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Inspiring Côte d’Azur

Cezanne provence

We live in the middle of the United States. No matter how you measure it: north, south, east, or west, Kansas is the center. I’m a writer and my husband is an artist. There is much to write about and paint in the Midwest, but our greatest inspiration is in France – a nation rich in color, cuisine, and culture with its epicenter in the Côte d’Azur. (Some might say Paris.)

vence-fountainI could post beautiful scenes of the coast: triple-blue Mediterranean water, geraniums and bougainvillea reaching for the sky, bright bustling food and flower markets. But it’s the simple sites that inspire me. Take for example a fountain in the hill town of Vence. Illuminated in blue light, a mystical ambience reaches out as you stroll past. It tempts us to find a seat in a cafe and jot down a poem, or perhaps reach for a napkin and scribble the opening paragraph of a novella. James Baldwin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Wharton, and Somerset Maugham found their muse here, and so have I.

The south of France has always been a haven for artists. Travel here and you’ll find the studios of Matisse, Chagall, Picasso, Dufy and many more. The light and the color of the Riviera drew artists to villages along the coast and held them here, inspiring each to do his finest work. They developed their own style.

Cezanne's-studio-entrancePaul Cezanne didn’t seek bright colors to illustrate his imaginary world. He took his inspiration from the palette of his surroundings. Earth tones, washed greens, and muted blues were his hallmark. Matisse, on the other hand, thrived on color, as his chapel in Vence testifies.

Today, as you stroll through the villages of Provence or along the Promenade des Anglais you’ll see a mixture of old and new—earth tones mixed with bright animated colors. You might see a door painted in brilliant “Sarlat blue,” a color seen often within the rustic medieval villages of the Dordogne. Turn around and you’ll see a table and chair painted a rich purple. The colors are inviting. Seductive. Wouldn’t you like to sit down, relax, and take in a deep breath of Provençal air?

Inspiration is at your fingertips. Color is everywhere. Come to the Riviera and stay in a room where an artist once lived. Walk the streets where writers strolled and chatted. Dine in cafés where they argued politics and art while sipping pastis. The Côte d’Azur is where you’ll find inspiration, peace, beauty, and (as my husband and I like to say) a little bit of heaven.

by Pamela Boles Eglinski, author of Return of the French Blue (available on Amazon); Facebook page

Vence, Provence – a town to fall in love with
The Matisse Chapel in Provence
Matisse inspires
How to make the most of the Cote d’Azur
A day on the Cote d’Azur

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