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
Vence Street Scene
St. Jeanette Terrace Lunch
Shrimp, Coquilles St. Jaques, Rice and Mushroom Sauce
Carros Village View