Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sailing St.Tropez Bay

   I am feeling very fortunate this week. Don't get me wrong, I know how fortunate I am every day, so far, but this week I went sailing in St. Tropez Bay. A Colorado girl can't say that very often.
   It was the first time my kids have ever been in a sail boat, except oldest who did go out with friends in Navajo Lake years ago. For me, it has been many years since I have been out. Growing up in Maryland, one would think I spent hundreds of hours on the water and while I did, it was not on sailing boats like many of my peers. I was a horse girl, a land lover. Boats made me nervous. That is over now.
   I was told Easter weekend started the crowds in Provence and it is true. Overnight, all of the towns are twice as populated. Unfortunately, St. Tropez feels this increase with terrible traffic. Luckily, Trevor can navigate me through roundabout ways of getting from point A to point B, as he lived there for many years.
   We began the visit at Yves' house. Maybe you remember one of my early posts about this humorous and kind man, an old friend of mes voisins. You can find it here. He is a wonderful, funny French man. He has had a couple of American girlfriends, wives or whatever they were so his English is pretty good. He spoiled my children with Coca-Cola, Orangina and a welcoming yard to play in. He had a huge spread for lunch with a salad of tomatoes and artichokes, roasted chickens, potatoes, rose, and Zetta brought a Baba au Rhum, then we were off to the sea where some of us lounged on the beach, some swam(the water is cold still...), and some of us "crewed" on the Green Banana!
   I felt so free and at ease floating atop the gentle waves with few other vessels around us. The bay is surrounded by tall hills that rise up dramatically, some topped with ancient forts, others forested and plenty with mansions, as well. My companions chatting away in French, I felt perfectly comfortable turning my head away from them and thinking of my fortuitousness, enjoying the thin layer of salt forming on my face, the occasional splash letting me secretly taste the Mediterranean- I will miss the Mediterranean.
   I AM going to St. Tropez one last time in our final French weeks. I will take a picnic and invite Yves to dine with us on the beach and hope for another ride in the boat. Though just his company would be more than satisfying to me.
For those want a "floater" of rum on their Baba 
Yves fabulous home with 50 year old ivy creeping away.
The Green Banana and crew
Water babies awaiting their vessel.
Here's to new friends.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Take Me to the....(think Talking Heads here...) Snow

   A couple of weeks ago, I took mon voisin (my neighbor) to the snow. This was his request, as it had been years since he had been in the white stuff. It was the first week of April and after a beautiful drive through new territory for me, we arrived at a ski area called Greolieres. It is the closest ski station to Nice, about an hour or so north, so it gets a fair amount of skiers on any weekend. We went on the Monday after closing day so things were dead quiet, rental shops packing things away until next season. My kids were thrilled to see snow and I had a strong feeling of regret for not taking us on a ski weekend while in Europe. Oh well, too late now.
   Having not considered being able to sled before leaving the house, we were unprepared but found a few plastic bags under the car seats which the children held under their butts to slide down the slopes. It offered a brief bit of relief to our year sans neige (without snow).
   After getting sufficiently wet and winded from climbing up the hill a dozen or so times, we found a bar open, and had an icy cold beer in the blazing spring sun before heading back down the mountain.
   Our route home took us along the rim of the Gorge du Verdon, the French Grand Canyon. It is stunning and the road is a white-knuckler, as you can imagine. I insisted on stopping every couple of hundred yards to take pictures which probably got old for my passengers but I kept proclaiming, there was a good chance I would not see it again, so I had to marvel at every possible pull-out.
    Driving the Million Dollar Highway between Durango and Ouray can be hair raising, and this drive was equally exciting. Two cars can pass slowly and carefully, but I would certainly pull over if there were a truck coming my way. There are a couple of tunnels along the route which are dark as night, unlit and barely wide enough for 1 car to pass through. The railing along the edge of the 2,000 foot drop is a very pretty wooden, single rail and to the French highway department's credit, is reinforced with steel (on the inside of the railing as to not take away from the visual integrity). We saw rock climbers scaling the walls and I remembered a couple of friends from home telling me they had been there to enjoy the world class limestone walls. A couple of para gliders leapt off a highpoint and sailed peacefully down towards the Lac de St. Croix, the reservoir at the end of the canyon.
   The day was visually spectacular and while I never really like being in the car other than to get from point A to Point B, it was a memorable driving experience of hunting for some snow.
Closest ski area to Nice, and my house 
Glissading on grocery bags
Mon voisin et bon ami
Menu at the Ski area bar- sounds pretty good.

The Verdon
Spectacular drop into the Gorge 
No room for a mistake in there.
The guard rail built for more than just aesthetics.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Bit of Color

   The kids are frequently jumping in the pool, flowers are blooming profusely and spring is here. We have had friends visiting, seeing some new sights of Provence and generally enjoying our joie de vivre.
   As we are off to Antibes this morning, I offer you a quick post of the colors of Provence from the past week. A friend commented how all the flowers are purple, a color so often associated with Provence- lilacs, iris, wisteria and others I don't know the names of. She is right, though we passed an amazing field of brilliant red poppies today...
Crabapple tree behind my house.
My living staircase coming to life.
Le chat being intoxicated by the aroma of the wisteria, or maybe she is just after a bee.
Quince tree in full bloom, I am sorry I won't be able to enjoy the fruit.
The top of the highest point around us- a glorious view all around.
And here are the poppies.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Cheers to Limoncello

   I started a batch of Limoncello. If you have never tasted this liquor, it is a delicious after dinner drink with a sweet, lemony flavor. It is to be kept in the freezer and poured icy cold. Made with 45% alcohol, it is dangerously strong and sipping a single shot is enough Limoncello for one night. I will be lucky to have a taste of it before I leave France as it takes about 2 months to finish, but plan on starting a batch as soon as we return to USA so I can be reminded of these fun times while gazing at the magnificent view from my back deck. While I am sad to leave Europe, I am looking forward to all the wonderful things about our hometown, too.
   Here is the first day of the steep.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Few of our Favorite Places

   After a wonderful visit from good friends from back home, I have been out of the loop, trying to reorganize our daily routine to accommodate having all three kids homeschooling. Yup, they called it quits on the French school. I can't blame them, obviously, as I allowed them to stop. Their language skills have not evolved enough to communicate with others effectively, nor were they learning a thing scholastically as they couldn't understand the teacher. Too bad, but they certainly have stories to tell and will never forget their experience a l'ecole en France. I am so proud of them for their efforts.
   We are really hitting the books so upon re-entry to US schools, they are not too far behind. We also feel free to pick up and take a quick trip as desired. More friends come to visit next week, too. Some of my oldest, best-est friends- look out Provence. Just kidding, we will behave as adults should.
   Time changed here last weekend and even though I find it hard to pull myself out of bed before 8:00, I love the late evenings outside, listening to birds sing, frogs croaking and the aroma of the blooming flowers filling me with contentment. This is what I came to learn.
The wonderful teacher who orchestrated 2 English speakers, 1 Spanish speaker and 26 other children in 2 grades. Bravo!
Cassis seaside with American Friends
Beautiful Moustiers Ste. Marie
Thoronet Abbey
My favorite front of my house.