For those who have missed it, or can't access it. An article by Alexander Lobrano. The original here. Plus a few comments.
The cityscape of Uzès, France is meticulously preserved, but its hotels are now boasting very modern renovations.
The town of Uzès, France, is meticulously preserved, while offering modern amenities. “Oh little town of Uzès!” the French novelist André Gide wrote affectionately of his father’s hometown in the South of France in his 1924 memoir, “Unless the Seed Dies.” “If you were in Umbria, Parisians would be visiting you in herds!” Gide, who was born into a middle-class Protestant family and scandalized France with a blunt but elegant defense of his homosexuality in “Corydon,” also published in 1924, was a wry and astute observer of Parisian snobberies. So he’d surely be amused to learn that today a taste-making coterie of Parisians is falling in love with Uzès and settling there, despite the fact that it’s not in Umbria.
Uzès is one of best preserved and most meticulously renovated towns in the South of France. It’s in the Gard département, 25 miles west of Avignon near the majestic Pont du Gard — an aqueduct bridge built in A.D. 60 by the Romans to supply water to Nimes — and has some superb Renaissance architecture. As Pierre Beghin, the co-owner of two of the beautiful little town’s most charming hotels, L’Artemise and Le Clos du Léthé, put it, “The summer visitors haven’t yet denuded the town of its authenticity. Uzès isn’t commercially folkloric like some of the best-known towns in the Luberon or the Alpilles” — two other southern French spots favored by the Parisian gentry (and, increasingly, Japanese tour buses). “Instead it’s a small but cultivated and unpretentious town that’s attracting a growing number of interesting creative people, and unlike many southern French towns, there’s life here year-round and a strong sense of community.” At L'Artemise, one of the hotels Pierre Beghin co-owns in Uzès.A room at t L’Artemise, one of several attractive new hotels in Uzès.
Think of the Gard, where Uzès is located, and the Luberon, as Gallic declensions of the North and South Forks of Long Island, respectively. Tellingly, decorators in the Luberon looking to create perfectly staged French country interiors for their wealthy clients have begun the antique shops and flea markets of the Gard because the Luberon was pretty much picked clean of such treasures a long time ago. You now see as many Hermès bags as straw market baskets at the Saturday morning market in Apt, the Luberon’s biggest town. Take a back road in the Gard, and you always run into a tractor. Take a back road in the Luberon, and you’ll invariably pass a couple of Porsche convertibles with license plates identifying the occupants as being from Paris or Geneva. Beghin ran a cooking school in London until 2004, when he and his partner Benoît Hérault, both avid gourmets and collectors of contemporary art, found a gorgeous old farmhouse just outside of Uzès that they renovated into Le Clos du Léthé, a delightful five-room inn with an outdoor pool. “Uzès was a Huguenot (Protestant) stronghold during the 16th century, and a certain liberal live-and-let-live tradition runs very deep here,” Beghin said. “We love the relaxed friendly atmosphere of this town.” In 2012, the couple opened their second hotel, L’Artemise, in another exquisitely restored farmhouse on the edge of Uzès where they were already running a restaurant by the same name. “Le Clos du Léthé was always booked solid, so we saw that there was a strong demand for more rooms offering a distinctive décor and a high level of comfort,” Hérault said.Inside one of the nine rooms at La Maison d' Uzès.Inside one of the nine rooms at La Maison d’ Uzès, another of the city’s new inns.
If Beghin and Hérault were the trailblazers of Uzès’s new allure, others soon followed. Two years ago, Alexis van Deinse and his British partner Gwilym Cox opened L’Albiousse, a four-room inn in a handsomely renovated 16th-century town house in the heart of town just a few steps from the Place aux Herbes, where the town’s lively market is held on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. The newest contender is La Maison d’ Uzès, an elegant nine-room hotel with a spa and a restaurant run by the young chef Oscar Garcia, who formerly cooked with Franck Putelat at the Michelin two star Le Parc in Carcassone. So this sophisticated but low-key little town is on a trot, which most newcomers hope will never become a full gallop. Recently when I was shooting the breeze with one of the most successful young chefs in Paris, Simone Tondo, half of the duo (the other is Michael Greenwold) at the Roseval bistro in the 20th Arrondissement, he mentioned that some day he’d like to leave the capital for the South of France. Where? “I really like Uzès,” he said.
A comment by Barbarella, from New York
The source of the tiny Roman aqueduct which eventually crosses the Pont du Gard (unmissable, whether you walk over it, or canoe under it ), the Cathedral with the only fenestrated tower in France, the nearby vineyards and olive oil mills, the "Musical Nights" festival that has been running every July for over 40 years, with concerts under the stars in the courtyard of the Duche (which you can visit, and climb its towers), the medieval garden tucked away in one of the many lovely alleyways in this town, fabulous walks and bike rides in the glorious surrounding countryside, artists' studios, my favorite (unnamed here - phew) restaurant which recently moved from one nearby village to another, Roman Nimes just half an hour away, and all the other lovely historic towns within an hour and a half - Avignon, Montpellier, Orange, Arles, Aix-en-Provence, Aigues-Mortes, for example. St. Quentin-la-Poterie, responsible for the 14C tiles in the Avignon Cathedral I believe, and today a pretty little village of steep narrow lanes, with pottery studios dotted around it, and a weekly organic market in the carpark at its base. Drive through the wild rocky Garrigue between Uzes and Nimes, with a (c. 12th century) monastery overlooking the river. I could go on...Little Uzes has fewer than 10,000 inhabitants, yet the Green (Cultural) Michelin Guides awards it ** out of a max ***: "Vaut le detour" (worth making a detour). Even from New York. If you go, you will understand why Uzes richly deserves it.
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