Red October

Trip Start Jul 13, 2007
Trip End Jul 2008

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Flag of France  ,
Monday, November 5, 2007

Alas!  The Cote D'Azur has chilled!  October has arrived and has encouraged to us to relinquish our hold on the beaches and instead try our hands at cycling thru the vineyards and splashing in the pool.  The days are still warm and sunny but the nights are blustery and blanketed with a chill.   With the Rathole as a mere memory, we are thrilled to be reaping the bounty of the walnut, almond, and pomegranate trees this new address has to offer and have a refreshed fondness for a big grassy yard in which to play soccer. 
As we found ourselves in the midst of what seems to be a million and one vineyards we set out in the first week to see just what they have to offer.  We chose as a starting point Chateau Neuf du Pape, home to the most palatable red made in France.  While that in itself was good fun we also happened upon a fairytale castle turned hotel just around the bend called Fine Roche.  The bonus of it was when we arrived they just happened to have an Alfa Romeo test drive tour for passersby.  While the boys enjoyed a sporty spin across the countryside, the girls took seat on the patio and enjoyed the view as well as some delightful home made ice-cream.  Sweet Serendipity! 
Later we ventured past all the vineyards and into the interior to the gorges of Verdon where the elevation is slightly higher and the seasonal colors are eager to display themselves.  The scale of the canyon and the riot of colors were really too much for our little 3 pixel Canon but we tried our best.  Think Grand Canyon meets New England in the fall and you get the idea.  Brilliant!   
Back home in Saint Maximin the October celebrations took a foothold with the Pumpkin Festival providing everything from stew to pie, as well as face painting and bouncy castles. Organ grinders, accordion quartets, barbeques and pumpkin scented soap made it appealing to all the senses. All the local farmers were there to show off their wares and join in on the action.  We also enjoyed the Autumn Festival complete with mountains of chocolate, cheese, wine and locals donning traditional costumes and dancing out front of the convent. 
Most of our evenings were filled with the tales of The Count of Monte Cristo which once completed became the impetus to set sail from Marseille to Chateau D'If.  This 16th century island prison is austere but not as spooky as we imagined.  The names of all its famous prisoners are listed for visitors.  As well as The Count, the Man in the Iron Mask was also locked up there.  Marseille turns out to be quite lovely from what we saw and certainly not worthy of its reputation as a seedy sailor's port.  We enjoyed the many beautiful sights (do you see any sailboats you like?) and finally gave into a ride on a Venetian carousel.  These beauties are on every beach and in many towns teasing the children to spend their parents' money.  How many times can you say no to something so sweet? 
We also finally made our way back to Glamour central - Monaco to see the palace before it closes for the season.  Princess Grace is still deeply missed 25 years after her death and her legend lives on.  Our little Grace took a real shine to the images of the Princess and as we strolled through the palace asked aloud "When are we going to stay here?" 
Bruce's parents arrived for a visit which was a breath of "back home" for the kids and a chance to break free for Bruce and Su.  We skipped off to see the Roman ruins of Arles and Orange and promptly ran into Bruce's uncle in the Arlesian Antique museum.  Both parties were equally surprised as it happened by pure chance (he lives in Vancouver and happened to be on holiday down here too!)  He invited us to lunch and we had a laugh over what a small world it is after all.  (Forgot to mention we ran into some Dunbar neighbors in the middle of Heathrow airport too!)  Whose path shall we cross next?
Halloween came and was politely acknowledged by the local chamber of commerce.  There were a few modest decorations in the shops but no fireworks or hoopla as it is considered an un-European tradition.  Trick-or-treating occurs not at houses but in shops from 3-5pm and that's it!
And so you see October flew by even faster than previous months here. Happily we find the only critters still crawling are a couple of small shy snakes, those sweet but prickly hedgeys, and Milky the friendly cat from next door.  Across the road we see the vineyards on fire with the mantle of autumn. Waves of red and orange are crashing against each other under the silvery green boughs of the olive trees.  Throw in a good sunset as a backdrop and you can barely drive a straight line for all your gawking.  So here we are lapping up all this beauty as well as equal amounts of superb rosť and looking forward to the olive harvest, the truffle season, and a little birthday celebration coming up soon...
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