SO 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…
But 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?
Before 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.
And 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.