Lost in France

You may have been wondering why things had gone quiet From your favourite blogger since Mongolia. Has he finally settled down beside the waters of Lake Victoria? Is he being held for ransom somewhere and no-one is prepared to pay the £100 for his release? Maybe he bought that Harley and it’s now motoring through South America through the dust of the Pan American Highway. Hey, he could have been put into a home by his family and friends so we don’t have to suffer any more of  his rambling accounts of his latest trip.

Well, my friends, I was cut off from all techno contact when all my techno gear was nicked, stolen, burgled in France. I say ‘all’. They didn’t take my camera (thank you Spirit in the Sky) nor my car. So I was cut off from you, my friends, and everyone else I should add. I am getting my stuff back gradually, thanks to insurance, and am now able to ‘share’ again. ‘Oh goodie’ I hear you all cry. Do let me tell you what happened.

Having spent a few days in Provence enjoying the company of friends, the wine, the food, the sun, the heat, the smells, I moved over to the foothills of the Cevenne to a small village outside Uzes. I had rented an old family stone built house for two weeks. Set on two floors, the bedrooms were on the lower floor with an outside door and the living area was on the upper floor, accessed by two sliding French Windows, we were in France after all.

It was the second night. It was 3 o’clock. It was dark and still. I was sleeping in my new bed. Dreaming. In my dream I could hear footsteps walking above me. I opened my eyes to discover that there were footsteps walking about in the living space above my head. ‘Hello’ I cry out in my innocent daze. ‘Oh, it must be the owner popping in to say hello’. Derrrrh. I get out of bed. I put on my M&S pants (the white ones) and I go out into the downstairs reception area. There is a cool breeze from the back door which is wide open. Up the stairs a light goes on. I call out again and do what no sensible person should do. In my white underwear, I climb the stairs calling out some nonsense as I go.

Obviously, whoever it was caught sight of my manly physique, heard the authority in my voice and not wanting to be attacked with the bare hands of a bald headed, semi naked, retired English gent decided, like any cornered rats would do, to run out of the top doors with all the loot in their swag bags. By the time I got to the door and rather nervously looked out, all that could be seen was the disappearing headlights of a 🚗.

I took stock….. The story does go on – being locked in the gendarme compound, of scene of crime taking swabs to find DNA, of the retrieval by a local farmer of my passport & Nector card & bus pass (thank goodness for the latter items, Ay?). But hey, you don’t want to hear all that. You will just be pleased that I survived this experience and that I am now back in the blogging seat again.

Oh, Please text me with your numbers as they took my phone so I have lost all my contacts.

A few images of the following weeks of my journey through Provence, the Camargue and Languedoc-Roussillon. I know you’ll be upset if you have no pretty piccies to look at.

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The three faces of Le Coitat

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.

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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.

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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!

 

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A few days down on the Cote d’Azur – Villefranche-sur-mer

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.

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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!!!

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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.

 

 

 

Fun, food and farewells at Restaurant la Gloire de mon Pere

While at Seillans the restaurant at the heart of this lovely small medieval Var village has become a favourite place to eat & enjoy the shade of the four huge plane trees and the gentle breeze during the evening. The site of the first & the last meal, of a wonderful long lunch with friends from home and countless beers & cafes that have been purchased during the week spent here. Staff found time to have some fun with photo frames & bonhomie (that’s French, you know, for geniality & good spirit). A special place!!! Thank you.

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The Pàrumeries of Grasse

Grasse is a wonderful mediaeval town, surrounded by a spreading slick of suburbia in the form of apartment blocks & private housing along with commercial developments, that is the centre of a large well reknowned perfume manufacturing industry. Museums & smelly shops sing the praises of this long established industry. Women walk around its narrow stepped streets holding a fan of white emery board shaped samplers to their delicate noses trying to decide which small aromatic treasure to buy.

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The heart of Grasse old town is magnificent in the colours of its tall, stretching tenements which line the narrow alleyways. Blocks of rich oranges & orchas & reds & tans stand side by side as if in a merchants sign or a baron’s coat-of-arms. Arrays of shuttered windows hide away secrets of bubbling vats & coppered urns linked over furnaces by pipes and test tubes all furiously working together to create the next fragrance to take the classy class by storm. Alchemy in practice in the 21st century.

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It’s a shame that tourism, once again, hides the innocent glory of a once elegant centre where Victorians would have travelled to take the air away from the coast of the Med which can be seen in the far distance from Grasses’s high promenades.

Market days and dinner out in the Beaux Villages of Var

Fayance is just one medieval hilltop village amongst many close by. Market day is like any other when columns of visitors move up the ancient pathways leaving their shiney modern cars parked down the hill heating up like ship furnaces. When they get back yells of pain will screech out as bare flesh hits red hot leather seats. Like sharks they lazily circle around the white umbrellas that shade the stalls & wares and then suddenly strike, stripping away from the stallholders their salami or cheese or linen tea towels and descending back to the depths & shade of the gite or the villa or the hotel.20150806092135_IMG_7288

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Bargemon is up in the hills of the Canjeurs about 20 km from Seillans. 700 metres up creates a cool drop in temperature as locals cluster around steps and verandas to shoot the breeze before heading for bed in front of opened windows. A long staggered line of people, many with instrument cars attached to backs like shells of a tortoise leave the church and make their way through the square obviously content at sharing the music from a set of musicians from Cambridge! The clink of meals & quiet callings resound around squares & cafes as visitors finish off long lazy meals.

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Two things are quite noticable in the Var – one is the spread of gated homes throughout these hills are around these old hilltop villages and two is the increase in the number of English voices heard around the restaurants & markets & shops – no comment!!!!

Picture framing at the brocante in Seillans

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.

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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?

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