Category: Memories Tour

Expat Moving Tips for France

A Travel Pro’s Favorite Places in Provence

A visit to Provence – one of the most visited areas in France – is the second post in the Barefoot Blogger travel series by Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France.

Nancy has lived in the south of France for over 30 years so, I’d say, she knows her way around. When asked “what do you recommend when tourist want to visit Provence?” Nancy gave me her picks below. Now that I’ve visited with Nancy in Sete and we’ve taken a some really fun trips together, I’ve learned to take her advice. In fact, I’m convinced it’s really important to ask an expert to help with your plans. If you have limited time, a bit of sage advice will help you make the most of every day you’re traveling. You’ll see the places you’ve heard about as well as off-the-beaten-path sights you’ve only dreamed about. It’s the best way to sample French life like you’re a local. Need I say more?

Welcome to Provence!

From bustling, edgy Marseille to the red cliffs of Cassis, fragrant lavender fields of the Luberon, Aix-en-Provence’s colorful markets, wine and art … there’s something in Provence to please everyone. No wonder it’s everyone’s favorite.

Visit Provence: Marseille

Founded in 600 BC, Marseille, France’s second largest city, is steeped in history and culture. A good way to start the day in Marseilles is to visit the Basilica of Notre Dame. Perched high above the harbour it offers breathtaking views of the Old Port and the Mediterranean. Those who brave the climb on foot no doubt work up an appetite. And that’s why bouillabaisse – Marseille’s famed dish –  was invented. It is almost ‘obligatoire’ with a traditional glass of pastis. There’s more to see so explore the Old Port and don’t miss the iconic MuCEM museum – one reason why Marseille has held the title ‘European Capital of Culture.’

 

Visit Provence: The Red Cliffs of Cassis

Anyone who has seen Paris, but hasn’t seen Cassis, hasn’t seen anything,” said the Nobel poet Fredric Mistral. When visitors see the stunningly pretty Roman harbour it’s invariably love at first sight. Two natural monuments protect the town: Cap Canaille, that glows red when the Mistral blows, and the white limestone Calanques (sheltered inlets) that can be admired on a short boat outing. It’s a joy to simply roam the streets, browse the museum, or enjoy fresh seafood with a glass of the local rosé wine.

Visit Provence: Bandol

A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine… and there’s plenty of each in Bandol, where vineyards bask in 3,000  hours of sunshine a year! The resort itself – just a stone’s throw from Marseille and Cassis – is among the oldest and most popular on the coast.  Its sandy beaches lured the literary set long before the days of Brigitte Bardot and Saint Tropez. A cliff stroll, a vineyard tour and dining on fresh seafood – to which the fruity and racy rosé wines are a great accompaniment – is on everyone’s list.

Visit Provence: Chateauneuf du Pape

Red Wine…The distinguished red wines of Chateauneuf du Pape need no introduction. Masterclasses, food and wine pairing workshops  and wine tours of the historic chateaux and vineyards are “must do’s and can be  arranged. The vineyards in Chateauneuf du Pape are so cherished that a 1950s decree banned flying saucers from sailing over them! The tiny town itself is sheer magic. Take a walk up the hill to the ruins of the 14th century château  – ‘the Pope’s castle’ – and the reward is a view as far as Avignon and its Popes’ Palace. Hungry after that climb? There are many fine restaurants in town serving traditional French cuisine to complement the wines.

 

Visit Provence: Avignon

visit to ProvenceSur le Pont d’Avignon…Standing on the legendary bridge in Avignon provides a good view of Le Palais des Papes,’ (Popes’ Palace), the ancient ramparts and much more of this historic and cultural French city. There’s something for everyone here: museums and galleries; fine dining to please the most exacting palate; and plenty of shopping. During the Avignon Festival in July, live music and theatre fill every street, but the ‘hot ticket’ is a performance in the Popes’ Palace. As for the bridge, the angels inspired a poor shepherd, Benezet, to build it and, convinced of divine intervention, the town’s authorities canonised the shepherd. That’s the legend at least and a popular song was born.

 

Visit Provence: Arles

From Ancient Rome to Van Gogh, Gaugin & Picasso … Located on the banks of the Rhone River and known as the ‘gateway to the Camargue,’ Arles is one of the most beautiful cities anywhere in France. The ancient arena, amphitheatre and Roman baths top any visitor’s list, as well as a walk in the footsteps of Van Gogh, Gaugin & Picasso. Talking of Van Gogh, a visit to nearby sunflower fields will brighten anyone’s day.

Visit Provence: The Luberon

Lavender Fields Forever ...The very best time to visit the Luberon is July, when the Valensole plateau is awash with lavender and the towns are alive with festivals celebrating everyone’s favourite flower! It’s a sight – and scent – to behold! There’s something here for foodies too –  from a range of small bistrots serving the “dish of the day” to the local delicacy “lavender honey.

Visit Provence: St Rémy de Provence

Here’s Van Gogh Again! Whilst we’re in the area, let’s not miss St. Rémy.  Pretty and picturesque, this pocket-size town offers much to do amid its narrow medieval alleyways, shady squares and wonderful architecture –  including museums, excellent restaurants, an annual donkey fair and the remains of nearby 2nd century b.c. Glanum. As for Van Gogh, his stay in St. Rémy inspired many masterpieces.

Visit Provence: Les Baux de Provence

“Ils Sont Beaux.” Set on a rocky plateau, magical Les Baux de Provence offers stunning views of Arles and the Camargue. It is a listed heritage site that has earned the accolade of ‘one of the most beautiful villages in France’, amongst others. What it lacks in size it makes up for with art and cultural activities, one of which is the annual Carrières de Lumières – the most amazing light show we’ve ever seen.

Visit Provence: Aix-en-Provence

The City of Art and Lights. Beauty, culture and a rich historical heritage exemplify Aix-en-Provence, hometown of Paul Cézanne among other luminaries. Having taken leave of lavender fields and vineyards, here is the opportunity for some serious shopping, sightseeing, not to mention food tours and culinary workshops. . Follow in the footsteps of Cézanne, browse the museums or the famous farmers’ and flower markets or buy that designer outfit in one of the upscale boutiques.  There’s never enough time in Aix and you’ll never want to leave!

How’s that for a tour of Provence? What are you waiting for?  I can’t wait to see it all myself!

visit Provence

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France

Contact: nancy@absolutelysouthernfrance.com

Website : http://absolutelysouthernfrance.com/

 

For information about Med cruise shore excursions 

South of France Memories Tour 2019: Only 4 Spots Left!

Sign up now for the South of France holiday you’ll never forget.

While the Barefoot Blogger has been distracted with a move to a new apartment in Uzes and NO wifi, my friend and cohort Patricia Sands has been busy gathering our next new best friends for the 2019 South of France Memories You Promised Yourself Tour 2019. 

Only 4 Spots Left!!

We’ve done all the trip planning.

The “South of France Memories” tour itinerary was created by one of the top experts in travel in the south of France — Absolutely Southern France. It is designed for all travelers — veterans and novices.  Our itinerary includes some of the most visited places in the south of France — and some that are just getting on the travel radar. From the Côte d’Azur to village markets to historic towns to wild life sanctuaries, we’ll experience it all.

Here’s an overview of the destinations for our 2019 women’s tour. It includes 12 days of exploring, touring, eating, drinking and making new friends. For all the facts and cost, click here.

  • Stroll the seaside Promenade des Anglais in Nice and tour the colorful city
  • Meander through cobblestone streets of Saint Paul de Vence, filled with history, galleries and charming shops
  • Discover Eze and the spectacular gardens of Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
  • Explore the ancient harbor town Antibes, Patricia’s home away from home
  • Walk in Cézanne’s footsteps in Aix en Provence
  • Savor vibrant, trendy Sète and a culinary adventure
  • Live in Arles among roman treasures, world-renowned  architecture and the spirit  of Van Gogh
  • Enjoy a safari to observe the Camargue’s unique flora, fauna and rose-colored salt marshes
  • Experience market day in St Remy de Provence & the spectacular Carrières de Lumières in les Baux de Provence
  • Peek into the Barefoot Blogger’s world in Uzés, Pont du Gard
  • Join harvest time and taste the wine

Life is short.

Sometimes you have to get packing and make memories you promised yourself.

visit the south of France

 

 

Memories Tour Nice

Memories Begin in Nice 👍

The South of France Memories You Promised Yourself Tour kicked off today. All signs say it’s going to be an amazing 12 days with these fun-loving ladies. What better way to start? Memories begin in Nice!

Memories Begin in Nice

Memories Begin in Nice

You know it’s going to be an extraordinary event when a bird lands on your head in old town Nice.

Nice

No kidding!

 Nice

After only a few minutes being with the tour ladies at our “welcome dinner,” I knew I’d met my new best friends.

Memories Begin in Nice

Memories Begin in Nice

Today was the “meet and greet” and a relaxing seaside dinner The Beau Rivage hotel where we’re staying has a restaurant and bar right on the beach! What a thrill to stay right in the center of all the action. Tomorrow we take on the town. Memories begin in Nice!

Memories Begin in Nice

Tour Highlights

Nice

Grasse

St. Paul de Vence

Eze

Villa Rothschild

Antibes

Arles

Sete

Camargue

Aigues Mortes

St. Rémy

Les Baux

Pont du Gard

San Quentin la Poterie

Uzés

The South of France Memories You Promised Yourself Tour 2018 with Patricia Sands and the Barefoot Blogger September 10-22

Around and About Nice: Memories Tour Day 2

Hot Spots on the Côte d’Azur: Memories Tour Day 3-5

Memories Tour Interrupted

 

French Light Show

Techno-Fabulous French Light Show: Carrières de Lumières

If you haven’t seen a techno-fabulous French light show, you’re in for a treat. The French take lights and action to new dimensions: music, drama and imagination.

French Light Show: Carrières de Lumières

A recent visit to Carrières de Lumières was my third experience with the digital, immersive events that are staged in a former bauxite mine outside the village Les Baux de Provence. This year’s exhibition is Picasso and the Spanish Masters” along with a pop culture show, “Flower Power”. Believe me, the photos don’t do justice to the real events.

First, let me set the stage. When you enter the Carrières de Luminères you think you are walking into a movie theatre. Except that it’s built into the side of a mountain. You can go directly into the theatre area or you can walk around the inside of the cavernous halls of the mine. I would suggest you do the latter sometime during your visit. Walls of bauxite surround you, almost as wide and high as you can see.

Once you enter the theatre area, be prepared to gasp. It’s ginormous! Every surface, except the floor, is a projection area. Art images are stretched across huge canvases of stone in front of you, behind you and around every corner. The experience is totally surreal.

French Light Show

Added to the impact, the colossal space is cool and mostly dark. Except for the light that reflects from the art, there is no lighting in the room. When the scenery changes, you stumble around in near-darkness until the next images appear. If fact, if you’re not sure of your footing, you might want to take a seat on the stone steps that are around in various places

Take along a sweater or wrap. It’s really cold inside. If you forget one, you can buy a fleece blanket at the admission office for €5. No kidding!

Before Carrières de Lumières

In 1821 French geologists discovered bauxite near the village of Les Baux. During the 19th century there was a large demand for construction-worthy white stone. The mine in Les Baux prospered. Later with the advent of more modern building materials, the demand for stone fell and in 1935 the quarry closed.

The abandoned quarry was repurposed in the 1960s as a movie set by French filmmaker, Jean Cocteau. His movie, Le Testament d’Orphée (The Testament of Orpheus), featured an appearance by Picasso, of all people! as well as Spanish matador Luis Miguel Dominguín. 

Carrières de Luminères took on its current form and purpose in 2012 with the digital audiovisual production Gauguin, Van Gogh, the Painters of Color.

Carrières de Lumières 2018: Picasso and the Spanish Masters

“Picasso and the Spanish Masters”  is divided into two parts: one, to explore Picasso’s Spanish origins; and two, to show how Picasso, inspired by the masters, shattered traditional figurative art. Portraits and scenes of daily Spanish life painted by Goya, Rusiñol, Zuloaga, and Sorolla appear in the first part of the presentation. Picasso’s work dominates the second part of the show with a near-chronology of his life and art forms. Never before, and perhaps never again, will the public be shown such an emotion-filled demonstration of the life and works of Picasso. Through the images displayed on the massive walls, emphasized by a dramatic, musical sound track, we pass through history and the tumultuous life of one of the world’s greatest modern artists.

Carrières de Lumières 2018: Pop Culture: Flower Power

Remember the psychedelic visuals, colors and music of the 60’s? The “Flower Power” exhibition that follows immediately after Picasso takes you back to the hippy generation. The bright and lively show is not only fun to watch, the tunes of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, and the Beach Boys had me dancing in the dark.

French Light Show: Carrières de Lumières

Important! The best time to visit Carrières de Lumières is in the morning. Drive towards the entrance to the historic town of Les Baux. Just follow the signs. If you arrive early, you’ll easily find a parking spot. If you’re late, it’ll be a nightmare.

The production is repeated throughout the day and lasts less than an hour. You can stay to watch as long as you’d like.

Practical Information: Open every day. 
January, March, November and December: 10h-18h 
April, May, June, September and October: 9h30-19h 
July and August: 9h30-19h30 
Last entry 1 hour before closing

Here are some images from this year’s show.

 

Scenes below are from Carrières de Lumières 2016 – Dreams of a Summer Night – Chagall 

Photos courtesy of mon fils, Pete Bine.

 

 

visit the south of France

South of France Memories: Four Reasons to Sign Up Now

How many times have you said to yourself: “Someday I’m going to visit the south of France.”

If you’ve always wanted to visit the south of France, why are you putting it off? 

“I’m afraid to travel solo.”

“I don’t know where to go.”

“I’m too busy.” 

I hear you. I’ve used the very same excuses. Now I want to give you some important things to think about:

 #1

Solo travel is fun.

If you’re a bit nervous about traveling alone,  listen to what one lone traveler had to say about her experience.

 

#2

We’ve done all the trip planning.

The “South of France Memories” tour itinerary was created by one of the top experts in travel in the south of France — Absolutely Southern France. It is designed for all travelers — veterans and novices.  Our itinerary includes some of the most visited places in the south of France — and some that are just getting on the travel radar. From the Côte d’Azur to village markets to historic towns to wild life sanctuaries, we’ll experience it all.

Here’s an overview of the destinations and costs for our women’s tour. It includes 12 days of exploring, touring, eating, drinking and making new friends!

visit the south of France

visit the south of France

visit the south of France

visit the south of France

 

#3

Early Bird Discount Ends January 31st.

visit the south of France

 

#4

Life is short.

Sometimes you have to get packing and make memories you promised yourself.

visit the south of France

 

 

van gogh's trail

On Van Gogh’s Trail

Now that I’ve seen the movie “Loving Van Gogh” — in French no less, with no subtitles — I’m remembering my first visit to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

I started my quest for Van Gogh’s trail in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence early on a beautiful, sunny morning. Temperatures were in the high 70’s and a light wind was blowing. Planned stops along the way to St. Rémy were the towns of Remoulins and Beaucaire.

On Van Gogh’s Trail: Remoulins

I’m not certain why I chose to stop in Remoulins because I had done no research — just a spot on a map. Nevertheless, a cemetery along the way caught my eye while I was passing through the town. I’d been intrigued about French cemeteries since being here, so stopping in Remoulins gave me a chance to check one out. To me it’s interesting to find out how different cultures honor their deceased. In Remoulins, and other areas of Provence, bodies are buried above the ground in family plots. Most grave stones in this cemetery dated back many centuries. Many were adorned with elaborate porcelain flower displays and family memorabilia.

On Van Gogh’s Trail: Beaucaire
Moving onto Beaucaire, the scenery definitely changed. The older part of town where tourist visit is centered around a busy canal. Marine traffic is active, mostly for pleasure boats, and cafes and restaurants cater to transients and locals. Some boat owners who tour the western Mediterranean in summer moor their vessels in Beaucaire in the winter.

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Finding the way
1  If you’re wondering how I find my way around, it is relatively easy. On this trip I had a Michelin Atlas of France. I know the main ways in and out if Uzes. So with a couple of stops at petrol stations along the way to ask directions, I got along fine. Note: Both petrol stations where I stopped had female attendants. Neither spoke English. I simple pointed where I was going on the map and they totally understood what I wanted. They gave me perfect directions. Not to be sexist, but a man giving directions would have described every landmark along the way. The females just drew straight lines from one turn to another. Simple.

Another guide for finding my way on the roadways is “roundabouts.”I’m not kidding, there are roundabouts every two miles or so along French roadways. That means there are frequent direction signs that point your way.

When you get into a city, there’s usually clearly marked signage to follow. If you don’t see your destination on the sign, just keep going straight. Soon there will be a sign that says: “Autres Direction” or “Toutes Direction.” Follow that sign. It will lead you to the right road.

If all else fails, ask a woman.

On Van Gogh’s Trail: St. Rémy de Provence

St. Rémy is advertised as the one place you must see if you want to experience Provence.

Nostradamus was born in SVan Gogh's Trailt. Rémy and Doctor Albert Schweitzer was “hospitalized” here in 1917-18 when he wrote The Decay and the Restoration of Civilization and Civilization and Ethics, part of his philosophical study of civilization.

Most importantly St. Rémy is where the artist, Van Gogh, lived from 1889-90 in the asylum at Saint Paul-de-Mausolean
Driving into St. Rémy, an almost “spiritual” feeling came over me. There was something different about the countryside . It felt like a movie set. The road into the city is lined with white-banded “plane” trees, like those leading out if Uzes. But they go on for miles and miles. Ancient stuccoed farm houses and buildings are close to the road with lush farmlands spreading deep behind them.

Van Gogh's Trail

The historic district of St. Rémy is set in a circle. I found a parking place in the public lot that was close to the entrance of town. After depositing the equivalent of $5 in the meter, I looked for the tourist office. Before I had gotten very far,  a menu special at a charming cafe caught my eye– salmon. I stopped for dejeuner.Van Gogh's Trail
Perfectly prepared salmon, risotto with tiny chunks of tomato and scallions, and a glass of rose.

I skipped the tourist office and took off to explore the shops. Of course.

Van Gogh's TrailInterestingly, I saw more Americans in St. Rémy than anywhere else I’ve traveled in this area. I’m sure its because they’ve read the publicity about St. Rémy being the “place to be” in Provence. They head there on day stops while cruising the Med. There’s definitely a distinctively high-class atmosphere in St. Rémy. Its appeal to the “rich and famous” is apparent throughout the shops and boutiques.

Some of the architecture even looks rich– more “French” than “provincial” or “Provençal.”

On Van Gogh’s Trail: Art and architecture
Walking around St. Rémy, there were so many times I reminded myself, “Van Gogh was here”, I could imagine how he was inspired. It inspired me.

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In the footsteps of Van Gogh

The creme de la creme of my day was a tour of Saint Paul-de-Mausolean, the monastery complex and asylum where Van Gogh was voluntarily committed from 1889-90. From here he produced two of his most notable works, “Starry nights” and his self-portrait. Taking the photos below, I was transported to Van Gogh’s day and time. I could imagine how he felt fortunate for all the beauty around him, in spite of his imprisonment. The entrance, the buildings, the inside, Van Gogh’s Garden, the chapel, the view!

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Van Gogh was released from the hospital at Saint Paul-de-Mausolean in May 1890 and left for Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris. It is said he shot himself on 27 July 1890 and died two days later.

Fortunately his art lives on.

van gogh's trail

Mediterranean Cruise Shore Excursions: The Riviera

I’ve been asking Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France Tours to tell me all about her Mediterranean cruise shore excursions. There are several of you who have contacted the Barefoot Blogger for information.

Mediterranean cruise shore excursionRead on and learn about going ashore along the French Riviera. Even if you’re an armchair traveler, you’ll enjoy the visit. As I’ve learned, when you travel with an expert like Nancy, you’re going to explore and experience the best spots for food, scenery and lifestyle along the Côte d’Azur. Let’s see what she has up her sleeves for us to do. 

I love every inch of the French Riviera – from the narrow medieval streets of St Paul de Vence to glitzy Nice and Cannes to the adrenaline surge of the Monaco Grand Prix.

Nancy McGee

When people ask me what they absolutely must see during their shore excursion, the answer is ‘everything’. Of course this is not always practical and so my Riviera tours offers what I consider the major highlights. The Riviera is addictive – once hooked visitors invariably return to see what they missed the first time.

For your Mediterranean cruise shore excursion … Food First 

France conjures up images of gourmet restaurants, boulangeries and local markets offering a breathtaking array of fresh, local produce, cheeses and regional specialties – and that’s exactly right. Since the weather’s good why not make the first stop at the market and shop for a picnic? (Always a hit if with children.) And let’s not forget a bottle of rosé wine from Provence -‘de rigeur’ for a French picnic.

Mediterranean Cruise Shore Excursions: Grasse

Wake up and Smell the Roses 

With appetites appeased – for now at least – the olfactory senses are in for a treat and they’ll get just that in Grasse, the Riviera’s flower capital.A tour of a perfume factory is an absolute must – and an excellent place to buy gifts. This is a really charming historic town with an 11th century cathedral, perfume museum, sandy beaches and fine dining.

Mediterranean Cruise Shore Excursions: Gourdon

Dreaming of Chocolate Heaven?

Visit Gourdon and those dreams will come true with a sampling at the famous chocolate factory.Mediterranean cruise shore excursionBut leave room for artisan ice cream in floral flavors, violet, rose, jasmine….sublime.  And there’s no need to worry too much about the waistline because this beautiful old fortress town is built on a high promontory with stunning views – a good way to work off the day’s excesses.

Mediterranean Cruise Shore Excursions: Tourrettes-sur-Loup

The ‘City of Violets’

The tiny medieval village of Tourrettes-sur-Loup perches on a rocky spur and is an all-time favourite visitors. It boasts impressive historic buildings including a 15th century church, arts and crafts boutiques, an annual violet festival and museum. Just a stone’s throw from Nice and Cannes it is definitely worth a detour.

Mediterranean Cruise Shore Excursions: St. Paul de Vence

In Chagall’s FootstepsMediterranean cruise shore excursion

St Paul de Vence is one of the oldest medieval towns on the Riviera and also known as the artist’s village – it was home to Chagall to name but one. It’s a joy to simply stroll the colourful streets full of art galleries and boutiques. Olive oil and wine tastings, and a visit to an olive oil mill can be arranged, as well as lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean.

Mediterranean Cruise Shore Excursions: Monaco

Jetsetting to Monaco 

The tiny principality of Monaco fits comfortably into a day trip with time to view the exquisite Palace of the Prince and the cathedral where Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly were married, followed by the Changing of the Guards. Mediterranean cruise shore excursion

And now fasten your seatbelts for a lap of the world famous Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit to reach Monte-Carlo with its famous Casino, Golden Square and the luxurious Hotel de Paris and Hotel Hermitage. Fancy your luck? Armed with valid ID and appropriately dressed you can join the high rollers at the famous Casino

Mediterranean Cruise Shore Excursions: Éze

A Change of Pace
Visitors always fall in love with this typical medieval cliff top village of narrow lanes, stone buildings and breathtaking views of the Mediterranean. Éze is in the heart of perfume country and a tour of the perfume factory can be arranged as well as a visit to its impressive botanical garden.

 

Mediterranean Cruise Shore Excursions: Nice

Mediterranean cruise shore excursionPutting on the Glitz

The city of Nice needs no introduction! Aside from a reputation for glamour, it is steeped in history, with evidence of a settlement as far back as 350bc, and its historical centre dates back to the 13th century.  Highlights of the tour include a walk along the “Promenade des Anglais” – former haunt of the British aristocracy, an unsurpassed, flower market and Michelin star restaurants.

Mediterranean cruise shore excursionShore excursions by Absolutely Southern France are fully private 7 or 8 hour customized experiences with  English speaking local and professional driver/guides with a van or sedan.

Riviera Ports of Call : Monaco, Monte Carlo, Villefranche, Antibes, Nice, Cannes, St Tropez, Provence ports of call : Toulon, La Seyne, Marseille,

Languedoc/Occitanie Ports of Call : Sète, Port Vendres.

 

Contact: nancy@absolutelysouthernfrance.com

Website : http://absolutelysouthernfrance.com/

 

 

Mediterranean cruise shore excursion

Expat Moving Tips for France

Pont du Gard, France: Architecture or Art?

Visiting monuments isn’t on the top of my sightseeing list; however Pont du Gard is a “must”.

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard is reportedly one of the most visited ancient sites in France. But not until I saw it myself would I know why. It literally took my breath away. There, hiding out in the French countryside — not far from groves of olives trees and fields of grape vines — was a magnificent structure from the early Roman Empire. From the 1st Century AD, to be exact.

My first trip to Pont du Gard started in the early afternoon. It’s only a 25-minute bus ride from Uzes, so I decided to try my luck with public transportation. No problem. Except that the bus dropped me off in the middle of nowhere. With only an arrow on a road sign that read “Pont du Gard” to show me the way, I took off walking. Fortunately the entrance to the park was only a few minutes’ trek down the road.

I must have been the one of the only people who has ever arrived at the park on foot, because there were no pedestrian signs or entrance. Just a parking lot for buses and cars. In fact, a park guard saw me and came down the road to greet me. He must have thought I was lost — or a spy! Anyway, he pointed me towards the main entrance of the park.

Pont du Gard

Museum exhibit at Pont du Gard

Inside the park there was a large, very modern, covered loggia where several groups of people were sitting at tables or just standing around. A very nice snack shop, glacé stand, and a few souvenir and gift shops were along the side. The indoor exhibit hall and cinema I was told to visit first were on the right and could be accessed by going through a central door and walking two floors underground. Since I had arrived 45 minutes before the English version of the introductory film was scheduled to run, I had plenty of time to visit the exhibit hall.

Or so I thought. I could have spent hours there if I had wanted to go into a deep study of Roman aqueducts and water systems. There were exhibits of early Roman baths, latrines and more. I was particularly taken with the displays of numerous artifacts unearthed from the earliest days of the bridge, into the 6th century, when it was in constant use. A near-real sized replica of a worksite demonstrated how the bridge and aqueduct were constructed. Faux pulleys operated by mannequins showed how the stones were lifted into place. The theatrical set seemed quite authentic and very well done.

Armed with a small bit of the history of Pont du Gard, I was ready to see the real thing. Back into the heat and scorching sun, I walked down a short path where the occasional tourists– and dogs — were taking their time getting to the monument.

Then, beyond the trees… and a few yards farther… there is was.
pont du gard

I was transported to the days of the Roman Empire. When I walked closer to the bridge, I knew I was walking in the same steps as Roman soldiers and early French citizens centuries before me. Like so much of the architecture I’ve seen on this trip, I was amazed at the shape of the arches and the stones.

As I walked across the bridge, the wind was blowing briskly. Never mind. Even though I had to scurry to catch my hat to keep it from blowing over the side of the bridge into the ravine, I was mesmerized. Several times I had to prop myself up against the sidewall to keep my balance. I was disoriented from trying to take photos from every possible angle.

An 18th century visitor and famous writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau was overwhelmed when he visited Pont du Gard.

“I had been told to go and see the Pont du Gard; I did not fail to do so. It was the first work of the Romans that I had seen. I expected to see a monument worthy of the hands which had constructed it. This time the object surpassed my expectation, for the only time in my life. Only the Romans could have produced such an effect. The sight of this simple and noble work struck me all the more since it is in the middle of a wilderness where silence and solitude render the object more striking and the admiration more lively; for this so-called bridge was only an aqueduct. One asks oneself what force has transported these enormous stones so far from any quarry, and what brought together the arms of so many thousands of men in a place where none of them live. I wandered about the three storeys of this superb edifice although my respect for it almost kept me from daring to trample it underfoot. The echo of my footsteps under these immense vaults made me imagine that I heard the strong voices of those who had built them. I felt myself lost like an insect in that immensity. While making myself small, I felt an indefinable something that raised up my soul, and I said to myself with a sigh, “Why was I not born a Roman!”

After I strolled slowly across the aqueduct, taking pictures along the way, I came upon a seemingly hidden path. You know how I like surprises! So I tramped up the rocky pathway, higher and higher above the bridge, wishing only that I had worn better walking shoes. Although there were hundreds of tourists, I didn’t encounter any other people along the way. Happily alone, I climbed to the highest possible vantage point. Surely others had been this way before. The shiny stones on the pathway were evidence enough. But today, the panorama that lay before me was all for me.

As hard as it was to leave this perfect spot, I had to catch a bus. So I came down from my perch, hurriedly explored the left bank of the bridge, and promised myself I’d return some day.

pont du gardDinner at the lovely restaurant on the water’s edge with a view of Pont du Gard is in my future.

Nice city break

Nice City Break: Marc Chagall Makes It Nicer.

If your Nice city break is all about fancy Côte d’Azur beach clubs, great French and Italian food and the sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean, you’d be right. It’s all that…

Nice city break

… and more. 

Nice city break

Musée National Marc Chagall

Nice city break

Marc Chagall

Nice was the home of artist Marc Chagall during the last part of his life and the largest collection of his work is permanently enshrined in the Musée National Marc Chagall, specifically, his “Bible” series. The museum is a bit hard to find, nestled in a park-like setting in a residential neighborhood of Nice, but it is every bit worth the effort to go there if you’re an art lover.

Nice city break

Musée National Marc Chagall

In addition to the  paintings which Chagall offered to the French State in 1966, he created the stained glass windows facing the garden and in the concert hall.

Nice city break

The Blue Rose

Nice city break

The Creation of the Word

Chagall’ surrealistic approach to his subject and bright basic colors is what delighted me with the exhibit. His deep understanding of the Bible, which came from his roots and from years of study as a Hasidic Jew growing up in Russia, is more than obvious in his work. Yet the simplicity of his characters makes the stories easy to grasp for all.

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I did not see the Bible, I dreamed it. Ever since early childhood, I have been captivated by the Bible. It has always seemed to me and still seems today the greatest source of poetry of all time.

Marc Chagall

Nice city break

 

Next time you plan your Nice city break, work in a morning or afternoon at the Musêe National Marc Chagall. Spend some time in the garden and stop for a coffee and dessert. It’s a favor to yourself you won’t forget.

Nice city break

 

More about Nice:

Heading for a Beach in France? Nice!

City Side of Nice: Favorite Finds

Uzes to Nice: Nice!

Nice city break

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7 Reasons To Visit Sete This Year

Visit Sete This Year

Those of you who follow the Barefoot Blogger regularly know how much I love to visit Sete. It’s one of my favorite places to go for the beach, for the fabulous seafood and for the “always on” fun. If you’re traveling from Barcelona to the South of France, Sete is less than 3 hours away by train.

Here are 7 reasons you really must go:

#1 Visit Sete for Great food

Sete has been one of France’s major seaports for centuries. It is said that Louix XIV made Sete his personal sea gateway so that the treasures of the Orient and beyond could travel directly to Versailles. Italian fishermen helped establish the port as a prime supplier of tuna, sardines, anchovies — among other sea delicacies. Oysters abound around Sete — especially in nearby Bouziques — rounding out a perfect assortment of most delectable seafoods.

Visit Sete

Bluefin tuna from Sete

 

Visit Sete

#2

Visit Sete for History

Along with fishing and importing kingly goods, Sete grew to become a prosperous town with stately homes and thriving businesses along the canal waterfront. Evidence of that prosperity can be seen still today, even though new trade routes and bigger seaports have largely impacted Sete’s economy. Tourism is bringing it back.

 

Visit Sete

Sete’s canal front

 

Visit Sete

Opulent details throughout Sete’s waterfront architecture.

 

 

 

Beyond being a famous port, Sete is known for her favourite son, George Brassens — composer, singer and activist.  In fact, there’s a museum in Sete dedicated to Brassens. It tells of his life and work that captivated me as much as learning about American icons Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley. Click here to learn more about visiting the museum.

Visit Sete

George Brassens

 

#3 Visit Sete for Unique Natural Beauty

Canals that run throughout the town 

Visit Sete

Canals that run throughout the town

 

Visit Sete

 

Sky high, panaromic views of the Mediterrean Sea

Clear blue sea

Visit Sete

#4 Visit Sete White Sandy Beaches

Think the Cote d’Azur has the only beaches in the South of France? Try to beat this. Sete has beautiful beaches, blue skies and all-day beach clubs with seafood and much more!

Visit Sete

Beach buddies

#5 Visit Sete for Summer Sports

 

Where else can you sit in a covered arena, overlooking a sea canal, watching water jousting? Day and night?

 

Visit Sete

 

Visit Sete

#6 Visit Sete for Extravaganzas

Plan your holiday in Sete, especially around August during the St. Louis Festival, and you’ll be amazed the sights you’ll see.

 

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Visit Sete

Sete

#7 Visit Sete for Party hearty

Summertime in Sete there’s always a party going on!

Visit Sete

 

Visit Sete

 

Visit Sete

London’s Bad Girls’ Groove Band

 

Visit Sete

Partying at St. Clairs

 

Visit Sete

St. Louis Festival celebration

 

So what’s holding you back? Stop by Sete in the South of France. You might be surprised who you’ll run into!

 

Visit Sete

My “gang”: Hilda, Paula and Rich hanging out in Sete

 

Want to see it all in Sete? Contact Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France for guided tours — especially her famous “walking gourmet” tour.

Here’s where to find year-round activities in Sete. 

More about Sete:

Sete or Marseille? Which Has the Best Fish Soup?

A Day at the Beach in Sete: That’s Life!

Next Stop: Sete France

Barefooting in Sete, France

The Bad Girls in Sete

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 7-8 Sete, Beziers and Bouziques

Sete: Abbeys and Vineyards

By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sete

Sete: Eat, Pray (to eat), Love (to eat)

Final Days in Sete: Parties, Artist Friends and Days at the Beach

For information on train schedules from Barcelona to Sete click here

 

 

Visit Sete

 

Seeing the South of France by train from Barcelona

How to Get To France Via Barcelona by Train

All Aboard for Carcassonne

Antibes in 2 Days

Antibes in 2 Days: Moonlight and Absinthe

Antibes in 2 Days

As long as I can remember I’ve dreamed I’d visit Antibes. When thoughts of the tiny dot-of-a-place on the French Rivera came to my mind, I’d imagine myself lounging on the deck of a massive yacht. Sipping champagne. Dining in the moonlight.

Sigh…

Little did I imagine that I’d live within a morning’s drive of Antibes. Yes. Dreams do come true…

Although no yacht was waiting for me (sigh…) the sights and sounds of Antibes were truly memorable. I don’t know when I’ve taken so many photos in such a short time — just two days in Antibes.  Everywhere I turned there was an amazing door or window to photograph. A partially hidden alley. A striking piece of artwork in a courtyard. It was truly a feast of colors, shapes, images and sounds.

Views of the coastline were breathtaking. 

Antibes in 2 Days

Antibes

 

Antibes in 2 Days

 

 

Portholes through stone walls had their own glimpse of the sea.

 

Antibes in 2 Days

Yachts were everywhere

Antibes in 2 Days

Yachts in Antibes

 

Sidewalk cafes were just inviting as I imagined they’d be. 

Antibes in 2 Days

Cafe in Antibes

 

Antibes in 2 Days

Antibes in 2 Days

The marketplace and stores around town were filled with fresh products, souvenirs and tourists.

Walking around the Old Town of Antibes (Le Vieil Antibes) three of four times during the two days of my visit, I saw much that I’d imagined. What I wasn’t expecting was that every narrow street seemed to be more picturesque than the last.

Antibes in 2 Days

Also, I never imagined such spectacular public artwork. Everywhere. 

There was a gigantic sculpture of “words” by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa — Nomade.  (Click on link to learn more.)

Antibes in 2 Days

“Nomade” overlooking the coast of Antibes

 

And the works of  Nicolas Lavarenne . His graceful statues were artfully placed through the streets and ramparts of Old Town Antibes. 

 

Antibes in 2 Days

 

Antibes in 2 Days

 

Only on exhibit for the summer, the striking and athletic figures seemed suspended in air as they leapt from walls and ancient structures. 

 

Antibes in 2 Days

 

Antibes in 2 Days

 

Antibes in 2 Days

 

As if that wasn’t enough, there was outdoor art in the courtyard of the Picasso Museum. Even from the street level, you could see the statues towering above the town — as if they were guarding the priceless pieces of art within the building. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed inside.

 

Antibes in 2 Days

Antibes in 2 Days

Picasso Museum Antibes

A walk on the wild side

While seeking out artists and shopping are my passions while traveling, you know there’s going to be a bit of the “absurd” thrown in somewhere.  In Antibes a visit to the Absinthe Museum was a “must.”

 

Antibes in 2 Days

Absinthe Museum in Antibes

 

Antibes in 2 DaysThe storefront of the Absinthe Museum was a gift shop, the side street entrance led down into a cave of “inequity” — filled with absinthe and drinking paraphernalia from throughout the ages. 

Hats for the occasion were provided as well as the telling of the history and absinthe-drinking technique. Who knew? Sugar cubes and water? A spoon made just for preparing the perfect drink?

To be honest, we visited the museum during the broad daylight and had only one drink each. In case you’re wondering, the alcohol content and taste of the variety we were drinking were similar to pastis. However, I was told about more potent types. All in all, it was great fun and a memorable way to spend an hour or so on a warm summer day. Especially if you want to recall thoughts of Van Gogh and all who fell under the magical spell of the “green fairy.”

Night-time entertainment

Antibes has a lot going on after dark in the Old Town but the nearby town of Juan-Les-Pins is “party central.”

The afternoon of the second day of our visit to Antibes, my friends, Paul and Rich, and I boarded the “petite train” that ran from in front of our hotel in Antibes to Juan-Les-Pins. Between the two towns the train passed through Cap d’Antibes where we had a glimpse of some of the famous mansions and coastline. We arrived in Juan-Les-Pins in less than half and hour — in time for shopping and a walk on the busy boardwalk.
Antibes in 2 Days

 

Antibes in 2 Days

Map of Old Town Antibes and Juan-Les-Pins

 

Antibes in 2 Days

Juan Les Pins

 

Antibes in 2 Days

Juan-Les-Pins at night

 

It was there, in Juan-Les-Pins, that my dream came true. 

Remember “dining under the moonlight? 

 

Antibes in 2 Days

 

Antibes in 2 Days

Moonlight and lemoncello

 

I hope you enjoyed the visit to Antibes in 2 Days!

Antibes in 2 Days

Patricia Sands in Antibes

 

 

 

 

 

 

A BIG thanks to Patricia Sands who helped plan the trip and visited with us in Antibes — her favorite place and hangout. 

Patricia’s novels on Provence are a “must read” if you love traveling and dreaming about France.

Antibes in 2 Days

More favorite places:

Boutique hotel in Antibes – Hotel Le Relais du Postillon 

Lunch in Antibes – Le Don Juan 

Light dinner in Juan Les Pins (on the pier or on the beach) – La Voille Blanche

Good website for more information on Antibes 

The Doors and Windows of Antibes

 

 

 

 

 

Want to know more about Antibes?

The Doors and Windows of Antibes

Antibes Again? It Just Gets Better

Hot Spots on the Côte d’Azur

dream come true

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The Doors and Windows of Antibes

I was so impressed by the doors and windows of Antibes I couldn’t wait to show you!

While organising photos from my recent trip to Antibes, I was so excited I just HAD to show you the photos of just the doors and windows of Antibes. What a picturesque place! A blog post with highlights, touring tips and more photos of the road trip to Antibes will follow …

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

Doors and Windows of Antibes

Doors and Windows of Antibes

 

Are you getting Barefoot Blogger posts by email?

If you’re not receiving new posts by email, just send me your email address in “comments” and I’ll add you to the list. Privacy? All comments are reviewed by me before they appear online. Your email information will not be published. 

Traveling by Train to Nice. Nice!


 

Traveling to Nice by trainTraveling to Nice by train for a weekend at the beach is a piece of cake. The low cost train fare makes the trip a “must.”

Low- cost train fare

Now that I’ve learned how easy traveling by train to Nice is, I planning to travel a lot by train in Europe, I’m glad to have the “senior” rail pass. The senior discount on the fare from Avignon to Nice makes the trip incredibly affordable–  roundtrip, first class. Getting to the train station from Uzes, I have two choices. Drive “Lucy” to Avignon and park her with her 4-wheeled friends at the train station; or catch the bus from Uzes to the train station in Avignon. I prefer the first option. Even with paying for parking at the train station, the total cost of transportation is less than driving back and forth to Nice. Plus, I don’t have to worry about parking places in Nice after I arrive.

Traveling to Nice by Train

The TGV train from Avignon to Nice in the first-class coach is a treat. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a seat with no one beside or across from you. You can stretch out as much as you please. 

As you skirt along the Mediterranean from Marseilles to Nice, you get a glimpse of the beaches and the coastline villas.

There’s  a blue-sky sunny day with only a few clouds.

From one side of the train you see sunbathers stretched out on mats and lounge chairs on the beaches. The temperature is in the high 60s.

The view from the left windows reveals town people walking busily down the streets wearing leather jackets.

MarseilleToulon. Sainte Maxime.

Stretches of low forests with cedars, olive trees and pines are interrupted by occasional towns. Beaches appear from nowhere as the train speeds along.

The sea draws closer to the tracks. It darts away again.

Yacht coves appear below rocky cliffs

Cannes. Antibes.

Train stations with familiar names click by alerting passengers that Nice is ahead.

High-rise condos and apartment buildings are beginning to crowd together on the hills to the left of the train tracks. More are packed together towards the sea.

Old and new, unkept and clean; the contrast of tan, yellow, reddish-brown and, occasionally, green stucco and concrete structures seem to blend together in perfect harmony.

 

Traveling to Nice by train

Traveling to Nice by train

 

Arriving in Nice

This is the real deal: The French Riviera


Traveling to Nice by train

The beach in Nice

Traveling to Nice by train

 

Traveling to Nice by train

City of Nice

 

Traveling to Nice by train

The beach — the Riviera

 

 

Traveling to Nice by train

Reliable transportation. Rent a bike.  Nice France

 

More about Nice

Nice is Nice. Marc Chagall Makes It Nicer

Heading for a Beach in France? Nice!

City Side of Nice: Favorite Finds

Uzes to Nice: Nice!

Traveling to Nice by train

Back to the Camargue: The White Horses

White horses, bulls, pink flamingos, rice, salt, culture, and the economics of the Camargue region are all interconnected in this surreal geo-triangle in the south of France.

The “Camargue” spreads over more than 360 square miles of pastureland and wetlands formed by the two branches of the River Rhône and the Mediterranean. The largest river delta in Europe, the Camargue is a thriving center of agriculture and tourism.

Camargue region

Wetlands and grasslands of the Camargue

While the area appears to be a “natural” wilderness, it is in fact, “manipulated” to maintain its sophisticated biodiversity. Most specifically, in the last century alone, enlightened promoters of the Camargue have demonstrated how the creative and sensitive management of water levels can create a rich environment for man and living creatures instead of a desolate, salty wasteland, good for nothing but the extraction of salt.

Camargue region

Homes in the Camargue are for residents and popular as vacation rentals

Camargue region

A ferry carries passengers between two areas of the region every 30 minutes.

Camargue region

Ferry over the Rhone

Camargue region

The distinctive symbol of the area. The Camargue Cross.

White Horses of the Camargue

Camargue region

White horses of the Camargue

The breed of “white horses” found in the Camargue are believed to have appeared in the Paleozoic era (Solutre horses).  They are thought by some to have come from the Steppe grasslands of Eurasia that run from modern Hungary to Mongolia along the Silk Roads.


Camargue region

Nomad horseback riders from the Steppe are typified by Genghis Khan, leader of the Mongols; and the Huns, led by Attila. Steppe warriors migrated south seeking better lands and waged war with inhabitants on the way, including the Romans. Along with them, the nomads brought their strong horses that have ruled the marshes for centuries.

The horses have large hooves for walking in muddy waters and white coats to endure the sun.

Some who believe in mythology say the white horses were a gift from Neptune, “Poseidon’s Horses”, given to man as his faithful companion and put on earth to share the everyday riches.

Camargue region

Image by Walter Crane of Neptune’s horses

While the Camargue horses appear to run free, they are well-managed by “cowboys”  or “les gardians”.

Camargue region

Camargue Cowboy

Stallions roam the rocky grasslands.– a tradition that has been respected for generations.The rustic breed only eats grass from the soil — no additives.

Camargue region

Bred properly, a Camargue mare produces only one foal a year — by natural childbirth. There is no help from vets.. Mares are “quarantined” one year after giving birth to allow time for rest.


Camargue region

Those who know these animals recognize they are very intelligent. They are suitable for all types of requirements — for work or show. They must be treated gently but firmly. The trainer or handler needs to be in charge.

Visitors to the Camargue who wish to ride the white horses will find numerous stables and excursions available for all ages of riders. Entering the area is like a vacation playground with horses as one of the main attractions.

Camargue region

A hotel with stable for horseback riding in the Camargue

If you have a few minutes, take time to watch this video I found on YouTube. The majesty of the magnificent creatures and the accompanying music will make your day.

More on the Camargue:

7 Reasons You Should Go To The Camargue

Day Trip from Uzes: Arles, Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer and the Camargue

A Most Unusual Place for a French Vineyard

Tour South France for White Horses on the Beach

 


Camargue region

explore-wild-camargue-4x4--74985-4_w500

7 Reasons You Should Go To The Camargue

It’s hard to say when the Barefoot Blogger will ever get her fill of visiting the Camargue.

The preserved area south of Arles,  the Parc naturel régional de Camargue, is between the Mediterranean and the Rhone river delta. One-third of the Camargue is marshland, lagoons and lakes. The rest is cultivated fields brimming at different times of the year with rice, grapes and grain.

The ecology of the area is unlike any other place in the world. White Camarguais horses roam on open fields with Camargue bulls and all feed only on natural feed and grasses. Salt mines that create pink-tinted lagoons and canals produce some of the world’s finest salts.  Shrimp that thrive on the algae in the pinkish waterways feed flamingoes that gather in ponds and pools alongside the fields and roads. The shrimp diet colors the birds’ feathers pink.  It’s all a grand circle of life.

The Camargue Safari

The most recent jaunt to the Camargue was with my guests from the States, including 10-year-old McKenna. While her mother and I thought a safari would be a huge thrill for McKenna, we all totally enjoyed the 4-hour tour by jeep. It wasn’t just because of our adorable and multi-lingual guide, we learned there are at least 7 reasons this place is so amazing … and so popular for tourists. 

visiting the camargue

 

Reason #1: The Camarguais horses

 

visiting the camargue

 

visiting the camargue

 

Reason #2: The Camargue bulls

visiting the camargue

 

 

visiting the camargue

Camargues Bulls

 

Reason #3: Flamingos

visiting the camargue

Flamingos in the Camargue

 

 

visiting the camargue

Flamingo

 

Reason #4: Salt mines

visiting the camargue

Salt processed in the Camargue

 

 

visiting the camargue

Balin Salt brand from the Camargue is exported worldwide

 

Reason #5: Rice

visiting the camargue

Rice fields in the Camargue

 

visiting the camargue

 

Reason #6: Wine

visiting the camargue

 

 

visiting the camargue

 

visiting the camargue

 

Reason #7: The culture

visiting the camargue

A home of a Gardian, or “rancher”

 

 

visiting the camargue

The Camargue cross is a symbol of “faith, hope and charity” to dwellers of the region

 

For more about the Camargues, please see these earlier posts:

Tour South France for White Horses on the Beach

Back to the Camargue: The White Horses

Day Trip from Uzes: Arles, Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer and the Camargue

For your own Camargue Safari, contact Nancy McGee at southernfranceluxury.com

 

visiting the camargue

 

city side of Nice

City Side of Nice: Favorite Finds

With all the cold, rainy weather in winter, I enjoy looking back at some of summer’s favorite places. Enjoy the city side of Nice and think about sunny days

Traveling to Nice to enjoy the beaches is always nice. However, don’t forget there’s a city side of Nice to explore, too.

In 1966 I traveled to Nice with two friends from UNC-Chapel Hill. It was a splurge on our “Europe on $5 a Day” budget. Nevertheless, we had to see the French Rivera. As I recall, it looked much like this.

city side of Nice

Nice France 1966

 

Take a look now.

city side of Nice

Nice France 2014

This was 1966.

city side of Nice

Beach in Nice 1966

Now.

city side of Nice

Nice France 2014

Then.

city side of Nice

Nice France 1966

Now.

city side of Nice

Nice France now

While much has changed, the spirit of the city seems the same. It is still the place where you feel you can “hide out.” No one seems to care what anyone else is doing. And there are so many people of different backgrounds, cultures and languages, there’s no telling who “belongs” there and who is a tourist.

The European architecture and neighborhoods of Nice remind me more of Italy than of France. I was reminded by my AIRBNB host that it’s not by accident. Nice was part of France until the mid-1800’s. It was again occupied by Italy during WWII.  (Guess I missed history class the day this factoid was taught.)

These are some of the city-side sights:

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 City Side of Nice Transportation

Getting around town in Nice is a breeze. If you aren’t up for walking, which is always a good way to sightsee and stop along the way, there are public buses and trams. For those who like to bicycle, you can rent by the hour or more.

 

City Side of Nice Restaurants

Unfortunately, I didn’t do my homework on places to eat in Nice. Nor do I have the budget to dine on expensive French cuisine. Consequently, all of my meals were disappointing … except for dinner at La Favola.

My friends and I discovered it after we had a so-so lunch at a sidewalk cafe. La Favola was the one with the people standing in line waiting for a table. That’s always a good sign. We made a point to go by the cafe for dinner.

city side of Nice

Restaurant in Nice

Here are two of the reasons why La Favola is popular. Lobster and pasta for the seafood lover. Gnocchi and Aubergine (eggplant) for the vegan.

We didn’t try the antipasta that was lusciously displayed on tables at the front of the restaurant. That’s for next trip. Any of the many choices is a meal in itself.

city side of Nice

Lobster with Rigatoni at La Favola in Nice

 

city side of Nice

Gnocchi with Aubergine at La Favoli in Nice

Here’s a link to La Favola’s website (click here) if you’d like to check it out.

If you arrive too early for dinner — before 7:00 pm — there are plenty of cafes and bars nearby. Some with entertainment and music like the Blues Brothers you’ll recognize.

city side of Nice

“Blues Brothers” in Nice, France

Room with a View

Again, I was pleased with my AIRBNB choice in Nice. While my friends had booked rooms not knowing I was definitely joining them, I was looking at the last-minute for a place that would be close to where they were staying. It was a holiday weekend in France, so I was fortunate to find a place … and such a good find.

The hosts were friendly and extremely helpful with touring suggestions. I felt like I was a welcomed guest and friend. Since I’m now living in France — a mere three hour drive or train ride from Nice, I’ll definitely be back.

These are some of the views from my private room and a link to the “Chambre sur Jardin” on AIRBNB.

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City Side of Nice Markets

There are many market days in Nice and I made it to one — the flower market. The brocante (antique, etc.) market is next on my list when I return to Nice again.  This is a list for your trip (click here). Maybe I’ll see you there!

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 Nice is for Dog Lovers

Since moving to France, I’ve discovered the French love their dogs. It’s not uncommon to find a “chien” in restaurants sitting at the table. If you look carefully at the diners at a sidewalk cafe, there’s often a pet at the patron’s feet. Waiters always accommodate the furry companion with a bowl of water.

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Ready to relax?

When you get tired of city sites, you can always sit by the sea … the Mediterranean, that is.

city side of Nice

Nice France


For more tips on traveling to Nice and other destinations in France, here are some ideas from Your RV Lifestyle. 100 Things to do in France. A great resource!

 

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Barefooting in Sete, France

A summer weekend in Sete is more than a bar scene. It’s a multi-cultural extravaganza.

In fact, there are so many activities going on during a summer weekend in Sete, it’s hard to decide what to do first. Regardless of what you choose, you can’t go wrong. It’s going to be different from anything this Southern girl has ever seen. Just a walk around town is an experience.

A walk to the “central park” presented a chance to see a ride for kids I wish was in every town. Children LOVE getting the exercise racing each other on their make-believe ponies

Sete

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Sete

Park “ponies” for kids in Sete

Summer weekend in Sete

The city is a major seaport for France, so Sete takes advantage of every aspect of being an international coastal town, from seafood markets to private beaches.

Oysters are so abundant in Sete, people of the town enjoy the salty, tender mollusks all times of the day. These pictures were the “small” version. On weekend mornings, people of Sete are gathered in the city market (Halles) enjoying oysters and beer. Shellfish of all types are ready for eating on the spot or to bag up to take away. If you’ve never tried sea snails, you must. But then, you’d better like chewy things, because they will remind you of a tasty pencil eraser.

 

Nighttime in Sete is a thrill to the senses. The views, the music, the whole atmosphere is exciting to see, to feel, and to enjoy.

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Daytime in Sete is beach time.

summer weekend in Sete

Beach club in Sete

 

If you’re going to Sete in the summer and you want to go to a private club on the beach, MAKE A RESERVATION. We didn’t and ended up with one beach chair and one umbrella.
As much as I love the French, there are a few things I just don’t get. The biggest thing is why business people don’t understand the concept of “turning over” tables, etc. For example, we went to a beach club without a reservation. We arrived at 11 o’clock in the morning, and almost all the chairs were empty. Nevertheless, we left because all the seats were reserved. Even when we said we were only staying until 3pm and we’d be willing to move chairs if people with the reservation arrived, we were denied our request.

We left and went down the beach to another “club.” There the nice hostess found us one umbrella and one chair, even though others on her beach were empty. The four of us took turns sitting on the chair and on the sand. I figure the first establishment lost 40 euros business, plus our lunch trade. The second club could have seated us all, then taken in another 30 euros for chairs and umbrellas that were still empty when we left.

Go figure.

summer weekend in Sete

Summer weekend in Sete

Joutes Nautiques in Sete

Water jousting, or “joutes nautique” has been a summer sport and spectacle in Sete since 1666 when the seaport was formally opened. I thought I had missed the season since the most prominent events are held earlier in August. Sea jousting is held throughout sea towns on the Mediterranean, though Sete is world-famous for its teams and tournaments.

To my surprise and delight, we literally ran into an event one afternoon where two teams from Sete were up against each other. 

 

summer weekend in Sete

 

You would never know that the home town team would win either way by the enthusiasm the crews on the jousting boats performed. They were both elegant and fierce.

Each boat is filled with a team of ten oarsmen, one jouster and a “spare,” a helmsman and two musicians.  The “spare” is on board for the next joust.

summer weekend in Sete

 

One jouster on each boat stands on a raised platform, called a “la tintaine” at the stern of the boat. The jouster stands about 10 feet (three meters) above the surface of the water.

 

summer weekend in Sete

 

After a polite “pass by” the jousters and crew are ready for the duel.

 

summer weekend in Sete

 

It would seem the red team stacked the deck … so to speak.

summer weekend in Sete

 

Even so, the blue team was victorious.

summer weekend in Sete

 

summer weekend in Sete

 

Afterward, it’s all about teamwork and getting quickly out of the boat to have a smoke and to celebrate.

summer weekend in Sete

Is it any wonder I love Sete?

 

Thanks, Nancy, for being the “hostess with the mostest.” To readers who want to visit Sete, be sure to look up Nancy’s destination tour company, Absolutely Southern France. She has fantastic tours of Sete and the area.

Also, thanks to Christina Rabaste for welcoming me back to your studio and home to view your art. I’m looking for spaces to put them all! Love!

 

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Check out these earlier posts for more information about Sete, Nancy’s tours, and Christina’s art.

By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sete

Sete: Abbeys and Vineyards

Sete: Eat, Pray (to eat), Love (to eat)

Final Days in Sete: Parties, Artist Friends and Days at the Beach

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 7-8 Sete, Beziers, and Bouziques

The Bad Girls in Sete

For more about water jousting, here’s the Men’s Journal’s view.

 

 

Sete, France on a weekend

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