Jamais deux sans trois…

Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 12.18.28 PMLast week Mr French came home from the office a bit early, too tired to continue his day. Early, for Mr French means he walked through the door just before 8pm. It had been a lovely, sunny day and I had purchased the first heirloom tomatoes of the season with a loose ball of fresh burrata. It was the perfect dinner for a tired man; light and healthy with the creamy decadence of buffalo milk. The flavors of summer in early April. What a treat! Even better, M had been particularly entertaining, keeping us laughing over the exploits of French teens. We started to settle into a very relaxing evening and I was quite please with myself that things had gone so smoothly. Before opening the pages of his book, Mr French checked his email one last time.

“Putain. This is wrong!” he jumped. “Something is wrong.” he had seen a fishy email and it looked like we were being robbed. An hour of panic ensued, as he tried to understand exactly what was happening and how. While dealing with this fire, the phone rang. It was his daughter, La Fashionista. She was calling to inform us that she was dealing with a a fire of her own. Literally. She was calling from outside her building at Les Halles, flames soaring out of the first floor flat, extending well beyond her home on the 4th floor. She was hoping desperately her Cocker Spaniel was safe while pompiers rescued her neighbors from their homes. Once it was sure the humans were saved, a fireman took her keys and rushed three flights up the smoke filled staircase to save her puppy. Our hero!

Astonishingly, we both managed to sleep that night. La Fasionista slept, too, safe with her puppy at a friend’s. Over the next few days, we were able to recover the stolen property and La Fashionista learned her flat had only suffered smoke damage. An annoyance, but nothing more.

On Sunday, we had a family brunch to lick our wounds and on Monday, we hit the ground running, our plates full as we were both slammed with work; the days a blur of words passing before my screen as my fingers fly across the keyboard. This morning, rushing out the door to face requests that are piling up faster than can be treated, I went to the closet to grab my shoes. There was water on the closet floor. ON MY SHOES on the closet floor!!! I threw everything into the hallway and discovered it was coming from our hot water heater. I have a tendency to take a short story and make it longer. I’ll spare you this time, but right now I am a prisoner in my home, keeping an eye on the heater to make sure it and its 200 litres of water don’t sink through the floor before the plumber can arrive at 5pm.

There are three boogey men hiding in the closet of every Parisian; floods, fire and robbery. In the last seven days, Mr French and I have had a glimpse of them all. When these things happen in our lives, the same thought always goes through my head, “We’re all safe. We’re all healthy. Thank you, universe.” And I feel blessed as we deal with the bank, the plumber and the insurance companies. But I think I deserve a holiday, so I am off tomorrow morning, leaving the pink blossoms of spring time in Paris for a week in the unseasonable cold of Chicago where snow is still expected. I don’t mind. I’ll be with Mr French and my girls and thanking the universe with all my heart.

Belleville

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A few weeks ago we were at La Hune bookstore, a magical place facing the église St Germain des Près. It is two floors and an ante-room full of books. A lot of them are art books that are great in any language, or no language at all! They were opening a large cardboard box of books titled, Le Paris du Tout-Paris, which roughly translates to the Paris A-list crowd’s Paris.

Screen shot 2014-04-09 at 7.58.25 PMMr French huffed away, mumbling something about elitists. I picked up a book and started flipping through. The A-list in Paris includes TV news personalities, movie stars, art gallery owners, musicians, chefs and, of course, Inès de la Fressange. Some of the A-list are well known abroad; Sonia Rykiel, Jane Birkin, Pierre Hermé. Others are relatively unknown; the third female rabbi in France, Delphine Horvilleur or Yves Carcelle who runs the Louis Vuitton foundation.

They talk about their Paris, mention their favorite restaurants and share their shopping secrets. And guess what? More than a few of them adore hanging out at Café de Flore.

Screen shot 2014-04-09 at 7.59.00 PMScreen shot 2014-04-09 at 8.17.43 PMWhile reading I came across the Paris of Clément Dirié, a publisher in the contemporary art world, I had never heard of before. Monsieur Dirié likes to spend his Saturdays haunting art galleries. Sounds so much like my Mr French, I had to show him the page, pointing out the list of galleries in Belleville we had never explored. Mr French got so excited, he actually found where we keep the printer and learned how to make a copy. This Saturday there was no discussion, we were going to Belleville, to follow in the publisher’s footsteps.

We started out at Le Plateau at the Place Hannah Arendt, a free public art space that had some really fantastic works on display. Including a pianist who was playing partitions an artist had split, forcing her to take long pauses between brief spells of intoxicating music. Her piano had been split, too; half traditional upright, the other half ornate wood cuts.

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Then we strolled into the glorious parc aux Buttes Chaumont. The place was full with picnic-ers, birthdays parties and sun worshipers, pink cherry blossoms carpeted the paths, balloons bobbed above. At the bottom, there was some great street art by Fred Le Chevalier and Invader.

 

And there were more art galleries to explore, Jocelyn Wolff, Bugada & Cargnel, and Marcelle Alix. Some of it was interesting. Some of it was what the French call foutage de gueule, which means somebody is trying to make a fool out of you. There were car tires with brakes on sale as art for 5000€ a piece. And copper sheets stained with animal urine the artist orders on the internet.

But there was some good art, too. Screen shot 2014-04-09 at 8.17.20 PMThere was a particularly strong show at The Eyes Collection, Galerie Intervalle. We strolled along, stumbling in and out of galleries, meeting artists and listening in on a tour group of art students before finally making our way down to on of my favorite places in Paris, the rue Desnoyez, where street artists own the street. It was a llovely day I look forward to repeating at the rentrée, when the galleries will be putting on their very best.

Made in France

Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 2.19.00 PMThere was recently a documentary on local tv following a 20 something journalist as he lived for 9 months using only things made in France. I did not watch the show, but I saw interviews on tv and read up on his adventure quite a bit. He had to do without a fridge, his phone died and couldn’t be replaced, an affordable car was not an option and he had to take a loan out to live like this for just nine months. He gains 5kg because a quick Made in France snack at home would mean bread and cheese, outside the home… McDonald’s!!!

HisScreen shot 2014-04-03 at 2.19.39 PM quest is not new. Last year over the holidays I gave you uniquely Parisian gift ideas, on a quest for something with a little more personality than mass produced goods from Asia. Like the journalist’s phone, being made in France does not ensure better quality. But there is some fantastic design out there an I ran across a few places while out exploring this weekend.

Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 2.18.29 PMIt was the rooster in the window that caught my eye at Gab & Jo. Everything else pulled me in and kept me there. I found a lovely silk cotton nightie set (100€) was tempted by the antique phone lamp (1500€) and couldn’t resist the CHAT-nel tote bag (22€) for La Fashionista. This weekend I’m going back for the blue, white red security belt that keeps thieves from stealing a purse from a bike basket (30€).

I found Gab&Jo while running to the pharmacist, A Zagorski at 6 rue Jacob where I had recently discovered their house made shampoos and conditioners (9€). Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 2.19.22 PMI loved the new products so much I wanted to learn more, but they couldn’t tell me much, because they were afraid it would be considered advertising and it is illegal for pharmacies to advertise in France. Which means this is my new best kept secret. There are bath gels, hand creams and tonic lotions, too, with options a variety of special needs. My favorite fragrances are honeysuckle and verbena. So far, they’ve been great on my hair and I love keeping it local!

Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 2.39.52 PMFinally on my journey, I passed by the Maeght Foundation on the rue du Bac. They have a collection of fairy tales illustrated by world class artists who use graphic symbols to tell their tale (42€). The books are abound like accordians, as enchanting to touch as they are to read. In my Fable of Fortune, the blue dot represents fortune, the brown curve a horse and the black lines a rich man and his wife.

As I write this it is not lost on me that I a quoting 9€ for a shampoo, 42€ for a book. Producing anything in France is costly, but when you buy Made in France you’re getting original pieces you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere and everything on this list, at least, offers high quality to go along with the hefty price tag, sometimes make it worth the purchase, but always worth dropping by to decide for yourself.

 

A Monet moment

Screen shot 2014-04-02 at 9.16.28 AMThe Tuesday after returning from Marseille I had a very important visit at the Orangerie… What’s that you say? The Orangerie is closed Tuesdays? Well, yes, it is, which is why this visit was so important. Organized by the American Friends of the Musée d’Orsay, this was a Patron’s Pass tour with the museum’s new director, Laurence des Cars, who has become something of a celebrity since taking over the role in January.

Screen shot 2014-04-02 at 9.16.20 AMBefore coming to the Orangerie, Laurence des Cars was at the Louvre, and a key member of the team helping the Louvre Abu Dhbai build their collection. Think about it. You are so passionate about art, you’ve made a career of it and one day you get a phone call asking you to help build a museum’s collection. From scratch, with a pretty generous budget. Reading reports and listening to interviews, its clear that is was the adventure of a life time, but not an easy one. A lot of careers took unexpected turns, with Laurence des Cars now finding herself at the Orangerie.

I felt incredibly lucky to be part of this tour and had been looking forward to it throughout my trip in the south, the abundant flowers a constant reminder of the visit to come. But I never suspected, how very special it is to visit a museum when it is closed to the public. There were security guards, and workers getting the space ready for the next show, but all this activity just made the experience more intimate, as we got to know this remarkable space as very few ever have to opportunity.

Screen shot 2014-04-02 at 9.16.04 AMLaurence, I hope I may call her Laurence, Madame sounds much too formal in English, gave us the history of Monet’s famous Waterlily paintings, explaining that this had been his gift to the country in response to the apocalyptic WWI. He wanted to create a quiet, beautiful place people could go to meditate. Laurence shared her amazement at just how quiet tourists get as they respond to the magic that is created by the display of the masterpieces in two, large oval rooms full of color and diffused light.

I am not a great fan of impressionist art, but like the tourists, this space has always had a tremendous effect on me. The colors seem to vibrate off of the walls, echoing a nearly tangible energy, a sense of calming caressing my body. On this visit, I got to experience the sensation in an entirely new way. Busy taking photos, I lagged behind our small group, and found myself alone in one of the rooms. All that light, color and energy, uninterrupted. It was astounding. I stood there, living a moment of true awe.

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Eventually, I pulled myself away and ran to catch up with the group and hear about Laurence’s plans for the permanent Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collection downstairs. She is a dynamic, optimistic curator, who sees a big future for this space, and her enthusiasm was contagious, making us all want to help her in this journey of bringing this museum to life.

This extraordinary visit was not a unique, one of a kind day for a handful of journalists. It was an event organized by the American Friends of the Musée d’Orsay for their members and anyone who had signed up via their website. Their goal is to help both the d’Orsay and Orangerie enrich the collections they have today, contributing to restoration projects and new acquisitions. Members are mostly Americans who live in the US, but are thrilled to support the arts while becoming Paris insiders. Going on a 35€ Patron Pass tour is just the beginning. You can become a member of the AFMO and get invitations to their events throughout the year, or attend a gala and contribute even more, as you spend a magical evening with others who are passionate about art.

This is the link to upcoming AFMO events

And a link to membership information & benefits

les Berges…

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Last week was a blockbuster for the art world with the Salon du Dessin, Contemporary Drawing show, Paris+Art Design and Art Paris Fair. After three evenings of appreciating everything from European Masterpieces to a 2 headed calf, yesterday I was ready for a break. After a little poulet roti from the butcher downstairs, Mr French and I sat in the living room like Disney crows.

 

Screen shot 2014-03-31 at 9.05.24 AM“Whaddya wanna do?” “I don’t know, whaddya wanna do?” “I don know…”

The weather was very much like in LA, lots of sunlight trying to shine through a dangerous level of smog, calling us outside for a balade. “Les Berges, I want to go to the Berges and check out what that street artist was doing by the bridge.”

So much for being art-ed out. Les Berges is a rather generic concept. In theory, just a nice place to stroll along the Seine. When I tell visitors to head there, they ask me what there is to do. The easy answer is to check it out on the official website. But even then, its not always clear, so here is what we saw going on yesterday, for a bit of inspiration…

Screen shot 2014-03-31 at 9.05.49 AM Screen shot 2014-03-31 at 9.04.11 AMAll the inspiration from the week had me trying to create a bit of art for myself, as I stood under a bridge completely fascinated by the play of color and light. The street artist Baudelocque was creating some tremendous art, inspired by the rhino in front of the Musée d’Orsay just above. There was more street art, all of it sponsored by Les Berges, and then there are the street performers, two elegant gentlemen in their French sailor tops roller blading with a 1930′s flapper to Georges Brassens and Edith Piaf.

Boot camp was in session all along the way with very buff men shouting at troops of athletes, having them drop and give ‘em 10, 20, then more. Kids climbing the walls (literally), and group having a blast as they threw swings at one another for a boxing class they had signed up for online. All the activities are free for the lucky few who think of signing up before the classes fill up. Screen shot 2014-03-31 at 9.05.36 AM Screen shot 2014-03-31 at 9.03.47 AM

There are cyclists, runners and skate boarders weaving their way through people out walking their kids, their pets and even, their toy trains! In the shadow of the Pont Alexandre III there are a couple of cafés that disappear every winter and have just returned this weekend. One of them looks like they have invested in a steam boat they will be turning into a restaurant that could welcome diners rain, or shine… Whenever there are two cafés, Parisians tend to pick a favorite. Are you a Deux Magots gal or a Flore fan? We develop this illogical loyalty to one or the other and stick with it, even if its a little nuts. On the Berges there is Le Faust or en attendant Rosa. En attendant Rosa is by far the more popular option, so I love Le Faust, despite the horrid service, and the unreliable stock. Yesterday they were out of beer. And lemon syrup and anything edible. But as I sat there on my classic bistro chair, savoring he seafront table, I could not have cared less. I was in Paris, with Mr French and it was simply gorgeous. Which is when the man with his train walked by. I mean, really, does it get any better than that?

 

Its easier to leave, when home is Paris

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 6.54.30 PMThe next morning was all about the Mucem. Louis XIV built Fort St Jean at the entrance of the port, with a second fort guarding the other side. Visitors imagine that the forts were built to protect the city from sea-based invaders, but the cannons were aimed on the town, the king as distrustful of southerns as a modern Parisian. Today the fort has been renovated into a glorious cultural space with a marionette museum, a miniature circus display and lots of herbal scented outdoor space for play, picnics and lounging around.

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 6.54.07 PM Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 6.57.02 PMA vertiginous pedestrian bridge connects the fort to J4, Mucem’s modern wing with a permanent exhibition on the Mediterranean region. The collection is, quite frankly, pathetic. There is no nice way of putting it. Cheap replicas are displayed in glass cases like valuable artifacts. The story, well, there is no story, logic or coherency. Which was great because it meant we could rush back upstairs and slurp down a few oysters on the rooftop terrasse before heading home to Paris. Oddly enough, neither Mr French nor I are major friends of the bivalve, but that was beside the point of the glorious, sun soaked rooftop area.

We were starving because before coming to the museum, which only opens at 11am, we had gone for a run, then tried to have lunch Chez Roger on the Old Port. Chez Roger specializes in seafood and all I can say is, “Do NOT eat Chez Roger. No matter how enticing the terasse may be, in full sun, with the port waters just a few metres away, do NOT eat there. It was, bar none, the worse seafood platter I have ever had in my life. The crab tasted like rotten eggs. Even the Pasits couldn’t was the horrid taste out of my mouth. Combined with horrid service and even worse clientele, this is a place to AVOID at all costs.

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 6.54.53 PMThe settling in for the flight home was a lesson in cultural studies. The plane was packed and except for me with my olive oil, everyone had opted for carry-on. Mr French sat in his seat, the paper bag with the porcelain doll on the seat next to him. “Monsieur,” the flight attendant gestured, “the flight is full, you’ll have to store your bag in the overhead bin.” Mr French ignored her. She persisted. He finally acknowledged her existence, “Non. This package is very, very fragile, its not moving.” She explained, he refused. I sat between them, my head going back and forth like I was watching a  ping pong match.. In the end, she agree to put it in the front of the plane, in a closet reserved for crew.

I had put my tote bag in the overhead bin and after that, every time a passenger tried to shove it my bag aside to squeeze in their suitcase, the same flight attendant would jump over, to reprimand them for crushing my things, and would force them to the back of the plane with their bag. In the US, the flight attendant would have written us off as jerks, but here, Mr French had earned some major respect. We were flying home with considerable street cred’ and I was more confident than ever that life is full of surprises living with a Frenchman.

A quickie

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The best view in town from La Residence du Vieux Port hotel

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 6.40.04 PMMarseille has a horrible reputation. There is a popular joke in Paris, “Hey, did you hear what happened in Marseille this weekend??? A man went to a café for the morning, enjoyed his coffee and walked home safely.” It kinda makes you think twice before heading there. Especially as you follow a Jefferson County Sheriff car with California plates in to town…

But if you don’t read the news, you’d never know there was a crime problem in town. Our first night in town we pulled ourselves away from the stupendous view in our room at La Residence du Vieux Port and strolled that very same port out to the Fort St Jean. The pathway narrowed, Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 6.42.00 PMgrew darker, rounded a bend, and yet we felt totally safe in the warm balmy air, walking pass lovers and fishermen and joggers as we rounded walked around the corner and were dazzled by the astonishing set of the Mucem museum. A lace work of concrete, built to look like the ripples of water was lit a sapphire blue, reflecting in the sea below. We couldn’t wait for our visit the next day.

This guy made me run even faster...

This guy made me run even faster…

For an urban destination, a visit to Marseille can be physical. There is a great run along the Old Port; a flower market and a fish market line the way and you pass under the surprising Norman Foster designed Pavillion before getting to the Palais du Pharo gardens and up the corniche which follows the sea, the Count of Monte Christo’s Chateau d’If in view. It was lovely, and I was thrilled that on the return trip we ran through the odor of sardines before hitting the mimosa scented air. Then there is the hike up the Observatoire hill to the Notre Dame de Garde Basilica. I loved the mobiles with giant model boats that hung from the ornate, gothic ceiling. And I had a blast watching out of shape visitors as they trudged up the stairs as we headed down.

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 6.41.11 PMMy body was telling me it was time for lunch. We headed to the beach where Chez Michel is known as the best place for boulliabaisse in the Marseille, which is known as the best place for bouilliabaisse in France. It was delicious and a well deserved break after all that running around!

As we walked through Le Panier and La Plaine, two dynamically creative neighborhoods full of young people trying to make a mark on the retail world with original merchandise in charming boutiques, we kept an marveling at what a great lifestyle was to be had at this very affordable city by the sea. But we also marveled at the number of abandonned shops and disenchanted store owners. And although we strolled the boutiques, Mr French had banned me from shopping still recovering from the shock of my purchases earlier in the week. Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 6.41.34 PM“Honey? You bought honey? As if you can’t find honey in Paris. And olive oil? Really? Now that’s the perfect thing to be packing in a suitcase for under a plane.” He was not impressed when I explained the apiculture had been a sweet old lady and the olive oil was rumoured to be some of the best in the region. So I satisfied myself with shooting everything in sight. Walls of colorful graffiti my target of choice and I was thrilled with the day.

As the sun was setting, we stopped in an antique store, and there, I spotted her. An 18th century doll that aristocrats used as models for the dresses they wanted to order, a delicate porcelain bouquet in her hands, nothing but wire frame and fragile (200 yr old) cloth below the bodice. I caught my breath at the beauty of it. Mr French asked the price. 60€. Even a fake would be worth 60€ but I didn’t dare ask. She was fragile and I had that pot of honey to schlep. “We’ll take it.” Mr French declared and I looked on in dismay as the antique dealer shoved her bubble wrapped form into a generic brown paper bag.

That night we were still full from our decadent lunch. We agreed on cocktails at the Intercontinental up the hill from the port. In an imposingly elegant 18th century public hospital, the hotel looks a palace. The bar is plush and modern, with great cocktails and even better live gypsy jazz music. We could have stayed all night. But we eventually rambled back to our room in the wee hours, the lapping waters of the sea below playing a lullaby as we fell asleep.

Back to reality

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 10.34.45 AMI left St Tropez for what the Brits would call a dirty weekend in Marseille with Mr French. It was a revelation, and I promise to share with you, but that was weeks ago and so much has happened since then, I need to take a break because right now, Paris is getting ready for its very own dirty weekend with the art world, with the Paris Art Fair, Paris Art+Design, the Salon of Contemporary Dessins and the Salon du Dessin. SO MUCH art, it boggles the mind!!!

Last night was the launch with a VIP evening at the Salon du Dessin, held behind the  imposing façade of the Paris stock exchange, La Bourse. Mr French was out of town, so Miss Yoga was my date for the evening.

The place was packed, penguin clad waiters with trays of dirty, empty glasses nudging their way gently through the older, rather distinguished crowd of collectors, journalists and gallery owners. It was inpressively sedate, while a mad house all at once.

IScreen shot 2014-03-26 at 10.34.30 AM had enticed Miss Yoga to join me with the promise of some Klimt drawings. I don’t know why, but I was really excited to see some Klimts, and there was a great one of a distinguished woman in an iconic Klimt jacket waiting for us in the second gallery to our right. Further along a colorful study of a bedouin by Delacroix caught my eye. Posted below the framed work of art was a list of the drawings provenance, from the artist’s studio to an auction at Drouot in the 1860′s (with the lot number!) to the most recent owner.

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 10.35.06 AMA smiling imp by Matisse caught our eye, a curiously serene Dali, an exuberant Braques…. There were three pieces from Sonia Delaunay’s Jazz series at different galleries, a coincidence that made sense when we read that there will be two retrospectives in her honor next year, one at the Musée d’Art Modern de Paris, followed by a visit at the Tate in London.Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 10.33.47 AM

 

 

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artwork by Hanna Sidorowicz

And then, coincidence of coincidence, we bumped into a friend and fellow Yogi who was there with a friend of her own. It must have been destiny, because given the crush of people, its fairly remarkable we saw anybody, much less recognized them! I was so excited to learn that the friend’s friend is the accomplished artist Hanna Sidorowicz, a gracious woman who smiled generously at the camera I virtually shoved in her face.Hanna draws her inspiration from the work that surrounded us, so we kept our visit brief and continued along, viewing the winners of the Contemporary Drawings prize and a small collection from the Musée des Beaux Arts in Nancy before stumbling upon our favorite work of the evening, a series of eloquent lines that flowed from the pen of Henri Matisse, forming the seductive trace of a woman, the arch in her back full of longing.

The Salon du Dessin is at the Bourse until March 31.

Just another day at the office

Screen shot 2014-03-24 at 12.19.50 PMSt Tropez is a charming little town, that is still home to a local fishing fleet, with fishermen selling the catch of the day from a tiny, very picturesque fish market, then crossing the street to have their morning shot (of booze, not espresso) at Screen shot 2014-03-24 at 12.19.31 PMLe Gorille, the once favorite haunt of Picasso. Sitting there, eavesdropping on their chatter about which fish were biting, you can see why Brigitte Bardot and her gang fell under its charms while filming And God Created Women….

I headed off, yet again, to explore the Ramatuelle, where the classic French film was made and then into the hills, to the famous perfume town of Grasse. A perched village of ochre and amber buildings, wasting away under an alluring patina, I was seduced by the town before setting foot into a perfumerie. Fragonard is perhaps the best known, with shops all over Paris, but Galimard is where is all began in the 18th century. Until then, Grasse had been home to the very smelly leather tanning industry and the got to place for aristocrats requiring fine kid gloves. Screen shot 2014-03-24 at 12.17.43 PMWhile soft, and gorgeous, the gloves stank. Galimard tested the idea of adding a bit of lower essence to get rid of the stench and sent them off to Catherine de Medici, starting a royal trend that gave birth to an industry.

I spent my day exploring and only returned to the port late in the day, discovering the very chic, trendy café Senequier. The Senequier is outrageously expensive, attracting the designer clad, yachting crowd. Exactly the kind of place I usually avoid, but I decided to go for it, because the tables had full sunlight, there was a great view and it was one of the few places open in the off-season. It was also 16h and I hadn’t eaten a thing all day, too excited exploring the region to stop, so this would be my one meal of the day and I felt like I could afford to Screen shot 2014-03-24 at 12.19.41 PMsplurge. Given my decadent feast at La Table du Royal, I still wasn’t hungry. I settled on a “simple” crab salad (45€) that came with fleur de sel flakes and artisanal olive oil. One of the best salads I have ever had. I don’t know if it was from having fasted all day, or the winter sun warming my face, but this salad was worth every exorbitant centime. And the crisp white wine was the perfect counterpoint of citrus flavour meeting savoury sea. Not hungry, but needing sweets, I asked for a preserved fruit from their pastry shop. The very friendly waiter explained that the fruits were not on the café menu, but he’d be happy to reserve my front row, sunset seat while I went in to get a few fruits to enjoy with my coffee. Not only does Senequier have a great location, with excellent food, but the staff is genuinely nice!

Screen shot 2014-03-24 at 12.18.40 PMAfter linner, I stopped at the boulangerie des Deux Frères to stock up on their incredibly deliciously, uniquely southern pine nut cookies before heading back to my room at the very cosy Hotel Pastis. The perfectly designed rooms are remarkably spacious, the perfect place for a post-beach nap before a night on the town, the peaceful, warm decor blending perfectly with the lovely provençal garden and aqua pool. I would have had a very hard time leaving, if it hadn’t been to meet Mr French in Marseille.

 

Zipping right along

Screen shot 2014-03-20 at 3.12.23 PMSO I am in this teeny, tiny, little car, zipping through forest of mimosa and having the time of my life. But I am also working, so the days are long and I am often tired. Checking into the Royal Riviera Hotel was like a balm for soul on my second day out. I walked through the large, open doors and I never wanted to leave. A warm wood staircase, a cool stone floor, this place was not as chic as many of the places I have been, yet considerably more elegant, making it just right for the mood I was in. I was sad when I had to head out for dinner…

Screen shot 2014-03-20 at 2.35.09 PMBut I was rewarded with one of those weird, incredibly wonderful dinners you can only ever have when you are on your own, because I was alone. There was not another soul in the rather large Ousin Bleu dining room. Just me, the staff and the coral. The manager, it turns out is a big fan of coral, the kind of fan that invests a lot of time and money into 500 litre tanks like the one I faced through out the evening. The stunning tropical fish were only in there to keep the algae at bay and protect the coral. This is museum quality coral, the kind of collection that has the team from the Musée de l’Oceanographie in nearby Monaco, coming over for dinner and advice. The food was fantastic, the company even better and loved having my inside scoop on a popular local joint (turns out there was a major soccer match that night and locals do not dine out on soccer night).

The next morning I used the 12km costal path around the Cape as my training ground for the Semi-marathon de Paris, running past a church, graveyard, lighthouse, the port and some of the most expensive real estate on the planet. It was spectacular, with the Mediterranean lapping just below. Hotel staff greeted me after my run and I sat down to a memorable lunch at La Table du Royal. The food was so good, that I quickly learned to trust the chef and his recipes to the point that I tasted tête de veau for the first time in my life! The gelatine texture is not my thing, and although he had breaded it into crispy goodness, I preferred the local wild fish with a jerusalem artichoke purée. Every dish was more delicious than the next, but what really sent me over the edge were his orange blossom marshmallows. Clouds on the palate.

I missed the opportunity to re-visit 7 stupendous gardens at the Ville Ephrussi and the stunning Greek Revival pieces of the Villa Kerylos on the Cap and at nearby Beaulieu sur mer, because, unfortunately, I had to rush off to St Tropez immediately after lunch. Doesn’t that sound divine? Unfortunately, I had to rush off to St Tropez?

Screen shot 2014-03-20 at 2.57.14 PMBefore heading west, I made a brief detour to Menton, for their Lemon Festival. I have such a thing for citrus fruit, I simple could not pass up the opportunity of seeing enitre floats made of lemon, oranges and tangerines to the theme of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. To be honest, I was a bit let down by the floats. They were too perfect, lacking exuberance, but I was thrilled to see that the town had ordered custom-made citrus colored rubber bands to secure the fruits to their floats.

Screen shot 2014-03-20 at 3.03.33 PMAnd because I was on my own and could focus my work what I like and how much I like it, I buzzed up to St Paul de Vence to visit the sculpture gardens at the Maeght Foundation, snubbing my nose at the indoor collection in a way that would have left Mr French a daze. The gardens are one of my happy places. I have been nearly a dozen times and I can not imagine being in the south without stopping by. You can feel the joy that Miro, Chagall, Calder and their contemporaries must have felt while decorating this space, their enegry still boucing in the air, where their work gets to hang out in sumptuous nature all day, every day, the scent of pine as bright as the reds in their art.

And while I could have stayed all day, I really did need to get to St Tropez, so I was off in my own good time, FIP radio keeping me company with their eclectic blend of jazz, classics and world beat music, the Alps to my right tumbling into the Mediterranean sea to my left and my future up ahead.

 

 

 

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