Nostalgic restaurants in The South of France for Art Lovers
1) L'École des Filles
A lovely restaurant, in a former girls’ school, from 1929, in Le Bar-sur-Loup. It was here that Célestin Freinet taught his first pupils and gradually developed his pedagogy around the idea of the free expression of children. In 2000, the school was converted into the aptly named ‘L’École des Filles’ restaurant. You can still visit two classrooms and see the small wooden desks with the porcelain inkwells. The walls are covered with old classroom photos. The former playground has now become a terrace, where you can eat lunch or dinner under the large linden tree. The interior, a classroom of the old secondary school, is just as cosy with its ochre-coloured walls and wooden beamed ceiling. They serve Provençal cuisine and only use seasonal products.
2) Le Bibent
The interior of this cafe-restaurant in Toulouse – which dates from between 1900 and 1910 – is both baroque and belle époque. A visual overload but in a good way, and an absolute eye-catcher. The pacifist politician and journalist Jean Jaurès wrote his articles here. Perhaps he was working at Le Bibent in 1914 when three Serbian students, all members of the Black Hand, plotted the attack on the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand here. He was assassinated on 28 June in Sarajevo. Jaurès himself was assassinated just one month later by a young nationalist on 31 July.
3) Brasserie Le Napoléon
A rococo interior with large mirrors, gilded garlands, lavishly decorated ceilings and red plush chairs. This is the Brasserie Le Napoléon in Nîmes, which was founded in 1813 and which is a monument in every sense of the word. The brasserie, which is situated near La Maison Carré and the Carré d’Art, closed for two years for an extensive renovation. Since then, the Second Empire interior has been restored in all its former glory. The flatware and tableware have been adapted to match the backdrop. The restaurant serves superb, regional cuisine and what’s more, there’s often a pianist playing in the background.
4) Les 1000 Colonnes
Les Milles Colonnes in Draguignan is the third oldest brasserie in France and has been in business since 1760. The current interior, with the wood panelling, mirrors and slender columns, dates from 1839. You can also sit outside on the terrace in Place aux Herbes and listen to the fountain splashing merrily in the background. Les 1000 Colonnes opens early in the morning for coffee, drinks later in the day and serves typical French brasserie-style fare for lunch and dinner, including escargots, foie gras and steak haché. There are regular concerts in the square.
5) Le Club 55
The place to go if you want to see and be seen. Club 55 – which was established in 1955 – is a bar and lunch restaurant on the sandy beach of Ramatuelle on the east side of the peninsula of Saint-Tropez. A lot of celebrities drop in, but the owner firmly sticks to this motto: ‘The customer is not king here... because he is a friend’. Le Club 55 is quite near to the location where the infamous beach scene in Roger Vadim’s Et Dieu... créa la femme (1956) was shot. The film, which stars Brigitte Bardot, was deemed quite scandalous at the time.
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The South of France for Art Lovers is one of the spin-off titles of The 500 Hidden Secrets series of essential city guides. This guide focusses on one particular aspect of the region of the South of France.
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