Memories tour/18 ~ Day 7 ~ a Sunday in Sète!

On our first morning in Arles, we met on the front terrace of our hotel Le Cloître to set off on today’s adventure. This would become a favourite gathering spot, morning and evening, under the magnificent giant Paulownia tree.

 

After a one-hour drive southwest from Arles, we arrived in the Mediterranean port and seaside resort of Sète.

Nancy McGee, owner of Absolutely Southern France, (who brilliantly organized the logistics of our tour), joined us IN PERSON ~ woohoo! Sète is her home, so who better to show us around?

With a stop at Nancy’s favourite fromager …

And on to a few other specialty shops to taste local goodies … zézettes are my favourites and check out the packaging!

Next we reached the amazing market … no question Sète is a seafood lovers’ delight … where Nancy had a sampling buffet organized …

Nancy’s buffet surprise … miam, miam (French for yum, yum …)

Next stop, lunch at the beach …

Last stop … an education in oyster farming … oh yes, and tasting … do you or don’t you?

Later that evening, back in Arles, a relaxing delicious dinner in a family-run bistrot that opened just for our group … lovely evening … with a moonlight stroll past the 2000-year-old arena, around the corner from our hotel. In Arles, thousands of years of history live all around you … c’est magique!

Le sigh …

Be sure to click on over to the website of my good friend and tour co-leader, Deborah Bine aka Barefoot Blogger. She has posted wonderful articles about many of the places we visit and this one in particular is a great post about Sète.

 

 

Memories tour/18 ~ Day 6 ~ On the move!

This morning, as we said au revoir to the stunning Côte d’Azur I heard many voices promising to return! In spite of this past week’s unforgettable experiences, there is still so much to see and do. In our comfortable private coach we made our way down the Promenade des Anglais, taking along a wealth of fine memories.

Our first stop for part of the day was Aix-en-Provence.  Steeped in history, this has been an important crossroads since the 3rd Century BC. Our drive on the busy motorway carried us past the majestic Mont Sainte-Victoire which was painted by Cézanne more than eighty times. Paul Cézanne is regarded as the most famous son of Aix, where he was born and died, and his work is celebrated there now although this was not always the case. He’s described by both Picasso and Matisse as “the father of us all”.

It was a market day in Aix (pronounced simply “ex”), with colourful vendors in stalls up and down the Cours Mirabeau selling all manner of products. Free time offered everyone plenty of opportunities to explore.

There was also time to enjoy lunch before meeting up for our walking tour. Even the tour leaders took a break in the heart of the old town!

I love the wrought iron bell towers of Provence that allow the worst Mistral to blow right through!

Famous for its fountains, universities, and support of the arts, Aix is an interesting town in which to spend some time. It’s an excellent half-way stop on the way from the coast to the countryside of Provence.

 

In the afternoon we met our guide for a walking tour “In the Footsteps of Cezanne”. It was comprehensive and well worth the time.

Les Deux Garçons began serving meals in 1792 and was a popular dining spot of Cézanne’s. It may not be the finest place for gourmet meals in town, but definitely is worth a stop for an apéro or a coffee to appreciate the historic ambiance.

After a most satisfying afternoon, our merry group continued on to our home for the next week ~ enchanting ancient Arles.  Our celebratory rooftop welcome at Hôtel Le Clôitre set the tone for the remainder of our stay. Get the idea?

There was time to rest and be ready to … yes … feast again, at dinner under the stars on the hotel’s ground level terrace. Our tapas meal was delicious and the beginning of a new adventure in this part of the Bouches-du-Rhône region.

A highlight was the surprise visit by a local musician who entertained everyone with his soul-searing renditions of Gipsy Kings songs. The original Gipsy Kings’ families are from the area around Arles and their fusion of flamenco, salsa, and pop became synonymous with the region.

   An additional surprise was a parade later in the evening, celebrating the rice harvest of the Camargue. Yes, we even for cheered tractors!

This was what you might call an extremely full day! Even so, some of the group still found time for a late night libation. The excellent location of our hotel meant it was a stroll of only a few minutes to finally fall into bed.

Be sure to visit the website of my friend and tour co-leader, Deborah Bine aka Barefoot Blogger where you will find all sorts of great articles on more places in France than you can imagine. I’m telling you … that lady gets around! Click right here!

Memories tour/18 ~ Day 5 ~with a slight glitch!

Be still my heart! On Day 5, we had a full day to wander where my heart lives … and where my Love in Provence series is set … enchanting Antibes.

This was a wonderful day of strolling the streets we’ve all read about, taking photos, picturing Katherine, Philippe and the other characters from the stories going about their lives. It was such great fun to listen to the chatter and comments. And Mother Nature continued to provide perfect weather.

 

Best fans ever!

On the search for Philippe, the handsome fromager in the Antibes Marché Provençal!

 

 

These 500-year-old doors are true inspiration, crafted for the church to give thanks for local villagers surviving a dreadful plague.

To be continued …

 

 

 

Memories tour/18 ~ Day 4

Okay, please don’t judge me ~ I’m slooooowly posting about every day on our tour. I have a lot more photos and will eventually get them into an online album. In the meantime, I’m at least compiling a (brief) daily photo journal of the wonderful memories we made together.

On Day 4, we had an easy morning with everyone free to do whatever they pleased … sleeping in, shopping, catching the Musée Chagall or Matisse, exploring the old town, or climbing Castle Hill. So many choices!

At 12:30 we met our guide Stephanie, boarded our comfy coach in Nice, and wended our way along the Moyenne Corniche, enjoying the spectacular views where the hillsides drop precipitously to the azure sea.

After a brief history concerning the stunning hilltop village of Eze, we committed to heading straight up the steep cobblestone allées to the 12thC castle ruin at the top of Jardin Exotique. The panorama from here at 1400 ft above the Mediterranean is worth the climb.

Below is another perspective of Eze that I took on a day when I drove along the Haute Corniche … a bird’s eye view.

From Eze, we drove back down to the sea and spent a leisurely afternoon exploring the stunning Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild and its breathtaking gardens and dancing fountains in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.

 

 

At the end of the day, another fine evening!

 

Be sure to visit the website of my friend and tour co-leader, Deborah Bine aka Barefoot Blogger, where you will find all sorts of great articles on more places in France than you can imagine. I’m telling you … that lady gets around! Click right here!

Memories Tour/18 ~ Day 3

I’m in catch-up mode! Do you ever find yourself in this situation with so many good intentions but not enough time?

On this day we began by settling into our comfortable private coach and driving up into the hills above Nice and Cannes to Grasse, the world’s perfume capital since the late 1700s. Our first destination was to tour the Fragonard perfume factory, family-run since 1926.

Next we drove along a picturesque winding road to the medieval village of, Tourrettes-sur-Loup, one of my favourite places. We had time for lunch and a quick stroll.

A half-hour later we were in the charming hilltop walled village of Saint-Paul de Vence , with its storied history of attracting artists. After talking about this fabled past during our bus ride, there was free time to stroll the cobblestone streets and enjoy the beauty of the surroundings and art galleries … and, of course, shop. Many also took the time to visit the grave of Chagall who lived there for the last 30 years of his life.

Stay tuned for Day 4!

Memories Tour/18 ~ Day 2

And away we go! Day #2 began with us exploring the old town of Nice with guide extraordinaire, Stephanie.

We ended the morning at the popular Promenade du Paillon.

Le dejeuner ~ This Niçoise favourite was a  newly discovered taste sensation by many in the group! Pan bagnat is often described as a salade Nicoise on  a bun. Nom! Nom! Miam! Miam!

After lunch it was time to climb aboard the Hop On-Hop Off Bus and travel further afield.

From the Promenade des Anglais to breathtaking Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Then back to Nice again, through the heart of the city, up and down the hills to Cimiez before returning to the sea … an impressive overview of this stunning area.

La Chaise Bleue ~ the official symbol of the Ville de Nice. To learn the history behind it, click here.

Rolling along from Nice and the Baie des Anges …

… to Villefranche-sur-Mer!

Back to Nice just in time for an apéro in the quiet ambiance of the bar of the iconic  Hotel Le Negresco. The original walnut woodwork dates from 1913 and the walls are adorned with an ancient tapestry as well as fine artwork.

Hanging out in the Royal Lounge with a melange of classical and contemporary artwork like this sculpture by Nicky de St-Phalle .

Going back to home base, Beau Rivage Hotel, in style!
And a good night to all! These night owls outlasted the others!

For more photos and additional details, please check the Barefoot Blogger’s website. My bestie, Deborah Bine, and I are having a blast sharing our love of France with the enthusiastic Francophiles on this trip … all 16 of them!

For more information about this tour and to sign up to join us next year,contact Absolutely Southern France Travel Company. It’s easy … just click on this link.

 

 

On y va ~ follow along on our 2018 women’s tour!

The fun in the south of France began in Nice today as sixteen ladies arrived from Canada, the United States and Australia. They will spend the next twelve exciting days with my good friend, Deborah Bine aka Barefoot Blogger, and me.

Day #1 ~ Dinner on the beach kicked things off tonight, with a delicious meal at the Plage Beau Rivage .

A perfect Côte d’Azur evening was the best reward after arduous hours of travel. The journey from Melbourne, Australia, to Nice was definitely the longest. So much fun getting to know everyone!

We hope you will follow along as we visit some of the beautiful historic and charming locations I write about in my novels and Deborah blogs about.  Thanks to the awesome Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France travel agency for putting all of our details into such an impressive package

Come join us as we make some memories for a lifetime!

Never too much of a good thing, n’est-ce pas?

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

Do you ever come across something special when you are looking for something else? Then you read it or hold it in your hands to admire and remember all sorts of good things about it?

This afternoon I was sending some information about Antibes to my good friend Julie Mautner, creator of the excellent website, The Provence Post.

The next thing I knew I was re-reading this article and a wealth of great memories wrapped around me. My husband and I often drop by the Hotel Belles Rives for a meal in the exceptional La Passagère restaurant or a drink on the dazzling terrace. It’s always memorable. But the particular morning I gathered information for this article is something I will not forget.

Today I’m reposting the article I wrote for The Good Life France in 2016. If you read it then, I hope you will enjoy it again. After all, we can never have too much of a good thing, n’est-ce pas?

Hotel Belles Rives ~ Antibes southern France

Entrance of the hotel Belles-Rives in Antibes with purple bougainvillea growing round the door

The frivolous lyrics from Cole Porter’s Let’s Misbehave might very well have epitomized the mood on the Côte d’Azur when the song was published in 1927.

“There’s something wild about you child, That’s so contagious. Let’s be outrageous, Let’s misbehave!!!”

Not only was he penning the song, but quite possibly Porter was working through it while he hung out with Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. They were staying at their rented Villa Saint-Louis on the shore of a scenic cove on the west side of the iconic Cap d’Antibes. The Fitzgeralds loved partying with their Jazz Age friends. The semi-Bohemian crowd included wealthy Americans and visiting artists, writers and hangers-on. Picasso, Hemingway, Cocteau, John Dos Passos, Gertrude Stein and Dorothy Parker were just a few of the regulars. Porter was a fixture at the piano in the music room of Villa Saint-Louis, overlooking the shimmering Mediterranean.

From all accounts, notably captured in Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, along with letters, journal entries and recorded memories by others in the Roaring Twenties, the French Riviera was rather a wild place to be. It was also, and continues to be, a fabled coastline of incomparable beauty and light that inspires artists to settle there and create.

The  Belle of the French Riviera

View from the bar of the Hotel Belles-Rives overlooking the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea

Since 1929 the privately-owned Villa Saint-Louis has been known as Hôtel Belles Rives. At the time it was the only hotel on the water along the Côte d’Azur. And since 2001, the gracious third-generation owner, Marianne Estène-Chauvin has guided her beloved 5-star, 43-room gem with a clear desire to keep the best of the Fitzgerald years alive.

TO CONTINUE READING, CLICK RIGHT HERE  for the link to the entire article and photos on page 55 of The Good Life France magazine. It’s a long article but worth the read (she said modestly …). ENJOY!

It was a pleasure to spend the morning with Madame Estène-Chauvin, a charming, savvy businesswoman and artist, who loves what she does. To sit and chat and then be shown around the beloved property by her was truly an honour. Have you visited this iconic hotel?

 

 

Canadian author Dorothy McIntosh is here!

One of the best aspects of being involved in writing is the opportunity to meet and often become friends with other authors. It’s my distinct pleasure to have my friend, author Dorothy McIntosh (DJ McIntosh) visit here today.

When Dorothy is not at home in Toronto, she can be found at her beloved cottage in the wilds of the Bruce Peninsula, keeping company with her trusty companion, Bruin.

Okay, let’s chat!

PS ~ Your award-winning novel, The Witch of Babylon, published in 2012, was a Canadian best seller and the first in The Mesopotamian Trilogy.  There was obviously a great deal of research that went into this thrilling read, as well as The Book of Stolen Tales and The Angel of Eden. What inspired you to undertake this tremendous project?

DJM ~ I wanted to write about age old stories that were familiar to everyone and give them a new twist, so I thought:  why not start at the beginning with the stories of  Genesis?  After researching the bible’s first book, I learned a number of the Genesis stories were based on Mesopotamian myths written long before the Old Testament. This started me on my journey to research      Mesopotamia and I fell in   love with their history and culture. At the same time I embarked on this journey, the Iraq war broke out. I watched, dazed, as the famous Baghdad Museum was looted, precious objects destroyed and stolen. It seemed as if thousands of years had come full circle because I’d been studying the sacking and burning of the ancient Mesopotamian cities. Out of that synergy, The Witch of Babylon was born.

PS ~ There are fascinating, some even exotic, locations in those stories. Would you describe some of the literary pilgrimages you took in order to write the trilogy and any particular experiences that stand out as most significant?

DJM ~ My second novel, The Book Of Stolen Tales, featured some of our best    known fairy tales told in a new way. I learned that the first fairy tale anthology, called The Tale Of Tales, was written by a fascinating Neapolitan poet and courtier, Giambattista Basile. So off to Naples I went. My friends gave me dark warnings about muggings and mad drivers but I encountered none of that and really loved the city. Spanish style buildings and churches abounded, their beauty shining through even though the city had little   money for upkeep. The National Library where I held an original copy of Basile’s book in my hands. The ruins of Pompei where you could even see an ancient fast food café. Walking   gingerly on top of a volcano. And the best food anywhere. But what left the most lasting  impression was to stand on the harbour promenade and gaze across at green sloped Vesuvius, sitting innocently in a gentle purple haze and knowing it has lost none of its  power.

PS ~ When did you begin writing and what inspired the direction you have chosen with your novels to this point?

DJM ~ I began writing in earnest around 2003; my first novel was published in 2011. I’ve    always loved learning about culture and history in books I read and so was drawn to write historical thrillers.

PS ~ Does writing energize or exhaust you?

DJM ~ For me, writing the first draft is pure torture, but I revel in the re-writing and editing stages because that’s when you can shape the book and really let loose on narrative and language.

PS ~ How many hours a day do you write and do you have a routine?

DJM ~ I envy those authors who rise early, sit down with their coffee and bang out a couple of thousand wordsof marvellous prose. As to my ‘routine’ it is most definitely not recommended, lol! I don’t write every day, rather months might go by and then I’ll write seven days a week for many more months. As a night owl, I usually don’t start until late afternoon and carry on until midnight (the time Ialways feel most energetic).

PS ~ I feel privileged to know your current project and am excited for you to share it here.

DJM ~ Thanks so much Patricia. I’m really excited about my new novel because  it’s a subject that’s really close to my heart. It’s a departure from my previous historical thrillers; the working title is The White Wolf.  It’s the story of a rare white wolf stalked through             the Adirondacks by three trophy hunters. Raised in captivity, the wolf must learn to wild  again to survive. Here’s a brief blurb:

Unable to make ends meet, Jade Wentworth is forced to sell her family farm. When a local hunter asks her to foster a newborn white wolf, she  reluctantly agrees. She names the pup Niko. As time goes on, the wolf and the woman form a close bond and Jade realizes that caring for the little wolf has turned into a gift, making her life brighter. But for the wolf, that unnatural alliance with humans threatens to become a curse.

PS ~ Do you have a list of long-term writing plans?

DJM ~ I’d like to continue with canine themed novels and hope to start a new  one this summer and would also like to write a screen treatment for my most recent book.

PS ~ Some writers work on several projects simultaneously. Do you or do you find you focus on your current work before you move on?

DJM ~ For me, it would be too distracting to juggle several works at once.

PS ~ Who are your favourite writers for your own reading enjoyment?

DJM ~ That question always throws me into a tizzy because there are so many writers I love, it’s difficult to choose! Wuthering Heights remains one of my all-time favourites. Cormac        McCarthy’s Border Trilogy is always at the top of my list. I go back to it again and again just to marvel at his writing. These days I’m drawn to adventure thrillers especially those related to mountaineering and adore Jeff Long’s The Wall and Ronald Malfi’s The Ascent. And some older magnificent novels:  Belle De Jourby Joseph Kessel, James Dickey’s Deliverance, Cornell Woolrich’s The Night Has A Thousand Eyes and James M Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice.Those books combine maximum suspense with stunningly good writing.

PS ~ Dorothy, thanks so much for taking the time to chat here. You always bring so much good ‘book talk’ to the table!

Click here to connect with Dorothy on her Amazon authors page and please remember to click on “Following” there. This is a big help to authors and most appreciated. You aren’t signing up for anything, but you are letting Amazon know you like the author’s work. We love to have Amazon hear this!

Click here for Dorothy’s website.

Dear readers, if you have not read Dorothy’s Mesopotamian Trilogy, and you enjoy historical thrillers, I strongly suggest you do! 

 

 

 

 

 

What a weekend …

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

Wow! It was all happening this weekend … not just in Nice but all over France! So please excusez-moi for being a little tardy with this post.

Saturday was the biggest national holiday of the year, la Fête Nationale, which is also known as le Quatorze Juillet and Bastille Day (although the latter is a term used more by people not in France, for some reason). It’s always fun to be in Nice for this holiday. It’s a great family time and the beaches are popular gathering spots here. Normally the beaches are busy at night too as everyone enjoys the fireworks.

After the horrific attack here two years ago on the 14th, remembering and honouring those who lost their lives has taken precedence over everything else on this date. I’ve been so touched by the sensitive and emotional homage organized last year and this. Fireworks have been dispensed with, out of respect.

Today the mood changed as France played Croatia in the final game of the World Cup. Horns have been honking all through town for the last four hours after France won 4 to 2 over Croatia. Flags are waving all along the Promenade des Anglais and cries of Allez les Bleus fill the air, as soccer (le foot as it’s called here) fans celebrate the win. It’s been twenty years since the last one!

July also means one more given in France ~ le Tour de France is underway! I’m in awe of these athletes. But even if you are not interested in the race, watching every day is a wonderful way to feel like you are taking a trip to France. The countryside and towns the tour visits are featured in a beautiful way. Here’s the map of this year’s course in case you want to follow along. I will! Click on the map for a larger view. 

And to top off the weekend, I had to start packing! Our stay in Nice is over for this summer and it’s time to get back to Toronto. Normally I would be in serious whining mode now. However, knowing I will be back in six weeks to prepare for our women’s south of France tour, makes the leaving easier.

This past week was made even better with a visit from Nancy McGee, owner of Absolutely Southern France, who is co-ordinating our tour and my good friend and co-host on the tour, Deborah Bine (aka Barefoot Blogger). All the details are in place and we can’t wait to take this show on the road! Click here to read about the Memories Tour. 

Have you followed all this exciting sporting news? Did you celebrate le Quatorze Juliet? What are your summer plans? Are you coming on a tour with us in 2019?