29 November 2010

FRANCE: Day 10 - Cagnes-sur-Mer

The rains have passed, and while England and Northern Europe are freezing and digging out from record-setting snows, here in the south of France wake to another sunny and mild morning. Ah-h-h.

We’re going back to Cagnes-sur-Mer today, but stop first for café crème and some Internet stuff at La Terrazza. After one cup of café, I surrender the laptop to CA and cross to the boulangerie for a baguette and two abricot tartes—just in case we stay in for dinner tonight. We’ve decided that for .90€ each, we’ll buy a baguette every morning and worry about our dinner plans later. It’s doubtful that CA and MP will ever waste a artisanal baguette.

It’s 11:30am before we’re done with emails and blogging. We drive the short distance to Cagnes-sur-Mer and decide to scout out the Renoir Museum (located at his farm-home, Les Collettes, a neighborhood near the town centre) before finding a café for lunch. We wind up and around the narrow Avenue des Collettes and easily locate the museum, noting that it will reopen from lunch at 2:00pm.

After parking near the bus station, we wander through the streets toward the market center and find a simply lovely café, L’Underground. CA orders something that roughly translates to “egg on a horse” with salad and frites, and I choose the “campagnarde quiche with salade.” I love quiche and salad at lunch, but have no idea what this one will contain since no one here speaks English and there’s no translation on the menu. Still you can’t go wrong with quiche. This one is wonderful—jam-packed with everything but the kitchen sink (ham, bacon, leeks, sun-dried tomatoes, lentils (!!)) all layered into a puff pastry crust. Yum.

We’ve still not learned to linger for the full-on French lunch—two hours—so we have a bit of time to kill and find a supermarche. I really do love food stores, whether they’re chain stores or small specialized markets. I’m always on the look-out for what’s new-to-me or unique. This time we end up with nothing too special--some rice for our planned stir-fry (vegetables from Cannes Sunday market) and some nutty muesili.

Within ten minutes we’ve parked and entered the museum at Les Collettes. There are few tourists today, and we’re both rather dazzled to be here. The views out over the Mediterranean and across Cagnes centre toward Haut Cagnes (where we visited the Danish Christmas Market on Saturday) are fantastic.

It’s a real kick wandering casually through Renoir’s home and amongst his groves of citrus and olives. By the time Renoir and a group of fellow artists and friends settled here in Les Collettes, he had extreme rheumatoid arthritis and survived just 12 years—from 1905 – 1917. There’s actually have a newsreel of him painting (from 1915)—shot by one of his sons—showing his mangled fingers with paint brush gingerly gripped as he makes precise and deliberate strokes on a canvas.

We get to walk into Renoir’s atelier and see his easel and some of the props and costumes that he used in his paintings. You can’t help but focus on the windows--the light streaming through would have been so important to an Impressionist. There’re quite a few paintings on display, but the things I love most are: touching his dining room table; admiring his breakfront, the chevel-patterned wood floors, his views from inside the maison, and most of all his atelier. I walk today through his gardens, look out his windows, and take in the views that graced his life. Renoir, the artist, is now Renoir the family man and friend. It’s apparent that his home was designed for hospitality, grace, and beauty.

We’d planned to visit the Escoffier Museum just a few minutes south and west in Villeneueve-Loubet, but when we arrive we discover it’s closed for the season. CA stops to watch a boules match--something we've observed in many of the towns and villages we've visited.

We make our typical stop at Carrefour in Mougins before returning to our villa for some pork tenderloin to add to our stir fry for dinner tonight.

No matter how hard we finagle, we never have enough change for all that’s required for tolls on the A8 (usually 2.80€ each way) and laundry (4€ wash and 2€ dry). The concierge has been almost pointless this visit—clueless about the horrific Internet service (8€ a day, optional, and slower than molasses in January) and change-less when we need coins for the laundry.

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