in the south of France. Apart from the fact that it is a quaint little place worth exploring, it has another attraction by way of the French restaurant La Colombe d’Or which is famous for local Provence food. A colleague of S had recommended it, and taking her word for it (ok so I did google it) we set off on a sunny morning from Monte Carlo.
Since there was no train station in the town itself, we decided to take the bus. The journey from Monte Carlo to Nice was one of the best I’ve experienced. The road went winding through the mountains along the deep blue sea. At times it forked down to sea level and the experience was almost like being on a ship cruising the water. And all this for just 1 euro, the bus being the only thing that was cheap in that city of the rich and famous ;) We changed buses at Nice, S as usual reluctant to “ask for directions” while I happily carried out an audience poll to figure out the right bus stop. I dont believe in gender stereotyping but this is something I really dont get. Why spend futile minutes (when you have a bus to catch) wandering around and trying to read maps upside-down when all you need to do is ask! As I mentioned earlier, Nice was a very “touristy” place, the upside being most people understood and responded (not always the case with the French) to English, so language was not a problem. The bus to St Paul was packed, unlike the earlier one, and thankfully we managed to get seats for the hour or so long drive. We were starving by the time we arrived at the stop crookedly labelled “St Paul de Vence” and strategically located across the street from La Colombe d’Or.
We entered into what was an old courtyard and were immediately transported into another world. A sunny terrace stretched out in front, laid out with tables shaded by ancient fig trees. The view of the mountains while sipping on the house red wine was breathtaking. We had booked ahead as Sunday lunches were rumored to be especially busy (and special) and as usual, the rumours were based on facts ;) We were presented with a menu in French which the smiling Maitre’d obligingly translated for us. The lunch was divine…the melt-in-your-mouth foie gras entree, the heady wine and the equally intoxicating ambience all merged together into one liquid golden delicious afternoon. For the main course I had the day special (a lamb concoction) and S had a creamy chicken. I wish I remembered the names but that would be asking for too much, being as we were in a state of utter bliss. We had some delicious meals later into the trip also, but for me this one stands out as the most memorable.
A word here about the restaurant itself. It is actually part of a small French boutique hotel of the same name, made of buff-colored stone. The walls are covered with original paintings (even a Picasso no less!) and browsing through them could take up the better part of a day. It is designed with little nooks and corners, quirky staircases and sudden little doors, with arches and shelves forming a backdrop for sculptures, friezes, flowers in surprising colored vases. I spent a lovely time playing Alice in this little art-lover’s wonderland. It all just ended too soon!
The plan had been to explore the town after lunch, but the place and the meal ensured we stick around at the restaurant for much longer. Afterwards we tottered out drowsy and well-fed, and for once even I was content to just saunter down a few cobbled streets lazily. I think I fell asleep in the bus and wakened (or rather was woken) only on reaching Nice. S had the first conference event that evening so we took the bus back to Monte Carlo instead of lingering in Nice. I fell into a coma (well almost) on reaching the hotel while S bravely forged ahead. I actually felt sorry for the poor man as he donned a jacket and tie while looking enviously at me already under the covers. I neednt have worried, because by the time I woke (around 9 pm) he was back and surprisingly chipper, full of plans for going out again at night. The bottle of wine which we had gleefully downed must have been really strong, because I had a bad hangover, something which I almost never get (so did S for that matter, a fact he realised once he settled down a bit!). So we sat quietly on the balcony looking out into the dark sea in the distance and generally being at peace. It had been a good day.