A huge part of travelling, for me, is the food. Generally speaking, I like self-catering best – it makes you leave the comfort of your accommodation to find the local eateries, which is great for exploring and people watching as well as experimenting with the local cuisine. I haven’t been to any particularly exotic destinations (so I’ve never experienced particularly exotic foods or ways of eating) but I do love to eat out because it’s a great way to fully embrace your new surroundings, whether it’s with an espresso in a cute café or a five course dinner at a Michelin star restaurant. You see people, you hear conversations and you learn from the locals.
So, of course, with this in mind, I thought I’d share my eating experiences in Saint Paul de Vence last week. I’ll start with the hotel, where we ate breakfast and lunch a few times so that we could lay by the pool for as long as possible. There’s just something so utterly relaxing about eating lunch in your swimmers, isn’t there? Perhaps it harks back to childhoods spent running around in the sunshine, eating egg sandwiches and drinking fizzy juice as a treat.
Anyway, breakfast at the hotel was pretty standard, but good; a fresh buffet of cereal, yoghurt, fruit, eggs, sausages, cold meats, cheese, bread and pastries, accompanied by tea and coffee and juice. Buffets are fairly common but are easy to get wrong if they’re not fresh and/or local produce. The buffet breakfast at La Vague de Saint Paul was really lovely and relaxing, and there was plenty to choose from. Coffee on the terrace afterwards was particularly enjoyable.
Lunch at the hotel was also good. The first day we had salad (super fresh and super crunchy) with French fries (but of course!), and the next day we had a cheese baguette with French fries. The bread was, as it always is in France, beautiful. Washed down with a coffee or smoothie (this strawberry one was to die for), our tummies were content until a late dinner in the village.
Our first evening in Saint Paul de Vence, we headed to a restaurant recommended to me on Instagram, Le Tilleul. Situated at the foot of the hill that, the pretty restaurant had tables outside beneath a canopy of lit trees. We sat there and both ordered the salmon with ‘pasta, but cooked like risotto’ and though the cheesy mushroom sauce was rich, it worked well with the pasta. The salmon was huge, but despite its size we still managed to share a crème brûlée afterwards – a dessert that, no matter where I am in the region, always tastes excellent.
The second restaurant, La Colombe d’Or, was a bit of a treat; our taxi driver spoke of it as we drove down the winding streets into town, saying that even Madonna couldn’t get a table because in the height of summer the waiting list is over five weeks. He suggested we stop by the restaurant to see if they had any space and, if not, to put our names against any cancellations. After a few calls a couple of hours later, we were offered a table for two as soon as the restaurant opened (7.30pm). We accepted and, on arrival, instantly fell for the charming and elegant outdoor restaurant, with its lemon and orange trees, ivy crawling up the walls and impeccable white tablecloths and glassware. The waiters were old school and extremely good at juggling all of their tasks with entertaining their customers, without risk of intruding; a fine balance, an art well crafted. We enjoyed the beef (again, we both ordered the same), which was succulent and perfectly cooked, with dauphinoise potatoes, followed by fresh berries and Chantilly cream (we were taught the pronunciation of Chantilly: chaun-tee). The simple dessert was delicious; the fruit had quite possibly been marinated in sugar or syrup because the strawberries were like none other I’ve tasted, and I’m still drooling over them a week later.
After dinner, we browsed the restaurant’s (it’s also a hotel, but with just 30 rooms) art collection which includes original works by Picasso, among many other famous artists. La Colombe d’Or is certainly worth planning ahead for should you be visiting Saint Paul de Vence, while Le Tilleul is easier to get a table (it’s not quite as prestigious, though it seemed equally as busy).
Overall, I happily ate my weight in carbs by way of pasta, bread and pastries, topped up with cheese and potatoes. As enjoyable as every mouthful was, I’ll be pleased to get back to my usual routine of salads, fish, roast chicken and – my favourite – veggie fajitas! (Though I’d happily drink the smoothie or eat the berries every day for the rest of my life!)
Breakfast at La Vague de Saint Paul is 18EURO/14GBP per person per day. Lunch at La Vague de Saint Paul was around 20-30EURO/15-20GBP per day for us both. Dinner at La Tilleul was 62EURO/49GBP for us both. Dinner at La Colombe d’Or was 129EURO/102GBP for us both.