Art: Disaster at the Inn

When he died on the French Riviera in 1955, genial Paul Roux had no bank account and less than $100 in cash, but he was still able to leave behind a fortune. "This bouquet, this Colombe d'Or," he wrote to his son Francis, "I leave to you." The Golden Dove was his hotel-restaurant in tiny Saint-Paul-de-Vence—a restaurant like no other in the world.

From his earliest days as the patron in the 1920s, Roux had found himself fascinated by the customers he got. They were an impassioned, talkative lot who came all the way...

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