Planning my trip 2017 – click to read more

Early this year I decided that 2017 was going to be my year to travel.  A cousin in the UK, in the process of selling Continue reading “Planning my trip 2017 – click to read more”

Two weeks in Paris

June 21 – July 7, 2017

[I haven’t ever finished this with photos but I thought it a good idea to just publish it! Photos may or may not come later…]

Doesn’t that sound great? Two weeks in Paris? Actually it was just over two weeks and I could have stayed much longer. I don’t speak French at all but had no problems as many French people in Paris do speak English.

It was so great not to have to be a tourist (and tourists work really hard) every day. I spent 10 days in Paris in 2007 so I didn’t need to repeat anything that I saw or did then – such as visiting Versailles or Sacre Coeur or cemeteries or the Louvre or the Tulleries or taking a ferry on the Seine to see the bridges – so you won’t find any comments about them in these Paris posts.

Instead I did 4 cooking classes and 1 food tour; I went early (8.45 am) to the Eiffel Tower and went right to the top (17 euro but worth it); I climbed up the 422 steps of the Towers of Notre Dame (and I didn’t mean to);  I visited museums – The Musée national du Moyen Âge, formerly Musée de Cluny which has the amazing The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries; Musée de Orsay, Musée du Quai Branly; the Picasso museum;  and visited some churches; I went early (9.15 am – no queues) to look inside Notre Dame (which seemed familiar so maybe I did go in in 2007!); Sainte Chapelle (with glorious stained glass windows); I discovered little shops and eating places in the Paris streets; I walked along the banks of the Seine; I worked out how to use the Metro – and the RER which wasn’t so scary as I thought, and I bought a baguette every day from the local bakery! Apart from the bakery purchases I will (eventually) write posts about the things I did do.

Notes about the RER and Metro:

Always keep your tickets until you are outside because you need your ticket to go through the exit turnstiles for the RER and sometimes there are ticket checks on the Metro. I didn’t use the buses at all, but a friend who visited last year, only used the buses, so work out what is best for you. Sometimes the big Metro interchanges that look so easy on the map (you can get free maps), take a long time to walk. It is great to be walking underground if it is raining, but make sure you allow for the time it takes if you have a deadline to meet.

Overview: Download any available apps or get a free map from Visitors Information – I found that the physical map did made it easier to get a better overview of where I was going, and then I could find it on the street map.

Tip for getting to the right place: I wrote down the first word of the destination station, the number of the Metro line, the first word of the station I was getting off at, and sometimes how many stops between. All this information I got from Google Maps.

I also worked out that Sortie meant Exit, and the sign is usually blue. Note that there are often two (or more) exits which will bring you out at different places so allow extra time for this, as it is very easy to come up in the wrong place. Several times I felt like a meercat – popping up to see where I was and then down again.

There were two Metro stations close to the apartment and I found that La Tour Maubourg was easier to use than Invalides.

The frustrations of technology

I have come back to my blog after 2-3 years and can’t remember how to feature an image for my Monet blogs – so my apologies – I have emailed for help but… and I have looked in the help but suspect that the upgrades that have happened in these past years is the problem!

I got a reply! Thanks Word Press support!

Thanks for reaching out! I’m Michael, a WordPress.com Expert and community member. I would be more than happy to assist you.

What you’re referring to is a featured image for your posts.

To set this up, go to https://wordpress.com/posts/justinetravelblog.wordpress.com, click on any post you wish to set a featured image for, then click on the Featured Image tab as highlighted and shown here https://snipboard.io/M4vsgr.jpg.

Choose or select your image and then make sure to click on update so as to save the changes you’ve made and the featured image will now start displaying on the post.

I hope this helps and I will be glad to answer any concerns. Kindly let me know if this doesn’t answer your request.

Best Regards

Honfleur – an unexpected delight

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What a well kept secret! Ports don’t come any prettier than Honfleur on the Seine’s estuary. The harbour sits in a great location, tucked away on the southern side of the Seine’s estuary. Pronounced “one of Normandy’s most charming fishing ports” by Frommer’s, Honfleur has been delighting visitors for centuries, including painters Boudin, Monet and Corot.

These wonderful flowers caught my attention when we arrived at the Tourist Information Centre for our tour. To arrange a tour, contact Clémence at communication@ot-honfleur.fr

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Our guide took us along Rue de la Ville and pointed out the different styles of house frontages – evidently the house owners would use expensive materials such as slate, to show the town how wealthy they were. Sometimes the owners would put symbols such as the fleur-de-lis on the front facades.

I loved this quirky statue of a mariner – he looked very lifelike.

We unfortunately didn’t have time to wander into the shops as we had been delayed getting to the area because of traffic jams – it was the beginning of the school holidays and we had to take some alternative routes to get from Giverny to the Honfleur area. Thank goodness for mobile phones and GPS! However, our trusty Kia was very comfortable and because it was a hybrid, we didn’t need to keep stopping for petrol. I was very impressed with the economy of both the hybrid vehicles I travelled in, in France.

We walked past Musée de la Marine but couldn’t go in as they were preparing for the opening of an exhibition the next day. I did take a photo of the ceiling (as well as a photo of the poster outside) which was designed in the style of an upside-down boat keel – this type of design gave strength to the building and meant that much larger buildings could be built. This design came about because of the knowledge of the local boat builders. The museum used to be a warehouse for salt storage. Ten million kgs of salt could be stored in the 3 warehouses (10,000 tons).

This is from the tourist board website about the salt warehouses.

The two Greniers à Sel (Salt Warehouses) in the rue de la Ville are large 17th century stone buildings built by the Ferme des Gabelles under the approval of Colbert. They replaced the smaller warehouses mentioned in Honfleur as early as the 14th century. They were the fourth and last large salt warehouses in Normandy. Most of the stones used to build them came from the former fortifications of the town and the oak framework was based on shipbuilding techniques. 10,000 tons of salt (10,000,000 kg) could be stored in these two warehouses and a third one, destroyed by fire in 1892,

The salt trade developed at the end of the 16th and at the beginning of the 17th centuries with the introduction of cod fishing on the banks of Newfoundland and at the mouth of the St Lawrence River. The two Greniers à Sel, listed as historical monuments since 1916, have been the property of the town since 1952 and were restored at the beginning of the 1970s. These imposing buildings house exhibitions, concerts, conferences and many seminars and congresses throughout the year.

We continued along Rue de la Ville to a large square (on the left) the origins of which I can’t remember exactly, but I think that originally there may have been buildings on it. The yellow fronted cafe was on one side of the square and the other two buildings were facing it. The detail of the patterns on the front of the building were used to show the wealth of the owner.

On the way to Rue de petites Boucheries, we walked through an open area where there is a concrete bench, with a cow’s head!P1030499 small

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Rue de petites Boucheries is where the oldest stall in the town is.

There used to be two but one was destroyed in a fire.

The remaining stall has had graffiti painted on it, but the information board had a pre-graffiti photo. P1030501 smallContinuing along Rue de la Prison, we passed the Musée d’Ethnographie. It was closed. 😦 It had an overhang which is quite common in buildings of this age – the town taxed the building owners on the amount of house on the ground level so, as happened in many countries, the owners extended the house on the upper levels.

One of the most visited part of Honfleur is the former medieval fortress, and within this area you will find the Hôtel de Ville, the deconsecrated church of Saint-Etienne (left in the photo below and nowadays the Maritime Museum), the remains of the old prison (nowadays, the Normandy Cultural Museum) and the original 17th century Salt Halls (Greniers à Sel), now used for exhibitions, conferences and concerts.

The building on the right, is Hôtel de ville – which actually just means, the Town Hall, or City Hall.

I love taking photos of interesting pieces of art as well as doors.

With their fortunes made from shipping, wealthy Honfleur families built very narrow, very tall houses, some of them 7 storeys high, packed tight next to each other, around the Vieux Bassin. This is the heart of the port, where a front-row home overlooking the vessels was a distinct privilege.

P1030556 smallI just loved these unusual narrow houses, squeezed against one another on Quai Ste Catherine. They reminded me of the houses of Bergen, and Nyhavn in Copenhagen – but they are much narrower and taller, and actually, less colourful.

P1030527 smallThey are all different in size and shape and the very strange thing about them is that they have two ground floors, one that opens on to the Quai Ste Catherine and another one, usually from the 3rd floor up, that opens behind onto rue du Dauphin or rue des Logettes. Because of – or thanks to this – each house is privately owned by two different householders. These houses were built between the 16-18th centuries. Some of them have overhanging storeys and many have their walls protected by slates.

Our local tourist board Guide, told us the story about these ‘two-street’ houses – evidently the original owner of the land was La Duchesse de Montpensier (Louis XIV’s cousin), and she made lots of money by selling each block of land twice! Once to the owners of the lower floor houses which have their front door on the Quai Ste Catherine, and the second time to the owners of the top part of the houses that have their front doors on Rue du Dauphin or Rue des Logettes.

P1030530 smallNowadays, the ground floor houses on Quai Ste Catherine are usually restaurants or shops.

Unfortunately the light was not great for good photos so I took photos of photos (above).

The western quarter slopes up to the splendid wooden church of Ste Catherine, and this is the district where you will find the town’s main museums dedicated to the arts. I had only enough time to take these photos of Ste Catherine, but not to hear of its history except that it was France’s largest timber built church with a separate bell tower. So this is taken from this website.

One of Honfleur’s major sites, Saint Catherine’s church was built in the town’s eponymous quarter during the second half of the 15th century. It replaced the former stone-built church, destroyed the Hundred Years’ War. With the limited resources available at the time, the local inhabitants used wood from the nearby Touques forest as the principal raw material and they applied their naval construction skills. This explains the church’s remarkable architecture – entirely made of wood, it is in the shape of an overturned double hull.

The separate bell tower, located opposite the church, is a sturdy oak construction built above the bell-ringer’s house. As an annexe to the Eugène Boudin Museum, it is open to visits and houses religious works (sculptures, souvenirs from the Charities and the Notre-Dame de Grâce chapel).

Honfleur’s beauty has long attracted artists – Monet being one of them – the photo on the right, is of his painting of the church of Ste Catherine and its bell tower. (From the information board about it.)

P1030534 smallAt one end of le Vieux Bassin stands an odd-looking stone building called la Lieutenance. This name refers to the 17th century when the King’s Lieutenant used this building as place of residence.

It is however the only remnant left from the ancient rampart largely altered during the 16-17th centuries. These past alterations make it very difficult to recognise the fortified Porte de Caen, (Caen’s Gate) which used to control the entrance into the medieval fortress of Honfleur. However, parts of the walls that protected the town can still be seen on la Lieutenance.

I really enjoyed wandering the streets (narrow and cobbled!) and taking as many photos as I could. And one day I would love to go back again.

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Unfortunately we didn’t have very long in Honfleur so we didn’t look at any other areas – I would suggest allowing a full day if you have the time – there were so many things that we didn’t have time to see such as The Eugène Boudin Museum – Les Maisons Satie – The Maritime Museum – The Ethnography Museum. This link is to the Honfleur museums website.

I knew nothing about Honfleur when I arrived, and as this visit was in July 2017, I have had to refresh my memory from the excellent tourism board website (you can choose which language it is displayed in: http://www.honfleur-tourism.co.uk/

The tour I was on was one organised by Lifestyle Vacations. This is the same company that organised the first tour I did in the south of France – Provence and the French Riviera – see these posts about Biot, St Paul de Venice and the end of the tour about Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild!  And there are lots more inbetween!

Previous post for this Normandy tour is about our B&B – un Parfum de Violette.

Un Parfum de Violette – Fourneville, lower Normandy, France – what an amazing place to stay.

P1030422We spent the first night of the tour at Un Parfum de Violette – a wonderfully eclectic, character-filled B&B located in Fourneville, 7 km from Honfleur. (This was in early July 2017)

Un Parfum de Violette is run by Daniel and Laurence, and Daniel built it himself. Daniel has an amazing Salvadore Dali type moustache!

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The first thing we saw when we arrived was a colourful gypsy caravan, which is set up as very special romantic retreat. Look at the slideshow below.

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The gardens around the house and the caravan are lovely – with an eclectic range of ornaments hung in the trees, such as eggs and lanterns…

… or objects such as stuffed deer with crocheted blankets, watering cans and lounging chairs, placed around the garden … or rambling roses and clumps of hydrangeas – Laurence picks them and uses them in floral arrangements inside the house. IMG_2860

I love the new type of hydrangea (variety paniculata) with large white conical heads.

They are available in New Zealand and I have been planting them in my garden – they look best when planted in groups.

I found an interesting blog about them – if you are interested to read more about this variety go here.

We were shown to our very luxurious bedrooms – I was in the downstairs bedroom – it was wonderful – and the bed was so comfortable that I wished we were staying there all week! I loved the wallpaper with the peacock feathers.IMG_2868

This is the upstairs bedroom …

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It  took a while to get there because we were so amazed at all the unique and eclectic things that Laurence has used to decorate the interior of her home and we kept stopping to look at them.

Daniel and Laurence are very special hosts and Daniel cooks the most delicious, mostly vegetarian, food. There is an option to have dinner at the B&B which we took.

We couldn’t eat all of the breakfast as it was so generous – Daniel’s special homemade bread (beside the orange juice) was so delicious that I wished that I had the recipe.

All the meals are served in the dining room / living room – there is so much to look at in all the rooms in the house. Look at the slideshow below.

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Many of the items inside the house are for sale.

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And if you do buy something, you will get it wrapped and put in a decorated bag.

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I loved my one night here, and it was so different from anywhere else I stayed in France. It was difficult to choose from the many photos that I took in the short time I was there.

Laurence has made it such a wonderfully different place to stay – it has such character and it is a pleasure to stay there. Un Parfum de Violette consistently gets 9.8 ratings on hotel booking websites and Laurence and Daniel totally deserve those ratings. If I lived closer I would love to visit every year! It is so easy to get to Honfleur and the Normandy coast from here so the next time (wish, wish) I travel in the area, I will definitely be back.

Un Parfum de Violette has its own website, mostly in French. This is their email address for bookings.

However, if you want to book in English, go to Booking.com or one of the other online booking websites. There are lots more fabulous photos on the Booking.com page.

The tour I was on was one organised by Lifestyle Vacations. This is the same company that organised the first tour I did in the south of France – Provence and the French Riviera – see these posts about some of the meals we had – lunch at Bastide, lunch at Paloma, and Lunch at Les Gorges de Pennafort and meeting Nicolas Laty and the Cooking class with Jean-Marc Villard, Luberon. And there are lots more inbetween!

The next post on this Normandy tour is about Honfleur – an amazing well-kept secret!

 

 

‘The Prophecy of Amboise’ sound and light show by Damien Fontaine, held in the Royal Château of Amboise

P1040579 ambWhile in the Loire Valley we stayed 3 nights in Amboise and on the way to visit the Amboise Chateau (a separate post), discovered that the sound and light show, ‘The Prophecy of Amboise’ was currently on so we decided to go to the show the next evening. The tickets are 22 euro / adult and 14 euro for children aged 7-14 year and are absolutely worth it. There is a family deal so ask about it.

Note: this is an outside production, and doesn’t start until 10.30 pm (July) and 10 pm (August) as it has to be dark. So remember to wear enough warm clothes as it can be very cold up at the top of the seated area even on a lovely summer evening. The show lasts 75 minutes or so, and you need to be there at least 15 minutes before it starts.

P1040570 ambThe show tells the story of Louise de Savoire and the prophecy that her son, Francois, would against all odds, become King of France. If you want to learn more about him and his life, here is the link to the Wikipedia entry.

P1040623 ambThe production is new this year and is on from July 1 – August 26, 2017. If you are going to be in the area, it is definitely worth going to – in fact, it is wonderful. Animation Renaissance Amboise hope to present it again in 2018 so check out their website here if you are reading this after it finishes in 2017. [If the page doesn’t come up in English choose the UK flag on the top left of the page.]

Watch the trailer for the production here. It will give you an idea of the volunteers’ involvement. And look at more photos of the production on the home page of the website.

P1040584 ambDamien Fontaine, composer and scenographer, is renowned for his multimedia productions in cities all over the world. As the director of Animation Renaissance Amboise, his production about the Amboise Prophecy draws the viewer into fabulous 3D projections, and amazing special effects and optical illusions which interact with the hundreds of performers acting on the stage.

To get an idea of the world class quality of this production, go to Damien’s website (it is in French) and press the play button under his name – you will see videos of what he has done in other cities – they are just amazing and I feel privileged to have been able to attend one of his productions.

P1040641All the performers are volunteers and they work all year towards this show – they are all wonderful – I particularly noticed the person lying on and calming a horse, which was ‘playing dead’ in the middle of several explosions – the horse ‘work’ was so well done and you knew that all the horses were well cared for.

Evidently, as not every volunteer can attend every show, the volunteers might play several parts over the season. The voice-over means that they don’t have to remember lines. An excellent audio guide in English is available, and is essential in order to follow the story if you don’t understand French.

P1040636 ambThis is taken from the website :-
Year round, volunteers work towards the show – they have set up various workshops, some of which create high quality period costumes or specialize in the production of 15th century props. For this new show, the French organization of craftsmen and artisans “les Compagnons du Tour de France” contributed greatly to the production of the new accessories, such as cannons and catapults.

The concept of this new show rests on the overlapping participation of volunteers and skilled performers (for example, the voice-overs have all been recorded by professional actors, most of whom are famous and easy to identify).

The night-time sound and light spectacular ‘The Amboise Prophecy” is also an opportunity for visitors coming to the area, whether in small family groups or as part of organized tours, to discover the rich heritage of the Loire Valley and Touraine Province.P1040642 ambLeonardo de Vinci is mentioned as he lived in Amboise at the end of his life (another post).

I was totally captivated by the wonderful continually changing visual effects which used the chateau walls as a screen. I didn’t want to look away so I took so many photos with the camera balanced on my knees – not all of them came out as it was dark but I was very happy with those that did work however, look at more photos of the production on the home page of the website – the same link as at the top of the page.

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Old town of Nice, Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

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Tour of Provence June 11-21, 2017

Day 10 – Final full day – June 20 – Visit to Old Nice and the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, on Cap Ferrat, between Monaco and Nice

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I don’t mind giving to street musicians as they are improving the experience I am having.

In the morning we visited the old part of Nice (pronounced Nees not nice!) – getting there was a real mission. Because of the terrorist attack on the waterfront in Nice, the traffic flow has been altered in both Cannes and Nice to help prevent it happening again. The effect of this is to make it very difficult to get to some of the seafront areas. However, we got there in the end, with some good driving by Corinne.

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The seafront of Nice

 

I wonder how much these seafront properties are worth!

 

Nice (the town!) seafront – there is a lovely walk right by the beach.

We walked along the seafront and then walked through the old market. On the way we found a post office and with Corinne’s help, I posted the toy to my grandson. It is always such a mission posting things in a country that doesn’t speak English!

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Note that if you are going to sell lavender products that everything has to be purple or lavender! I saw this all the time in Provence and the first time I saw a shop with all this purple stuff I wondered why! Doh! It was all lavender touristy stuff.

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Glace or dried fruit of all descriptions. It looked great but it was expensive and we were on our way to lunch.

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This area grows lots of different flowers – that is why there are a lot of perfume shops.

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Soap from Provence – a very popular gift. But they aren’t always as natural as you would hope.

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We had lunch at this cafe – I had sardines which were large and far too strong for my tastebuds – and nobody ordered the specialty of Testicules de moutons (Lamb testicles!)

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Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild as seen from its gardens.

Then we went to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, on Cap Ferrat – it was a very hot day and it was good to be inside the Villa. It had some amazing furniture and wall hangings.

Some history rom the official website:

Béatrice was the daughter of the baron, Alphonse de Rothschild, a banker and renowned art collector. At the age of 19, she married Maurice Ephrussi, a Parisian banker of Russian origin, 15 years her senior, and a friend of her parents. The marriage quickly turned sour for Béatrice. She contracted a serious illness from Maurice, which prevented her from having children. Maurice was a gambler and in 1904, his debts totalled over 12 million gold francs, the equivalent of 30 million euros today.

 

Continued…

Worried about the future, the Rothschild family decided to bring Maurice to court in order to file for a divorce. They won the case and in June 1904, after 21 years of marriage, the divorce of Béatrice de Rothschild and Maurice Ephrussi was officially pronounced. Béatrice then turned her attention to one of her great passions: collecting art. Béatrice had inherited her keen eye and her taste for beautiful objects from her family, renowned for the remarkable collections built up by several of her relatives over the years. Her motto was ‘Ars Patriae Decus’: ‘Art is the honour of the fatherland’. She acquired many items—a Tiepolo ceiling, eighteenth-century furniture, a games table that had once belonged to Marie Antoinette, and a rug commissioned by Louis XIV—to furnish the future villa.

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These fake flowers looked very real and made a great focal point in the room.

Continued…

Béatrice’s father died in 1905 and the Baroness inherited his immense fortune. That same year, she decided to construct her dream home in Cap Ferrat. When she first discovered this plot of land, she was immediately seduced by the beauty of the surroundings. However at the time, the site was rather inaccessible—it was little more than a barren rocky area traversed by a mule track. When she learned of the sale of the terrain and that the Belgian King, Léopold II, was also interested in it, she purchased it without hesitation.

 

The bedspread in Beatrice’s bedroom and one of her dresses and a pair of shoes.

Continued…

Work on the gardens began immediately and took seven years to complete. The Baroness called upon the talents of several renowned personalities such as Harold Peto and Achille Duchêne—highly prized landscape architects in Europe and the United States at the time. The site chosen for the Villa was not particularly conducive to the creation of a garden. Indeed, creating a park on a rocky promontory covered with trees and exposed to strong winds was quite a tour de force. The Baroness had the ground dynamited and large quantities of earth were brought in to relevel the surface. Hundreds of Italian workers were hired for these large-scale relevelling works.

 

Continued…

The Baroness furnished her Villa directly at the Gare de Beaulieu. A train arrive from Paris loaded with furniture and works of art. The Baroness would select the artworks for her Villa on the platform of the train station! Those works not selected for the Villa Ephrussi would furnish her villa in Monaco.

A year before her death, Beatrice bequeathed her Villa and the entirety of its collections to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. The Académie also received the 7 hectares of land and some 5,000 works of art.

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The ceiling of the entrance.

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Note the window within the shutters – such a good idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The garden from the first floor balcony.

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Looking up to the very top of the garden. Evidently Beatrice built her garden to resemble a cruise ship as she loved going on cruises!

 

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I survived! Even with a cold and the weather was very hot – but I do look a bit hot and tired.

For dinner we went to Lou Fassum, Michelin-ranked restaurant in Grasse with the most fantastic view. The food was ok but not memorable, and as we were sitting on the terrace the lighting was not really good enough to take good photos.

They had these lovely plates on the table when we arrived – each one different but they were taken away! The other picture is a made of tiles and it is on an outside wall when you arrive at the restaurant.

 

 

This the final post for the Tour of Provence – On June 21 I took the train from Nice to Paris and I will write some posts about my time there.

After Paris  I am on a tour (from July 7-12) to Normandy and the Loire Valley with Corinne from Lifestyle Vacations.

Then I go to London – and after that to stay with friends and family.

The other posts aren’t done, but come back and keep checking…..

I hope you have enjoyed reading about Provence through my eyes.

Lunch at La Bastide Saint Antoine restaurant – Jacques Chibois

Tour of Provence – June 11-21, 2017

Day 9 – Visit to an olive mill  near Grasse, and lunch at Jacques Chibois’ Michelin star restaurant La Bastide Saint Antoine in Grasse, and a visit to the Fragonard Perfume museum and shop.
P1010409 oliveWe visited the Opio olive oil mill which dates back to the 15th century and has been run by the same family for 7 generations. The tour sounded interesting, however, I wasn’t feeling well enough to take photos or take in much information – we were shown around the mill and told about the old way of making olive oil. This is one link for the olive mill. The others bought olive oil and other gifts in the shop.

We then went to lunch at La Bastide Saint Antoine Michelin star restaurant in Grasse. It was as good as the 2 star we went to – the waiters just didn’t wear gloves as they did at Paloma.

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This is what their website says about it:

A feast for the eyes. An incredible view of a deep blue ocean. A bright manor house surrounded by bougainvilleas and bignonia. A rural terrace nestled in a floral garden with lime and chestnut trees providing a cool shaded refuge in the summer.

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This was a fantastic meal – I loved every bit of it (not that I haven’t loved the other fabulous lunches we have had) – maybe it was the setting and the fact that it was cooler than it had been when we dined at the other Michelin star restaurants – Les Gorges de Pennafort  (1 star) and Paloma (2 star) or maybe I was feeling a bit better – my coldy tastebuds meant that even though I enjoyed the wine most of the time, I am sure that I wasn’t truly appreciating it.

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Porcini and foix gras soup – Amuse bouche

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This was a replacement for the entree on the menu but I can’t remember exactly what it was except that it had seafood in it and I think some octopus or squid! It was beautifully presented.

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Monkfish with fennel that was so delicious – it was also an Amuse bouche.

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A fillet of Saint Pierre with a crustacean sauce, artichokes and orange mousse (crustacean might = crab, the menu is in French!) I didn’t know I liked artichoke cooked this way – they are special big Portuguese ones, I think….

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Cheese before the dessert – absolutely divine camembert.

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Grand Marnier souflle accompanied by a mandarin sorbet (next photo). This is the signature dessert of the restaurant and it was so good. How they get the souffles to the table without them sinking I don’t know (the kitchen is in the building and we were outside). There is that mountain-style dish again – it seems to be a favourite of top restaurants.

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Even in the time it took for me to put the sorbet on the dish so I could photograph it, the souffle started to sink. It was so delicate in texture and in taste and simpler than all the other desserts I have had on this trip but is the one I would definitely order again

Then 3 dishes of sweets nibbles came out – lychee jellies on the left, mini friands, and lemon tarts (I think). Top right are pistachio macarons – and they were divine – the best macarons I have had this trip – or ever! Then there were 3 madeleines on the silver tray.

You had to look carefully at the door signs before going into the toilets!

The covers of the menus – the left is the cover for Le Menu du Dejeuner – lunch, and the one of the right is the wine menu.

We arrived at 12.45 and were having coffee at 3.45 but by the time we had spoken to the chef (not Jacques Chibois – he was away) and looked at the gift shop (and I did buy something!) we didn’t leave the restaurant until 4.45 pm!

I have learned that the first Michelin star is all about the food. Then the second Michelin star is about the environment which includes the restaurant and the staff and the service – of course, the food has to be better as well.

P1010458 bastAfter that we visited the Perfume museum and shop, Fragonard. This is one of the best perfumeries and the museum was interesting, but again, I didn’t want to buy anything, and the others did, so I sat and waited – I was rather tired by then, my cold having made a reappearance and making me feel as though I have cotton wool in my head – not the best for trying out perfumes.

A useful tip from the Fragonard salesperson – keep perfume in its box in the dark and cool. The best place is actually the fridge. It will last 10 years that way. The very worst thing to do is to put perfume bottles in the bathroom with humidity and heat and light. Wait until you have empty bottles and then put those on display in the bathroom,

The others went to look at the Fragonard clothing shop while I waited in the car – the car park closed at 5.45 and was locked so I was very pleased to see Corinne turn up at 5.40! The we drove around Grasse trying to find a car park so we could pick up the others who were now buying clothes – it was interesting seeing parts of Grasse that I hadn’t seen – there are parts of the town that aren’t very nice anymore – evidently it is where the refugee Algerians live.

It was nearly 7pm by the time we got back to the hotel. Needless to say, we weren’t planning another fancy dinner. Corinne had organised a ‘picnic’ to have where we were staying – it came in hampers complete with a menu!

It was fun and we were all happy to just sit and relax and drink wine out of our plastic wine glasses!

And our new waiter….. Corinne!

Eze – hilltop village – French Riviera

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Taken while we were driving so the focus wasn’t perfect.

Tour of Provence June 11-21

Day 8 – June 18 – Visit to Eze – hilltop village on the coast and the Exotic Garden at the top.

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Eze is a tourist spot, definitely not off the beaten track! It is a well-known hilltop village – and it is definitely worth walking to the top, but only if you are fit. It is steep walk all on large slippery cobblestones which, if you don’t have the right shoes, can be lethal even with no rain. I hate to think how slippery they would be in the rain.

You have to pay before you go into the Exotic Garden and the walking is easier in some ways (gravel not cobblestones) but you can visit the church and the shops without paying anything, except in energy!

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This is taken from a website on Eze :

“Eze is a medieval village perched like an eagle’s nest on a narrow rocky peak overlooking the Mediterranean sea. The ancient fortified village is still crowned with the ruins of its 12th-century fortified castle (torn down in 1706), sitting on a narrow rocky peak. The castle grounds host the well-known Jardin Exotique, and from the top (429 m) you’ll have an great view of the coast.

The village forms a circular pattern around the base of the castle. The old buildings and narrow streets are very well restored, with high stone walls and narrow roadways of red-brick centered stone. The narrow roads wend their way upward to the well sign-posted Jardin Exotique Panorama with its panoramic view.”

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The Exotic Garden is amazing – it has masses of cacti / succulents, and lovely sculptures by Jean-Philippe Richard – they were what interested me. You can read more about them on Jean-Philippe’s website.

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Justine

The sculptor gave each of them a first name (they are all young females) and the first one you come to is Justine!

And they all had a sign with their name and 3 lines about them.

Margot says: Follow me young man – And you shall know -all my secrets … almost

Melisande says: Who has dreamt me? – Who has created me? – To whom have I said yes?

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After we left Eze we drove to Monaco! For a New Zealander that sounds so odd… but drive we did.  I was confused as to the difference between Monaco and Monte Carlo – this website explains it in detail, but briefly, Monaco is the country (but to confuse us all, it is also the name of the city). Monte Carlo is just part of the city – a suburb if you like!

We drove around for a little while – there was nowhere that we could stop easily – and when we drove to a parking building, we were told it would cost 20 Euro an hour to park there – we decided it wasn’t worth it for a 5 minute photo stop!

P1010371 monLots of super large yachts in the harbour… a few old buildings that we could see, but the most obvious sign of money were the two lamborghinis (the cars that look like an elephant sat on them) at the petrol station! Corinne said that the petrol stations love lamborghinis as they are such gas guzzlers and need to constantly be refueled.

There is so much building on such a small amount of land and we passed quite a few building sites.

I got a zoomed shot of what I think (via Mr Google) is commemorating – Juan-Manuel Fangio Argentinian Paul Vestey with his GB Mercedes – if it isn’t this one (the one I found was in a museum) it looks very like it.

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That night we had dinner at Clovis Michelin star restaurant in the village but as it was Father’s Day we had the set menu – it was mostly very nice but not as amazing as some meals we had had and the desert let the restaurant down. There was more to the menu but the lighting was no good for photos.

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