10 December 2010

DAY 21: St. Raphaël y Mougins

Corniche de l’Esterel
This is our last day in Provence, and I’m having a very sad time of it. CA is more matter-of-fact—Paris is next, after all. I have loved every minute of every day we’ve been here—21 days. There’s so much beauty. I love the sea. And, I love the way the mountains meet the sea. I love the medieval villages and the outdoor markets. I love the food and the light, fruity rosé. I love the language and the people-watching. I love the ritual of the daily baguette(s). I love BBC television and news. I love 6 pillow on my bed, and the light weight duvet. I love the balconies and terraces. I love the nooks and crannies, and narrow winding lanes.

I didn’t sleep well last night, so CA is up first starting some laundry and going on to the café while I get a slower start. It’s a bright and sunny morning, so I’m not tempted to crawl back under the covers.

After about an hour, I walk down the hill and join CA—I’m requiring two café crèmes today. CA asks the manager-owner to clarify the name of the café, and we’re told it is “tout le monde en parle.” I’m so glad. I love the name.

I spend another 1-1/2 hours lingering in the café, catching up on my blog reading list, and updating my own. I love spending mid-mornings in a café—there’s conversation all around, some hustle and bustle, but for the most part I’m alone with my thoughts and my written words. Taking time this time is restorative and reviving. Maybe it’d be more distracting if I understood French, but at this point all the conversations are just background—camaraderie at a bit of a distance. I like that.

I want to say a proper “farewell” to Daniel (I think that’s his name), the manager-owner, with a nice tip and a sincere thanks. So, I type in my words and let Google translate. I write it all down in my notebook and practice saying it. But when I approach Daniel and begin reading my tiny speech, he looks over my shoulder and reads it from my notes (so much for my French pronunciation…)

Nous partons demain. Je vous remercie beaucoup. Joyeux Noël. Nous serons de retour l’année prochaine. Bonne journée.”

(We leave tomorrow. Thank you very much. Merry Christmas. We’ll be back next year. Have a good day.)

By the time I join CA back at the villa I’m ready for whatever. He’s deferring to my choice for our last day here, but I ask for his input and he suggests another drive along the Corniche de l’Esterel and lunch in St. Raphaël. Perfect. I’m determined to experience the sun, the sea, and the snow covered peaks for one more day.

This is a spectacular drive with the red rocky cliffs and the azur Mediterranean Sea—some of our first vistas are the cityscapes of both Cannes and Antibes. Don’t underestimate this narrow, winding road (N98). The traffic is light today, but a driver has to remain alert and responsive. There are many bicyclers as this is a most popular route. Every once in awhile CA pulls to the side of the road to let impatient drivers go around.

We’re very hungry by the time we’ve parked the car and walked to the sea. We dither a moment about restaurants and then end up in the same one—Le Poussin Bleu (the little blue bird)—we ate in our last visit. CA immediately decides on the Croque Madame with salade and frites—my choice last time. I’m leaning toward another Salade Niçoise, but since I’ve not eaten today a Croque Madame seems a great brunch choice.

[I’ve noticed a particular quirk as I’ve visited the various toilettes of Provence: whether there’s a unisex stall or stalls specifically labeled “Messieurs” and “Dames,” the French seem to be quite comfortable using whichever door is available. In the U.S. it’s almost unheard of to cross lines. I have, on occasion and specifically during theater intermissions, crossed that gender line and used the “gentlemen’s.” If there are 20 ladies waiting on-line and no man is near the men’s room, I will cross over. However, it would scandalize me and most women, I think, if a man cut-over to the ladies…]

We make one last baguette run and a trip through Carrefour for more chocolate and small Christmas gifts. Of course Paris has it all, but we've convinced ourselves that it’s less expensive here… We’re able to check out of Club Mougins this evening, and will be up and on the road to Côte d’Azur near Nice by 6:00am tomorrow. The flight to Paris is at 9:05am, but we have to turn in the rental car and there’s a matter of a bit of damage to the passenger door to sort-out between the rental agency, the credit card company, and our auto insurance. I have to believe many rental cars are returned with some damage here in Provence—in 2008 our car suffered two incidents. The roads and parking spaces here are incredibly narrow, and the motor cyclists are Kamikaze. Luckily our damage occurred when one of the pillars in the underground garage here at Club Mougins absolutely jumped out and grabbed the car! Actually, I had my car door open and CA put the manual transmission car in “neutral.”

Reminder to self and to CA: manual transmission cars should be left in gear until the parking brake is engaged.

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