30 November 2008


It is early morning and the sun is shining. Did I mention the views are spectacular from our terrace? A bit of a late start as we get our bearings, blow a fuse, and then head to Antibes and the Sunday market. The sky has clouded over… Winter in Provence.

We soon find the market and select fresh briney olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and tapenades—black olive, sun-dried tomato, and artichoke. Glazed fruits are ubiquitous. In addition to the popular Clementines, pears, cherries, etc., we see glazed Angelica, which is probably fennel. We buy fruit and chocolate covered orange rind, and share our first socca. It is a type of fry bread similar to pita, tortillas, or naan made from ground garbanzo beans mixed with olive oil, salt, and water; then formed into a tortilla-like flattened cake, and cooked on a hot olive oil-smeared grill. We agree that the socca is tasty with an internal texture like a thick crepe.

It is raining by the time we find an open café and order café cream and quiche or hot tea and croque mademoiselle. The rain seems to be letting up as we head to our car, but soon hail falls and we run for shelter. This is a good day to be in the car if you can’t hunker down in front of your own hearth.

The mountain and valley views on the road to Biot, and then to Cagnes sur Mer and St. Paul de Vence are spectacular. Simply gorgeous. Sun-faded stucco and weathered shutters in varying combinations of amber, coral, pink, yellow, and multiple shades of blue. I want to live in and own a house with such grace, age, and character. We agree it is unlikely that our camera will capture enough of the essence of this Provençal beauty.

Before heading to Gourdon, SN discovers a vineyard/winery in Maggie’s repertoire and we agree to head there first. We drive to Nice and wind up into the hills, following switchbacks and narrow lanes, only to discover the winery is closed today. A change of plans and we head to Monaco and Monte Carlo instead of the countryside.

The opulence, beauty, and density of Monaco overwhelms. Everywhere we are amazed by the beauty of the seaside and the towering architecture. Every square inch of rock or soil has been maximized. Each winding, cobbled street boasts designer boutiques and amazing shops. And, each avenue is uniquely decorated for Christmas with overhanging garlands and lights. After dinner we leave our Italian café and the darkened sky is the perfect backdrop for the city lights, Christmas garlands, and bling that dazzles.

We are in the south of France, not too far from the Italian border and we keep ending up in Italian bistros and cafes at mealtime. Today we enjoy local moules [mussels] and frites, lasagna, and herb-roasted chicken. We talk about finding gelato, but few shops are open in Monaco on Sunday.

We return to Mougins and then Maggie [the GPS British ex-pat] loses her mind and sends us wandering where no man should go—at least in an automobile—along passages nearly too narrow and then really too narrow… It is raining and everything we see is beautiful. A stop for directions yields chocolate and almond croissants and we nest comfortably in our borrowed villa. We try t.v. and find a late 1970s-era German movie. There’re no English subtitles, but we somehow follow the plot and are mesmerized.

A wonderful day. It rained a lot, but we saw a bit of southeastern Provence and were touched by the beauty of this timeless place.

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