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Hostellerie des Messugues, an Alain Llorca Hotel in St. Paul de Vence, France


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Alain Llorca isn't known in the United States, but he's very well known in the Provence-Alpes-Côtes-d'Azur region. When I was last there, he was Chef de Cuisine at Chanticleer, a perennial Michelin 2-star restaurant in the luxurious Hotel Negresco - surely the most well-known hotel in Nice.

But much has changed in the past five years, and Llorca has thrown his hat into the hotel business, now operating (perhaps having an equity stake in) several hotels in the region, one of which was the beguiling Hostellerie des Messugues. Llorca's least-expensive hotel, our room was a total bargain at 98(Euros), and even though this is technically a "modest" hotel, it punched so far above its weight that it was like Michael Spinks winning the heavyweight championship.

This hostellerie is located outside the city's ramparts, at the end of a quiet street in a pine grove. There's a heated, torus-shaped pool outside, and a help-yourself "honor bar" in the lobby where you take what you wish, and simply sign your name on a piece of paper. It should be no surprise that I nabbed a half-bottle of Alain Llorca Champagne (24€), which was lovingly nursed before dinner.

Immediately after checking in, three of us (including magdalena, who made the 30-minute drive from her house in Nice), left for some museum-hopping, beginning with the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence - a chapel designed and overseen by Henri Matisse in the 1950s. If you're in the area, it's well-worth the 5km drive to get here, particularly for the stained glass, and the wall-painting of the 14 Stations of the Cross.

Still, this chapel is absolutely dwarfed in stature by the extremely important Fondation Maecht which is, without question, the finest outdoor sculpture garden I've ever seen (one visitor in your group should absolutely pay the 5€ supplement for the rights to take photographs there). Even though the outdoor sculpture is unparalleled, the indoor portion of the museum is also magnificent, and it's going to be adding an extension as well. This is a non-negotiable "must visit" if you're anywhere in the vicinity, and it's less than a 5-minute drive from the hotel (you can also walk there using a footpath in about 15 minutes).

This was right at the end of the tourist season, and this hotel is small enough where they can get by with only one employee (cleaning service not included) - thus, the almost ridiculously inexpensive pricing. This hotel gushes charm despite its simplicity, and was of my fondest memories of my entire 2-week trip in France despite it being the least-expensive place where I stayed. 

Of note: the doors and shutters to the rooms were recycled from an 18th-century prison!

An added bonus, which made the hotel even less expensive, was that you could get a half-pension, which included dinner, several miles down the road, at Restaurant Llorcaa Michelin one-star restaurant in the more upscale, more expensive Hotel Llorca, which was having some sort of car convention when we visited. Although technically in the village of La Colle-sur-Loup, it's no more than a five-minute drive. Amazingly, because we were staying at a Llorca hotel, and because its restaurant had closed for the season, we were able to dine on a terrase overlooking the beautiful, walled town of St. Paul de Vence, at this lovely Michelin one-star restaurant, for only 30each for food (I, of course, ruined the economy of the situation by ordering a 50€ bottle of wine, but one must do what one must do). We had a set, prix-fixe, three-course meal that wasn't indicative of what the restaurant was capable of, but nevertheless a *ridiculous* bargain at Restaurant Week pricing - I'll write a separate note about our meal in another thread.

Unless you want to stay inside the ramparts of St. Paul de Vence (and there's surely nothing at all wrong with that), this is a *wonderful* place to stay, and even though the government only assigns it 3 stars (France's government ratings are from 1-5 stars), it's a 4-star experience due to its charms. Simple, almost humble, but absolutely charming and unforgettable. For this reason, I rate the hotel 4 stars instead of 3 - and I recommend it highly to people staying in this area.

The Matisse Chapel in Vence (including the wall-sized "14 Stations of the Cross"):

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Fondation Maeght (including a temporary exhibit by Cristo😞


Hostellerie des Messugues (including the exceptional view from our window (with 18th-century prison door) and our little Fiat 500):


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This hotel is extremely charming. I truly felt like I was in the French countryside staying here, yet it is close to local attractions. I even heard a rooster crowing nearby! This hotel is so peaceful and lovely. I have paid much more to stay in places that offer much less.

Although we didn't take advantage of it on this trip, it also has a beautiful circular swimming pool (below). I would go back here without hesitation.

And I also highly recommend seeing both The Matisse chapel and the Fondation Maecht, the latter being one of the finest art galleries I have had the pleasure of seeing. 

Fondation Maecht (with magdalena in the yellow pants):


Hostellerie des Messugues (with pictures of the gorgeous, heated swimming pool):

IMG_5535 (1).jpgIMG_5539.jpgIMG_5537.jpgIMG_5536.jpg


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