Winds of Change
Trip Start Jul 13, 2007
14Trip End Jul 2008
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We were often enticed by all the lovely fragrances wafting around as well and decided to take a side trip to Grasse, where flowers and their fragrances rule
We were also wooed into the culture of the marathon lunch. Who would resist 2-3 hours with good company and good food? There is no commerce to participate in through the middle of the day other than food consumption so why not? We enjoyed it al fresco with friends, as well as in delightful digs like revamped convents and antiquated abbeys. We enjoyed homemade bouillabaisse in true Mediterranean style with just the right fish, just the right wine, and with friends and family. It was on this tour of decadent lunches that we discovered another jewel of France: Monsiuer Alain Ducasse. A chef of provencal cuisine who has for years run the show at le Louis XV in Monaco. We were decidedly impressed with what his team had to offer in a little country auberge near our house, so it seemed only natural to book a good meal with him to celebrate Su's birthday.
So the birthday came, and with the kids off picking olives with the grandparents, we dumped the big pig of a van and picked up a car with a little more style for the trip to Monaco
We stopped off in Nice to celebrate the arrival of Nouveau Beaujolais and gaze at those gorgeous Italian facades in the old section of town. And lo and behold there was a 'busker' playing a little Debussy just to keep the mood dreamy! There is just a bevy of beautiful Italian and French delights both in sights and food waiting to be had in Nice. It is called the Queen of the Mediterranean with its Bay of Angels and Promenade des Anglais. We did not pay it enough due but there were only so many free hours to spend and Monaco was calling...
Now if you want to go to the smallest, most uptight country in the world then set your sites on those 0.2 square miles called the Vatican. But if you want to go to the smallest, most glamorous country in the world, then head to the 0.7 square miles of magnificence known as Monaco. Think affluence, opulence, extravagance, and there you are in Casino Square. All the toys are parked outside, and all the players are inside throwing their millions around for a little light fun. In the foyer of the casino sits a statue of Fortuna, the goddess of good fortune and happiness. It is said she bestows large fortunes on certain lucky people of her choice but for those who fall from her grace she bestows poverty
Our last little bit of France was spent poking about Aix-en-Provence home to Cezanne and Santons Fouque. Santons are the little clay figurines made for crèche displays throughout Provence. There are hundreds of characters to choose from and each home has its own version. Much to Gracie's delight our friend Yvonne invited her to help build a crèche with these little saints while the rest of us were out olive picking. It doesn't get much more Provencal than that!
As we bid farewell to St. Maximin we headed westward to explore Le Pont du Gard. A massive Roman aqueduct made with precision cut stones weighing up to 6 tons each. It is amazing to realize it is built entirely without mortar and stands 2000 years old. The ancient olive trees growing near by could tell some interesting tales for sure. From there we sped on to the medieval fortress town of Carcassonne. While its history stretches back across a myriad of religious conflicts and battles to 100 BC, it is now fully restored and thrives as a peaceful city today. It has been long rumored that the Holy Grail was taken to this place by the Templars fleeing the holy land. It amuses the minds of all who visit and after a short time it does start to make you wonder what the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow is... You could adore the tapestries and quaint handicrafts for sale at length but after you go through the Inquisition Museum the images of nobles playing lutes and forests full of unicorns are wiped right out of your mind. In our photos we have shown just two of the grisly torture instruments of the middle ages. This kind of history just stops your heart cold. On a lighter note, the Mask of Infamy was used for women who talk too much...Shhh! Say no more except this: If you are looking for a good read, try Labyrinth by Kate Mosse which retells the history of Carcassonne through a tale of adventure and mystery.
At the end of this whole affair one could say that the south of France; she strikes you like a Bond girl. She is scintillating; she is captivating. You taste her and think she should be yours. You know she has a torrid past but you tell yourself it doesn't matter