Wednesday, January 4, 2017
“Say WHAT! Malta? 2017?”
“Well, Yeah, Malta. Sliema, Malta; across the harbor from Valleta, the capital.”
Christmas weekend in Nice we had some cool weather and clouds. But in the afternoon, the clouds gapped at the horizon and partly broke overhead. Some amazing sunset colors appeared along the Cote d’Azur. I think I sent them last week.
Bagnols was nice after Nice. We had a fine time with David, Alice and the two grandsons, Tristan and Gabriel. Gabriel was in the depths of bronchitis and unhappy when we arrived at lunch time. He had seen the doctor in the morning but Tristan was in good spirits.
We had time to tour some small hill towns and wineries, drove some narrow curvy roads, ate some yummy home made food and drank some excellent local beverages. We were in bed by 10P every night including New Year’s eve. Weather was fine with frost in the AM and mid 50s by late afternoon.
“Oh yeah.” Last summer while waiting for a plane from Newcastle to Nice, we had talked to an English couple who were heading to Malta for their 15th time. Having never been to Malta, it seemed like a good idea to fit it in when we planned this trip. So here we are, in a Sliema guest house at 30 euro a night, across the harbor by water taxi from Valleta.
Malta is a mix of many Mediterranean influences; Sicilian (90 minutes away by ferry), English, Continental, North African and Turkish. Approaching Valleta by ferry it visually reminded both of us a little of Istanbul but with church steeples and domes not the mosques. Buildings are of sandstone; tan/yellow/beige, three to five stories tall, and tight packed along narrow one way hill streets. Buildings all have narrow balconies over the street. They reminded us of Spanish colonial balconies in the Americas and the Jewish quarter of Marrekech. We spent the day walking, photographing, touring. Many visitors were about even though the week after New Years is not a busy time.
Malta is famous for the Knights of Malta = the Knights of St John from the time of the crusades. It is famous for the bombings it received in WWII. Now it is famous as the Hidden Jewel of the Mediterranean. Visitors from Europe and the Far East (China and japan) are everywhere. We haven’t seen evidence of many Americans. (are they “traveling as Canadians” like during Bush’s presidency?)
A story; I needed to have a watch band replaced. In Bagnols, David had given me a nice older Skagen analog watch to replace a digital one I had broken in the summer. I wore it a couple of days and broke band. On a whim, I stopped in one Valleta shop that did watch repairs he said it needed a special band because of the design. He gave me a fancy watch address. We went there but they said that they didn’t service that brand anymore and gave us another address. The third address said he carried the brand but “did not do repairs”. He thought a minute, checked his watch, “He’s open.” He gave us the name and location of someone who should be able to help. Yupe! I found and got in line behind four other customers. They all had watches and/or clocks that needed batteries or ??
The tiny shop had a hundred clocks on the wall, all different kinds and all with the same CURRENT time! My turn. He looked and went to a special box with leather bands; “not a metal one for this watch.” Three black ones to choose from; choice made, he took a tool and cut the band to fit the watch, new springs, cleaned and done, 13 euros!! Now I don’t have to guess time or ask Meg for it.
Food here is a mix of culture. With so many europeans about, and Sicily so near, it is not hard to find familiar food. Maltese have their own influence in this fusion. Arrival night, Tuesday, I had a super octopus spaghetti with olives and capers. Meg had fish soup and salad.. And we split a pint of Carlsberg beer. Last night after touring Valleta I had rabbit spaghetti. Meg had a Maltese ftira (yes that is how pizza is spelled); pizza with anchovies and olives. This time we each had a pint of local beer, Cisk. For lunch today, we each had asparagus soup with truffle and an interesting new dish for us; fried rabbit livers with a raisin wild mushroom ragout.
Octopus was twice cooked, once to partly cook it and the second to mix it into a garlic, olive oil, caper sauce with a little tomato. Then the pasta was added to finish it. Rich, filling and wonderful. And then added to the AND FILLING! The rabbit is cooked in both/water/gravy sauce and finished with the pasta. Mine was the front quarter of the rabbit, judging from the clavicle and long leg bone. The fried livers were delicious; surprisingly large, rich in a caper-raisin-rabbit jus.
Rabbit was introduced to this small island for the European nobles to hunt. Locals were prohibited from hunting them. Some rabbits got away and you what they did. Now rabbit is a national dish.
Tomorrow, Thursday, we’ll use local buses and a ferry to visit a small island, Gozo off the NW coast of malta. It will be cool with wind. Locals are saying that this is late February weather for our visit, low 50s. Yes, we are layering to stay warm and no outdoor dining for us or a lot of other people as well.
“Travel light and wear a smile.”
Monday Dec 26
A Christmas weekend in Nice; Lovely. We are a few blocks away from the Promenade Ingles and the beach. Too anyone to be in the water, but everyone is out walking and using new roller blades and scooters and radio cars and … There is a dedicated two lane bike section and very wide walking, jogging promenade beside the roadway for cars and buses. Busy place. And to think this is where the truck massacre took place 6 months ago on Bastile Day.
Friday, 24th the open air market had flowers in addition to the foods, fruits, vegetables etc. Open markets are marvelous things to experience and to shop in. As a traveler, they say a lot about the culture and I prefer his to supermarkets. The variety and convenience is lacking but the vitality and immediacy is great. Dinner on Christmas Eve was of local choices. Daube (beef stew) is very tender long cooked beef with carrots in a rich gravy. It is served with some kind of pasta!! Mine came with gnocci and Meg had it on Monday with ravioli that resembled tortellini. Meg had stuffed vegetables. Very nice with a local red wine. Dessert was crème marron, a mousse of chestnuts!, with a whipped crème topping. It was so rich we needed coffee to end.
Christmas day we walked the promenade in the morning with many others. Meg posed with a bunch of jogging Santas. New roller blades on kids wearing color coordinated kneepads and helmets, pink scooters, Santa hats on many. As usual, there were a handful of men with their fishing poles deployed on the beach.
We were dressed for dinner. Reservations at a fine restaurant for 12:30. Good thing as they turned a walk-in couple away who didn’t have reservation. We didn’t leave until 3P! Attached is a composite 6 shot photo of dinner. BOY WERE WE STUFFED. Some noteworthy items; foie gras, smoked salmon, beef wellington, and much more.
Back to the hotel a few blocks away to change into warmer less formal togs for Promenade walking. In Italy this late afternoon walk is a “Passeggiata”; look good, see and be seen, stroll in the lovely scene. We walked the distance around to the old port, where Meg recalls singing patriotic songs at the lighthouse on July 4th four decades ago with a college friend. On the way back the sun was setting just below a cloud deck that had persisted most of the day. AN amazing saturated color sunset happened.
Monday, our last full day here we spent a few hours in the Marc Chagal museum. He was a prolific vibrant non-realist painter. Afternoon saw us walking in the open market again. Monday is flea market day. Some real cheap stuff but also a table of very old cameras; $200 for one that looked like the camera that my mother gave me 55 years ago!! I photographed the table but did not buy. More walking and then another sunset of vibrance.
Now the repacking is done. Tomorrow, we go to airport to rent a car and head to Bagnols- en-Foret for a week with the Hong Kong Holmes family. ;~} After New Years they head back to HK and we return to airport, leave the car and head to Malta.
Hola et Bonjour,
We used the last day in Gran Canaria closer to home. Downtown Puerto Tico to get stamps to send postcards to dos nietos in Hong Kong. This village is larger than our neighborhood of Playa Amadores. Vacation condos are carved chocker-block into the barrancas walls, all the way to the top. If there is a “next time” to Gran Canaria, we will definitely stay in the north where the locals live.
Arguinegiun was a working fishing village with some tourist condos away from the rocky beaches. Interesting local pleasant grittiness here. But still too many condos. Further afield we went uphill and away from the coast to a “preserved” village; Aguemas. Oops here. The “business model” was to preserve the old look of Gran Canaria but in the process it became sterile!! After noon is quiet time and few people are about except for a few tourists. Tiendas were cerrado until 3P; siesta. A few restaurants/cafes were open but all had the same menu in four languages. I did shoot some and probably got a couple of OK ones but I felt it was a movie set waiting for the actors.
Dinner was at the upscale AQUI restaurant in one of the beach resorts in Playa Amadores. They had seven starters and seven mains along with some nice inexpensive house wine by the glass. We had a lovely tasty olive salad with shaved parmesan after a nice squash soup amuse bouche that you drank from a translucent cone. Meg had sea bass with a spanish risotto and I had filet of beef with a spanish ratatouile. A three scoop ice cream set finished it off. Lovely and tasty.
OK back home and REPACK for the next leg. Some fitting had to be done to include some almond cookies from Tejeda. Alarm set for 5:45A. Finish the last of the spanish wine, 5E for a bottle that would have been three times that at home. Gran Canaria is VERY affordable. If you just want playa with others it is a top choice. Only down is the long flight with a connection in Spain, or England or some northern European place!!; no direct flights from US. For those like us, who really don’t do beaches, the north of the island would be best.
Third leg; Norwegian Air – Gran Canaria to Nice goes through Copenhagen!!!. A book and notebook writing time, perhaps some doze time as well. Bring a picnic because like most flights now, food is NOT free and could be just hot or cold sandwiches. CPH airport is a fine place to spend a two layover. At a NICE restaurant, we each had a fine glass of wine, I had roast duck with squash puree and kale. Meg had her favorite scandanavian open-faced tiny-shrimp “sandwich”. From order to leave 45 minutes.
A taxi from Nice airport to the city and an Ibis Styles hotel again. We have a loyalty card for Accor Hotels of which Ibis is one. We’ll call Nice home for four days ;~}. We have Christmas Day reservations for a lovely bistro and who knows what else for tasties!
Joyeuses Fetes and TahhTah
Thursday Dec 21, 2016
“So! Where and What?”
“In the car and about the island.. We finally stopped at the beach Playa Amadores where our home is located.”
Gran Canaria is a small circular island that is about 6000ft altitude in the center; 3D shape like a volcano. Barrancos, steep ravines, start very narrow as run-offs from the rains on the peak. The steepen and widen as they descend to the ocean. Between these barranco outlets, there are sandy playas in the south (tourist resort country) and high headlands, especially in the north. Most of the locals live in the north near Las Palmas.
Roads to the interior are carved in terraces that wind along the steep barranco walls. Speeds are slow as the road, which is well surfaced, twists and climbs/descends. There are a few turn outs where less familiar drivers might pull over and let the cars behind go past.
We have spent most of the time exploring the interior; San Lucia, San Bartholme, Tejeda and Roque Nublo. Tejeda is high up, 5000 ft, and a beautiful town carved into the barranco wall facing south. White painted stucco with red tile roofs. Flat cobbles for street pavement. Here they make the famous almond delights noted across Spain and Europe. We can vouch that they are tasty!
Roque Nublo is a thumb of basalt that was a throat of lava in the ancient volcano. Softer rock eroded leaving Nublo pointing to the sky. This iconic symbol can be seen from many place on the shore. In an art museum in Galdor on the north coast, there was a tablo nativity scene set in Gran Canaria with Roque Nublo high in the background.
Galdor was one of the home villages of the Indigenous. It seems that they originated in North Africa and were of Berber descent. Who brought them and their animals here is unknown. There is no record of tales/legends of water travel and they had no maritime connection when the Spanish arrived.
The Spanish conquered the island in the mid 1400s. Reducing the population from 20,000 or so to les than 3000. Sugar cane industry was started. It used all the wood and the aquifers on the island in 150 years, then the industry collapsed. A new industry was cochinella beetles off the cacti. This is a natural red coloring still used in foods. The islands became the jumping off place for trans-Atlantic voyages. Columbus stopped here for all four of his voyages. Today, tomatoes, bananas, and other crops are grown for European markets.
Tourists bring a lot of cash. Different islands have been favored by different countries. GC is favored by Scandanavians, especially Norwegian. Twice in conversation with locals (one waiter and one maitre’d) we were told that we were the second Americans in recent memory. One couple from Indiana four years ago! And one from Philadelphia today! Plane connections to GC are not easy for Americans.
GC is an easy going, warm feeling place. They are very tolerant of our “Spanish” and let us try to speak it and they will reply in Spanish until you can go no further. In France and Italy, as soon as they here your accent they will try to switch to English.
For us, upon return we will book a “self-catering” place in the north. I don’t like the barranco walls terraced in condos/resorts. Playa Amadores isn’t anywhere as bad as claustrophobic! Maspalomas and Playa Ingles. BUT I came to experience Gran Canaria not vacation Norway. I know that sounds awful but “it is as it is”.
Thursday is our last day on GC. We’ll try to find some fishing villages were told about. Experience a gourmet upscale last GC meal. Repack for a morning flight to Nice for Xmas weekend before Bagnols on the 27th.
Sunday Dec 18 2016,
Gran Canaria belongs to Spain and sits just off the African coast. We are ensconced in Puerto Rica at Playa Amadores in a times share. Folks from northern Europe are the guests; they thought we were English. We are the only North Americans.
The resort, like all the others built in the past few years, is terraced into the steep walls of the barancas where the headlands meet the Atlantic. Roads thread their way up, around, down, twist the curves of the walls of the canyons. Narrow. 2nd and 3rd gear manual driving 40 km/hr maximum speed. The few main highways are 5th gear and are 100 km/hr.
We arrived from Paris via Brussels on Brussels Airlines; a budget airline under the Air France alliance. We left the hotel on Saturday at 5:30A. Landed at Las Palmas 6 hours later with a 1 hour change planes in Brussels. The plane to Brussels was very mixed race and age. The plane to Gran Canaria was mostly northern European and a lot of families with children. The same at all the car rental booths in the airport. The road from the airport was a highway with many tunnels though mountain flanks. The south of the island is dry, temperatures in the 60s and partly cloudy. It gets its winds over the oceean from Africa and the Sahara. No real trees, a lot of cactus and scrub vegetation. AND a lot of resorts near the coast for northern Europeans.
After a leisurly breakfast, laundry etc, we drove west the then north along GC 200. This is windy, mountain driving along the coastal headlands. Puerto Mogan, Mogan, and hamlets beyond until Punta de La Aldea beyond San Nicolas, a fishing hamlet far from the resorts. The mountain road was “cerrado”, closed to the north. La Aldea harbor was nice to photograph.
Hungry, we stopped there after shooting a bit at the non descript “Restaurant Paco”. No outdoor seating with waiters carrying drinks like a block away. There were patrons inside at tables. Everyone ‘ a dozen party and a foursome and a couple of ladies; there were locals. The owner informed us of the menu choices and was surprised that Meg was from Boston and spoke English, more surprised that she knew of and wanted Los Pimentos de Padron with her Sopa de Marisco. In Spanish ( ;~}) I ordered La Sopa y Croquettes Pescado. He delivered it through the ordering window to the lady in the kitchen.
In a bit it all arrived. Later the peppers and the croquets came. The prices had seemed like tapas prices but the dishes were meals. Excellent.
All dishes served, he retrieved his guitar from under the kitchen ordering window. Tuned it up, had one of the patrons adjust the guitar strap, did a few trills with his fingers, and approached the dozen table. “Feliz cumple ano” he sang and everyone in the restaurant joined in. A young lady in the corner blushed and then laughed. He proceeded to sing a few more songs and also stopped at all the occupied tables before returning to the birthday girl for a couple more songs. Much cheering and singing and clapping. Lovely.
Back in the car, it was an hour of mountain driving near sunset to get home to Playa Amadores in Puerto Rico. Good thing I didn’t have cerveza or vino for dinner.
First leg; IcelandAir to Paris for a couple of days. WE left BOS Wednesday PM, changed plane in Reykjvik , landed in Paris, and ensconced at an Ibis Styles hotel at the airport. This one has a planetary/StarWars theme. for decor. Interesting.
RER into the city takes a few a half hour but is quite convenient. We spent time in the Galeries Lafayette. Some very expensive name goods for sale. I could replace my old broken watch with a name for between 150 and 750E but I could just wait. The terrace has some vistas and the street store windows are paper creations with fantastic moving pieces. Attached are two quick images with minimal post-processing.
A couple of short days in the City of Light.in December. Kind of Christmassy but not crazy. The first leg of the journey was with Iceland Air. An offer of $430 round trip BOS-CDG came last May and it was grabbed for a month travel. WE knew we were going to visit with David Alice Tristan and Gabriel in Bagnols after christmas until New Years. So we filled in other times; Canary Islands, Nice, Malta, and more Paris at the end. The other planes were done by Airtreks because of the difficulty of scheduling. VERY INTERSTING legs for these connections.
The Ibis Styles hotel at the airport was very convenient to the terminals. We needed that because of the very early flight on Saturday to Canary Islands. It was a crowded hour commute by metro into the city. But Meg knew how, where, and when. Even getting a discount pass that requires a passport picture laminated into it. It is rechargeable like a Charlie Card in Boston, or an Octopus in Hong Kong.
Night in the city with the lights and the crowds and the not too cold temperatures. Nice! Eiffel from the terrace at the Galerias Lafayette. The spot-light beam on Eiffel Tower swung about the sky. Galerias’ decorated store windows were themed in white paper constructions, animated, creative. Kids of all ages were enthralled.
Friday, we walked about the Marais area doing some street photography. At 1P Meg had an rendezvous with a Camino friend. He is a business grad student in Paris from Univ South Carolina. We had a nice leisurely lunch and conversation before he had to get back to school for a party. He returns home to Columbia, SC for a holiday break.
We worked our way to the Champs Elysee for the Christmas Fair and the LIGHTS and the crowds and the … Back in July 2005! we were on the street was for Lance Armstrong’s retirement “win” of the Tour de France. I have fotos of it and of Meg in front of the Thai Embassy gates. NOW that place is an Abercrombie and Fitch!!! Walk up the tree lined path, into the courtyard in back, through the black and gold gilt painted door and into the store. Ornate dark wood and A&F stuff all over. An roofed open center of the building is four floors high with what would have been offices and rooms opening to the balcony that looks down into the former courtyard WOOW. An English speaking employee inside didn’t know anything about an embassy. He thought it had been a movie theater before A&F opened there 4 years ago.
The street is traffic filled, the sidewalk is jammed, a lot of energy. The cross walks lights stop the traffic for the crowd to cross. We stopped in the center to photograph up to the Arch and down to the Ferris wheel. Traffic began again with us and a few others on the center island. Then the light changed to let us complete the cross.
Around the corner and all the way down to Eiffel we walked, like we had done11½ years ago. Eiffel now has a security check at the entrance. This night the tower was closed due to a “social action” (strike) but you could walk around inside the barriers and fences after security. Been there done that. We took the RER back to Gare Nord and our train back home to repack for the next leg.
“Travel light and wear a smile.”
Andover, Monday Aug 22
Again “Good Morning”,
Every Monday AM, my yahoo calendar sends a reminder to “Work on Website”. The idea of “Work on website” has been problematic for a long time. I look at my list of Things that Need to be Done and read “website JackNearAndFar” down about # 5. It seems to remain at #5. Last week I finally dove into #5, the murrkky waters of website maintenance. The images had become “old”; newer ones had not been processed and added. The WordPress blog attached to my site will not now accept copy/paste writing from Word or Open documents. Frustrating. Just writing about it makes me hit the wrong keys!
Images!!! The newest were some from Italy, June 2015. In the past year, I have shot several thousands in Bhutan,Thailand, Hong Kong, New England, England, Monaco, Andorra, and France. Hours of winnowing and post processing, but none on the website?
What IS there? Does it need to be there? FIND newer or better images. How many? What order?
The page Wildlife has old stuff. I really do not photograph wildlife. Why is it there? I do photograph places where I travel. Change Wildlife to Where’sThat to show some recent travel or a themed set.
Writing!!! This is frustrating, very frustrating. WordPress has held my travel writings for many years. When my website was redesigned several years ago, it was attached to the website as “Blog”. I edited and then copy/pasted emails or Word docs of many Irregular Posts into it. Over the years, and after WordPress did continued updates, the copy/paste function is lost. I can not find any plug-ins to get that done now. It is suggested that blogs be directly written then I can copy/paste from it into emails.
Years ago before, I took a small computer traveling, I would look for an internet cafe and write the Irregular Posts on their computer. I had to have “composed” the post before I found the cafe, then let the words flow, and post it. Traveling with the computer made downloading and saving the images more secure. I could also process and post some images if I had the time available . The down side of that is the 5 pounds of added weight and the time for tinkering with images and words.
OK. Yahoo Calendar Reminder, tell me “new IMAGES for WEBSITE”. BUT that all aside. Visit JackNearAndFar“. I welcome any suggestions for improvement. TahhTah! ;~}
“Travel light and wear a smile.”
Saturday July 23, 2016
“Home again, Home again JiggiddityJig!” From the 80F blue skies of Provence to the 60F cloudy of Dublin to the 93F hazy Boston in a day and a half.
“Au Revoir, Bye Bye. Zaijin.” “Je t’aime, Love you, Wo ai ni.” With kisses and hugs and waves, we are off.
Nice is about 75 minutes from Bagnols. The rental car had to be back by 10A or pay EXTRA $ so we had a few hours to sit in the airport until Aer Lingus to Dublin at 4:30P. Nice Aeroport has free wifi everywhere so doing computer work, writing and posting could be nicely done. Our scheduled arrival in Dublin was about 90 minutes too late for the connection flight to Boston. Not a problem; layover for a day. Meg has a Camino friend there that could join us for dinner and conversation. We could walk about in the morning before the connection to Boston in the afternoon. Perfect.
Dublin was cool and gray, like the North of England that we had experienced in June. Our hotel was in the Temple Bar neighborhood and convenient to the airport bus route. Meg’s friend Steven joined us for dinner at a local restaurant not far from THE famous Temple Bar and the Snug, the oldest pub in Dublin. McGill’s is very pleasant local place for eating and talking not for drinking and loud noise. Steven is a fine story teller. I will say that after French food and the Mirazur’s experience, McGill’s food was very Irish – good but uninspiring.
The waitress noticed my HSBC (Hong Kong Shanghai Bank) credit card and commented that she and her husband were moving to Hong Kong at end of summer. That precipitated a nice conversation about living in Hong Kong. Steven walked us about a bit before he caught his bus home.
In the morning Meg and I walked about for a few hours; Temple Bar neighborhood in the AM, Trinity College, Merrion Park, Dublin Castle, and back to the Temple Bar neighborhood for lunch. I had not realized before coming to Dublin that Temple Bar is NOT a bar but a neighborhood with many “Temple” bars. Lunch at the Pork and Beef across from the Snug once again demonstrated Irish food as good but uninspired. They had Guinness and Heineken available. Neither appealed; we are not Guinness affectionados and Heineken!! in Dublin??
Dublin Airport also has free wifi everywhere. It also has US Passport Control THERE. You have to go through three security screenings and US Immigration before you get to the loading gate. I think Dublin is the only European airport that does this. I think Toronto also has this. When you arrive in Boston, you do not have Passport or Customs to go through.
Boston at 7P was 93F!!!. As we left the airport headed to the tunnel in East Boston, a blaze with black smoke and big flames had just started in a building bordering the highway; famous Santarpio’s Pizza?? It looked like the kitchen area and the building beside it. Fire trucks had not yet arrived. Our shuttle van passes the blaze and entered the tunnel and we were gone. Heading up the highway for Andover. We were dropped off at the park and ride over the hill from home. Up and over the hill we schlepped. Into OUR hot house as it was getting dark. Gone since mid June; England, France, Monaco, Andorra, Ireland. We made a wrong turn on the way to Andorra, so we missed the approach through Spain. We arrived in Menton early enough at the restaurant so we didn’t have to park in Italy.
A bit jetlagged, but it will be hot enough that getting up in the cool of before 6A is a good idea. After some coffee, it will be post office for the month’s mail, and then the grocery store, and then >>> .
“…going for a ride in the car, car. Goin’ for ride, goin’ for a ride, goin’ for a ride in the car, car…”
>>>>Mougins and Menton: You’d think it was Muggins but it is really MOOjin; Menton is Menton.
Menton is in the hills above Cannes and across the gorge from Grasse (perfume country). The WHOLE family loaded into the van for the day trip. Meg had to sit way in back where the short leg room would work. Two kids flanked Alice in the middle and I rode in front with Dave. Not GPS-Dave but the real Dave. He really knows where he is going. Months ago they had house looked in this region before buying in Bagnols en Foret.
Menton is an art gallery mecca. Picasso lived his final years in this place. Vey Picturesque. Narrow hill “streets”. Sunday morning, early, so there is not much tourist activity. We walked up and down this well to do village. From a high vantage you could see Cannes and the sea, and Grasse across the gorge.
Off to Menton. Headed for Mirazur, currently number 6 in the world, for lunch. AMAZing view of the eastern most small boat harbor and beachfront of the French Riveria. We are the first into the small carpark at noon. If you are later, you might have to park up the road in Italy! When we come out at 2:30, our van was between a Ferrari and a BMW. Two Porsches and a Maserati filled the last spaces.
Oh! Dinner!? Five appropriately proportioned excellent courses with three amusee bouches and great bread and ginger infused olive oil. Oh Meg and I shared a wine pairing as well. The restaurant prepared a pasta and fish plate for Tristan. It was better than most restaurants do for adults!
Even when the place “welcomes children”, dining with LITTLE ones is always an excitement. Alternating adult walks for diaper or noise control, tasting the adult offerings, looking at a book or cellphone kids video in the stroller. BUT an AMAZing set of foods; creative but not weird, always artfully plated and presented by multiple wait staff.
>>>>>goin’ for a ride>>>>>Gorges du Verdun: We leave Bagnols about 8:30A. The GPS-Dave indicated an almost 2 hour drive to the destination village. BUT I know how I drive; slower than speed limit on the twisty curvy mountain roads, and the stoppings to view. The southern cornice of the Gorge is spectacular as it skirts the Gorge and looks at the rising cliffs on the north side. The gorge is not anywhere near as wide or long as Grand Canyon. It is cut a thousand feet twisty deep and two thousand feet wide in the gray and white limestone. Cliffs are precipitous. The road has few guard rails and the white line marking the road edge stands bright a half-foot away from a drainage ditch or edge. No shoulders; occasionally a turn out; occasionally a passing line in the middle of the narrow road. This driving is NOT for the faint of heart and I near THAT.
Villages cling to steep hillsides. Agriculture land and vineyards and campgrounds and hay fields are in the small flats in accessible valleys. Lunch in La Palud at noon. Half baguette with chevre and onion and a double espresso. It IS odd to be eating bread with a fork! Meg had a ham and cheese salad and apricot tart. I had to finish her tart ;~}
There is one traffic light in the village. It controls the approach into the town from three directions. Street is so narrow they are effectively one way at a time. We are waiting in line for our street to be green. OOPs a BIGBUS is trapped IN the intersection. Too BIG to advance through the street. The driver got out and frantically tried and succeeded in diverting cars so his guide could back the bus and he got back in to advance into a wider road! That took five entertaining minutes.
The northern cornice has a one way loop with many viewpoint sand overlooks. Stunning views deep into the gorge to the thin ribbon of green-blue river a thousand feet below. One viewpoint was a vantage for seeing reintroduced vultures. There were a half dozen soaring on thermals out over the gorge and then back to the cliff wall. The viewpoint was above the soar so you looked down onto the backs of the birds.
Viewpoints and a short walk. Hilltowns. Mountain roads. It was 4:30 before we drove into the yard at Bagnols. We definitely needed a glass of Provence rose and a sit at the pool. Tristan in the pool is working. A plane towards Nice is far overhead. “A plane, la avion, faygi (phonetic).” words are repeated to us, Alice, and David. Repeat in context. He mimics the speakers’ words/tones in context. “L’eau, water, shway.” If I stay long enough, I might become tri as well!! I certainly will need to take a French class in the fall, if just for self-defense. Tough to know that your grandson is more fluent than you at two years old.
>>>>>goin’ for a ride>>>>>Grasse: Perfume city. We drove the backroad instead of the toll road. I LOVE the twisty mountain roads ;~| We arrived early enough to have some of the pedestrian walks relatively free of traffic. Another narrow street French hill town. This one is a city with a historique town section. Perfume industry is king here. The region is home to flower fields, especially rose, jasmine, and madonna lily. Many large and famous perfumeries are based here. The museum is a complete and an exhaustive look at the history of fragrance and smell.
After lunch, we drove into Cannes and to the famous waterfront/beaches. BUSY as you would expect. Tough traffic and with no parking spots available, we can say “Been there. Seem some of that.”
Back on the highway heading to a glass of Provence rose and a sit in the pool.>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>goin’ for a ride>>>>>Vin de Pays: Bagnols sits within 30 minutes of dozens of vineyards that specialize in rose wine as well as reds and some whites. Some of the labels are known world-wide. Meg and I had visited, tasted at, and bought at one near Frejus. Not famous but very good. On our last day in Bagnols, David had three in mind. So off in the afternoon. None are open from noon to 2:30. UP and over and around white-knuckle road a local mountain.
The first was a big one with distribution in US. BUT all the wines were underwhelming. David, Meg and I found no wine good enough to buy. Gabriel smiled and gurgled and looked cute in the AC of the degustation room. It was HOT outside.
Off to the next. It has distribution all over the world. David knew one of their wines from seeing it advertised in Hong Kong; “Whispering Angel”! With a name like that it has to be junk. NOPE! It is very nice. The wine master who was managing the degustation understood our problem with packing wine in backpacks and noted that the website would give us the local distribution in Massachusetts!!. Meg did want to try their high end wine “Garrus”, a $100 a bottle one. He said sure. She said “WOW that is good.” David and I agreed. Afterwards he told us that it had scored 98 out of 100!! in blind tastings ratings. “Check the website for it in US.”
On to the third part way up the hairy mountain road. David had been there before so he already knew what he wanted to buy. We decided to buy on of their roses as well. Very nice and on sale. What a pleasant deal.
OK heading home. Pool awaits. Alice’s father is now here and so conversation is really by committee-translation. I do need to take a class. I can’t be asking Tristan to translate for me. No more wine for now, thanks. David works on his menu; green curry with rice, foie-gras ravioli in my chicken-vegetable broth.
>>>>>goin’ for a ride>>>>>Airport. Packed. Two small bottles of wine in sneakers in the check-in bag, big bottle wrapped in t-shirts and surrounded by clothes. No room for the Limoncello bought in Andorra and half finished. Set-to-jet! “Avion. Plane. Faygi” Good byes in French, English, and Mandarin. Nice airport is 75 minutes from Bagnols. We leave after breakfast with enough time to refill gas tank and return the rental car before extra charges. Easy-Peazy, Then just sit in the airport until takeoff to Dublin.
Sitting in Departure waiting to be able to check-in at Aer Lingus, patrols of three French Army people, dressed in camo fatigues with military weapons at the ready walk past looking. Looking. They are in a irregular triangle formation, consistently separated by 8 feet. Loooking and waalking through the terminal.
>>>>>leaving on a jet plane>>>>>. Actually we will be back again. Winter in the South of France?? Certainly post Xmas and New Years Eve in Bagnols. Now we are chillin around the corner from the Temple Bar in Dublin; a 1 day lay over. Meg has a Camino friend who’ll tour us the evening.
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