La vie bling

Ellie is doing fine, thank you. Yes, I wish I had a picture of the shivering creature when she was clinging to the top step and scrabbling to climb to safety. I did go in to pull her out, to a depth of about 6 inches. It wasn’t a matter of swimming/not swimming. It was that her legs were too short to climb the top, concrete stair.

I also wish I had photos of the beach club in Cannes where Dominique and I met Libby and Elizabeth for lunch. The restaurant was on the beach side of la Croisette (the boulevard that runs alongside the beach where all the expensive hotels and shops are located). Behind the restaurant, toward the sea was the beach club. There were rows of lounge chairs lined up inches from each other on a tiny strip of sand, perhaps 80 feet from back row to sea. The back rows (furthest from the water) were narrow cot-like loungers, with no cushioning. The front rows, by the sea, were the size of queen-sized beds, with mattresses comfortable enough to sleep on. I heard the hostess say they were 90 euros (about $120) per day. Up on a pier, hanging over the water, were the box seats–110 euros ($150). They came with beach umbrellas and towels but no food or drink, which had to be ordered and paid for separately. All this for a beach the size of a sandbox and a narrow strip of sea, maybe 60 feet wide! Libby will try to send me her photos.

I dipped my toes in (as restaurant patrons we were entitled to use the beach, though not the loungers). Then we had a pleasant lunch and drove back to Magagnosc where Ellie was waiting impatiently. Libby scraped her car on my narrow road, so it’s not just me.

Ellie’s near-death experience

My friend Dominique arrived this afternoon, having driven up from Sanary. we had a swim and an apero. Ellie was so excited about the food (melon and prosciutto, a ham pâté) that she slipped into the pool. And couldn’t get out. I rescued her and now she won’t go anywhere near the pool.

We had a quiet dinner in the village. Today we meet Libby and Elizabeth in Cannes.

Gourdon

I hope my readers appreciate the risks I take to keep you entertained. Today Ellie and I drove up to the village perchė of Gourdon. Not far as the crow flies, but about 6 miles, straight up a narrow, windy, cliff-hugging road with no guard rails. The town itself can be seen in 10 minutes. We had a nice lunch of chicken in a provencale sauce (tomatoes, onions and red peppers) with some good frites. Only Pellegrino to drink–after all, I had to get back down the mountain.

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Bourride

Sorry I’ve been off the grid for a few days, but I haven’t done much and didn’t have any photos to share. Today, however, was a pleasant one. I was invited to lunch in Antibes at the home of my former landlords, who are now friends. It was delish. Yolaine is an excellent cook. We started with aperos–just a sip, since I had to drive home, with some artichoke hearts. Then homemade cucumber in a cream sauce and eggplant dip with homemade croutons. The main course–le plat– was bourride. I’d heard of it but never ordered it because I knew it was fishy. Turns out I don’t mind fish if it doesn’t taste fishy. Anyway, she made a stock of shrimp heads and shells, to which she added tomatoes, herbs, saffron and cream. This was served over mussels, shrimp, and what my dictionary tells me is cod. Yummy. Served with a lovely St. Veran, which i had to limit to one glass. Alas. Then came figs from the garden with Brie. And then tarte aux qvetches–also known as pflaumen kuchen (plum cake). I was back in my mother’s kitchen. Lovely.

On the way to Antibes, Ellie and I stopped in Valbonne, to see the medieval town without the crowds. Photos below.

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Nice is nice

Yesterday I drove into Nice getting lost half a dozen times before I found my friends’ apartment. I’m sure Abby and Ian will appreciate that I was, once again, lost in Nice. Samara and Tarek invited me for a lovely dinner chez eux and I stayed the night. After 3 + bottles of wine for the 3 of us, that was a good thing. Today Ellie and I wandered around the Cours Saleya market (below) had a salade nicoise for lunch (seemed appropriate) and walked along the beach. ( photo)

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Perfume, part deux

Continuing yesterday’s disquisition on perfume, I now have pictures of it being made. I went back to the factory because I was looking for a place to park after knocking my side view mirror off while trying to get out of a cul de sac. All to give my faithful readers a picture of jasmine flowers being shoveled into a presser. I read somewhere that it takes about 100 pounds of flowers to make an ounce of perfume. I’ll have to check that if I ever have wifi again.

Actually, all the McDonalds in France have free wifi and I stopped in one for coffee and some web surfing. I was actually going to have lunch in Grasse, but given the lack of parking and the crazy one-way streets, I thought it safer to go back to Magagnosc. Ended up in a pretty place with a terrace where Ellie and I had a hamburger provencale. It consisted of hamburger on a bun with bacon (lard grillėe) , eggplant and yellow peppers and a sauce pistou ( the French version of pesto). It was quite good and I’m surprised no one in New York has thought of this yet.

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How Grasse became the capital of perfume

Today Ellie and I decided to learn something and began on a guided tour of Grasse. Our first stop was a pretty medieval square, (below) where the guide spent 15 minutes telling us the history of Grasse back to the 12 th century, while we wilted in the heat. The capsule version: Grasse started as a leather making town. The reasons weren’t clear–something about lots of water to tan the skins, which were brought all the way from the Middle East by boat to Genoa where they were caravaned on to Grasse (about 150 miles). Why they didn’t just do the tanning in Genoa is not clear. Anyway, around the 15th century, a fashion developed for scented gloves and from there came the scent factories or parfumeries.

At this point, I wandered off from the group and came home for a swim.

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Cannes

This morning Ellie and I headed to Cannes to visit the marchė Forville. We had been warned about construction on the main road into town, but were not prepared for a nearly 40 minute traffic jam to go about 2 miles. Anyway, we parked at the palais des festivals, where the film festival is held. The beach (below) is just behind.

I didn’t actually need anything at the market (except for herbes de Provence requested by posters on this blog) , but I did take pictures of the bounty. (Below) we wandered around, looking for an English bookstore, which we eventually found. Then I had a stroke of luck. I was going to the Orange phone store but it was closed for lunch. (Imagine if verizon closed for 2 hours in the middle of the day). I drove around and found a little roadside fish store, with a restaurant in front. I had the crab, which was a huge plate of crabmeat (from Brittany) with nothing more than a spritz of lemon and some homemade mayonnaise. The people sitting beside me ordered a plateau de fruits de mer, shown below.

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Matisse chapel

I’ve been wanting to see the chapel Matisse created for an order of Dominican nuns for a long time. It is in the town of Vence and was, according to Matisse, his masterpiece. It is. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed inside the chapel. One photo is from the entry. The other is from the brochure. Quite simple and astounding.

To get to Vence I decided to avoid the direct road thru Tourettes sur loup, which is curvy and hard to navigate. What I discovered coming home on that same road was that it is actually a better road–wider, fewer curves–than the alternatives. So much for secondary roads in France.

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The exchange below was initiated by Alexandra last night. I thought it might be of interest.

On Aug 18, 2013, at 10:26 PM, Alexandra Swoope wrote

Enjoyed your pictures of the markets. You should find more herbed de Provence. Our new market is the Fairway on 6th. Just got some brandade in homage to France.
Have found some very interesting books on France which I will share. A couple by Graham Robb are on Kindle.
Sounds like you are having fun, as long as you avoid the wasps.
Grasse is THE place to use your nose. What did you buy there?

On Aug 18, 2013, at 6:14 PM, Evelyn wrote:

Thanks for your note. How much herbes de Provence do you use? My stash should last a year. I’m thinking about doing a blog on the markets of France–how they represent the quality of life in each region.

Re Grasse. I was overwhelmed by the scent–too much to take in. All I got was a bday gift.

I’m enjoying myself but am a little bored. Limited online access means I can’t Skype. Tv here is awful. The newspaper is kind of fun, full of stories about lost tourists who later turn up after the French police spend days looking for them. The bookstore in town only has a few English titles–I have to go into a bigger city for English bookstores.

Musėe Renoir

Today the 2 Francoises and I drove 20 minutes to Cagnes where Renoir spent his last years. Even though he was severely arthritic, and had to have his paint brushes strapped to his hands, the light of the Côte d’Azur continued to inspire him. There was also some pottery that his son. Jean, the filmmaker, did in his youth. Perhaps my days here will inspire the artist in me?

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