Postcards from France… Days Five and Six

Letad had organised a tour of Provence with an overnight stay in an old abbey and so we headed off winding our way through sleepy French villages and of course, saw horses camping (as only we would). How is it possible that I have met someone with the same ludicrous sense of humour?

The landscape was spectacular with endless vineyards, the chirp of cicadas and villages built into cliffs. The weather was hot and dry and life continues to follow its centuries’ familiar path.

Pausing briefly in Draguignan, we stopped for a quick picnic in a park where as always the delicious French produce made a quick and easy lunch. A baguette, cheese, pâté and a cold bottle of rosé and we were back on the road.

A quick stop at the Abbaye du Thoronet for a Perrier under a tree which may have been a plum, a nectarine or neither, a quick look around and we were off again, the lure of a pool proving too much to linger.

The trusty iPhone guided us through the winding one way system of Brignoles (thanks Steve) when the map let us down and finally we arrived, hot, sticky and dusty at the Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle (www.abbaye-celle.com).

The colours of Provence
It was a beautiful hotel with the original abbey attached, a tree-shaded outdoor terrace restaurant, mature gardens and a vineyard. We plunged into the pool sighing in the relief of the cool water.

The gardens

Dressing for dinner it was time to up the ante so it was va va voom, the red dress and Pradas. Letad looked fabulous in a blue Agnes b shirt and cream trousers and we both felt incredibly lucky to be together. There may even have been strutting!

Dinner was an incredible six course menu by Alain Ducasse, one of the top Michelin starred chefs (www.alain-ducasse.com).

Tartar of beef with Parmesan and balsamic vinegar, stuffed vegetables, Mediterranean fish with seasonal summer vegetables, pavé of veal and a selection of cheese. All local produce paired with wines from the region, it was an evening to savour and remember.

The next morning we enjoyed a tranquil breakfast on the terrace. Fresh croissants, fruit, cheese, ham, jus de pamplemousse (grapefruit) and fantastic coffee. What a way to start the day. 

Breakfast on the terrace
We said our farewells and headed to Aups and on to the Lac de Sainte Croix for a swim in the cloudy jade green water. The temperatures were searing and the water just about refreshing.

Les Gorges du Verdon awaited with some of the most spectacular views of the area and we braved (and lived through) Letad’s erratic driving around some very windy roads.

Les Gorges du Verdon

Heading back we passed through Grasse before returning once again to the little village house above the Boulangerie where we enjoyed a candle lit dinner for two sitting outside the front door.

Dinner dans la rue
What a fantastic adventure and while hilarious hamster greeting cards reminiscent of squirrel underpants and horses camping proved elusive, it was a fabulous drive through Provence and a tantilising taste of the region!.

Postcards from France… Day Four

A lazy start to the day, the plan was to drive around the coast to Antibes for a sunset barbeque on the beach.

Letad went into hunter-gatherer mode as he gathered scallops, prawns, sausage, chorizo, apple, garlic, bread and a bottle of cold rosé.

We reached the pebbled beach and sat looking across the mercurial water towards the Nice skyline with the mountains beyond.

Looking across to Nice

Letad dug a hole and started a fire (charcoal, firelighters and matches) although the temptation to rub two sticks together must have been huge.

And he cooked. I confess I did absolutely nothing except eat and drink. Delicious spicy prawns with satay sauce, sausage with caramelised apple and chargrilled scallops some of which escaped into the fire.

The food was sublime and as always the setting perfect but the company was what it was all about.

As dusk fell and we decided it was better not to be arrested for lewd behaviour, we headed back to Valbonne and had a drink in the square before retiring, a little smoky but satiated.

How can it just keep getting better and better?

Postcards from France… Day Three

Monday and with a glorious blue sky and a perfect temperature, we drove around the coast to Cap d’Ail. I’ve always wanted to drive along the coast of the French Riviera so for me, it was a dream come true.

We headed to a small cove for lunch at a beachside restaurant followed by swimming from the pebbly beach. The water was cool and refreshing and we spent a couple of hours relaxing whilst discussing how many pairs of fake tits we could see (quite a few!)

Cap d’Ail
Letad obliging emerged from the water in a Daniel Craig moment and the afternoon was perfect.

Better than Daniel Craig

That evening we set off to Juan Les Pins as we had tickets to see Tom Jones, how hilarious is that?!

We sat under the clear night sky, it was a balmy evening and Tom rocked the house. In the distance there were fireworks in Cannes for Bastille Day, there were old people swaying and eventually dancing (the average age of the audience was at least 73), cigarette lighters were lit, red knickers were thrown on the stage (really) and the bleachers were bouncing!

It was a fabulous evening, incredibly picturesque and so hilarious as I laughed more than I thought possible. I never thought I’d see Tom Jones play on the Cote d’Azur!

Living the dream!

Postcards from France… Day Two

Sunday saw us heading off to a lovely market town called Vence where we gathered a spontaneous picnic. Thyme and rosemary infused wafer thin French ham, whole cloves of pickled garlic, ripe pungent blue cheese, and fresh crusty bread all to be washed down with a decadent bottle of Cote de Rhone. It doesn’t get much better than that.

The Gorgeous Gorge

With the shopping complete we wound our way through the Gorge du Loup, where the river has carved its way through the rocks forever.

Clambering down the hillside, we hopped over rocks and waded through the icy cold water to lounge on a rocky shelf. We spent the afternoon gorging in the gorge and plunging briefly into ice cold water before heading back to the village where we took up position on the front step watching the world go by.

As friends walked past and spotted us, we were invited to a spontaneous birthday party with village neighbours.

Despite confessing to having the same musical taste as a fifteen year old and giving the game away about how we met (who cares anyway?) the evening was great fun and I think I got a vote of approval!

Postcards from France… Day One

Back to Nice and with a minor delay due to bad weather, the impatient girl in the front row who’d strategically squeezed into the middle seat for a speedy exit, was ready to get off the plane. How can a two hour flight seem to last forever?

A quick change en route as the London departure rain outfit was replaced with a little va va voom, the red dress was on and Letad and I happily reunited.

Heading back to Valbonne we spent the evening eating in the local square and sitting on the front doorstep absorbing the village ambiance. The mood was relaxed, the company perfect and strolling around the village, the setting was idyllic.

I felt like I’d come home.

C’est cool!

Hurray for Friday!

I’ve got one more day in the trenches and then I’m off to Nice tomorrow morning for eight glorious days in the sun with Letad. Adventures are planned and I’m very excited!

I seem to be taking very few clothes with me as it appears three dresses, a pair of red linen shorts, and a bikini will do the job. I keep thinking I’m forgetting something but no, I don’t need my ladies’ umbrella, or jeans or a jumper (the essential English summer wardrobe) so that’s it. I’m ready to go.

My French friends are teaching me a sort of “cool French” called Verlan which comes from L’envers meaning wrong way up. You take a word, cut it in half, reverse it and use that instead (why? because they’re twenty). I’m now able to say “ça fais iech” which means it’s pissing me off (said with French accent and lots of attitude). It comes from the verb chier and is very rude. A less rude version is relou which means annoying and is the verlan of lourd meaning heavy. Very tricky but I’m assured that I’ll be very cool if I can use it.

Also used a lot is “c’est cool” but one has to be careful with one’s accent as the word for arse (cul) is very similar. I did get some funny looks the other day but think there’s probably a good use for “c’est cul” anyway!

So language lessons are progressing well, I’m basically packed and ready so watch out French Riviera, here I come!

C’est cool!

Still battling the appliances…

Continuing on from the early days in my flat, I’m still battling the appliances…

I’ve never had any problems doing washing for the past twenty odd years. Suddenly in London, colours have run, clothes have been ruined and as a result I’m doing a lot of hand washing.

This morning I thought I’d do a quick load of whites before work. In everything went, a hot wash which for some reason takes about five hours. I wasn’t paying attention apparently as I happened to glance at the window during a pause in the cycle and spotted a pair of cheeky purple knickers in the midst of all the whites.

Nightmare. Guaranteed all my pristine white bedding would be dirty pink. I hit the off button, waited for the door to release and carefully extracted the naughty knickers. A hint of pink was left behind.

I restarted the machine and left it running as I headed off to work. Who knows what I’ll find when I get home and there may be a fun filled trip to Morrisons to buy bleach this evening as my week of laying low continues.