Sunday, September 25, 2011

France 1999 Final Entries

Wednesday, September 22

Today is Irene’s birthday and Dianne and Bill’s 20th anniversary. I stayed with the Merrill’s who are not bicycling either and we met the bicyclists in Beynac for lunch. There is a castle there called Beynac Castle. We took a boat ride on the Dordogne River and viewed that castle and three others from the river. They are quite spectacular. One is owned by an American businessman from San Antonio and it is called Frayrac. There are flower boxes in each window. Castelnaud is being restored; was built in the 12th century. Chateau Milandes was owned by Fallies Bergere star Josephine Baker, an American who used it for children of different races and religions. Dinner was excellent at a restaurant called Le Relais de Paste in Sarlat, recommended by Philip, the bicycle aficionado.

Visited Carcassonne another tourist trap, I’m sorry to say. Bagnols in Provence – one of the best towns – fabulous museum: Albert-Andrew museum with modern and contemporary art.

House Mus Treille is great although we have #8 room. Visited Arles – dirty town, Roman Ruins Avignon, big disappointment. St. Remy – good shopping. Orange – wonderful town, clean, good sopping, beautiful roman ruin still in use as a theatre seating 7,000. We have come to the conclusion that the small little towns have the charm and none of the tourist hype of the large cities. Many of the small towns on the wine road are absolutely charming.

Our final dinner on October 1 at Mus Treille was a huge success and ended on a high note.

We’ll be leaving the group tomorrow and on our way to the Riviera tomorrow with only Carole Wick. The Angladon in Avignon is a fine museum.

October 2

Back to my diary. Today became very exciting again. We left with French kisses for everyone from the country house. Lucie and Odile seemed genuinely sorry to see us go. Carol, John and I spent the day oohing-and-aahing over magnificent views. We first visited Gordes – a perfect French Village built into the rocks and a Cistercian Abbey dating back to the 12th century. It is still in use as a monastery and among other things the monks raise lavender. Of course, I bought more lavender and a wonderful cross for Eric for his first communion next May. It was sculpted by an artist whose name is on the box. Then we headed toward Trigance where we are staying in the Chateau Trigance. The trip through the mountains was incredible with mountains of stone reaching the sky all around us, and drops on our side to rival anything we’ve ever seen before in the U.S. The Chateau is sitting up on a cliff and the switchbacks to reach it had us sitting on the edge of our seats. The view from the outside Terrace is like being in an airplane. It closes on the first of November until March as the roads are dangerous and it is too cold, so they don’t have any customers. The room is the best we’ve had although Karen Brown made it sound cold and barren. It is a castle, after all.

The dining room is beautiful – a barrel vaulted ceiling with candelabras on each table. We felt like we had stepped back in time to the middle ages. We were tired after driving all day so early to bed.

October 3

Long drive to Grand Canyon on southern route to Corniche Sublime provided gorgeous and breathtaking views as we climbed to 1400 meters. The Grand Canyon is incredible rock mountains on all sides of a canyon too deep to see bottom. We drove for five or ten miles along its’ boundary on a two-lane road. The sun moved from one rocky precipice to another making them look as if they were snow-covered. We reached Moustiers in time for lunch. What a fabulous small hilltop village. Every house has hanging flowers from window boxes. Morning glories of purple climb the walls and a lovely chapel dating back to 445 ad. is sitting on a rock precipice high above the village. Many pilgrims climb to honor the Virgin Mother and many miracles are attributed to their prayers. Many consider it equal to Lourdes. We visited St. Marie – a very old church in the village. The monks who came here in the first century lived in caves and started this community. The faience pottery called Moustiers is made here. We left for Mougins and drove through beautiful mountains – saw truffle hunters along the roads. Mougins – pronounced “Mou jan” – lovely little village and our hotel is wonderful. Pretty and very luxurious. View of Mediterranean Sea if I stretch my neck out the window.

October 4

Started in St. Tropez and drove along the coast to Cannes. The road hugs the coastline and the mountains rise alongside. The water is purple and blue and you know why they call it Cote Argus. It is incredibly beautiful and similar to Southern California but more fertile and more dramatically beautiful. Sometimes the red rocks rise up hundreds of feet from the ocean to the road and again beside the road. The beaches vary from wide and sandy to a sea wall where the waves crash against the wall. St. Tropez and Cannes are lovely spots with beautiful people and expensive shops. All the best are here: Cartier, Escada, etc. We saw the location of the Cannes Film Festival. The movie stars have their hands molded into tiles on the walks.

A very long and tiring day and it was a relief to reach our destination here in St. Paul de Vence. The room is great with French doors to an outside terrace – charming.

October 5

St. Paul de Vence is another wonderful hilltop village with streets so narrow and steep you must leave your cars in a car park. Many galleries and wonderful nooks and crannies with charming doorways. My camera doesn’t get a rest and I hope they all come out. We drove to the Nice Airport to check out the time for Thursdays’ flight before driving the shore route from Nice to Monaco and Menton. It is an unbelievable shoreline – mountains down to the sea peppered with beautiful homes built into the hillsides. Can there be so many billionaires? The yachts look like cruise ships and there are harbors full of them. We stopped at Eye, a hilltop village a mile up from where we left our cars. I took some great pictures. The sights and views from the top of Eze take your breath away. You look down on the Azure Sea where the sailboats look like toys and the mountains loom out of the ocean on all sides. Our eyes cannot take in all the beauty everywhere. Monaco is full of skyscraper condominiums and hotels perched on cliffs surrounding a magnificent harbor filled with yachts. We had lunch at McDonalds – good to get a McChicken sandwich.

October 6

Great day – fabulous weather all this week on the Cote d’ Azure and the Riviera. Today we went to Nice and walked the Anglars Promenada. It is a magnificent beach although rocky and a wide Promenade with a section for bicycles and skaters and a space for benches in addition to a very wide walkway for pictons. Went through the wonderful hotel with a huge Baccarat crystal chandelier – magnificent – beautiful shops. We went to Henre Matisee Musee – disappointed to find only one completed painting – mostly sketches for others including the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence. So off to Vence to find it closed today. It was a fun day but we are ready for home. McDonalds for dinner so we can eat early. Restaurants don’t open until 9:30 and you are lucky to finish by 10 o’clock.

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