The occasion was Jill's birthday. But staying at this most famous of hotels has long been a shared ambition. This year, we made it. And what a joy it was.
It is true to say that we were slightly apprehensive about being out of our league. We had even, half-jokingly, considered parking the SEAT in the multi-storey car park a hundred metres away, and strolling into the hotel as if we had just arrived by limo from Nice Airport. But the valet-parker showed not a hint of disappointment about being given the keys, not to a Porsche 911, but to a three year old SEAT Ibiza with a dent in the back and white emulsion paint spilled over the rear seat.
And once over the threshold, the welcome just got better. We were shown to our room by our own chamber-maid, who lead us past some monumental works of art and up two flights of stairs. Here, just adjacent to the magnificent Picasso pot was our door, and it opened onto a beautiful room with a private terrace overlooking the village rooftops on one side with, on the other, a view over the swimming pool to the mountains. Yes, you could get used to this.
It was only mid-afternoon, so we decided to get used to it. We had a leisurely coffee, we swam, and we had a drink from the bar - all before dinner.
But dinner is a real highlight. Everything you have read about the terrace of the Colombe d'Or is true. The setting is sublime. And it gets better as the sun sets and the artfully artless lighting casts its light and shade over everyone.
The maitre d' looked - well, like a maitre d', tall, distinguished, in black trousers and open-necked white shirt. (I was wearing the same outfit so didn't move throughout the evening for fear of being mistaken for him.) When it was time to order, he arrived within a nano-second of catching my eye, and in his wake were our waiter and a young waitress. We ordered our drinks. He repeated our order to the waiter. Who repeated it to the waitress. Who glided away in search of a coup de champagne for Jill, and a bottle each of rose and rouge. We had chosen simple, local wines from a list which included some of the great Bordeaux and Burgundy vintages. They were wines to die for, literally so, because the only way we could afford them was for me to die and Jill use the life assurance money.
While we sipped our wine, we perused the menu. It is hand-painted and multi-coloured, and the calligraphy is so large that the (not extensive) menu takes up four individual A4 sheets. The myopic do not need to find their reading glasses.
We had heard or read somewhere that the hors d'ouvres avec sa charcouterie was not to be missed and was the speciality of the house. So one between two, please. A nod of approval from the maitre d'. And to follow, rognons de veau a la Provencale for me and rouget for Jill. An emphatic nod. We felt we had not only passed the test, but done well.
The hors d'oevres arrived quickly, together with a separate table on which to place them. The extra table was necessary. We counted 14 individual dishes, together with a huge basket of celery, leaks, artichokes, and of course the saucisson. Each dish would have made a pretty acceptable meal on its own. Later, we tried to remember all the dishes but failed.
"Does anyone ever order hors d'oevres for one?" Jill asked the waiter when he realised that we weren't up to the task of eating it all, and came to clear.
"Often. And they finish it." he said.
"Oui. They get sick. But it's their own fault" he said casually, as he quickly stacked the small banquet of our leavings on a tray and whisked it away.
Jill's main course was equally substantial. She had ordered, and we checked the menu, rouget. Singular. Just the one fish.
She had four.
My veal kidneys were more moderate but quite delicious. Cooked to perfection, in a sauce which was a kind of liquidised ratatouille.
We weren't eating that slowly, but it was gone 10 by the time we finished, and we decided to take the rest of the bottle back to our private terrace. After all, we haven't had one of these before.
We discussed our initial response to the Colombe d'Or. It had more than lived up to our expectations. The hotel is in no sense bourgeois, and certainly not petit-bourgeois. It's a spectacularly welcoming, warm, friendly hotel, with a pretty good restaurant. It would be impossible to create it from scratch; it has grown organically from the small auberge patronised by Picasso et al; it is only what it is because of what it was.
We made a decision there and then. We were going to make the most of it. So the following morning we abandoned our plans to re-visit the beautiful Fondation Maeght in St Paul and the newly-opened Musee Bonnard in Le Canette in favour of a day in the environs of the hotel. When one is surrounded by great art, when there are Picassos and Matisses and Duffys on the walls, and when there are mosaics and modern sculptures around the pool, why go elsewhere?
After all, one can stroll round the hotel at any time and lie on a sunbed with a glass of chilled wine, and be exposed to some of the greatest art ever made.
So that's what we did.