Category Archives: France

And now let’s fly

This morning, in Antibes, I was startled by a loud burst of jet blast and looked up to see colored streaks of the French flag spread across the sky. By the time I got the camera out, the smoked had smudged, but still it was cool to see. It’s funny that I find French displays of nationalism charming, because in general I find nationalism the opposite – but rhyming! – alarming.

As I waited in Nice for the flight to Palerme/Palermo, things didn’t look good. For one, there was no plane at the gate, never good sign. Also, there was only one airline employee behind the counter; how would she process all the passengers by herself? I was sure that at any second we would learn that the flight was late or cancelled. But no, a plane did roll up eventually, and even though the solitary attendant had to check both boarding passes and ID at the gate, things were done quickly and efficiently; we were on the tarmac fast as heck. The flight attendants had to give the safety instructions three times, once in Italian, then in French, then English – ending with, “And now let’s fly!” – but we were up in the air quickly and landed 25 minutes early. And, FYI, at a quarter of the price and oodles more efficiently than my regional airline.

Anyway, now it is time to switch up my brain: time for Italian! Au revoir, ma belle France, à bientôt. Ciao, Italia!

 

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Cap Ferrat

Ooh la la. Here on my last full day in France I have found the Riviera of my imagination. Warm, beautiful, uncrowded, undeveloped . . . I had one of my best travel days ever.

I think Cap Ferrat is where one percent of the one percent of the one percent live. It’s where I’d live too, if I could. I walked it for over eight hours today, mainly exploring its coastal path. As it happens, a previous Bestest Travel Day Ever was also walking along a coastal path of the Mediterranean, on the car-less Greek island of Hydra (a pattern is forming . . . ).

Speaking of the one percent gang, I came upon a scene on Cap Ferrat: a man and a woman were checking out a shiny black Tesla Model X, wing doors up, surrounded by about eight (I say ‘about’ because the menacing guy staring me down effectively caused me to avert my gaze – wow, what a skill), tough bodyguard types, assuming the protective position around the car and couple, eyes hidden behind impenetrable wraparound sunglasses.

I can’t imagine having to require bodyguards.

I also came upon chez David Niven, just as a painting was being delivered. So cool! And I got to see sailing school; the whooping sounds of the kids on the boats was laugh-inducing.

After walking the perimeter of the entire cape – no small feat – I visited the villa of Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild. It is perched at the high point the peninsula, offering 360 degree views of the Côte d’Azure, the Mediterranean, and the mountains. Wow, nice planning, lady.

Here are some photos:

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Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Soft Day in Antibes

Took a walk through the harbor and along the coast beside the star-shaped fort. Had a good vegan lunch at a tiny and inspiring café. Did laundry. Made train reservations. Checked in to upcoming flight. Sat on le petit balcon and read The New Yorker online. Made pasta with roasted vegetables. Drank wine.

The weather is gorgeous. An autumn day in the south of France.

Yup.

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Picasso and Cap d’Antibes

The air was sharp and clear this morning, with none of haze that has lately obscured the coastline and mountains, so I could see all the way to Monaco, and maybe Italy. Sweet!

My first adventure of the day was exploring the Picasso Museum, where he lived for a short time and produced lots of joyful postwar art. Along with some of his spectacular pieces, there was also an expansive display of black and white photographs of the artist at work and with family. So cool! (My favorite work of his on display is the black and white triptych.)

Afterwards, I had a good vegan lunch at a café owned by a British expat. She and another Brit discussed their revved up efforts to become French citizens, like, soon, due to Brexit.

Next I hiked for about five hours to and around Cap d’Antibes. It was warm and lovely and the air was saturated with delightful floral scents. This is where the one percent of the one percent live. There are places for sale if anyone’s interested.

At one area along the narrow coastal trail, I was having the edge-issues thing, and two French couples came up behind me. I merely wanted to step aside so that they could pass and I could make my way gingerly, so I said out loud ‘j’ai peur’ (‘I’m afraid’), and goodness if one of the women did not just grab my hand and then clasp my arm tightly under hers and lead me through a gnarly area. It was so awesome!! So kind of her. There are wonderful people everywhere.

Here are some photos.

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Côte d’Azur, Antibes

I’m staying in a tiny Airbnb apartment with an appropriate tiny balcony. (This is a good exercise in living small.) It’s in a funky old and dark building up four flights of stairs, and another ladder to the sleeping loft, so I’m doing some serious calorie burning. It’s very quiet, which is so nice.

I took off this morning around 8:30 and the town was deserted, perhaps because people were sleeping off last night’s revelries? Of the countless boats in the harbor, I came across only one awake human being. We made eye contact, so I naturally said bonjour, but he might have been too rich to respond – he just turned away from me. There is so much wealth here!

Later I wandered the town and the market, and had lunch at a too-expensive vegan restaurant run by an American expat. She says it’s hard to live, hard to get things done, in France.

Here are some photos. There will probably be more later; I just want to take advantage of up and running internet now.

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Bardo Day

Today was a day of travel and learning. This is my 8th trip to Europe, yet I am being constantly humbled by daily activities; let’s call a spade a spade: I am European appliances challenged. Although frustrating, there is an upside. Back track: one semester while I was teaching a writing class, a friend was trying to teach me to knit, and I was a total klutz at it. (My ego would like me to mention that I’m a pretty good crocheter.) Being an unsuccessful learner helped me improve my teaching skills dramatically. This unknowing how to open doors and operate washing machines, etc., is similarly teaching me patience and compassion, or as my beloved professor Dr. Doudna would say, “building character.”

Anyway, this morning at the Arles train station, I saw something that kind of explains why I am frustrated with the place I live and why I love what I fancy as the ‘European mind.’ The first photo below was taken at the Arles train station. I think it’s an awesome mural. The problem is that I would never ever ever see anything remotely like that plastered in a public place on Hawaii Island. It would not be ‘allowed.’ This is a problem for me. Not sure how to solve it.

The Marseilles train station was a study in humanity! I bet every type of human was present today – it was awesome. Diversity is something to be celebrated!

Also, FYI, Marseille is a two-cheek-kiss location.

Antibes does not fit the way I imagined it would be. I have six days here. Time for discovery.

Here are some photos, including one from the balcony of the Antibes rental.

P.S. Bardo is a state of in between.

Provence in an un-Provence manner

I had a big moment this morning. A big, awesome, golden, happy moment. The downside is that it really was just a moment. Since I am relying on public transport, remote areas are difficult to get to. High on my bucket list this trip was to visit Pont du Gard, and I did that today, and it was fantastic, but it was a ridiculously short stop on a rushed group tour of Provence. I could have spent 8 hours here; we were here for 40 minutes. Forty minutes allotted for this spectacular place! It’s hard to believe. Whatever, I have added a long visit to the area to my list of things to do on my next France visit, along with some up-close time with flamingoes in the Camargue wetlands.

Of the eight people on the the minibus, about half were French speakers, so the guide explained everything in both French and English, which was fabulous for this aspiring French speaker. My abilities and confidence to converse in French are improving daily. Oui, je reviens en France.

The rest of the day was spent visiting some of the official Most Beautiful Villages of France, Roman ruins, a lavender (or as the guide says, lavenger) farm, and the Ochre Trail. I made sure to include a tasty glass of rosé, a specialty of the region.

Some more interesting things the guide said:

Paris is not France.

The weather has been so hot and dry that the vineyards (or as he says, weenyerds) of Châteauneuf-du-Pape were permitted to be irrigated (this is normally against the law of wine-making).

Monaco is merely a fiscal paradise and soccer team of France.

There are many differnecy between the towns.

To Antibes tomorrow!

Note to self: maybe three double espresso not such a good idea.

And some photos:

Arles

First, I would like to comment on the charm of the three cheek kiss.

Ok, that important point having been made, I started off this morning with a nice walk along the Rhône (and an accidental journey into some unnamed neighborhood) to the ancient history museum. Did you know that one of the reasons behind Rome’s success was its use of concrete in building? Now I do.

The highlight of the museum was the display of a 100 foot long barge, brought up from the bottom of the river, researched, restored, protected and put on display. A 20 minute documentary tells the story of the astonishing amount of effort that went into to this endeavor, especially considering it may have taken all of ten minutes to sink (it was a stone transport). Also from the museum, Hawaii friends and family: check out the petroglyph.

After the museum, I strolled through the inviting residential area of La Roquerre. I even found a fantastic vegan lunch spot. Hallelujah. It’s a small, one-woman operation, and she was invaded at lunchtime by others of my persuasion.

I don’t know if I’ve been influenced over the decades by stories of the magic of Provence’s light, but it does seem rather special. I’m searching for the best word to describe it. Translucent? Diaphanous? Delicate? Un certain quelque chose . . .

Je ne sais quoi.

After lunch I visited the Réuttu Museum, Monsieur Réattu being a beloved artist of Arles. His work was the main feature; he had an intense interest in the human body, including how fabric draped over it. Besides the many complete works, the exhibition also featured the numerous studies he did before the final works, revealing the depth of his obsession to absolutely, positively, minutely get it right. The museum also had some contemporary shows, including photography, which made me very, very happy.

Later in the afternoon, I found a spot at the curve of the river and sat along the embankment near the remains of a WWII bombed bridge. (Arles was occupied by the German Army and trashed by Allied bombers.) The weather was spectacular, but why this lovely river bank has not one bench is a mystery to me. Strangely, there was barely any river activity, except that today divers are snooping around that sunken boat, a venture I have lots of respect for after this morning’s film.

Here are some photos. I’m guessing you have had your fill of shutters and narrow lanes.

P.S. There is a flamingo reserve nearby, and the Romans apparently saw them.

Carcassonne, part e, or Canal du Midi Day

Today was my last chance to explore the Canal – I leave tomorrow for Arles. The B&B I’m staying in loans bikes, which is very convenient, but I had to make do with a one-size-fits-all bike that didn’t exactly work for my long legs (I will need the soothing benefits of the room’s giant bathtub later, I expect). My host told me the ride from the B&B to the Canal is about 35 minutes, but I took a personally devised short cut and got there in only one and a half hours. I am sure this is because a few days ago I was feeling superior about my navigational skills, and you know pride comes before the fall. Anyway, the day dawned beautifully instead of stormily, and I set off right after breakfast. Wow, what an adventure. The Canal is lovely and mostly unspoiled, and its engineering is impressive, to put it mildly, especially considering it was completed in 1681. One section I passed includes three separate locks to manage the elevation change. And at one section, A RIVER PASSES BENEATH THE CANAL. C’est fantastique! The tow paths are well used by walkers and cyclists, although there were many stretches when no one was in sight during my 22 km ride. The canal is no longer put to its original commercial use (having been made obsolete by trains and trucks) but is used extensively by large (and rentable) river boats, complete with kitchens and bedrooms and bikes on decks. The tow path is narrow, and it provided an opportunity in courage building for me: I’ve developed edge issues as I’ve aged, and when I was in the ‘lane’ next to the water’s edge, it was an opportunity for growth! I did crash, but only once, and I did not wind up in the canal. Nor did I take anyone else down with me, so I’d call that a success. Sadly the photos do not do the beauty of the Canal or its engineering feats justice.

Oh, that’s not a photo of the castle below; it is merely a landscape photo and the castle just happened to be there in the distance.

Lastly, here is a launderette update: the one in Carcassonne nearby B&B is new, modern, and spic ‘n’ span, but I still have not perfected the art of using a French laundromat; witness the locked machine sloshing around with no clothes in it . . .

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