The first face of Le Coitat can be seen high above the sprawling buildings & resorts that spread along the Mediterranean to the east of Marseille. A dozen or so gantries & cranes hold up the sky in the distance and become more impressive as the old ship building yards are approached. This is where proper big ships were built with huge keels and propellers the size of tall men. Now the rusty remnants stand as hanging idols to a glorious past and grasping fingers fight rusting decay against a blue sky.
These guardians of history stand tall around the tightly formed, compact, old town, the second face. Here the narrow streets & faded tall buildings would have offered protection from Saracens & Turks & pirates. Crusaders must have walked her once on their way back from the Holy Land. Nowadays the tight darkish streets offer shade & respite from the burning sun for locals & visitors alike.
The final face of Le Coitat comes out as dark approaches & stays until the early hours. Hundreds of stalls start to appear and like candle flames start to attract an increasingly busy crowd of holiday makers who feed the umbrellered hives with Euro pollen. The streams of bustling shoppers turn to rivers & then a flood around the once picturesque quayside of the old port. When morning comes all is as before and the night is forgotten until it all starts again as each day ends. Like the seasons the Night Market comes seven nights a week – beware!!! Well in July & August anyway!
A short skoot from the Var, through the golden delights of Nice brings me to Villefranche- sur-mer. Once, a beautiful small fishing village with a secure harbour and a protective citidal built in mid 1500s. Now surrounded by typical Côte d’Azur developments: villas, properties, apartments & hotels and the tall, 21st galley- the dreaded cruise ship although to be fair, other than a few northern accents the presence of its cargo of UK tourists went barely noticed.
Down on the quayside tourists meet bars meet yacht owners meet
pizzas meet oyster restaurants meet beer meet rosé. A delightful atmosphere in the cool of the evening. Take my frame, place it around the old town, add a bit of cool salsa played in a bar, distress the plasterwork and shutters and ignore all the buildings outside it – you could be in Cuba.
Some of that history & local character still remains whatever the tourists try to do to the place. You can see why I had to include one of my frames!!!
Enjoy the smell of the sea and the sight of glistening white yachts & sailing boats of all sizes bobbing at anchor on a turquoise sea.
It’s hot, hot, hot!!! So, from the shade of the olive trees in the garden, this would be a good opportunity to share with you my new, six step technique to taking images of the people around me. For this I have to thank my pal Chris for constructing my portable picture frame and also to the lady at the Seillans brocante who sold me three small, empty frames for one Euro.
Step 1 entails putting together the frame.
Step 2 requires an approach by me to the subject & asking them, in my best French, if I may take their portrait for my gallery.
Step 3 is the handover when the subject agrees & holds the frame in front of them and peers through.
Step 4 is the taking of the photo with the frame.
Step 5 is the closer picture through the frame.
Step 6 involves me sharing the image with the subject.
Great fun is had by all. Truely!!!
A brocante market is held on the small open ground at the top of Seillan. Up here, overlooking the glorious surrounding hills I try out my new approach. These are all images of some of the stallholders and I have the choice of including their portraits with the frame or without it. What do you think?
Leaving behind the layered hills of the Cevenne and carrying warm memories of time around Barjac exploring the streams & rivers, jumping off rocks in the Ceze, picnics amongst boulders and stones on the banks of the Silver River amongst the Fools Gold & the scrubby oak woods, learning to swim & dive & snorkle & jump from high places (adults & children), of families & friends that leave & arrive & leave again and it is time to make my way back through Provence to the district of Vars and a small hilltop town called Seillans, near to Grasse in the nice hills above Nice. In the space of a few hours the scenery changes from limestone scraggy outcrops & stunted oak trees protecting an agricultural landscape to a more developed, modernised panorama where the clean, hilltop towns peer out from tall cedars that spread over all the hills like a thick carpet of green spikey hair following the contours & undulations of the pointed scarps & ridges & newly built or renovated homes are scattered amongst their foliage just presenting a hint of affluence to any observers on the opposite slopes.
Seillans boasts itself as being ‘the most beautiful village in France’. It is hard to dispute this. From the approach by the main road, the village spreads upwards and its flat, cardboard box houses are attached to the hillside with mastic.
The road narrows to single file in the centre & from the little cafe opposite the pizzeria it is only possible to climb to the centre on foot. Narrow, cobbled streets are lined by tall townhouses with faint painted clues on their facades suggesting what business they might have housed in the past. One narrow set of cobbles & steps leads to the château dating from the 13th century, another leads up under arches & buttresses, past the Mairie’s office to the small square with seating for open air concerts & then through to the smart restaurant at the top of the village.
All paths seem to lead to and spread from the shade of the trees that cover the tables of the Restaurant du Glorie de Mon Pere. It seems it was the site of the village boulangerie and when the baker died his son converted it into a restaurant under the two huge plane trees and named it in memory of his father. He is still there supervising his young staff from the top of the slope as they scurry around the tables waiting on the punters with an excellent menu, good humoured banter & efficient service. Reservations are recommended!!
It feels like time has stopped, the world is at peace. Even the cicadas have gone on their holidays and the silence that then remains calms the soul & raises the spirit.