Brilliant sunshine streamed through the narrow gap in our window shutters to wake us with the promise of a beautiful day. However in the time it takes to drink a cup of tea in bed the weather had changed and dark, heavy clouds promised a downpour.
I’m not sure that this adheres to rule number one, but nonetheless I love this photo.
Later the rain stopped and we went on a walkabout. I’ll share those pictures later but I’ll leave you with this one of The Pouncho, which will take you across the Gulf of St Tropez to the famous fishing village.
After finishing work at 16.15 on Friday night we have driven down from Tewkesbury to Port Cogolin overnight and arrived a little before 12. It was an easy ride down and nothing like as tiring as I thought it might be. We unpacked, did a spring clean, went out for lunch and then did a food shop at the nearby hyper market.
Chores done we took a walk around the port and had a play with our new pancake lens, which we had got as a walk around lens. These sooc photos tell us we are going to enjoy this lens!
We were shopping for the apartment as some things were looking tired in there. The rug was ten years old now and was showing it. Too many drinks spilled on it, too many stains. The red leather chair we had brought here ten years ago in the back of CooperBeast, the red Cooper we had back then and now belonging to The Elf, has succumbed to the sun, the pressed leather is peeling off in droves. We had in mind then a new rug and a bistro set or just a small round table to replace the chair. This would be better for eating inside in the Winter.
We headed to Frejus where the out of town shopping stores are located on the N7 out towards Pugens sur Argent. Almost immediately we hit slow moving traffic on the coast road that runs through Ste Maxime and onto Frejus. However, it was moving, the sun was shining and the views were lovely. We were happy enough stuck in the traffic.
Past the water centre we turned left towards the A8 and sometime later went left out on the N7. First though we spotted a garden centre and gave that a try. What is it with garden centres? They are so expensive. Furniture in the thousands of Euros league and so on. We have never had a bargain in a garden centre. The garden centres in England are just the same too.
We saw Castorama and went in there. Straight away we spotted a round 60cm bistro table with a white marble top and black wrought iron stand. The same style as the dining table we use in the loggia. We decided to go for that and if we see something else then that can live outdoors. On the way out we spotted a rug, so we loaded the table in the car and went back in. Ten minutes later we were out with a multi coloured rug in cream, dark grey, yellow gold and teal,with two teal cushions to tie it into the room.
We were hungry by now and on the way out a gorgeous smell of a hamburger cooking wafted in the air. There was a burger van in the car park. We put the huge rug in SilverBeast and decided we would make do with some burgers. The name on the van was Son of a Bun and they had a website sonofabun.fr. We had a burger each and shared a pot of chips. Well, that was the best burger I have ever had in my life bar none. Peanut reached the same conclusion. For me it was arguably the best thing I had eaten on my whole holiday. The chips too were delicious. If you ever see that name on your travels then grab a burger.
We looked in a few more shops around there and then felt a bit weary of it so headed for San Raphael for a cup of tea and to window shop in town shops. We soon wearied of the shopping bit and tea beckoned. I wanted fresh lemon, Peanut English tea. We stopped at the first cafe and waited and waited and left after ten minutes as no one had even come near us to take our order. Further down the road a second cafe and this time we ordered. They had no fresh lemon so we asked for English tea for two. They brought Earl Grey. Peanut told them it was wrong to which they said it was all they had, so we walked out of that one. Third cafe…
We ordered One English tea and one freshly squeezed lemon drink. The waiter turned up with Earl grey Tea for Peanut and never brought mine. Again it was all they had. We walked out of there.
A trail of feathers ran behind Peanut she was so thirsty she was spitting feathers. Her patience was wearing thin. She was thirsty things were not boding well. In my mind I was envisaging a scene, an argument, a man on the floor, a policeman, Peanut in handcuffs, visiting hours. My mind ran amok as we entered the fourth cafe and prayed for good old English tea.
Fourth time lucky. I was so glad, so relieved. My lemon was sharp, but nothing like as sharp as Lady P’s tongue if the tea had been wrong. I could see the tabloid headline, “Death by Tongue Lashing.” Peanut’s tea was lovely and as I drank my lemon and added sugar and more water it too was lovely and I decided I would have this at home. I first tasted fresh lemon drink mixed with sugar, over ice and a sliver of lemon, as a little boy on the streets of Sorrento. They have millions of lemons in that part of the world and to this day I always remember that as being a lovely refreshing drink. This one was better though because I sat there drinking it, wallowing in the knowledge that Peanut would not be arrested today.
The port of Frejus is glitzy and modern a kind of French modern Art Deco style. It has its own style different to Port Grimaud where we are which is more Provençal traditional style. San Raphael is similar to Frejus Port but not as modern, because Frejus Port is all new whereas San Raphael has evolved through history. Anyway I mention this because they have done some work in the port a new fish market and a new up market restaurant, which looks very stylish. On the way home, the traffic moved slowly as we crossed the eye catching bridge in Ste Maxime on the edge of the town which you can clearly see across the gulf. I finally managed to photograph this without going to any real effort to get the shot. Anyway, I was rather pleased with these iPhone shots of the bridge and the Restaurant back in San Raphael.
Today was to be a lazy beach day, so we decided we would get to L’Escalet for a shade after 12 have lunch straightaway then walk it off with a stroll along the coast and recover from that with a few hours on the beach. Yep we all knew that this was a darned good plan.
First though it was croissants in the loggia. So I nipped to the garage for those and sneaked in a pain au chocolat for myself! Before that I had spent a pleasant hour in the morning sun catching up on our holiday blog. To be honest I rather treasure this hour and it’s fun writing up the holiday before the memories fade.
Our simple but lovely breakfast done it was time for a stroll around Port Cogolin checking all was well. It really is lovely. We ended up at the furniture shops at the entrance to Port Cogolin and. I realised that the beautiful Lloyd Loom white table with navy chairs would at almost 1000 euros never adorn our terrace. Oh well c’est la vie as they say somewhere exotic overseas.
The morning had vanished so we climbed in PaceBeast for our drive to L’Escalet. This in itself is a spectacular drive. We head towards La Croix Valmer Then turn left at the second sign for Gassin. Here the road winds up the hills towards Gassin which is a beautiful medieval hill top village. There are some delightful restaurants up here that command gorgeous views over the Gulfe de St Tropez. From here we follow the signs to Ramatuelle another pristine hill top village and then out to the coast. Turning right we then pick up the L’Escalet signs and arrive at a beautiful French coastline with beautiful walks between wonderful secret coves and magical islands that touch the mainline with a mere sliver of sand.
L’Escalet is a great place to go on a Sunday too as if you go earlier you can stop in Ramatuelle on route and enjoy the lovely Provençal market they have with its fine mix of food, cheese and clothes stalls.
As we drove between Gassin and Ramatuelle we passed an old windmill which we have visited many times before. We have had lots if fun there from simple picnics to epic arguments with irate French people objecting to us photographing our MINIs next to the windmill. We have stopped to film the brown cows herding there evocative with their bells ringing loudly. Today we drove straight threw opening our windows to enjoy the clanging of the cow bells around their necks.
Our drive saw us looking over the famous beaches of Pampelonne where topless sun bathing first took off in the sixties. St Tropez has never stopped swinging since, constantly reinventing itself to always appeal to the rich and famous as well as the poor and infamous such as I. Beautiful vineyards cascade down the hillside to meet these beaches, all framed by a Provençal blue sea touching a matching sky. It all makes for a quite spectacular drive.
Parked by the beach we headed for the food van and ordered our standard burger and chip baguette. This is a long standing ritual for us. Our holiday would not be the same without it. We share a double one. The Elf had no option and got the single. For one person it is daunting but fair play she demolished it!
A walk followed. We drove as far as we could right as you look at the sea. Parked and began walking along the coastal paths. This walk passed my favourite beach in all the world and heads to Cap T’Ailat my favourite island, which in my mind I think of as Kirrin Island – Enid Blyton’s Island in the Famous Five books – here we were then Julian, George and Anne. Dick must have been elsewhere walking Timmy.
We have seen these hills burned by fire in the past but this May they were simply spectacular. The sea a deep blue mixed with a turquoise, where sand lightened the colour. The sky one shade lighter than the sea. The land was a healthy luscious green freckled with wild poppies in strong red shades, purple lavender, yellow wild dandelions, blue harebells and other pretty wild flowers in pink. The result is nothing less than spectacular.
I paused on the walk and looked down as we passed my favourite beach. There was less driftwood than I have known in the past and it looked better than ever. I knew I had to catch my breath from this walk relaxing on my beach. I was tempted to spray my Naploeon aftershave on,march down to my beach, raise my flag and clear everyone from my beach. You can’t dear your aftershave is in the apartment. Mrs P applied a reality check.
Soon Kirrin Island pulled my eye towards it. Seven or eight small boats nestled in its lee. White dots in a beautiful Aqua sea, the island a resplendent green towering behind.
We enjoy photography. Our latest thing is to achieve a particular shot. Our last adventure in Venice in February challenged us to photograph a carnevale person with an iconic Venetian background. By the skin of our teeth we got the shot and a masked Venetian now hangs on our landing guarding our stairs. The Elf stands on a crossroad in a life facing a future of uncertainty or opportunity. A time of contemplation. Our mission is to catch this contemplation in a photograph and perhaps this walk will see us capture this poignancy.
I had walked enough. I decamped on the beach – without my flag. Peanut and the Elf kindly nipped back to the car for our beach stuff. We dozed, we chatted, we fixed the world. We stared at the sky and watched amazing clouds. We watched a ballet dancer leap off the Uk and fly across the Atlantic before in minutes turning into the circle of life you can see below. I have no doubt in my mind that these were magical clouds.
Home beckoned. We all showered. The girls glammed up and we enjoyed an Italian meal in the restaurant underneath us. Mint lamb chops with red peppers, onion and potatoes for me, prawn ravioli for Peanut and asparagus risotto for The Elf. I had a tiny tiramisu And coffee for dessert, strawberry Mille feuille for P and mousse cafe for Elfie. White wine washed it down.
I was excited about today I won’t lie. I had booked for Peanut and The Elf to make their own perfume at the Galimard factory in Grasse and I was hoping they would enjoy it. We had to be at Galimard for ten. It was an hour away so we determined to leave at 8.30 factoring for parking up/ getting lost/ traffic hold ups. It was just juice and breakfast cereal today, no time to eat croissants too!
We were away at 8.30. There were no traffic issues and we got there just after 9.30. “Ah no Monsieur this is the museum” and we were directed two minutes up the road. This proved elusive beyond belief until The Elf found a second address on the confirmation e-mail. We punched it into the sat nav and 3 minutes later we were parked right outside the door at ten to ten. “Another well planned military operation” I pronounced as I so love to do. Peanut patted me on the head or was it a Gibbs NCIS slap?
We were ushered in to start almost immediately. About ten girls in all and one other lad accompanying his girlfriend. I suspect he was as pleased to see me as I was him!
The first question was are you making a fragrance for a man or a woman and I almost wish I’d paid the extra to make my own aftershave.
Anyway the girls got going. I watched, photographed, played on my phone and quietly enjoyed myself. Half time and we looked around the gift shop. There were lots of beautiful perfume bottles for sale and I spotted a beautiful Galimard scarf which I snapped up for P. Very elegant, a bit sir hostessy but very P! Then I spotted Naploeon 1815 a new aftershave. Well this is the 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo and Naploeon is a gloriously pompous vain little man. It was just so me, I had to have it. Importantly too it seemed to be an enduring fragrance. I like perfume to have staying power. That was me done though in truth it would have been cheaper to make my own perfume!
This was fun and the girls were looking pleased with how their fragrances were shaping up. Finally they were done and the perfumes were dispensed into their own named bottles. Peanut upgraded her bottle to one with a puffer thingy which looked delightfully feminine. I had assumed The Elf would call her perfume Amelia her first name, but she surprised us naming hers Sophie after her middle name. Peanut meanwhile had given this some thought so Sospiri was born – Italian for sighs and to remind us of the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. It was lovely to see the finished product bearing the creations name.
We each left then with 100ml of perfume, a scarf and upgraded bottles and 220 euros lighter of pocket. A fun morning though and we were all very pleased.
Time for lunch so we headed for Old Grasse and after half an hour of very pleasant meandering through the old streets we ended up in a long wide street full of restaurants. We have eaten here a few times in the past so we picked a restaurant and sat down. Again the light was beautiful with blue skies hovering above the terracotta coloured stucco old buildings. Flowers punched vivid colour into the scene as they adorned the plane trees and fountains along the street. I love the south of France and Italy for the ease with which they create beauty where to the wrong eye it might seem to be all falling down. It is an easy part of the world to enjoy being in love in.
Anyway lunch. The Elf had a cheese omelette and me and P had the plat de jour which was pork in a sauce with tomatoes and mushrooms and chips. Lovely, but my chemo treatment has receded a gum in my mouth and the pain is a reminder of reality in this perfect world that is Provence.
After lunch we meandered back to the car and headed for Mogins about 15 minutes away. Mougins is a very pretty and prosperous hill top village full of lovely restaurants and galleries and painters. We were tempted by some cushions that had Picasso art on them but bottled it at 85 euros a cushion. They were lovely and I think Picasso would have appreciated his art being displayed this way.
After several circuits of the village we stopped for a drink. I had a lovely cappuccino while the Elf had a gorgeous cafe Gourmand. Peanut had tea which produced a tea box for her to choose her tea from. It was all rather nice.
We headed for home after our drinks but broke the journey up with a break in Ste Maxime. Here we explored the old streets of the centre and an Italian market that was on the front. We stumbled upon a shop selling cotton shirts in every colour and all bought ourselves the same grey shirt. The Elf emerged from the changing room looking frankly sickeningly pretty in her shirt. P looked good wearing it in her own unique way and then there was me. Frankly looking average I bought mine to be in the gang. Was great fun and so we headed for a cafe to celebrate with iced coffee and orangina for Peanut.
The last bit home took us past the main camp site for the Harley Davidson festival. The atmosphere was petrolicious. The bikers, the leathers, the chrome, no two Harley’s ever the same and I thought of two friends I used to work with at Evesham Technology, Carol and Craig Fairs. They would have loved this. Heck for all I know they are there living their dream.
Wafted home on a mistral of petrol fumes we fell into the apartment tired after a really fun day.
Today was deemed a lazy beach day, so it began with a lie in before I got up had some Frosties on the terrace and caught up with the world on my iPhone. Then I went to the garage on the corner before Geant for some fresh croissants. Unfortunately they had sold out so I carried on to Geant for them. I love this morning stroll and enjoy a look in the furniture stores at the entrance to St Tropez . They had a beautiful Lloyd Loom Breakfast table and chair set. A white table and two navy chairs it was gorgeous, though expensive I’m guessing.
When I got back The Elf and P were both up. The sofa bed in the living room was tucked away, so we had our croissants straight away. A simple but lovely way to get the day going. The sun was out in force giving a perfect Provençal day with blue blue skies contrasting beautifully to the rich earthy, terracotta colours of the buildings around the port facing us.
We headed out making a quick stop at Maisons du Monde to show it to Amelia and also the Morgan clothes shop next door. Second time round for P and she was restless for the beach so we headed off in the direction of La Croix Valmer as we were off to Gigaro.
The blue sky ran into a lovely calm blue sea the join between the two blurred by a faint mist which was hiding the Porquerolles on the horizon. It was a day for painters and artists. It was just after 12 so we dived into a beautiful restaurant on the beach. The views were lovely and the setting ideal. For our sins we watch Montalbano an Italian detective series set in Sicily with English subtitles. Montalbano spends a lot of time in a restaurant which I instantly thought of as I sat here in this perfect world.
We ordered. Salads for the girls but I was emboldened by my comparison to the world of Montalbano. Like all Italians he loved his food. So I ordered grilled sardines with rice and green beans. Nine of the bug gars turned up in a line on my plate each head pointing at me and my boldness faded as the sardines began to intimidate me.
This was no longer lunch, this was a psychological battle between me and the sardines, it was a challenge. It was some sort of reality TV programme and I was alone in a desert island having to catch my own food, the outcome was a dishonourable draw with me defeating 5 of the 9 sardines. In my defence these were not ordinary sardines, each one was the size of the fish Jesus used when he fed the five thousand with just Five fish. Thinking of it in those terms then I did not do too badly, I had just ate as much fish in one go as 5000 people did in biblical times!
We meandered along the beach and decamped and I quickly settled to read another mushy romance novel by Kate Fitzroy. Guilty secret? No I’m not even embarrassed I love the world she weaves. This one centres around Tuscany and Siena, where all being well we are headed in September.
Beaches are never dull. A small party of the most adorable kindergarten kids you ever set eyes on formed a circle around their teacher for lessons on the beach. It was delightful to see. Peanut and Amelia however barely noticed. Adonis was standing in front of us adorning nought but a scarf around his medals. He bent over to tuck the tail of his scarf under his crotch and into the top of the scarf at the back. He turned round to show how tightly this packed his medals. Embarrassed for P I gently wiped away some dribble that was falling from the corner of her mouth. Mother and daughter saw little else on the beach that day. Feeling faintly left out I gazed forlornly around seeking some beautiful breasts to gaze idly at. Thwarted, I returned to my romantic novel.
By half four we had done with the beach and decided to pop into St Tropez on the way home. From Gigaro the route is a beautiful scenic route through the vineyards and hills behind the famous beaches of Pampelonne. A clever short cut we know sees us at our favourite car park in Place des Lices without encountering any traffic.
Peanut bought a little top, I looked in a few watch shops, we enjoyed an ice cream watching the artists along the harbour. We watched fascinated as a huge yacht reversed into its parking spot. The less than walking speed of the manoeuvre gave it all a glorious sense of occasion. A street performer had seemingly suspended himself in mid air, pleased at the attention he was getting until he realised everyone was watching the yacht.
Time for home and we dropped into Geant for some salad for dinner.