A Travellerspoint blog

June 13 - Wednesday - Nice, Final Day

We decided we were beached out and needed some culture. So after breakfast we took the bus to the Matisse Museum in the Cimiez district 'uphill' from old Nice.

This is an upscale residential area, high rise condos and posh houses.

While we like Matisse, this museum was a disappointment. Only a few works of his, in three rooms, with other rooms, the majority, devoted to the phase where he was doing cutouts and collage type works. Not very interesting.
We then walked to Place du Monastere. On this site is a Franciscan monastery and a church, St. Marie des Anges. A monastary has been here, starting as a Benedictine monastary, since the 9C. Next to both are the Monastery Gardens, very large, beautifully landscaped, with views over Nice.

We then walked down the hill the bus took having read that it was only a 12 minute walk to get to the Chagall. We missed a turn somewhere because 30 minutes later we were back in the old town.

Being lunch time we took a break and ate on the popular Place Garibaldi. No pictures, but Karen has a Chicken Caesar and Mike a very nice filet of some fish whose name I've forgotten. Throw in 1/2 bottle of wine, and relaxed eating and drinking, and it was a very pleasant interlude.

We met a German couple who (he really as his wife was along for the free trip to Nice for the convention), was in medical equipment, specifically pacemakers and MRI's. We discussed his competitors and that Edie had worked for Drager at one time. He knew them well.

Edie, too bad Nonim wasn't represented at this conference!

We then visited the Palais Lescaris, a 17C palace which, from the outside didn't look like one, but inside it was a five story building built around a central staircase and courtyard right in the center of Old Nice. It has been restored, and was being used to house an exhibition of musical instruments going back to the 1700's. It was interesting to see the old pianos, harpsicords, violins, and the artistry that went into them.

Then back on the bus to the Chagall museum.

This had to be the highllight of the day. The paintings are huge and all biblically centered where each panel is an allegory of sorts on major bible stories. From the creation of Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, and others, his paintings are like reading James Joyces 'Ulysses', where every drop of paint and figures had a story embedded in their placement and required a good description of what you were seeing. Between the audio guide and the notes next to each the explanations were complete. A total of 17 works took up the whole exhibit. This was a very impressive exhibit.

We got the bus back and began organizing our stuff to pack later.

We went out to an Italian restaurant around the corner from us for an earlier dinner so we can be packed and get to bed a bit earlier for our 3:30 am wakeup.

So, that's it. This is really the end. Hopefully our taxi will show up for us at 5 am.

Au Revoir again,
Mike & Karen

St. Marie des Anges
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Monastery Gardens

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Place Garibaldi

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Gelato Break on Place Rossetti

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Palais Lascaris

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Chagall Museum View

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Chagall Work

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Posted by MikeandKaren 11:34 Comments (0)

June 13 - Wednesday - Nice Alarm Clock

It's early morning and the gulls just woke us. If you want to see what it's like go to this YouTube link. Have your sound on, though not too loud if you're not awake yet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5efhxgh3eE

Posted by MikeandKaren 23:30 Comments (0)

June 12 - Tuesday - Another Beach Day

This can get boring in a way. I'm normally an early riser, up at 5am, gym at 5:25am, so in another way this should be a vacation as the alarm is set for 7:30 am.

But it never gets to go off. The sunrises early, about 6:15am (and sets about 9:15pm), but I'm awake with the raucous gulls usually at 4:30 am. I am out of bed by 6 and Karen is up just before the alarm.

It was another typical Cote d'Azur morning. Brilliant blue sky and today not even the hint of a cloud. The temperature was 75, with a slight breeze, and low humidity.

We were on the beach chairs at 9am. Good breeze blowing, but it cools the sun which looks to be hot today.

At noon we decided to move our lazy butts off the chaise lounges and cross over to a restaurant we saw yesterday on the Promenade des Anglais for lunch. Just a simple Pizza Margherita, Moules et Frites, and some wine, and then back to the beach for more laziness. We almost feel guilty about being so lazy but we are glad for the few days of vegging out.

More sun, but finally, at 3:45pm we had had enough. So, back to the house to wash up and go out.

We took a ride on the tourist train, which rides around the old city, up to the Chateau, and then along the Promenade. A pleasant 45 minutes as the afternoon started to cool. There's not much left to the chateau but it's a pretty park with spectulator views of Nice.

Then dinner on Cours Saleya. Mike had spotted a restaurant that had a great selection of Paella's, done however you wanted, so that was our dinner stop. Of course Karen didn't share Mike's enthusiasm for paella and had 1/2 roast chicken.

Mike's paella was perfect, and Karen was able to eat some of the rice and non seafood ingredients. Mike of course was in heaven with all the shrimp, large shrimp, fish, mussels, clams and assorted other crustaceans in it. Pictures below.

While eating we met a couple sitting next to us from Phoenix. He owned a small chain of breakfast restaurants, his wife was Lebanese, her family still lived there and they traveled a lot to visit them.

We left then to check where we had to pick up the bus tomorrow as we're heading for the Matisse and Chagall museums in the Cimiez area of Nice.

By the way, everywhere we went, outside every restaurant and bar, was a big screen TV tuned to the Euro 2012 Soccer Championship with Poland and Russia playing tonight. At the restaurant we ate at, which also has its menu in Russian, there was a big group singing the Russian National anthem as the game started.

Finally, back home, we ate the chocolate mousse cakes we bought the other day, and watched some TV.

Only one more day before we have to leave here. It's been a fantastic trip; we couldn't have asked for better weather. But as usual by the end of the trip, we are also looking forward to getting back home.

Due to our early morning 3:30 am wakeup time on Thursday, tomorrow will be an early evening and we may not blog tomorrow.

We hope you have enjoyed following us as much as we've enjoyed writing up our adventures.

Au Revoir for now,
Mike and Karen

Waiting on the Petite Tourist Train

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View of Nice Bay from Castle Ruins

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Paella. Delivered piled high on Paelleria pan on stand, but I have already begun filling my plate.
There is so much that it required a larger photo:)

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Posted by MikeandKaren 13:57 Comments (5)

June 11 - Monday - Another Beach Day

First, just to catch up on last night, we went out at 6:15, walked to Cours Saleya to do a walking tour of the Vielle Vieux(old Nice) and on Place Rossetti stopped for dinner at a small corner restaurant and then grabbed a gelato nearby. There is a lot of activity in the old section; we are enjoying the people watching.

Then we walked the Cours Saleya, where we had eaten the evening before, in amazement at how quickly all the restaurants had set up their tables when up to 5pm the square was full of flowers and a market.

Dropped into a casino, showed our passports, and 15 minutes later left 10 Euros in a slot machine. Guess we won't be paying for this vacation so easily.

Now for today, Monday:

In the early morning, 6:30am, the sky is gray. But by breakfast time, 8:00 am, the clouds have dissipated, the sky is again a brilliant blue, and it looks like a great beach day.

At 9:00 am we are only the second pair to be renting chairs. They've also set up only two rows of lounge chairs, starting a few feet further back from the water's edge. By 10 am it's obvious why. The weekend is over, most tourists are either gone or visiting museums or other cities. It's quiet with just the sound of the water gently washing onto the rocky plage (beach). It's now cloudless, with a cool gentle breeze blowing from the East.

I am sitting here reading today's Journal, which it looks like is available about 1 am CST. Karen had finished her book yesterday so she downloaded another book to her Kindle last night. For all my years in IT I am still amazed at its benefits and reach.

Lunch at 12:30, both salads, Karen's a variety of vegetables, mine a mix of medium shrimp, salmon, rawish, small squid, calamari chunks, cherry tomatoes and some lettuce. But the lettuce, sort of a mesclun mix, was present only to add color, in my opinion, as seafood was the main draw.

It's hot in the sun. A brief run to the water, followed by standing a few minutes to acclimate, then more steps in, followed by trying too quickly to back away from a crashing wave, got my flip flops caught in the stones, and to make sure I didn't loose them I ended up falling into the water, which accomplished two objectives. First, I was now cooler and wetter and, second, I still had the flip flops. Really should have bought those ten Euro beach shoes they sell everywhere that are like tennis shoes made of rubber and don't fall off. Now cooled off and back to sunbathing.

The flight path into Nice has shifted. All morning planes were using a southerly departure and opposite arrival, but now, and as it was yesterday, the arrival path is right along the beach arc where these huge planes fly about 1,000 max on their way in.

And like yesterday, almost to the minute near 2pm, the wind starts picking up and by 3pm the water is over the first rock ledge, spray in the air. But we stayed until 3:30, as the breeze made it cool enough to offset the sun, and then decided that 6 1/2 hours was enough.

Back at the apartment to wash up and, for the first time, needed some air conditioning.

We did our usual 'passegiata', yes that's Italian, through the old town and stopped at L'Ecurie, a restaurant with tables on a side street in old town. The name means 'stables', as in where horses are kept, and is so named because years ago the place was an actual stable.

No pictures of the meals but Karen had a great Beef Ravioli dish and Mike,surprise, a platter of various types of fish grilled. We ended it sharing a very large fesh berry torte with whipped cream and coffee.

Back to the apartment and we've decided that tomorrow too will be another beach day. Who wants to be in museums or on trains when it's 78 degrees and a brilliant blue sky.

Bon Soir until tomorrow.

Place Masenna

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Restaurant L'Ecurie Street Tables

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Place Rossetti, Reparte Church

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A Small Gelato Sampling

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Posted by MikeandKaren 13:25 Comments (1)

June 10 - Sunday - Nice - Le Marche aux Fleurs and Beach

I woke early, about 4:30am, to the screaming of what seemed as if we were in a jungle, but I shortly realized we must be in an aviary. Bird calls all over the place, and not quiet ones. I assume I was able to get back to sleep, though I was up every 30 minutes or so as more birds, which we later, at breakfast, realized must have been seagulls. By 7:30 we were both up.

The sky is a brilliant blue with not a cloud visible, and the patio bathed in sunlight.

A leisurely breakfast, bathing suits on, beach bags full, and we left for the flower market.

It is hard to believe that the flower market was in the same place we ate dinner last night. Gone were the restaurants and thier carefully laid out tables and chairs and in their place were huge umbrellas, long tables, and vendors galore. The flowers are stupendous; plain baskets, elaborate baskets, arrangements of all types and colors. Single flowers and bunches. Stall after stall filled with flowers.

Midway through the area, remember this March aux Fleurs is about 50 feet wide and goes on for many blocks, the scene changes over to a typical, but large, market of fruits, vegetables, cheeses, fish, meat, and the usual jewelry, fabrics, herbs, etc.

We picked up some berries (straw, black and blue) for our breakfasts, got a jar of preserves, sun tan lotion, and headed back to the house to drop it all, though we also stopped at a patissierie to pick up some chocolate layer cakes for dessert one night.

Finally we made it to the beach about 10:15. We actually found a more reasonably priced beach, only 45 Euros for 2 chaise lounges with thick cushions, a table and umbrella, and ended up in a second row of lounge chairs. The first row cannot have umbrellas for 'security', actually safety reason, as the wind tends to lift them out of their stands and can blow them over the other bathers. And you do need an umbrella. But the view from Row 2 was good any way as no one sat in front of us for hours.

We stuck our toes in the water, after gingerly walking on these 4" round rocks to get to it, only 20' away. It's cool, not too cold and will be very welcome after a few hours in the sun. The beach, from your lounge, extends forward about 10 feet, then drops down two feet to a built up brim of more rocks, and then slopes slowly to sea level, about two more feet. The waves come in to the first rising rocks and disappear fast as the water just drops through the spaces between them.

We read our books, Kindle and iPad, as many other sun bathers did, and also noted Nice had a lot more topless bathers too. The breeze off the Med was cool,and the sun, while bright, wasn't too hot, at least not for a few hours.

The private beach has waiters all over offering to bring drinks and light snacks. Lunch was simple delivered to you and set on the small table between the lounges. Tomato and Mozzerella sandwich and a coke for Karen and a Salad Nicoise and bread for Mike. Not expensive as beach service goes, 32 Euros, about $40.

Some time later the wind started to pick up, as did the waves. There was water spray, and then it got windy enough that the first row of people got hit with water spray and left, then they started to collect cushions and umbrellas from chairs that people had left. We felt safe in the 2nd row (ha!). Then the big one hit and everyone from the first row to the third got soaked. Everyone laughed because we all got a big mouthfull of water. Fortunately we had covered up our bags with towels and while we got wet, as did the towels, nothing else did.

There were beach people running everywhere collecting towels and cushions and stacking the plastic chairs, all unused ones, so they would not be blown by the wind.

After it looked like the wind and waves were here to stay we called it quits too. Dried off, cleaned our glasses which by now were fogged with salt spray, licked the salt water off our lips, and headed up to the beach promenade back to the apartment. It was around 3pm by then, so at least we had 4 hrs on the beach.

Breakfast

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The Flower Market

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Red all over from Tomatos to Peppers

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The Beach & Note the rocks

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Blogging requires dedication!

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Posted by MikeandKaren 09:14 Comments (1)

June 9 - Sunday - Villefranche sur Mer and Nice

Our last morning at St. Paul was a fitting sendoff for the week there. Blue sky, view straight to the sea, and though the sun won't hit for a few more minutes it was pleasantly warm on the terrace.

Departure days are hectic but other than yelling at the luggage for not compressing its contents enough, it went smooth and we were on the road a bit after 9.

What a difference a weekend day makes. There was no traffic and within minutes we were on the A8 for Villefranche sur Mer. It's a quick trip, but you're off the A8 soon and into the East end of Nice winding your way down the usual one and a half lane roads that do 180 degree turns every few hundred meters as you descend to sea level.

We found parking fast and then headed out to see the marina, where ship tenders also unload their cargo of cruising travellers, the small beach on that side, and the old town.

Many years ago, when we first cruised here, we took a bus to Eze and spent the day there. So in a sense this was our first trip here. There's a fort at the other end, a full blown market was going on, and of course a plethora of restaurants to pick from.

Since we were meeting our apartment owner at 2 pm we decided to have an early lunch, and a much later dinner. We stopped at a seaside place by the area the tenders come into and sat by the overlook onto the harbor.

Simple lunch. Pizza Margherita and Fritto Misto, and only water. The major difference between Fench and Italian Fritto's is the French serve it with a great Tartar Sauce, and the Italians plain, with lemon only, though it is amazing how big their lemons are, almost baseball size.

About 12:30 we left for Nice. Easy drive in and both Nigel and the Garmin agreed on how to get there. We found a parking garage quickly and not too difficult getting the car backed into a space. We walked first to the apartment (only a few blocks away in the Carre d'Or section), just to see the street personally. Nice street. One way. Cars parked on one side, some on the other. It'll be fun when it's time to come back and unload.

We then walked to the Promenade des Anglais, the 'bord de mer' that runs along the beach. The promenade has chairs and benches facing the sea and they have areas with seating areas with canvas to block the sun's rays.

We also looked at the various eating places along the shore and inquired at some places where you can rent a chair/lounger, with thick cushions, umbrella, towels and they come with access to a shower & changing rooms. While the beach has free cold showers the private beaches are poshy.

It appears, and we will verify more tomorrow, that, for the two of us, that will set us back 66 Euros, about $83. Just for the day. They do offer a montly package. We didn't ask. But it's vacation and, if you could see the size of the rocks you would have to lie on at the free beach, at least 6" in diameter, with some smaller but sharper, then the $83 doesn't look so bad. We can't imagine how people lay on towels on these rocks but there are plenty of people that do.

Our plan is beach day tomorrow, maybe Monday too, since many places are closed Sunday and Monday, then train and/or bus to Cannes or Monaco. The other two days we have plenty to see and do in Nice.

We walkd to the apartment, met the owner (an American woman), and talked a bit about how she got to live here. Not that we have any time to watch TV, but, when we do the TV has full access to English channels, some that you can watch a movie in French and via your control tell it you want to hear English instead.

The apartment is great (really big), nice layout, very large bathroom and shower, big bedroom, nice kitchen and living room and large terrace. In fact, her job is modernizing and restoring old houses, and her second job is teaching French teachers how to teach English. Once we reviewed how to run the appliances and security we headed back to get the car, which was pretty easy both to pay for and get out of the garage.

Back at the apartment we parked, blocking the entire street (it's only one way and the width of 1 1/2 cars). Karen stayed with the car and Mike began to porter the bags to the apartment, up three flights of stairs (40 steps), four times. Made up for missing the gym the past week. One car that entered the street behind us decided to just drive down a side street, and shortly after a pretty polite frenchman just patiently waited until Mike showed up and we drove away to return the car. Out of breath going up and down four times doesn't adequately describe it.

Finally we got to return the car, an adventure in itself as even with the GPS's we ended up driving a bit in circles as we missed a turn or two, plus it is not obvious where to bring the car even though we had just walked over to the office (which was closed from 12 to 2. On checkout there is an issue with some rear quarter-panel damage, and just what insurance does cover.

For example, if you run into a wall in the US you're covered minus your deductible. Not so here. If it's YOUR fault, you pay. Of course if you come down one morning and see damage done by someone in the night, or parking lot, a so called 'third party', then it's not your fault and you are covered.

But, even though we have zero deductible coverage, EuropeCar says that that means they will charge us for the damage and we then get reimbursed by AutoEurope who we rented it through. Needless to say, after I called Auto Europe and spoke to them (a $16 call), they said the exact opposite, that EuropeCar is who the insurance is through.

Bottom line, I'll be having some interesting conversations and email exchanges once we get back. The lady at EuropeCar did say however that should the boss decide that in fact it was not our fault, they will bill AutoEurope for the damage and us for a $50 (Euro?) administrative fee. We'll see.

We walked back, picked up some things for the week's breakfasts, and began the unpacking, and after an hour or so resting went out for an early dinner.

Our early dinner turned out not to be so early. The hour's rest was like a new day. We walked the pedestrian streets around our neighborhood, filled with people, and found some very nice restaurants. We walked some more eventually landing back on the Promenade des Anglais and followed it until it turns in Quai des Etats Unis which leads you to the lower end of the old quarter, the opera house and into Cours Saleya, which is where the 'Le Marche aux Fleurs', the flower market is held.

At this time of the evening it is filled, for at least four blocks, with restaurants and vendors. While there is a variety of food available, this is really a seafood lovers paradise (think Mike). The restaurants each have a section of the large open square, actually it's more like a very long Piazza Navona in Rome, with the center of the area devoted to tables with each restaurant having its own blocked off area. There must be at least 100 restaurants lining this pedestrian street.

There are parties of two, and parties of 10, the place is a sea of eating humanity. They deliver the huge plates of seafood on Paella platters and place them on the same kinds of metal stands as we might place pizzas on.

I had a small 16.50 Euro menu which, after I made my choices, included a huge bowl of mussels, a rabbit stew in a tomato base over linguini, and an apple tart. Karen had lasagna and salad and then the usual wine, water and bread. Her meal, a la carte was 13.50 which illustrates the benefit of ordering from the choice of 'formules' restaurants offer. After that we ordered coffees and a chocolate lava cake for Karen. We finally left our table about 8:45 and spent the next hour or more walking about the square, looking at all the vendors stalls, buying some gifts, and trinkets for us too, and then back to Place Massena to see it lit up at night.

Then we went back to Promenade des Anglais, which at night looks so different with the promenade and the city lit up like a Christmas tree. We dropped into one of the casinos, but only briefly as it was getting late, but we will go back later in the week and get them to pay for this vacation:).

We got back after 11 or so, too beat to do much else but prepare for bed. We set the alarm for later, 7:30 and that was it. Tomorrow we'll just do the flower market and lay on the chaise lounges at one of the private beaches.

Villefranche Harbor, Houses & Restaurants

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Villefranche Harbor View

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Nice - Public versus Private Beaches

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View of Private Beach

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Nice Apartment Views

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Cours Saleya - Restaurant Row

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Place Massena

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Hotel Negresco

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Posted by MikeandKaren 09:05 Comments (1)

June 9 - Sunday - We're Still Alive

We've had a full day and it's now after 11pm, too late to get the full blog done. It was a good day, a bit hectic, but we're settled into a great location. So, just to keep your appetites whetted I am just posting today's meals, and tomorrow we'll post a full blog entry.

This was my lunch in Villefranche, a Fritto Misto

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This was the first course for dinner, a plate of moules (Mussels). It was followed by a plate of Spaghetti with Rabbit which, for those who like the cute things that run around our alleys, I elected not to show.

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These next two are photos of what was available on Cours Selaya, an area in the Old Town of Nice that has at least 50 restaurants, and 1,000 people, every night, serving up mainly seafood dishes. The pictured ones start at 80 to 100 Euros. Maybe I'll share one with Karen tomorrow.

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Posted by MikeandKaren 14:03 Comments (1)

June 8 - Saturday - Roquebrune, Gorbio and Menton

The morning started great, some high clouds, but the sun rose nicely onto our patio table and we had a leisurely breakfast. We decided it was almost impossible to see more than three villages, especially as we like to explore them and eat a slow lunch, so that was our limit.

The A8 was its usual parking lot but after Nice we moved at the posted limits.

Roquebrune is a medieval village with a 10C castle that is the oldest Carolingian one in France. The nice thing about this castle is that it was small, it was only used for defense, with a contingent of 7 men to man it. It was an austere life these soldiers led, no women or children were there and even fewer visitors. When you walked it, up the three different levels, read the posted explanations as well as a recorded guide (amazing how technology penetrates even the most remote places), looked out over the ramparts and between the crenellations, you could feel what it was like to live there so long ago.

There was also a memorial celebration going on in the small town square, perched basically on a cliff edge, in honor of the soldiers from the town who served and died in the Indochinese wars.

We walked as many of the streets as possible, there are tons of fabulous views, and then headed for Gorbio.

Gorbio is a small hill town, just north of Menton, another cute village. To get to it though does require driving roads that are a little more than one car width's wide and, in one point, there was an automated light that turned red to stop you while cars coming the other way had the green light. The sign by the light warned you that it could be as much as a 20 minute stop. Fortunately, we only had to wait about 5 min.

The impressive thing about visiting these coastal hill towns are the views to the sea, the edge drop-offs (many turns have no railings and even then the railings are only two feet high), and seeing the A8 as it crosses the valleys, or canyons, perched on stanchions, pillars, that shoot 100's of feet up from the valley floor to support the roadway.

Gorbio also had a pretty town square with two restaurants on it, as well as more than its share of friendly cats, one of which, as I knelt to pet him, climbed onto my knee, stretched up to my face, and looked like he wanted to lick me.

Gorbio has a very nice church in the middle of the village which we went to see. It turned out there was some restoration work going on in one of the side chapels and it was a woman who was doing the work. I asked her, in French, how long she had been working on it, among other things and as conversations do we got on the subject of languages. Turned out she was from Romania, spoke French, but not much English, but she did know Italian. So, once again problem solved as we were then able to discuss what she was doing, where she came from, etc, in Italian, even though mine is limited. She had started on the project a month or so ago and probably had at least six months or more to go. A lot of her work, stripping off old paint and encrusted dirt, was the difficult part, but then too was the painstaking work to bring it back to the way it was.

We decided to wait for Menton to get lunch, though it was already afternoon. But since we'll eat in tonight, we figured we'd just eat a later lunch.

The drive to Menton is all down hill, all on twisty roads, lots of hairpin turns and impressive views. We entered at the East end of Menton and drove West, towards Italy, as the signs all say, as it's a short drive to the border. We found great parking by the marina, a big marina, and began walking along the promenade that runs along the beach for the length of the town.

By the way, today there was no problem parking anywhere. Every village and town had multiple parking areas and all had plenty of room. We saw lots of "retired looking" people and we had read that it is the riveria's version of Ft. Lauderdale as many retired French and British flock to this town, as it is the warmest town on the Mediteranean.

In Menton, as other beach towns, the restaurants are across the street from the beach. So they set up their umbrellas and tables on the wide sidewalks across from them and the servers carry their trays stacked with various orders across the street where the traffic obligingly stops, or at least slows down.

The breeze comes off the sea continually and you do need to keep a knife or fork or glass on your napkin lest it blow away.

We had a nice table for two, shaded by a very large umbrella, with a great view of the sea, the beach and a continual display of waves and cresting white caps.

Our order took a bit longer than we expected and I asked the server if she could check on it. But my French is not that great, and she spoke no English, but, being that Menton has a lot of Italians that visit, she did speak Italian. Problem solved again.

Karen had a simple lunch of Spaghetti and tomato basil, preceeded by a salad that we both shared. I had another Fritto Misto, but this was more like the Italian ones I was used to, with calamari, and baby octopus, but then many large scampi in their shells and heads and a lot of small fish, whole, which require you to deftly fillet them to avoid chomping on bones, and a larger fish, also to be filleted. All of the fish still had their heads on. It was a beautiful sight and as usual I've included a picture. I also had some wine and bread.

So, we then got out the Michelin Guide to walk the main sites, as well as get our direction. Climbed some long staircases up the the main church, which was being decorated for a wedding tomorrow, traipsed through a flea market, some stores, and, as we did not have coffee or dessert after lunch, stopped and got them on a small square. The Tiramisu Karen had was divine, and the fruit tart for Mike, with three large balls of whipped cream, no less, and we finished them up.

Then a quick stop at a small patissierie for some incredible looking raisin cinnamon danish pastries for tomorrow's final breakfast at Domaine du Piol.

On both my main meals they looked so good I started to eat them and just in time remembered to get the picture first.

We walked some more, went through the marina, and finally called it quits about 5 pm.

The drive home took about an hour, with brief crawling points where there were accidents...my friend Antonio yesterday had told us how with the 'right' accident, the three hour drive from his house to Sanremo could easily take six or eight. Fortunately these delays were only about 15 minutes as our car has no toilet, nor does the A8 where we were.

We made a quick stop at the Casino Supermarket (that's its name, no slot machines) to pick up dinner and we're in at six.

At 7:30 we decided to make dinner, roast chicken, salad, the rest of that great chocolate cake, coffee, and then pack for tomorrow's drive to our Nice apartment.

This place was great and we hate to leave it, but our second apartment and week is calling.

View of Monte Carlo & Mediterranean from Roquebrune

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Roquebrune Village from the Chateau

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Roquebrune Chateau

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Lunch Break at Menton

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Mike's Fritto Misto

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Beach Promenade

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Life is Grand

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Mike

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Just a Small Dessert

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Menton Town View and Beach

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Posted by MikeandKaren 13:22 Comments (3)

Thursday - June 7 - Sanremo

The day started out with the expected blue sky, and the usual scattered clouds. We were leaving early and the sun had not yet broken over the terrace so we just had breakfast inside (how quickly we get accustomed to living the life that eating inside felt like slumming).

We left for Sanremo at 8:30 am and arrived at 10 am. It's only 75 Km, but even though at times we could do 110kph (66 mph) there were still some areas where there was work going on and lanes merging to 1 or 2 from 3 or 4. The traffic out of the area and through Cagnes-sur-Mer, as well as the Nice area, was typical morning rush. The exit lane into Nice was backed up onto the Autoroute, but we eventually got through it.

The drive is stupendous. The road hugs the edges of the mountains and the sea and various hilltop villages are plainly visible. The road has frequent tunnels, some as long as a km or more (that's 3,000+ feet), but it's relatively straight or with gentle turns since they just bored through the mountain.

On the French Autoroute there are frequent stops at toll barriers, which accept correct change or more, some credit cards and all a Telepass, like our Tolltag.

The Italian Autostrada has toll takers as well as credit cards and their version of the Telepass, but also, on electonic sign boards translates into French and English what the sign is saying.

We got to the Sanremo exit, and with Nigel it was a short 10 minute drive down a windy road, a few blocks on a large avenue, and then a quick turn up to the hotel where we were meeting Antonio and his wife, Mariella. We parked in the hotel garage, with the usual grief moving the monster into a space made for midgets.

Sanremo is a beautiful seaside town and at the same time having at least one street with expensive shops for the clientele you expect there. We saw some nice 150 Euro cotton short sleeve shirts, and 250 Euro jeans, but we had all we needed, so next time.

We walked around the town, up and down streets, then stopped for cafe's, talked, relaxed, made like normal Italians.

Sanremo has a large influx of Russians in the summers, which goes back to the early 19th century when the Russian aristocracy disovered Sanremo, and it today has a very large and impressive Russian Orthodox church. There are so many Russians that visit, and shop, that many stores not only say we speak French, or English but also that Russian is spoken too.

We had lunch in the hotel dining room, I won't explain it in detail except to note that as Italians do, there was a first course, seafood spaghetti for me, spaghetti with a tomato basil sauce for Karen, followed by a fish course and some wine for all of us except Karen who had Veal Scallopini, and polished off by desserts. Just a simple meal so as not to stuff ourselves.

We toured the beach area, some of which is free, but the best areas, which include lounges and umbrellas, cost a few Euros.

Then we went back to the hotel and sat by the pool a while and about 3:30pm headed back. We were back by 5pm. It was a really great day.

A brief stop to freshen up and not wanting to eat in, nor drive into Saint Paul, we walked it. It's only 20 minutes, mostly up hill, but the good part is the return is all down hill. The walk though passes through some really beautiful areas.

Saint Paul looks a lot different in the late afternoon and evening, fewer people, cooler, quieter, and you see more of its actual inhabitants.
We made reservations for dinner at 7pm at a small restaurant we found on a quaint street and visited some streets we hadn't seen earlier in the week.

Dinner was simple, just one plate, some bread and wine. Karen had a Pork Tenderloin dish, and Mike a Sea Bass.

We were back home at 8:30pm, did the blog, and planned tomorrow.

Enjoy the pictures.

Russian Church in Sanremo

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Antonio, Mariella & Karen

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Beach View

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Another Beach View

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Dinner Restaurant in Saint Paul

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Karen's Pork Tenderloin

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Mike's Sea Bass

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Saint Paul viewed from road walking up

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Posted by MikeandKaren 13:09 Comments (5)

Wednesday - June 6 - Vence and Var River Valley

There's sun visible outside this morning, though enough cloud cover that it's not on our patio, so the cool air is evident as we sit and eat breakfast. But the sky is clear and we can still see to the sea.

Today we drove along the rifts (valleys cut into the mountain sides over the millennia) visiting a group of small towns along the Var river and the mountain alongside. These roads are typically 1 1/2 cars wide (not all, but it looks that way). Many of the towns have parking just outside the gates, but a lot also allow you to drive in. Those towns do that because they like torturing tourists who don't drive Fiat 500's or Puntos.

Our first joust with this, though it's happened on some prior trips, was as we entered the town of St. Jeanette. Having gotten to the end of a street, apparently made for one car, we could go no further. Speaking to a resident, in broken French, he suggested turning around and parking outside the town. This was good advice, though our car is 10' or 12' long and the road, with his truck parked on one side, and stanchions on the other, is just 14' wide. So, Mike, that's me, is outside, Karen inside, beside herself, with me in a loud voice directing her to turn hard this way or that way, backing up and going forward, a foot or two each time, and after no less than eight such maneuvers we finally got turned around. By the way, after we were already 90 degrees across the street that resident turned out to be the truck driver who then suggested maybe he could back out to leave us more space. We didn't have our pistols with us.

The second time this occured was after leaving the really small hilltop village of Le Broc, where it seemed Nigel wanted us to do a 180 degree turn on a one way street, we plowed ahead into what became a country road, also very narrow. In that case one side was grass, shrubs, trees and a culvert and the other a 3,000 foot drop into one of the rifts' ravines. That took less back and forth, but still a lot, and of course was more filled with impending disaster.

So, lesson learned again, the next time some auto rental clerk tries to tell us they're out of small cars, we just refuse to sign anything nor to leave the rental office:)!

But other than those heartbeat exercizes, the towns we saw were amazing. All were medieval in origin, with small winding streets, all of which seemed to only go up hill.

Vence was our first stop. We found a parking lot this time (our first stop here was Monday when we parked in the garage and almost couldn't make the turns). They had a flea market going on today in the main square and its old section was impressive, with its narrow streets lined on both sides with merchants selling their fish, cheese, meats, spices, cloths, etc. As you walked the streets you passed through various gates, though they were more like short tunnels under houses, that led into other streets or outside the old city wall.

Then we started our drive on the hair pin route to St. Jeanette. This was the first town (village really) for Karen's driving lesson, but was also a very quaint and scenic too. We stopped here for lunch.

We had an excellent lunch here on a terrace overlooking the valley. Karen, hungry now, had a Cotelette Milanese (a breaded veal cutlet), with fries and ratatouille and a small salad. Mike had seafood. Surprise? A large plate of very large shrimp in their shells with heads on, four of them, and about ten Coquilles St. Jaques, plus a bunch of mushrooms, two different types, and a rice timbale in the center, and all this in an incredibly tasty mushroom sauce. You hungry yet? The usual bread and this time whole marinted olives. All this topped off with a pitcher of white wine. At the end, just a simple cafe espresso. The pictures tell the story.

And lest I forget, on the way out, a large, overly friendly orange haired persian cat met us at the door, almost wouldn't let us go.

Then off to Gattieres, another small village with tiny streets and alleys, but with nothing unusual, so after a few streets, and with the mist hanging down as we were about 3,000' up and barely in the clouds, the breeze was slight but chilly and prompted us to call it a visit.

By the way, all of these villages are within a few kilometers of each other as the crow flies and looking at the map should take just a few minutes at the posted speeds of 55 to 90 kph. Good luck. The roads are as twisty as the village's streets and alleys. So we average 35 to 40 kph and 15 minutes or more to get between them.

Next we went to Carros Village. Besides the usual medieval streets Carros Village had a unique feature. The castle had been renovated years ago and the inside turned into three floors of rooms in which were displayed the most contemporary art you have ever seen or would expect to see, especially in such a remote place. We spent a good 40 minutes there amazed at the imagination of the artists. They change their exhibitions every 3 or 4 months.

The last village was Le Broc. This was the smallest village and had the narrowest streets, with houses that at times hung out over the various alley ways. You had a sense of being in a very compressed area where, since I don't recall seeing any street signs, you could spend hours trying to find a route out.
We stopped a while to pick up some water and eat some ice cream. We've had this same brand before, it's called Magnum, and has the finest vanilla interior covered with really thick and great tasting chocolate.

This was our last village for the day, and the site of Karen's last maneuvering lesson as we tried to exit the village. But, once pointed in the right direction, between Nigel, the Garmin, and our memory, we were home in 20 minutes.

It's nicer here, no sun, but brighter and no low clouds. So a bit of rest and then dinner.

We stayed in tonight and again had Tortellini Bolognese, salad, a great Basil pesto sauce, wine and of course, again, the remainder of that chocolate cake.

Tomorrow we leave early for our trip to San Remo, Italy. A friend of mine, that I worked with in Italy when JCPenney had offices there, lives in Lodi, not far from Milan, and vacations there. So we'll spend the day with him and his wife.

Enjoy today's pictures, more of our trip tomorrow.

Vence Market Scene

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Vence Street Scene

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St. Jeanette Terrace Lunch

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Veal Milanese

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Shrimp, Coquilles St. Jaques, Rice and Mushroom Sauce

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Carros Village View

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Posted by MikeandKaren 11:25 Comments (3)

Tuesday - June 5 - Beaulieu, Eze & La Turbie

Once again a beautiful day. The air is crystal clear and we can see straight to the sea, 10 Km away, and we can clearly see the pyramid shaped condo buildings that line the shoreline at Villeneuve-Loubet beach, much as they do at Ocean City, Maryland.

Our first stop was at Beaulieu sur Mer. An easy 45Km, though doing it at rush hour is not what we'd recommend next time. We drove the Moyenne Corniche (the middle road that hugs the cliffside) and made a stop along the drive, as did a string of cars, to take photos of the fantastic views of the Med, the harbors, and the Cap Ferrat peninsula. This is a beautiful town, upscale, like a mini Monte Carlo. We walked the promenada that hugs the sandy beach, saw a couple of Rolls Royce's, but the main thing is the peace and quiet ambience of the place and beautiful flowers everywhere. Their claim to fame is the Villa Kerylos, but we decided to skip it since the weather was so nice.

Next up was Eze. We were at Eze at least 15 years ago as a stop on a Med cruise. This time, instead of busing and training we drove into Eze. As usual, especially in these tiny tourist magnet towns, parking is scarce, but we managed to find one along the road about 1/2 Km away, maybe a 10 minute walk.

Eze is a rabbit warren of small streets, each with one or more gift, art, or other kind of shop, as well as innumerable restaurants. It's all up hill. In fact, one of the main attractions is the succulent and cactus garden surrounding the remains of a 14C castle at the peak of the hill. We traipsed the streets and alleys and finally stopped for lunch.

Karen reverted back to her favorite Pizza Margherita and split a large salad with Mike, while Mike had a Spaghetti Ai Frutti de Mare, wine, bread and of course, all preceeded by toast and the usual appetizer of Olive tapenade. We just took our time here enjoying the cool breeze on the quiet street and watching, in particular, one couple, Japanese, who took at least 100 pictures, one camera each plus an iPhone, of every bush, vine, clock, stone and doorway as they walked along the street.

We did some more walking and then left for La Turbie, a small village about 1500 feet up off the Grand Corniche, most known for Trophe des Alpes (Alpine Trophy), a monument, built to honor the Roman emperor Augustus and his victories over various ancient tribes that occupied the Alps. While it was destroyed since being built in the 6C BC, it was painstakingly researched and rebuilt in the early 1900's, over 100 years ago which was partially financed by a rich American.

We stopped a while, had some drinks, toured the monument and a local church, walked the back streets and then left to return home, this time using the A8 autoroute, a much faster less crowded road.

Our car has a GPS (our friend Nigel) but for some reason our Garmin is better for finding some exact addresses, like where we're staying. When they're both on it's like hearing an echo in the car.

We were home by 6 pm, with time to relax on the deck. We only had a small dinner salad, followed by wine, coffee and a fantastic chocolate layer cake covered with chocolate tubes, chocolate icing, and thin cake layers that we found at the LeClerc Super Market.

So ended the day. It's now 8:45, time to get the blogging done, watch some TV (even if all in French or dubbed) and then off to bed to rest up for tomorrow.

View of Villefranche

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Beaulieu

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Frenchman with Hat

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Lunch in Eze

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View of the Med from Eze Peak

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Eze Street

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Monte Carlo from La Turbie

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Trophee Des Alpes

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Posted by MikeandKaren 13:08 Comments (3)

Monday, June 4 - Loup Valley Drive

Another beautiful day in paradise! We got started earlier today. Up at 6:45 and out after breakfast. We made a loop drive that while only 60 Km (36 miles), by the time you stop at all the villages, waterfalls, scenic pull outs, etc, it takes a bit over 5 hours according to the Michelin Guide. We took 8+ hours, long lunch,extra village, and a stop to food shop.

First up was Tourette sur Loup. There are a bunch of towns with names ending in sur Loup as they all rest near the Loup river (a Loup is a type of fish). This is a medieval village, lots of small streets and twisty alleys, and tons of artisans.

Then while driving on the Gorge du Loup, which is like driving on one side of the Grand Canyon, where the valley on the drivers side drops off to the river below, and to get to the next village requires a drive North a ways where you can turn around as the river and valley are covered by rock and can be crossed, we made our next stop, the Cascade de Courmes. You walk across a walkway and bridge that has been built out over the gorge, and in front of you are these splendid waterfalls, some thin rivers of falling waters, one dropping and rushing like Niagara, with the continual noise of crashing water. A beautiful site.

Then we continued driving South, now on the other side of the valley, past falling rock zones, and even though the walls are covered with steel mesh and chains there are still rocks on the road.

Next stop was Gourdon. Another town on the most beautiful villages in France list. It's population is 386 people and it looked like each one of them had an art shop or a restaurant. The views over the low stone walls around the town were breathtaking.

We stopped here for lunch, a leisurely 90 minutes. Karen had a salad, though it was one where they gave you sliced carrots, chick peas, artichokes, beets, etc, and you put it together. Then a Pork Tenderloin in a honey sauce with scalloped potatoes finished off with a Tarte Tartin, an apple tart, but tastier than any you've eaten.

Mike had a pate with a fig sauce, gherkins, lettuce and Bread. Then a Trout Amandine with potatoes ( see picture), followed with the Tarte.

No wine today, just water, we still had a lot of driving to do.

Next off to Grasse. This is a large town, over 50,000. It's famous for it's
perfume making. There are perfume museums, perfume shops, perfumed soap, even the air sort of smells of perfume. We stopped at a very good art museum(free too) paintings from Fragonard, then strolled the old town in the center of the modern city, and then left for Le Bar sur Loup, with a small old center (not much to see here).

We stopped at LeClerc supermarket again on our way home to pick up dinner that we can enjoy while relaxing with the gorgeous views. We can see the sea it's so clear tonight.

Bon Soir for now.

Street in Tourette-sur-Loup

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Another Tourette -sur-Loup street

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Tourette-sur-Loup from across the valley

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Cascade de Courmes

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Lunch at Gourdon

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Truite Amandine (as delivered)

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Truite at end of meal. The Egyptians put their dead with all their belongings so they'd be set whe they got to the other side. In that same way I always give my fish the same respect. Note the placement of his head, skin, tail and backbone.

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View of Gourdon atop its hill

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Karen found a cute friend in Le Bar sur Loup

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Posted by MikeandKaren 12:19 Comments (1)

Sunday - June 3 - St. Paul & Vence

We woke to a beautiful sunny day and had our first breakfast on the patio. Croissants, Bonne Mamam Framboise Confiture, fresh strawberries, Swiss cheese, great coffee, tea...almost just like home, but somehow it tasted better in France.

Then we headed to St. Paul, one of the most beautiful and popular of the perched villages in Provence, lots of narrow streets and an art gallery every 10 meters. We found one gallery that displayed works by an artist Jean Claude Tron. Of course we couldn't resist buying a painting. Our painting is one of a field of red orange with olive trees and St. Paul in the background. We spent at least 30 minutes with the dealer and now know more than we ever thought possible about paintings, linen and frames. We were exhausted after listening to him talk, he spoke so fast!

We walked around almost all the streets and then had lunch. Karen had Cheese raviolis with a tomato basil sauce and Mike a veal stew with really large asparagus, peas, beans, potatoes, carrot and of course really tender veal. As usual our drinks came with toasts and a ramekin of olive tapenade, which tasted so much better than what we have at home.

After lunch we walked a bit more and then headed for Foundation Maeght, a modern art museum, containing works by Chagall and Miro, among others, built sort of like the Nasher in Dallas in that a lot of it is outside in various garden settings. The painter Marc Chagall lived in St. Paul for 19 years and is buried in the local cemetary. This stuff is very modern and odd, so you either like it or not. There are no impressionists here!

By the way, just as we found for the first time last week on the street outside the DMA, parking meters here (actually one you walk to to get a ticket for your dash), all take credit cards and we've had no trouble with our BA card as it has a chip in it which all readers here accept. No more swipe problems.

So we'll visit Vence later in the week. We headed back to the house to enjoy the sun on the deck. It's like lying in a shaded glen, with beautiful views of the countryside. The villa has 3 deck levels so we have our pick of lounging in the sun or shade, but all with gorgeous views.

Tonight we ate in having salad, leftover chicken, desserts we bought yesterday, some wine, and just watched French TV (a dubbed Law & Order which in France is called New York - Police Justice).

Patio View Outside Bedroom and Living Room

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View down to second level

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Breakfast

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St. Paul

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St. Paul Street Scene

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Major Fountain in St. Paul

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Lunch Spot

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Walkway to Second Level

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Living the Life

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Sunbather

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Posted by MikeandKaren 13:07 Comments (3)

Biot & St. Paul - Saturday, June 2

Notes Added

I finally figured out how to get picture captions right, and hopefully stop posting tiny pictures instead of viewable ones. I redid the photos last posted.

Posted by MikeandKaren 22:57 Comments (2)

Biot and St. Paul - Saturday, June 2

Good Day with Stresses

June 2 - Saturday - Biot & St. Paul

As if in premonition the day started by us over sleeping. We didn't set the alarm and when we did wake up it was 10:25. Checkout is 11. Karen no longer can tell Mike she needs an hour plus to get ready. We were washed, dressed and at reception at 11:05.

The first stop was a village called Vallauris, known for its pottery. We got there about noon and had a great lunch, see picture of Mike's Fritto Misto, while Karen had a HUGE chicken salad. We went walking a bit but sadly, to us, the town really wasn't that good looking. The area around the main shopping street wasn't as inviting as most French streets usually are and the housing along many streets was in need of repair. It certainly was not what we were used to seeing in Provence. We left about an hour after lunch to head to Biot, known for its specialty of bubble flecked glassware.

Biot was beautiful. A typical Provencal town that we love. We spent a lot of time there and then found one of the many glassware shops, with its own glass blowing facility next door. Needless to say Karen was in heaven. At first we were going to just ship everything home, but after hearing it would at least cost what we paid we decided buying another piece of luggage for the plane to pack it all in would be much cheaper, and cost nothing to check.

After a gelato break we headed to our house in St. Paul.

Now comes the stress. Besides runniing into a traffic jam that lasted 1/2 hour, the Garmin and Nigel could not get us close to the GPS coordinates we wanted and at one point had us driving out on some country road. Even a lady we stopped who was walking on the road told us we were out in the boondocks.

We redid the Garmin address, which it now appeared to like, and only another 1/2 hour later (we had already been driving for an hour for what should have been a 20 minute drive), we finally found the road we wanted and got to the house.

We dumped the luggage and headed out to the LeClerc market before it got dark, to get our fridge stocked and the usual household stuff you need. Leclerc is packed with people, everyone is tryng to find parking, circlying arouond the parking lot. We finally found one without too much hassle. This place is like a Wal Mart supercenter. Finally, at 7:30, we were settled in and had dinner at 8 before unpacking. We had picked up salad stuff and a roast chicken for our dinner tonight.

As you can see from the pictures the place is beautiful. We'd like to own it.
It's in a private compound at the top of a mountain and overlooks the entire area. It has three different levels, decks, of patio areas as well as a pool, sundeck and a pergola to eat under. The place is decorated fantastically showing very good taste by the British couple who own it.

So, now to watch a bit of TV, all in French, then off to bed. Tomorrow we'll visit the town of St. Paul itself and then Cannes in the afternoon.

We've read all your comments and are glad to see you're enjoying the blog.

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Fritto Misto Lunch

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Street Scene

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Another Street Scene

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Glass Shop

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Kitchen

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Entry & Living Room

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Bedroom

Posted by MikeandKaren 13:07 Comments (3)

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