Archive for Day trips from Nice

Awaken to Saint Paul de Vence, France.

Posted in French Affair, French Cafes, French Painters, French Travel, South East France with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2013 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour my friends, If you fancy being somewhere else from where you are right now, an inspirational change of pace will welcome you in a village in Provence beyond the French Riviera. This place has always been a throbbing hub and perfect hideaway for great artists and imaginative creatures. Like bees to the honey pot, artists such as Matisse, Braque, Miro, Picasso, Mogdigliani and my favourite painter Chagall, as well as writers, (Aldous Huxley), beautifull bohemians (Johnnie Depp) and even an ex Rolling Stoner, all seem to have grown like spicy radishes in gloriously warm weather and a good watering hole. The village you ask? It’s  Saint Paul de Vence. DSC_0880 Saint Paul de Vence is securely nestled between the villages of La Colle sur Loup and Vence and it’s seven kilometres inland from the Mediterranean which you can see from the cemetery at its peak. DSC_0903 Being relatively close to the sea, Saint Paul de Vence has long been easily accessed since the year 1000 but these days the No 400 bus will do nicely. Or, if you’re going by car, you’re looking at about 45 minutes depending on today’s traffic from Nice.

Take a look at what lies ahead. You’ll get your first inkling that this village is going to be really good and colourful when standing right here beholding Chagall’s work with his Saint Paul de Vence in the background. DSC_0879 Keep walking closer and you’ll reach the boules area (Place de Joue de Boules). It’s easy to escape here with friendly locals where you can spend hours swinging low on crunchy gravel outside the rampart walls.  Or maybe boules is not your thing and if you haven’t yet shaken that competitive spirit off you from home, you may fancy a game of chess instead under these ancient plane trees… IMG_3218 DSC_0883 However, there’s a strong possibility that the warmth of the place simply lulls you and your tongue becomes a divining rod looking for a water hole. I know the perfect cafe and bar to have a cold beer and watch the game as Picasso did- it’s  just the thing… DSC_0921

From your table you’re likely to spot a celebrity outside the famous La Colombe D’Or across the road, who have come for the very reason as you. It happens. Bono, Richard Attenborough, Michael Caine, Roger Moore, X Stones rock artist Bill Wyman (who has a house nearby) and many more, have all eaten here.

Artists use to pay their drink and board bills to the entrepreneurial Roux family owners with paintings, sculptures  and drawings and so over time, La Colombe D’Or has built up an outstanding collection of  twentieth century art which now decorate the dining rooms and back garden courtyard. My french awakening to La Colombe D’Or and her history came about by reading Martine’s Buchet’s book. In fact, it made me pay a visit. Being an art museum, guesthouse and restaurant all in one, the glamorous and the beautiful-on-the-insiders fill its space in a palette of colour and expectation.

I read that the guestbook reveals the presence of Edward VIII (then the Prince of Wales) and Wallace Simpson, David Niven, Orson Welles, Cary Grant, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Marlene Dietrich, Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot, Charlie Chaplin.  Zelda and F.Scott Fitzgerald and many more- which makes me wonder who warmed my chair as I lunch with Matisse.

The ambience inside its walls is exactly what I like-disarmingly simple and very relaxed- serving regional foods like sardines, saucisson, hams, cheeses, figs, couscous, red cabbage, fruit tarts and aubergines etc. I can taste why it’s so popular. After lunch, you can take a dip in the pool and degrease yourself of south-of-France sleepiness while swimming with Calder- if you’re a guest of course. The perfect setting for a french affair! Sleeping with Bonnieu as a guest proves me right.

What to do next? Explore of course. Walk upwards along any of the meandering cobblestone lanes… DSC_0888

and listen to the sound in the artistry of a local’s world…

 

 

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Let it be said that there must be something in the clean, clear air here and the high altitude breeze brings with it inspiration. The light from a provincial sun soothes and warms and makes colours sparkle with poetry. You can see it in Chagall’s paintings and mosaics when he lived right here with a new found feeling of hope and freedom. DSC_0914 - Version 2

His canvases fill with swooping lovers and circus performers and a passion for living. I like that. Smiling goats and joy oozing from canvases- it doesn’t get better than that. He lived until he was 97 in his beloved Saint Paul. DSC_0906 - Version 2 Perhaps Chagall drank from this fountain of youth here… DSC_0896   and always found respite among the shadows, DSC_0897   and a growing clarity of thought and peace. DSC_0911

As for me, as I dawdled across the road here in the early morning, I turned around to give a wave of thanks to the kind driver who had stopped  DSC_0926

so abruptly to let me cross. It was at that instant that I too became like Chagall and all the others mesmerized by Saint Paul de Vence, those who never want to leave this place- for the driver behind the wheel …was Johnnie Depp.

AuRevoir and Best wishes (and thankyou Johnnie for stopping)

Therese Waddell

copyright@ 2013Therese Waddell

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Awaken to Gourdon in Provence.

Posted in Food and Recipes, French Cafes, French Gardens, French Travel, South East France with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2013 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour my friends,

Today you’re going to a little village in the south of France  but first of all, I’d like to make it quite clear from the start that there are two villages by the name of ‘Gourdon’ in France and I’m writing about Gourdon located in the Alps-Maritime region of Provincial France (not the town of Gourdon in the southwestern Lot.) Secondly my friends, I want to make it just as clear that YOU’RE GONNA LOVE IT when you get here!

If there was ever a place that belonged in a book of classic European fairytales, it would be this tiny village of Gourdon. Nestled precariously like a hawk’s nest on a cliff face high overhead…

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Gourdon is custodian to the Vallee du Loup-with its gorges and canyons, forests and Loup River that snakes its way to the Mediterranean while the birds soar in circles over farmsteads in the greenest valley I could ever imagine.

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To get to Gourdon is an adventure in itself. Choose your driver and your means of transport well, for if you take the road, be aware that it zig zags sharply without relief for quite some time and for some part of the journey you may well trigger a small rock avalanche which begins collapsing beneath your vehicle and propelling debris into the airy depths below. This way will bring you to the Northern entry of the castle.

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The alternative is to hike along the skinny spaghetti trail winding up and around the mountain to the castle from almost a thousand meters below. The old mule track, ‘Chemin du Paradis’ is steep and stony and was the only way of hard core artisan and construction workers centuries earlier lugging stone to build the castle in the eleventh century. This way is not for the faint hearted.

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Your choice maybe raises a question as to how you approach life itself.

If Pinocchio were French, he would drunkenly tumble over Gourdon’s cobblestones and vaulted lanes, pass inner courtyards of provincial stone houses with their fountains…

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sun dials and gargoyles and other eccentricities…

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and then perhaps he would hop-step his loose way toward the warm aroma of bread ovens and medicinal herb shops reeling lavender, hyssop and comfrey. Copper distillation equipment of some Medieval alchemist making perfume breathes fragrant history into shopfronts…

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Pinocchio would gaze upon the infinite antique bottles and drooping chandeliers of philosophers come glassmakers…DSC_0222

and once inside, he would be mesmerised by glittering crystal glassware in electric colours as the afternoon sun works its magic.

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Pinocchio would be smiling no doubt. Just like Le Notre, the landscape gardener of the Palace of Versaille, when he completed his new  project in Gourdon and thoughtfully created its magnificent Chateau gardens.

Gourdon is exactly what you want in a fairytale. Hot pink shots of mountain rhododendrons and teeny erigeron daisies popping out everywhere…

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and very friendly locals and a close knit community spirit of shopkeepers selling joy in Florentines, soaps, perfumery and art. (When the baker asked me to marry him, I told him I had five children. He cheekily replied, ” De rien. J’ai six.” (no matter, I have six!).

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Breathing in Gourdon’s air is cool and fresh, as you would expect from such a dizzy altitude…

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but the sunlight is strong here and paints Gourdon with a warmth overlooking a sweeping panoramic view of the Cote D’zure from Beaulieu to Cannes.

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If you bother to look hard enough across the horizon, pass today’s hang gliders at eye level, you may even see Corsica on a really clear day but you’ll be forgiven if you don’t even try, as by now you will have decided to join the others dabbling in hand made ice creams or at The Salon de The’

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on a rocky outcrop. Or, more casually,  decide to have a cold beer on the very popular terrace in front of the old church… A splendid idea as you watch the sun go down.

Truth be known- Fairytales have a very happy ending in Gourdon.

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Getting there: Gourdon is about 37km from Nice Airport by car and 14km from Grasse. Local tour companies will get you there very inexpensively. Enjoy and tell us of your experiences here.

Au revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

copyright@2013 Therese Waddell