Monthly Archives: November 2014

Day 4 Vence

Today we drive to Vence primarily to see Matisses’ Chapelle du Rosaire.  This involved driving through Nice and up into the hills.

Driving through Nice

Driving through Nice

 

 

Fortunately we had a gps which made it possible to actually get there.  Even so, we got lost in Vence and took a while to find the Chapelle.  By the time we got there and parked, it was closed until the afternoon.  So we drove back into the center of town and parked.  It’s a charming town with an old walled town and surrounded by a newer town.  We stopped at the tourist bureau and got a map and orientation.  Then looked for a store that sold umbrellas.  It had rained earlier and we were not prepared for it.  Then we walked around the old town some and then back to the main plaza.

Entrance to old town Vence

Entrance to old town Vence

Vence

Vence

Tiled dome

Tiled dome

It was lunchtime so we found a restaurant to eat.  By the time we finished, it was close to the Chapelle opening.  We made the 20 minute walk rather than drive just so we could see more of the town.

 

Entrance to the Chappelle.  no cameras inside ;-(

Entrance to the Chappelle. no cameras inside ;-(

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The Chapelle du Rosaire was designed by the elderly and aging Matisse as thanks to a Dominican sister who had taken care of him several years earlier when he was recovering from a serious illness.  It’s a very modest chapel holding a simple series of charcoal black-on-white tile sketches of the fourteen stages of the cross.  There are some beautiful yellow, green and blue stained glass which make for a simple yet spiritual space.  Matisse designed and supervise the building of the entire place.  Unfortunately he never saw the finished work.

 

plaza in Nice

plaza in Nice

plaza with water misting

plaza with water misting

Tai in the water mist

Tai in the water mist

We were going to drive up to and village, St Paul, but the road was too winding and I didn’t want to drive it.  Too much risk of damaging the rental car.  So drove back to downtown Nice to check out a square we spotted the day before and go to a large department store called Galleria Lafayette.  Somewhat like Macy’s.  We were looking for some specific Opinel knives but they did not have the right size.

 

Sunset from apartment

Sunset from apartment

Sunset from the apartment

Sunset from the apartment

Night from the apartment

Night from the apartment

The intensity of the trip was beginning to tell on us so we went back to the apartment, ate leftovers from the night before and crashed.

Day 3 Nice

Pastries and coffee at the cafe, quick email check.  Then down into the port area to check out a “bric-a-brac” market.  We also walked to a plaza nearby where there was a farmer’s market happening.  We bought some food for dinner

Today we are going into Nice.  There is a big market in the old town along Cours Seleya that we had seen the last time we were in France.  I really wanted to see it again.

 

Flowers at the Nice market

Flowers at the Nice market

Plaza in central Nice

Plaza in central Nice

Near the market in Nice

Near the market in Nice

Drove into town and found a parking lot near the market.  This market extends for several blocks.  There’s a flower market for about a block.  Then a couple of blocks of mostly food with some stalls selling non-food objects.  Mostly I think the latter are for tourists.  There are restaurants lining either side of the wide road the market is in.  The place is full of people.  Most seem to be locals doing their shopping but there are definitely a large number of folks like us, tourists.  Very crowded, many products to view and interesting smells.

After walking the length and buying a few things, we came back to a shop that sold clothing and table clothes.  Bought a few things.  Then we strolled to one of the side streets an uncrowded restaurant. Doug had pasta carbonera and Tai had antipasti platter.  As we returned to our car, we walked through the market again.  Only this time, it was closing up and everything was being taken away.  A lot of work to set up and take down for a few hours six days a week.

Our next stop was the Matisse museum outside the city center.  The museum is in a beautiful Mediterranean mansion in a large olive grove.  The park is heavily used by people just enjoying the outdoors.  Walking, picnicking,  playing boules with kids on bicycles riding around.  The museum itself had a fairly wide range of Matisse’s works including his cutouts, sketches and a few sculptures.  There was also a room displaying sketches of his Chapel of the Rosary which we were going to visit the next day.

Matisse museum

Matisse museum

Doug at Matisse museum after lot's of walking.

Doug at Matisse museum after lot’s of walking.

Next to the Matisse Musee was an archaeologic museum that uncovered an ancient Roman military camp.  This was very interesting to see all the ruins and an open Roman arena.

 

Inside archaeological museum

Inside archaeological museum

Roman ruins outside of Matisse museum

Roman ruins outside of Matisse museum

On our way back to the car we passed by a public museum of a Franciscan monastery.  Looked inside the church and then walked around the large cemetery.  This was interesting because of the number of “family crypts” all crowded together.

 

Crypt in cemetery

Crypt in cemetery

Cemetery at the Franciscan museum

Cemetery at the Franciscan museum

Franciscan museum

Franciscan museum

Then back to our apartment where Tai fixed a very nice dinner of food that we had purchased that morning.  Easy lights out.

Day 2 Eze & Cap Ferrat

Got up after 8am and puttered around the apartment.  The cruise ship had sailed the night before and was replaced this morning by a navy frigate.  Went to the our cafe for croissants and coffee and to check email.

Near the apartment

Near the apartment

View from the apartment

View from the apartment

Navy ship in the bay

Navy ship in the bay

Today we were driving to Eze-le-village.  This old village is up in the hills.  Most of the residents had moved to the newer Eze-sur-mer which is down on the coast by the sea.  So the old village is primarily a tourist attraction.  The main place to visit is the Cité Médièvale.  Interesting, but very much like most medieval cities.  The sad thing about this one is that every nook and cranny was filled with little shops, galleries, restaurants and commercial space.  At the top was yet another jarden exotic (6 euros).  However at the very top was an open space where we got a 360 degree view of the area including the Mediterranean, the mountains and the village below.  Bono from U2 apparently had a huge house built there.  Couldn’t tell which one.

 

Tai in the Jarden Exotic

Tai in the Jarden Exotic

Church in Eze

Church in Eze

Came down and stopped at a restaurant for a lunch of crepes.  Ok but not great.

Got back in the car and drove down the winding road to Cap Ferrat.  This is a very, very exclusive community.  Homes go for $33+million.  One house is now a public museum, Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.  Built for Beatrice, Baroness de Rothschild.  A huge mansion with 7 beautiful, different gardens.  Obviously a very impressive place but a little rundown for lack of money to maintain it in the style the Baroness would have required.  Each of the gardens had a separate theme, exotic, Japanese, Mediterranean, a temple of love gazebo.  All the gardens were lovely and well designed.  Inside the large house were rooms displaying some of the Baroness’ furnishings.  Things like her bed, her dressing room, her porcelain collection, her bathroom case for cruises and other personal possessions.  I tried to imagine what it would be like to live here.  It sort of felt like Downton Abbey.  Impressive but not my cup of tea.  I like our simple Berkeley house.

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Entrence to the Rothschild estate

Entrence to the Rothschild estate

Stairwell

Stairwell

Detail from the main entrance

Detail from the main entrance

The mansion from the gardens

The mansion from the gardens

One of the gardens at the Rothschild estate

One of the gardens at the Rothschild estate

View of Villefranche from the Rothschild estate

View of Villefranche from the Rothschild estate

Fountain that changes in concert with music playing in the garden

Fountain that changes in concert with music playing in the garden

Gardens from the second floor of the mansion

Gardens from the second floor of the mansion

We drove into the nearby town of St Jean just to look around.  It was getting late and dark so we didn’t stay long.

The harbor at St Jean

The harbor at St Jean

Another long and exhausting day.  Sleep came easily.

Day 1 Monaco

Got up curiously looked out on the balcony window at the fantastic view of the Villefranche-Sur-Mer village, the small bay and port.  Newly parked in the middle of the bay was a huge cruise ship.

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Cruise ship in the bay

There were little boats ferrying the people to shore.  I think the passengers then wandered off on side trips throughout the French Riviera, some probably to Nice and, as we found later, some to Monaco and Monte Carlo.  We needed to start our day soon before the town was invaded by boat tourist.

 

Made our way up to a small plaza where we bought croissants, expresso and decaf cappuccino.  Turns out Villefranche provides free wifi in that area.  That was a good thing because the wifi that was supposed to be at the apartment didn’t exist.  The box was ordered and still had not been delivered.  So from the cafe, we were able to check email but didn’t feel like doing blogging or looking at the news from the cell phone.

 

Today we took the train from Villefranche to Monaco.  The first, most obvious thing was how quiet the train was.  BART is an embarrassment.  This electric train did not screech.  You could carry on a conversation in a normal voice and the ride was very smooth.

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Tai with Monaco in the background

 

Monaco and Monte Carlo, playground of the rich, famous and 007.  Everything is either uphill or downhill and very, very steep.  So the walk from the train station was all downhill.  We headed into town and up on the big rock where the palace is located.  At noon, there was the changing of the guard.  6 soldiers with rifles, 2 drummers, 2 buglers and an officer.  Very ceremonial as they changed places with the guys who had been on duty.  Duty involved one or two soldiers walking back and forth in front of the palace, very formal procedure.

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The palace

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The new guard arriving

Then back into the plaza at the foot of the rock for some sandwich (jambon and brie) lunch.  After lunch we walked to the Jardin Exotique which was located at the top of Monaco’s hillside.  All very steeply uphill.  Interestingly, there are public elevators in places to help you up the hillside but unfortunately they are not everywhere.  Exotique is basically a cactus and succulents garden.  The view of Monaco from this garden was spectacular!

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View of Monaco from the garden

Instead of hiking back downhill, we caught a bus just outside of the garden and went all the way to Monte Carlo.

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A couple taking mariage photos

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The stores in Monte Carlo are so upscale, for me, it was almost uncomfortable.  Walked around and looked at the very expensive boats in the harbor.  I tried to walk into a casino but they required that I remove my hat and day pack.  I was not interested in doing this so we left.  Walked by Monte Carlo Casino….very fancy and The Hermitage Hotel…. also very fancy.  We walked around more and observed all the fancy-ness.  Then we headed for the bus stop to Monaco and noticed that the bus stop benches were all made of marble!  We got back to Monaco and headed up the hill to the train station and returned to Villefranche, appreciating this quaint, small, modest fishing village.

Took a short nap and went back down to the port area to look for dinner.  We were still out of sync with French schedules.  Shops open in the morning, then close around lunch.  Restaurants open for lunch and then close.  Shops open then close again.  Then restaurants open again for dinner around 6pm.  This is not precise and not all shops and restaurants follow it.  Very confusing.  We managed to find a restaurant for dinner.  After eating dinner, we returned to the apartment and crashed real early, like 7pm.

Day 0 Arrival in France

The flight to France was actually not too bad.  We paid for economy comfort and that gave us lots of space.  The seats we ok.  We thought we were going to not have seat back entertainment system.  That would have meant watching whatever movie was playing on the main screen.  But it turned out not to be the case. So we have a selection of movies to watch.  Managed to sleep some on the trans-atlantic portion.

Arrived in Nice and moved quickly through immigration.  Then went to the car rental place.  It was easy to pick up the car.  Then came driving to our B&B in Villefranche-sur-mer.  I am so thankful I ordered a GPS because we would never have made it.  Even so, It was hard.  Driving in France is not like driving in the US.  The roads and lanes are very narrow.  Motorcycles are whizzing around with little regard to lanes.  It was kind of tense.  I only missed a couple of turns.  Fortunately the gps recovered and plotted a new route.  Villefranche is small old village on the coast and so the streets are not laid out nicely for cars.  Several wrong and missed turns later we arrived at the plaza where we were to meet Audrey.  Found a parking place and Tai spotted Audrey right away.  Her picture was part of the AIRBNB posting.  Audrey guided us to the parking place that came with the apartment and helped us maneuver our baggage down the several flights of stairs and through winding “street” to the apartment.  And what a lovely apartment.  It was small but very nicely appointed.  There was living/dining room and a bedroom through a large sliding door.  We actually never closed the door.  Both rooms had doors out to the balcony.  Then there was the view from both rooms.  The biggest selling point for the apartment.  It overlooked the village and out to the bay.  Really spectacular.

 

Audrey showed us around and then left us to enjoy.  The major downside for this apartment was NO internet access.  There was supposed to be but the box had not been received.

View of village and the bay

View of village and the bay

View from our apartment

View from our apartment

More village and bay

More village and bay

We unpacked and then went out to explore the village and port.

Sculpture in the Port

Sculpture in the Port

Climbing back to the apartment after dinner

Climbing back to the apartment after dinner

 

Found a restaurant in the port to eat then bed.