‘we call them dead villages’, is what i gathered from the owner of the auberge’s franglais.
opposite the auberge in vence is an ash tree of which it is alleged to have been planted in honour of francois I in 1538; the same tree which was painted several times by chaim soutine. the room next to ours was named after him. he, as well as other artists like modigliani, dufy and renoir we were told, stayed in the auberge. the owner, a sweet but strict french lady of about seventy, was born there on the first floor since it already belonged to her family. her father was a friend of chagall’s, her daughter subsequently also started working at the auberge. just between the two of them they managed the auberge and its restaurant with charm and efficiency. there is something sincere about that historical perpetuation of a place; it shows in the personal care taken with the guests, in the eclectic collection of furnishings and also in the state of the plumbing.
i’m plagued by thoughts on preserving some unique heritage or re-inventing a place of historic importance without changing it into a museum or a curio stop.
yet each man kills the thing he loves - oscar wilde
saint-paul de vence clearly markets its artistic heritage in a different way, the entire town has been transformed into a medieval shopping mall; an excuse for an array of suspicious galleries, one after the other. perhaps the picturesque streets are to blame for the tempest of tourist traps and commercial exploitation which invariably follows; perhaps the lack of local residents and escalating square meter pricing are to blame.
sadly, for all its instagram worthiness saint-paul de vence only seems to succeed in spiralling further into insincerity and superficiality.