1. Seville, 1962
I was born in Morocco, but my earliest memory of traveling was going to Seville with my parents when I was five. I can still remember the scent of orange blossom. I love Seville because it’s a crazy city. The people are so full of life. They enjoy every day because they have a constant tension between life and death: flamenco is life and the corrida [bull-fighting] is death.
2. The Louvre, Paris, 1972
When I was a teenager we moved to Paris. At the age of 15 I visited The Louvre for the first time. It made a big impression on me, and after that I went there nearly every week. My favorite place was an amazing room with 13 paintings by Rubens. The walls were a deep red. Today, we have 20 Assouline stores around the world and in all of them the walls are that same red.
3. St. Paul-de-Vence, 1976
I was 19 when I first discovered La Colombe d’Or [a restaurant in the Provençal town of St. Paul-de-Vence where famous artists would settle their bills with artworks]. It was my first real understanding of what luxury means. It’s not necessarily marble floors and vases of flowers but a simple restaurant with good tomatoes and great olive oil, where you’re surrounded by wonderful art and there’s an amazing view. I took my wife Martine there for the first time in 1992, a year after our wedding. She said, “We should do a book about this place.” So we did. We did it just for ourselves, as a hobby – I had an advertising agency at the time, Martine was a lawyer – but it was thanks to that book that we ended up going into publishing and working together.
4. New York, 2001
My first memory of New York was sitting on a step on a sunny day in SoHo eating a hot dog. It’s kind of a cheesy, touristy thing to do, but for me, that was a real New York moment. That was when I decided to set up an office in New York, and after that I was back and forth from Paris every two weeks until 2008 when Martine and I finally said to each other, “OK, New York is going to be our home.” I didn’t speak English at the time, but in a way that’s not a problem, because lots of people in New York don’t speak English.
5. Capri, 2006
I resisted Capri for a long time. I thought it would be superficial and snobbish. But then 10 years ago I decided to go there with my wife, to see what everyone was talking about. Now I can’t live without going to Capri every year, because it’s the most beautiful place on the planet. The best time to go is in June – you feel like you’re on the Côte d’Azur in the 1950s. There are no cars, and we enjoy being on our own, just strolling around, swimming and eating pasta. That’s true luxury.
6. London, 2013
I never liked London. I had nothing but bad memories of the city. But the first time I saw the building that would later become Assouline’s first “maison”, it was a revelation. This building [196A Piccadilly] had been a bank for nearly 100 years and then an art gallery, so it was completely empty and it had no windows, but for me there was something magical about it. I had always dreamed of combining a café, a cocktail bar, a gallery and a bookstore – and here my dream became a reality.
7. Costa Mesa, California, 2009
Henry Segerstrom was one of the most impressive people I’ve ever known. He was a true visionary – he created a mall in Southern California called South Coast Plaza, which became the most important mall in America. I met him eight years ago – when he was 84 – and he invited me to visit him in Costa Mesa, where he gave me a tour of the mall at night, with a glass of champagne. What impressed me most was that even in his eighties, he still had the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old. He was still dreaming every day. He died two years ago, but I think about him a lot.