A fIrst full day in France packed with climbs, views, flora, scents and gelato. Vacation indeed.
It’s fascinating to climb and wind through the steep narrow streets here with the old stone of the buildings hugging the brick and cobblestone walkways. Ramps and steps heading steeply up and down, flowers and shop displays adding color.
We head out under sunny skies, poking and climbing our way toward Jardin Exotique. We’re not alone and join the queue for tickets. A big black cat curls up for a nap inside the cashier’s window. The exotic begins with a wide and pretty fabulous array of cacti climbing up the steep hills–and adding an arid touch to the views of sea and red-tile roofs. Shapes I’ve never seen, and some with buds and blossoms that seem other-worldly to this East Coast gardener. You climb the hills, too. Steep, hamstring challenging steps up and up in gorgeous air to the ruins of a fortress Louis XIV ordered demolished. Sprinkled throughout are charming, sleekly styled sculptures of goddesses, each with its own little poem. The ruins are high above our hotel, which I thought was really high to begin with. From here we can see the town proper, the perfumeries, the roads, and out and above, higher hills.
And here, as I scan up, as looking down whacks my system, I see on the crest of those high hills an odd tree formation. I study a moment, but it’s very, very clear to me–and when I point it out to my lovely companions, they must agree. It’s a large humping mouse violating a small tree. BW provides photographic evidence. I honestly wonder if some sly gardener hiked up there and created it.
We leave this high–and nicely flat perch for more exploration. Up and up, down and down, to see tall, armed cactus, squat, thorny balls, wonderfully weirdly twisted ones, sweet, spectacular waxy blooms, huge, lethal blades. We come upon a small lily pond fed with misters and another perch with lounge chairs and yet another gorgeous vista.
And on this slightly more humid side, enormous rosemary shrubs, blooming herbs, a waterfall, and a magnolia!
We head down, down, down, find the cat’s still napping, and hasn’t moved in the two hours we wandered.
More climbing as we start back for the pizza and gelato we happily agreed on. A quick stop for me for a new hat. The one I brought wasn’t as smashable as I assumed and now looks like it belongs to a drunken farmer. I find my new chapeau, and a couple of Christmas gifts while we wait for an outdoor table at the busy restaurant. The proprietor, and she’s hustling, tells us: Five minutes, ten, fifteen. In other words, who knows. Hey, there’s more time so Kat and I poke into more shops. I find a sweet summer dress, take a chance on the size as I’m too lazy to try it on.
We find the pizza–or pasta in Kat’s case–more than worth the wait. A nice glass of local red, a well-earned meal, followed by, mmmm, gelato. I can’t think of anything better than pizza and gelato any time, but after hiking the gardens, it’s amazing.
A quick stop at the hotel, then Kat guides me down to the perfumerie. We stop on the way at a wood shop. Spoons! I can never have enough wooden spoons. And there’s a wonderful trio of grinders–salt, pepper, herbs–well, we both need that! This proprietor, a charming older gentlemen, demonstrates how the grinders work, talks to us in a combo of English and French about his wares. An excellent stop.
Down the steep street to the busy roads, and into the heady scents of a perfumerie. We weren’t able to schedule a workshop, but take a tour of the little museum and see someone making a personalized scent among all the little bottles behind the glass. A worker patiently cuts a long, long trail of soap into exact slices, then hand-stamps each one. We see huge copper vats and tools, fascinating droppers filled with essence. Jasmine, rose, citrus, white musk and on and on.
Back up and up and up. Whew! Time for some champagne.
In a bit, Kat comes in–she and Jason headed out once again. And they’ve found a rock shop. Do I want to come see? Do I! I love rock shops, and this one is manned by a young guy who not only knows his rocks, but is passionate. My kind of guy.
He’s used his stones well in jewelry, and has plenty of rough stones, tumbled stones, spears, wands, globes. Like in a garden, I always feel happy in a rock shop. The colors, the shapes and textures. Just the feel.
With Kat and Jason’s input, I score pretty much all my girl Christmas gifts. And more, have lots of conversation with the rock guy. I even love the name of the shop. Good Karma. I buy myself a ghost quartz. I say to Eliot (we get to first names) that it has my horse inside. He’s delighted that I see the horse, too. His mother runs a shop just across the way–and since I’m using a credit card, I go to her to be rung up. And he tells us his father runs a jewelry store just down the path.
Quite the enterprising family.
Back up–and more champagne as I note down gifts and recipients in my book–as I might not remember when it’s wrapping time who gets what.
A nap for Jason and Kat–who’ve logged respectively some 70-odd and 90-odd flights of steps in this climbing day. I have a measly 37 in comparison.
We opt for room service and an easy meal after our very adventurous day.
Cooler and breezy this morning. I think I’ll want a light jacket for our trip to Monaco. But first I need to choose my morning workout. And I need some caffeine!
Today’s Random Katness: