American artist, Henry Clews, and his American wife, Marie, bought and re-built a sea-front, medieval fortress/château, built on the edge of the sea in 1387 by the Counts of Villeneuve, and renovated it in the 1920′s. As it had mostly been destroyed during the French Revolution (except for the Roman Tower from the 4th century and the Saracen Tower from the 11th century), the couple spent seventeen years re-storing the building. Above the entrance door, the phrase “Once upon a time” is engraved, announcing the entrance into their fantastic world of art, humor, and fantasy. Henry was a painter and sculptor, who abhorred the arrogant bourgeoisie (as depicted in the carved wreath of faces photo) and also made fun of doctors for their sense of superpower and condescension.He caricatured American critics, not appreciated by Henry, through his animal-sculpted wooden doors. Every window, gate, and doorway was individually designed and crafted to create this historical monument of today.
Marie acted as the landscape designer and architect, integrating the two original towers into the walled complex and adding a gatehouse, ramparts, and sea view terraces.
She created four acres of formal gardens, designed with topiaries and fountains, acclaimed by the French Ministry of Culture as “jardin remarkable.”
Henry had tried to follow in his father’s footsteps, by being a banker on Wall Street, but left to become an artist and follow his passion. He had ties with Rodin in Paris, which helped him connect to the Parisian art world. Both Henry and Marie had been previously married with children; they felt passionate about each other and about art and had one son together.
What’s amazing is that after Henry’s death, Marie stayed at the château through the years of German occupation, having hidden and buried all of Henry’s art work, humbly welcoming Germans to stay at the château as a cover. Her strength of character and passion for her husband, and for his works of art, helped save the immense collection that is currently on display – a truly remarkable love story!
In respect for the owners’ wishes, the Château de La Napoule is managed by the Henry Clews Art Foundation, created in 1951 by Marie Clews in memory of her husband. Young artists from around the world are welcomed by the château to stay and search for inspiration.
Mandelieu-La-Napoule, located between Cannes and Theoule-sur-Mer, is the Mimosa capital of the French Riviera, is reknowned for its golf courses, casino, and nature walks. “The Mimosa, ‘this winter sun,’ is so dear to the heart of the people of Mandelieu and La Napoule that the entire city celebrates, every year in February, this myriad of mini suns that illuminate our hills and fill our senses with its fragrance.” Why not try a Kir Mimosa, made with white wine and mimosa syrup as you travel the Mimosa Route comprising eight villages.
Mandelieu-La Napoule is also home to the oldest golf course, founded by the Grand duke Michael of Russia in 1891, on the French Riviera. The course is one of the oldest golf courses in France, modeled from the famous St. Andrews Golf Course in Scotland, and is unique due to having to take a small ferry to cross the Siagne River to access hole number three.
Equally renowned as one of the largest water sports destinations in France, Mandelieu-La Napoule, with its sandy beaches, hosts a nautical sports center that provides a wide range of water-related activities: sailing, windsurfing, rowing, water-skiing, diving, boating, deep sea fishing, parasailing, jet skiing, kayaking; stroll along the Siagne River canal for a relaxing nature walk, as well.
Whether your interests are historical, the sea, beaches, or nature, this area has something to suit everyone’s tastes – Mandelieu-La Napoule has it all!
by Kim inFrance blogger Kim Defforge.
Kim is a lifelong Francophile, and former French teacher. Having moved from the U.S. to the French Riviera, she enjoys writing about France and French culture on her blog, 24/7 in France. From the simple beauty of a Mediterranean sunset to her passion for all things French, Kim shows us that dreams can come true!
Kim Defforge is the author of "Solitary Desire: One Woman's Journey to France" and "Kids Riviera – Sun & Fun Travel Focus" .
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