Peillon in the Cote d’Azur: Auberge de la Madone

Peillon in the Cote d’Azur: Auberge de la Madone
Pentecost Sunday, a spring holiday in France, has now passed but I recall with affection having spent it at one of the Côte d’Azur’s most magical locations, the Auberge de la Madone. For an idea of Nice’s back country (l’arrière pays), there is no better day trip than to the village of Peillon and this charming high-in-the hills auberge with delectable accommodations and regional dining. Starting off by car from Nice, make sure you have a good map or GPS. The winding roads can be deceiving, and sudden turns and missed signs are to be expected. Your trip should take about 45 minutes, even though as the bird flies from Nice, Peillon is only about 10 miles. This delay would be due to the upward winding (and sometimes treacherous) path, plus stops you may wish to take to admire the incredibly different terrain when compared with the nearby coastline. Tall lush trees are cropped against stone walls and roads and wild flowers of various plush yellow tones keep you guessing as to their names. Take your time, go slow, and you will have no problem. Peillon is quaint, medieval, and a mix of Italian and French. You will use all your muscle groups to walk this up-and-down stone town of such charm and magic that the per-square-meter-ratio of artists to residents must be nearing 1:1. Galleries and shops display original works as you wander in what I can only call a hushed respect for the village’s ability to be nestled in such as way as to project nature’s quiet call as well as its majesty—from any outcrop or stone balcony, you can see the land as it spills and tumbles towards the Mediterranean blue in the distance. Here, you are up with the birds. Stop at the Auberge, first to secure a parking spot as there are few in this town, and next to relax and reserve a seat for dinner. Stroll through the majestic gardens that surround the inn and take an apéritif at tables strategically placed to enjoy the birds as well as the view. The Millo family has run the inn for generations, and the dining operation includes Christian and his son Thomas as chefs who daily in high season perform magic with local fresh foods. Our holiday meal included foie gras (see picture), rack of lamb with a side of polenta, regional goat cheeses, and chocolate-drizzled ice cream dessert. The wine list is impressive but you might do well to simply order a local chilled Bandol if the weather is warm, or a nice Côte du Rhône. There are several types of Chateauneuf du Pape which are delicious. Fixed-price menus start at around 30 euros per person. The Auberge nightly rates are from 100 euros for a single to 300 for a suite. Rooms are decorated in Provençal-style bright blues and yellows, and many have views to the sea. The service is efficient and discreet, so plan on bringing reading materials or making the first gesture to chat with a local. You are amongst many of long-ago Italian descent and their stories are wondrous and worth the time, as much for future sweet recall as for the reason why generations remain their entire lives atop this outpost to the sky. Kathy Comstock is a writer and lover of France. Her most recent book “‘Vieilles Filles’ and Other Tales from France” includes more details on discovering rue du Commerce. Paris Shuttle is the leading provider of pre-bookable airport transfers in Paris. Book your airport transfer with and save up to 30%. If you’re coming to France (or for that matter anywhere) you can reserve your hotel here. To rent a car, Bonjour Paris recommends Auto Europe.

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