Provence, France Day 6

Start my workout with no ants in sight. About ten minutes in one scouts the area. His friends, only a handful today, join him. But this time they don’t bother to follow me down the terrace.

Our day really starts when we gather together and walk up to the hotel for our car. We have a plan. Our navigator has a map. BW pilots our big ass SUV along the winding, sun-splashed roads toward the village of Seillans. I may be spelling that wrong, but our trusty navigator (Kat) has the map, and she’s still asleep. [Note from Laura: I’m awake, I checked the Google, this is correct.]  Lots of hills to admire on our serpentine way. And the curvy road narrows. Seriously narrows. I think skinnier than county roads in Ireland, but it’s pointed out we don’t have hedgerows crowding in, so there’s that. Round the roundabouts, the main reason I won’t drive in Europe as I want to save lives, including my own.

Entrance. Photo by j a-b
Narrow street made charming by age. Phto by j a-b

We find our village, and parking. It’s old and just lovely. Hilly and steep with cobbled streets, narrow and lined with buildings of stone, many with flowers spilling from window boxes. Most of the shops are closed today, but we came to explore, to see and eventually have lunch. From high perches, we look down on villas and gardens, and out to the hills. The breeze is frisky enough I have to carry my hat or lose it. We walk to a plaza where the panorama makes me sigh with its view of green hills and valleys.

Seillans in pano. Photo by j a-b

We see little cat silhouettes painted low on doors here and there, and a few of the models napping among potted plants. 

Cat by kat.

I can’t remember the name of the clever countess who started a perfumerie on her estate, to brings jobs and revenue to the village, and planted scores of Jasmine, roses, violets, etc. During the war, she converted it into a hospital. A smart, generous woman, I think.  [Note from Laura — saving everyone the Google time: it was the Viscountess de Savigny de Moncorps.]

The church here is again old and lovely. When we walk in you feel the age in the air. A high curved ceiling, a reverent hush, the flicker of candles in the quiet light.

Church door. Photo by kat
Photo by kat

Up and up some more to pass a hotel. Les Deux Roc. Named for the two enormous rocks it faces across the little street. There’s a stone arch and a stone fountain, and a serious view. The arch rises where a castle stood, and the plaque tells us people lived there in the Dark Ages. The stone hums a little under my hand.

I look around and see, as is often the case, a dog has found Jason. The old girl lies belly up and in ecstasy as Jason gives her a good rub.

Jason, dog charmer. Photo by BW

We wander in and out and back to the big, open-air restaurant. A large center fountain spills water into pails of flowers, so charming. Most of the many tables are occupied, but we’re in luck. And after the climb, wine. Lovely wine, pretty air, the clatter of voices, lots of families on holiday, a busy waitstaff in floral shirts. Fresh salad and bread, as the restaurant claims to be pain depot. An easy meal under the shade of just enormous, many-branched trees with bark that look like camo. They’re absolutely gorgeous.

Lunch time! Photo by j a-b
Shady spot. Photo by j a-b
Tree growth stands for no rail. Photo by j a-b
All the freshness at lunch. Photo by kat

On the way back to the car, we stop into an open art shop. The artist is working in clay on her table, and the shop is full of her sculptures, paintings, drawings. We converse in her careful English and my pitiful French. And I buy some postcards of her work to remember. I love particularly one of her sculptures, a slender, dreamy figure in blue, but have no place for it.

Intrepid travelers on a non-driveable street. Lane? Alley? photo by BW

Revived, we decide to continue our adventuring with a trip to Mons. Much winding and climbing, skinny roads and switchbacks. Kat has become our Ensign Checkov. And so BW becomes Kirk. As Jason is logic, and is checking comms, he’s designated as a combo of Spock and Uhura. If the car had weapons, I might be Sulu, but as it is, it’s decided I’ll be Bones.

Damn it, Jim!

Mons is famed for its view, so we wind up the narrow streets and find a big dirt field where dozens of people play various games of Bocci. Dozens. Old, young, men, women, kids. And it appears to be fairly serious. Beside the field is a big trailer, a hair salon. I’m fascinated. Will the Bocci players take breaks for a fresh coiffure? There are venders for food and drink, public toilets that the men make use of. Kat and I pass as the accommodations are essentially holes in the ground.

Petanque! Photo by BW
Action shot – perfect form. Photo by BW

The view is breathtaking. Miles and miles of hills. Green, green forests below, and some farms that have carved through with earthen spaces and red tile roofs. Hills rolling into mountains that fold their way to the sea hazed by distance, the toy-like huddles of villages scattered, and all under perfect blue skies. The sun’s white and brilliant. It’s a painting with no frame to interrupt the glory of the art.

A view. Photo by j a-b
Adventurers with view. Photo by kat

Back down we go to wind our way back, roundabouts, curvy roads, vistas, forests. And now a stop at the market. A supermarket. Fun!

Cheese! So many to choose from. A baguette, and won’t that combo be yum. Wines, so many wines. Chips. I’m going to work, and my working brain requires the occasional munch. Peach juice for belinis! Ice cream, because why not. We haul our supplies back to the car, make our way back to the hotel after a fine adventure.

In our villa, we stock our kitchen, and I polish off the day with a belini. Not as glorious as those in the restaurant here, but not bad at all.

A little down time, before we clean ourselves up for dinner at the hotel.

A lovely terrace, a display of desserts that tempt as we walk through. Wine, bien sur. BW and Kat get rockfish soup as a starter. It’s a rich looking purée that comes with little dishes of shredded cheese, a pot of sauce and slices of baguette. Add those to the soup, they’re told. And both do just that.

I’ve chosen the Black Angus steak and it comes with tiny new potatoes. Both are heaven. I share as even though these are reasonable French portions, I can’t finish. But I can look forward to ordering this again.

And those desserts.

Kat has the name of the one she and BW split. Big dessert that our waitress in Eze explained as: pie, cream, pie. Kat looked it up and the authentic French method of creating it takes two days and a gelatin sheet. I choose a little pot of lemon cake with cream, oh my! I think Jason got something chocolate, but I was a little busy.

A long, lovely meal that ends under the stars. I’m grateful for the walk back.

I’ll workout hard today to make up for that meal, a good trade in my book.

The mourning dove brought a companion to the pool this morning, and the cicadas are singing in the forest. I might see if I can book a massage for late afternoon as, if my battery holds out, I’ll work. Otherwise it’s terrace sitting, maybe a walk, and more wine. 

Nora

Today’s #randomkatness.

Wishing for smellovision just about now. Photo by kat

Provence, France Day 7

Ants are fewer during workout time. Maybe they’re getting the message. I run the battery down on BW’s laptop, so consider that a good session.

A quiet morning with sun on the hills, twittering birds, singing cicadas. So I work on the shady terrace until I run the battery down on my Surface. (Kat’s tracking the new one, still scheduled to arrive today! We’ll see.)*  

While I worked, Kat and Jason took themselves off for a walk. BW’s working on his photos. It’s a good time to settle in with a book. This is, obviously, vacate day. Hang close to home, relax. I’ll take it.

Rock dress of many colors. Photo by BW
The view from the main pool. Photo by BW
Diving into infinity (pool). Photo by BW
BW found a good book. (For those who will ask, that’s Dark in Death — coming in January.) Photo by NR

But why not take a swim? And the water is just perfect. Top it off with a dip in our newly fixed hot tub. And yes! L’eau est TRES chaud! Fabulous.

(Merci, Alain!)

Later in the afternoon, I make a fruit and cheese platter. This time I used BW’s unfortunately dull Swiss Army knife. But it worked. Kat–they’re back and working on some Foundation business–comes out to join me. And I hear about their walking adventure. It sounds like down paths, over fields, through a gate–and yet another gate–and to a market she tells me is sort of like a Wal-Mart. Some of everything. Not the cable BW’s looking for to hook his iPod up to the villa’s music system, but an interesting accidental destination.

The path of the trek. Photo by kat
Les poissons! Photo by kat

Back the same way with some team work to get back through the gates.

BW wanders out.

We polish off hunks of bread, cheese, slices of white peaches, little purple grapes.

Quiet day, easy early evening. I try out the terrace cocoon, find it swivels. I swivel it to block the sun, and have a book and a pretty little window in the wall to see the hills. Very nice. 

Tablescape. Photo by j a-b
Suite art. Photo by kat
Evening, down the hall. Photo by kat

We think about ordering dinner, finally get to that. So we have an early-ish meal on our terrace, then an evening under the stars.

I decide to challenge my kids to a work week contest on FitBit–retroactively starting Monday morning. Hah! Jason points out I’m well in the lead with this retroactive business. Hey, rules is rules.

I’m going to add to that lead–after all I’m old enough to be their mama, so must exploit the advantage–with a workout. Kat may venture out to a yarn store she found through her phone skills. We have the day open until five, when we’re booked for the horses and the forest. So we figure a substantial lunch this afternoon as we won’t be back to the villa until about eight.

Two and a half hours on horseback. This may mean a group session in the hot tub tonight.

My doves are cooing, but the visitor hasn’t yet come for her drink. Time to fire up BW’s laptop and expand my lead.

Nora

*Note from Laura: the original one was wrestled from the grasp of the spirits at Greenbrier — or found under a desk in one of the rooms there (your choice) and will be waiting at home for Nora’s return.

Today in #randomkatness.  Name this flower.

Photo by kat (Laura’s guess is a wild plum.)

Provence, France Day 8

A good workout with some ant companions, a few of which insisted on joining me for yoga. We mostly managed to coexist.

We all walked, following one of Jason’s and Kat’s walking routes to the golf club for lunch. Lots and lots of lavender and herbs, flowering trees, unusual art along the way. A very fine lunch with views of the golf course and the hills beyond. And a solid walk back–mostly uphill, with a stop at an herb garden, scented especially with rosemary.

Reflection. Photo by j a-b
BW in buggy. Photo by j a-b
Art is everywhere at this resort. Photo by kat
Wall knife and BW. Photo by kat
Safely out of reach. Photo by j a-b
Today’s flora. Photo by kat

There’s a big, shiny, reflective silver ball. It has some depressions that makes me wonder if it’s representing a moon.* Now a little hang out time before our big adventure.

Still life. Photo by NR
Mirror of interesting luck with orchid. Photo by NR

As I lost my FitBit trail riding at the spa–hooked to the waistband of my jeans–I put this one in my pocket before we head out to drive to the horse farm. Windy, roundabout, then a very skinny road with curves. But it’s a short drive to a private dirt road that leads to an absolutely lovely spot with horses in paddocks, the forest everywhere, and still views of the hills.

Our guide greets us–her English is better than our French, and we’re shown our horses. Dark Spanish beauties. She say they’re cool–and I realize after a bit this is calm. I’m very fine with a calm horse. She sizes us up, assigns horses. We get our helmets, and lead our mounts into the exercise paddock. BW is mounted first–he’ll be behind the guide. Me next, then Jason, then Kat.

Riders up! Photo by j a-b’s phone.

We’re each to circle the ring a few times, at a walk, at a trot. I decide to pass my FitBit to BW, for his little saddlebag. Better safe than sorry. And off we go.

Down the little road, beside another paddock where a buckskin runs to the fence, runs down it as if to say: Take Me, Too!

The land’s beautiful, as are the views. My horse is sweet and responsive–and I like he’s not an ass-sniffer as so many trail horses will insist on tailgating the one in front. Jason’s likes to eat, so he’s dealing with that sneakiness. Kat’s is a very calm slow-poke.

A car comes along occasionally on this first leg, and over to the side we go. We pass other farms, pretty little houses, more horses, wind around–another car, and our guide tells us this is her uncle. A dirt stretch, and how about a trot. My mount–and her name never got through–has a very springy trot. I’m going to feel this tomorrow, I think. (I can now confirm this as true!)

Back to a road, and a steep ride down–no trotting. Around and around, all so pretty, Another dirt road, another trot. My glasses keep sliding down, so I have to rein with one hand and shove them up as I try to post–a good fast trot, too! Through olive groves with the hills spread out glowing in the early evening light.

Water on the trail. Photo by kat

And now we turn into the forest. After the VERY steep, very narrow track down where I put my faith in my horse. This is my favorite part of a really lovely ride. Thick woods, green light, dappled sun, and all quiet and timeless. Wild berry bushes like the ones above my own garden wall–and I believe our guide says something about wild boar and deer. I won’t think about the boar. Ducking under branches, soft dirt track–and here’s a branch you have to hold up as you ride.

I think of people who rode through forests like these hundreds of years ago.

We ride down toward the river–a dry bed in the drought. Jason’s horse not only likes to eat, but she wants to pass mine. Is determined. The first time she does it, mine kind of gets into it. A race! But then obviously decides live and let. I watch Jason’s horse give mine the side eye as it passes. Equine smirk.

Jason’s horse contemplating his moves. Photo by j a-b

But our guide says to be careful here as Jason’s mount likes to nip at BW’s mount’s butt. Mine isn’t a nipper or a sniffer, and just happily walks along.

We see the lake–that teal water soft in the quieter light. We cross what would be the river, a wide area where Jason’s horse stops to eat so my resumes his position. Kat’s is well back. Not only in no hurry she tells us later, but she all but hears her equine sighs. I’m tired! I need a nap! Not a clip clop, this one, but according to Kat, a clip–pause, pause–reluctant clop.

Tired horse with view. Photo by kat

BW’s having a great time up ahead, holding spates of conversation with our guide as she points out villages and hills. My horse is content to walk, falls back a few times, then on his own breaks into a bright little trot to catch up. Jason’s horse eats and passes mine. Eats, passes mine, and Kat’s clips . . . . . . . clops.

We circle back–road, houses, horses, the very beginning of a sunset, just that bright gold haloing the eastern hills.

And we’re back–a full 2 1/2 hours. I accept this is likely my limit on a horse. No way I could comfortably do a full day, even with a picnic lunch to break it up. But what an experience, and what a fine, beautiful horse.

Kat and BW take pictures, and I chat with our guide and her husband. I love Kat’s photo of her horse the best. Exhaustion! LOL.

Tired horse. Done. Photo by kat

There are riders in the ring, doing jumps, and one on a gorgeous mount is our guide’s sister, who competes. She’s a joy to watch.

Beauty in the ring. Photo by BW

A friend or relative sits at a picnic table with her recently adopted American Pit Bull–or I think that’s the breed. He is HAPPY. And instantly, as dogs are, in love with Jason. I explain we have three dogs at home, so his joy and enthusiasm aren’t a problem. The husband brings out their dog–so handsome! And beautifully trained.

Dog pals. Photo by kat

Then we have yet another treat. Our guide has adopted a twenty-year-old former bullfighting horse from Spain. A stallion. He rushes the fence when we approach–apparently he’d like to kill the horse the sister’s riding in the ring! You can see where he’s chewed on the paddock gate.

He breaks everything, our guide tells us. Then she goes in, and there’s such love. This horse loves her completely. He nuzzles, rubs, his whole body changes when she’s beside him. And that love is clearly mutual. She uses a whisk of straw to have him prance. And he stands so proudly.

The Spanish stallion. Photo by BW

I suppose he’s bilingual as she tells us she doesn’t speak Spanish.

We linger quite awhile. This is a happy, lovely and obviously loving place.

Back to the hotel, and we need a little food as we didn’t graze like the horses on the trail. Kat wants soup, and has figured out how to make little grilled cheese sandwiches with our supplies and the hot dish we held back from another meal. Clever, as always.

Kat making dinner. Photo by j a-b

We eat, and well, talk about our adventure, comparing horses and impressions.

Off to bed.

Yes, my butt feels it this morning! But we’ll see what a workout will do.

I had a different visitor today. A big gray cat who wandered it, slithered under the pool gate to drink. Meowed at me, but wouldn’t approach before she wandered off again.

New workout companion. Photo by NR

We’re driving to Fayence today to see what we can see.

I’ve ridden through the forests of Provence on a Spanish horse. That’s one for the memory book.

Nora

* Note from Laura. That’s probably the #randomkatness from Day 5 that I thought was the home of the Guardians of the Fountain.

Today’s #randomkatness

Nails of art. Photo by kat

Provence, France Day 16

I’m getting spoiled being able to work out on the terrace in the air. I love my little gym at home, but this is such a treat. The views, the breeze, the light. BW even joined me for some yoga to polish it off.

Jason and Kat return from their morning ramble. No pain au chocolate today at the bakery! They had to settle for an eclair. It’s a tough old world. And they brought back a beautiful pastry to share when Kat put together a little pre-spa lunch on our terrace. 

Lunch is served! Photo by kat.

Pretty–and delicious.

Jason and I sit on the terrace before our little lunch and–what is that? Is that rain?

It turns out, not exactly. It’s a few drips from the sky. This region desperately needs rain, but this little cloud only wept about fifty tears.

We have a very active black squirrel in our woods–he jumps from branch to branch–and is a loquacious morning talker. Now he’s joined by a red one, and they do their gymnastics. Le Cirque des Ecureuils!

After our pretty little lunch my gang leaves for massages. They’re all booked at three, so off they walk to the spa while I laze around and read until I head up, too, for my four-thirty facial. I walk the path in air scented with rosemary. How I envy them those tumbling bushes. For my garden, rosemary’s an annual, and it simply refuses to be potted inside over the winter. 

Berries? Grapes? Photo by kat (questions by Laura).
Close-up. Photo by kat.
Black swans on approach. Photo by kat.
A closer look. Photo by kat.

After this scented walk, I experience very possibly the best facial on record. My tech has wonderful hands, the music’s soft and relaxing, the creams and lotions feel marvelous on the skin. And my skin feels baby soft when it’s done.

As I go to check out the woman at the desk tells me my husband took care of the bill already. We agree that’s what husbands are for.

My family’s equally relaxed on my return. Excellent massages all around.

Bellini time!

And I think of the cat, put a little pasta on a plate, set it out.

She shows up as evening’s settling in, creeps up, sniffs, accepts some penne. Then sits, waits. Aha, she’d like more. Kat brings out some lunch meat. Le chat backs off, but waits, watches while Kat tears up a little meat onto the dish. Eats, sits, waits.

I tell her, sorry, no more. I think too much people food will make her sick. She’s had enough. Je suis desolee.

We have a staring contest.

FYI: You can’t win a staring contest with a cat. They are undefeated world champions.

I have a bottle of water, go over, pour some into the dish.

The cat sniffs, gives me a look that clearly says: You have to be kidding me.

She departs.

We have our own meal, on the terrace. I go for the smoothest of smooth tomato soup again, and a little salad. Our Kat continues to spoil BW with fancy coffee and warm cookies.

We discuss ideas for our annual family panorama, and timing for today’s adventuring. A trip into Fayence, back for the glider flights, then dinner at the hotel. It’s barely ten, I’ve done next to nothing all day, but zzzzzz.

I’ll need to get my workout on soon. If they have another pair of those woven shoes in my size in Fayence, I’m having them. These are really great shoes! We definitely need to take home some regional wine and herbs. I need to get my shopping on, too.

Nora

Today’s #randomkatness:

All lined up. Photo by kat.

Provence, France Day 9

Worked out some kinks. My ants were delayed, but eventually snuck in.

Jason took himself off for a walk, Kat and BW for breakfast. Just before midday, we’re cleaned up and strolling up to the hotel for our car. Driving–rather being driven–in Europe will always be an adventure for this country girl Yank. And driving into villages–even good-sized ones like Fayence, more so. Parking proves easy this time, so score! And there’s a shop offering ice cream close by our spot. Something to look forward to after our climb back.

We walk down the steep street–no trotting!–to the tourist office. Closed for lunch. Okay then, we’ll have lunch, too. A busy outdoor cafe under a big red awning’s right there. A wine local to Fayence seems right–and proves just right. Hey, I haven’t had pizza in days–time to fix that. Kat and Jason get enormous, beautiful salads, BW some pasta with mushroom sauce. (Only Kat will have a sample thereof.)

Passageway. Photo by j a-b
Street view. Photo by j a-b
Lunch. Photo by j a-b

People stream by as the waitstaff hustles in and out of the cafe–and the adjoining cafe that appears to make the desserts. We’re saving ourselves for that ice cream stand, so we begin our walk.

Little shops in those old stone buildings selling souvenirs–have a garden wall cicada that sings when you walk by? Ah, no. And lovely bottles of olive oil, herbs, wine. I will absolutely get some of all of those before we head by across the Atlantic.

Gorgeous bottles of perfumes with flowers floating inside, summer clothes, beach clothes. But we want views first, and climb up, up, up to the Panorama. My legs remind me I experienced a horse the day before. But up we go, and it’s lovely. A big shady area with benches–those fabulous trees (called plane trees here, and as BW and Carolyn, a helpful FB reader, identified as sycamores). But there’s even a better view from the watch tower, so up stone steps we go.

Stunning, really just stunning. You see the red tiled roofs just below, jutting and joining, then out and out to the entire valley. Another painting, perfectly pastoral. Green forests, rich brown fields, rows of crops lined up from this distance like soldiers. A patchwork of natural colors flowing toward the hills with the hills rising up to mountains.

The view. Photo by j a-b
Intrepid travelers with a view. Photo by kat’s phone
Pano with helpful wall detail for the view. Photo by j a-b
BW’s take on the view. Photo by BW

There had to be roads, but I barely noticed them. And it all seemed so still and peaceful, like a world caught in glass.

We go down, and down some more, making Kat our navigator (she has the map from the tourist office) once again as we walk. The heat builds, I find. Heat rarely bothers me, but I think the stone buildings, the narrow street act like an oven.

Whew!

Little shops again, all so cute. Kat and I wander into one as we’ve seen a colorful shirt–literally as its pattern is paint swatches–that we both agree says JASON. And in wandering in, I see these adorable woven shoes. Colorful, fun. I have to at least try a pair on. My usual size feels a little big, but they have a size down. They’re ridiculously comfortable. I must have them, and the shirt, too. Kat assures me if it doesn’t fit Jason, she’ll have it for her own.

Who cares about the heat when you have fun new shoes?

Woven shoes. Photo by NR

Okay, now I’m dripping. I don’t sweat like that unless I’m working out and hard, but it’s HOT, and humid with it in this particular spot. I sit on the curb awhile while Jason and Kat poke into more shops. They’ve found the most adorable little dog (or cat in their case) feeder.  An iron dog with little bowls for food and water. It has some weight. I watch the heavy bag–and the parade of people. I see some sandals I wish were mine on someone else’s feet. Lots of dogs. A miniature poodle on a leash stops to say hello.

Artful bottle display. Photo by j a-b
Choices, choices. Photo by BW
BW called this “Manikin Fail.” Photo by BW

I see a young man with an impressive tanned torso–he shows it off by folding up his oversized tee-shirt. It must be cleverly pinned on the inside. It’s an odd look, but there is that torso.

Shopped out, we walk up and up, up some more, and find a church. A large and lovely one. And it’s cool inside. Stations of the Cross, holy water basins, flickering candles, statues of saints, and as always the BVM.

Church as seen by j a-b

Up some more, and oh yeah, ice cream. Just sparkling water for BW (though he has a couple samples of my cone) as he’s having a tooth deal. Something broken off on a back tooth–likely a filling–that’s rubbing sharply. We put, by text, the intrepid Alain and the efficient Elania at the hotel on the case. He may have a stint in a dentist’s chair in the morning.

Back home we go for a well-deserved rest.

BW takes a swim, and it inspires me to do the same. Just the perfect thing after a sweaty adventure. As is the belini I make after the swim. After a rest, Jason and Kat (younger and more resilient) decide on another walk to the market. They’ll go the long route, and their ETA back here is 8.

Bellini. Photo by NR

BW finds whatever tooth deal he had has resolved. Most excellent news. I lose track of time until it’s coming on 8, remind BW he has to decide what he wants to order for dinner as none of us want to clean up sufficiently for dinner in public.

Jason and Kat return right on time, with more bottles of champagne, sodas and whatever else hit the list.

Dinner on the terrace–just that lovely, smooth soup for me, and okay, a few fries.

Another pretty, relaxing meal–a little entertainment, then bed time.

Since the dentist’s been averted, I’ll do my workout, and work (new charger arrived as promised!!!), then BW and I have both booked massages for this afternoon. Kat and Jason will motor off for yarn.

We have yet to decide how we’ll play the evening.

Neither my mourning dove nor the cat as visited me this morning. I’m about to snatch BW’s laptop and work out, so we’ll see about the ants.  

Nora

BW joins today’s #randomkatness:

Mantis by BW.
Mantis by Kat.

 

Provence, France Day 10

Tickle Tickle! Photo by NR
Eggs Benedict. Photo by BW
BW’s caption: BE apres Cizing It Up. (Laura has her doubts on this — I READ the blog posts.) Photo by NR

Only two insistent ant fitness buffs for the morning. I was a little lonely.

On this gorgeous day Jason and Kat take off in a quest for yarn. I had a lovely, lovely swim, a round in the hot tub in reward for the workout.

Then, thanks to my promptly arriving charger, settled down to work for a couple hours. How about some cheese and bread with that? Don’t mind if I do.

For a couple of hours, my body sits in the woodsy shade of Provence and my brain goes to New York in 2061. It’s a very fine deal for me.

Stretch it out, have a bellini. Seems fair.

Then BW and I stroll (climb) stroll to Le Spa. This is BW’s second trip, my first. It’s gorgeous.

Airy and fragrant and wonderfully calm. Up a few stairs a glass window presents the beautiful indoor pool and its lounging area. We sit in reception a few minutes before we’re led to our respective locker rooms. More quiet, more pretty, more fragrant. I’m into the plush robe and slippers, then go into the relaxation room.

Nice!

Several lounges–adjustable for your comfort. Glossy magazines. I test my very poor French reading and admire the photographs. My masseuse fetches me, guides me into my pretty massage room. In minutes I’m down, she’s back and it begins.

Ah.

My choice of oil scented with lemongrass. Hot stones seeping into bones and muscles tested by climbs, workouts and horses. Good. competent, soothing hands. I drift in and out–my favorite state during a good massage. Not out so you wake up, think: What? Not fully awake so the brain doesn’t rest. The floating stage, and it’s perfect.

I tell her so when it’s finished.

Still in the dreamy state, I meet BW back at reception, and back home we go.

I decide to continue to relax there, which requires another bellini.

Jason and Kat return just about five o’clock. An adventure!

The yarn store Kat earmarked was closed for August–the traditional holiday month. Not to be discouraged, she found another in Nice, so on they drove. But that one, closed as well. She figures they figure who wants to buy yarn in August any way. Since they’re in Nice, they go to the beach, have lunch. And Kat gets to dip her feet in the Med. Jason regrets ordering a salad, which proved to be huge–after he sees someone served a hot fudge sundae. An enormous sundae.

Nice street scene. Photo by kat
Sweet selfie. Photo by kat
Classic farmland scene. Photo by j a-b
Giant Jason. Photo by kat

Kat drives to Nice, Jason drives back. I remain the only holdout. But really, think of the humanity.

We talk our day on the terrace, talk about where to have dinner as we’ve decided to explore off-campus. In their efficient way, they’ve taken photos of menus of a couple of our choices.

We choose one, casual, and clean ourselves up.

Beautiful, balmy evening after another hot day. We run into–I believe it’s Phillipe, head concierge and chat while I car’s brought around. He doesn’t know the restaurant we’ve chosen, but we promise to report back. (Jason tells me I misspelled Eladia’s name in a previous blog.)

Jason’s taken himself off on foot as it’s just a bit over a mile and he wants to hit his step goal for the day (I have sufficiently crushed all comers in our Work Week Hustle). Kat, faithful navigator, directs us. Wind and wind and wind, and . . . there.

It’s in or really by a kind of shopping center, and some flats. Wide, open air, lots of tables. A cheerful waitress with a little English. I choose some wine, and that goes smooth and easy. Vin rouge always works.

Le group. Photo by kat

She brings out a little chalkboard with the daily specials on it–and BW spots paella. That’s a favorite. It has a further description in French Jason and I puzzle over then decide is at any time over the weekend.

They have spaghetti arrabiata, which is a favorite of mine. Salade verte. Perfect.

BW inquires about what’s in the paella, as this often depends. The waitress only has French here, explains–and uses mime–it’s adorable. We got the shrimp, the mussles, the chicken (we’ve got that much French), but we’re all stuck on another ingredient until she draws a picture. An octopus (or squid). All five us are pleased with each other, and since all the ingredients suit BW, we order.

There’s a cafe across the way closing for the night. One of the residents of the flats is standing on her tiny balcony brushing her teeth. People begin wandering in to take tables. I have a view of the hills throughout.

The food’s really, really good. The service fun and bright. This is obviously a neighborhood place, and we hear only French. We all agree we’d certainly come back, and that’s before dessert.

Hey, hot fudge sundaes–and oh God profiteroles. Jason and Kat will split the sundae, BW and I the profiteroles. Meanwhile, a family with a young boy–three or four–and a very new baby are dining. The boy is entertaining himself creatively with action figures. Another big table is full of women so we figure a girls night out. Families and groups all around us, and the little boy’s in his own heroic battlefield. He’s really cute. We hear music from a nearby restaurant, and after a bit realize it’s karaoke!

Dessert comes, and oh my. I may not be able to fully finish my share, but I make a strong attempt. The long, lazy and satisfying meal has taken us deep into the evening. But we feel obliged to walk over and check out the karaoke.

Dessert!!! Photo by ja-b

It’s a pizzeria with a generous outdoor area. Lots of tables of people eating while others take the mike. We watch two girls bravely attempt a song. Not one I’m familiar with, and in French, but vastly entertaining.

Back home we go, and to bed as we hope to leave earlier this morning for the Saturday market in Fayence. No time to workout! Jason, Kat and I will start head-to-head on our Weekend Warrior Challenge.

I think I’ll try out my fun new shoes.

Nora

Today’s #randomkatness:

Bread IS art. Photo by kat

Note from Laura:  Here in the real world, I’m at a family wedding this weekend.  Sunday’s post could be a little later due to long party tonight and somewhat cranky wifi.  Will do what I can!

Provence, France Day 11

 

Pano by j a-b

A change of plans. We realize none of us actually feel like getting in the car to go anywhere. The nice thing about vacation is having no obligation, so we scratch the drive to Fayence for the day.

I change into workout gear. Kat and Jason gear up, too–for a serious hike. BW decides he’ll do a little Cizing It Up with me and Shaun T.(Correction on yesterday’s blog. Kat and Jason drove into Cannes not Nice.)

Picture of BW apres Cize can be found in yesterday’s blog. (Note to Laura: It’s real!)*

After BW sweated it out, I keep going, cap off my own sweatfest with yoga.

It seems like an excellent time for a swim. And it certainly was. Why not follow that up with a spin in the hot tub for a fine morning of work and reward.

Friday night, Kat did a little laundry in the tub. I elect to do a little myself on this fine Saturday, and hang the clothes on the rail in the bright sun while I settle down to read in the shade.

Pragmatic side of a long vacation: cleaning clothes. Photo by j a-b

The wind comes up, a quick sweep of it–feels great, but . . . I get up, go over to pick up tank tops that blew off the rail, and see I now have underwear in the hot tub. Go in, get it, wring it, rehang. Pour a glass of wine, settle down with book.

Laundry day. Photo by NR

Wind. Huh. Find a better way to secure laundry.

The bright Saturday passes with sun and warm breezes, wine and a book. That’s a very fine start to the weekend, though I suspect as Kat and Jason haven’t returned, my 13k steps (so far) on the challenge will be smashed to bits. 

Vertical pano of steps by j a-b
Stone walls. Photo by j a-b
Laura thinks its bougainvillea. Photo by j a-b
Bell tower. photo by j a-b
Notre Dame. Photo by j a-b
Laura Googled this — it’s a commune. Photo by j a-b

When they return, this is proven true.

They walked and walked and climbed and climbed all the way to a little village more than three miles away. Enjoyed the sights, found a church (two weddings scheduled for this pretty Saturday), found ice cream.

After some recovery time, Jason announces as he has 75 flights for the day (that’s climbing/stairs) on his FitBit, he’s going for another walk to get the 100, and a new badge. Just FYI, if anyone’s considering adding a device such as FitBit to their lives, our small, unscientific focus group attests they are highly motivating.

Jason earns his Skyscraper Badge. 100 floors=walking up The Empire State Building, I believe. Wowzer.

If anyone’s keeping score on our Weekend Warrior Challenge, Jason has the lead, followed closely by Kat. I’m trailing, but will see what I can make up today!

We laze, we discuss dinner. Since heading to the hotel means changing into not sloppy clothes, we eat in.

I can just see the sun setting through the trees, a hot glow of colors–reds and golds–while we eat. We hear some golfers–didn’t realize we had a hole this close. If they don’t finish up soon, they’ll be night golfing.

This morning, my dove returned for a drink, and a squirrel–probably the black one we see doing gymnastics through our forest–has a lot to say.

I think BW’s going down to the airfield to have a look, perhaps book glider flights for himself and Jason. Jason and Kat may walk down to the market for a few things before it closes for Sunday afternoon.

I think workout, swim, hot tub is my morning order of business. If we stay in, I may work a couple hours.

Did I mention it’s a beautiful morning?

Nora
Today’s #randomkatness
Real or art? Laura votes real. Photo by kat
 *Note from Laura: in my defense, without any copy supporting a joint workout, I thought BW did his own thing then wilted dramatically for the camera.  Now for some photos by Jason, not quite exactly sure where he and Kat were for these.

Provence, France Day 12

Work it out on a lovely morning while Jason and Kat sleep in and BW heads out to do some photography. Add a swim, some hot tub jets. Jason and Kat surface, head off to take their walk.  Think about work. Decide not to think about work and read instead.

[Please note, due to a warp in the time/space continuum — and snarky wifi — these are Kat/Jason’s photos from Saturday. — L]

Church by kat.
Inside the church by kat.
Cat with sidewalk grill. Photo by kat
Couple selfie #2. Photo by kat.

[Here are BW’s photos from Sunday. ~L]

L’aerodrome de Fayence glider experience. Photo by BW.
Castle of Tourrettes. Photo by BW.
The teal Lake? Question by Laura, photo by BW.

Hours of nothing much.

Everybody comes back, and nothing much continues very well.

I think being unused to nothing much my confused and relaxed system thought it was bed time. I drop out for a good hour on the sofa terrace.

But now it’s time for something more. Stagger off to the shower to clean up and wake up. We’re heading up to the hotel for their Sunday Pasta Corner. And as we start out, I realize it’s the first time I’ve left the villa the entire weekend.

Pasta Corner’s popular for a reason. Lots of families already seated–lots of Brit accents tonight. We opt for the whole buffet–that’s antipasto, pasta, dessert. For the first two it’s a build/choose your own from many options. First the extensive, colorful, fascinating antipasto bar. Fields greens, multiple types of olives and tomatoes, stuffed peppers, cheeses, fresh herbs, mushrooms. Big balls of mozzarella swimming in water.  Breads, breads, breads.

Olives with rosemary garnish Photo by kat.
Salad and massive breadsticks. After all, bread IS art. Photo by kat

We sit in the bright evening–and don’t forget the wine (wonderfully smooth). A family comes in with a little boy–maybe three–who is decidedly not happy to be there. Before long he makes his displeasure well known. I watch the mom carry him over to the lobster tank. This erases all displeasure. Lobster magic.

Now to choose pasta, sauce, additions to the sauce. BW goes for pistachio pesto. He’s a pistachio kind of guy. I’m red sauce with basil and garlic and marjoram.

Array o’pasta. Photo by kat.
Finished penne. Photo by kat.

It’s delicious.

And it’s a happy, relaxed, satisfying meal all around as the long twilight comes and goes, and the stars begin to wake.

They have a limoncello baba for dessert. There are other offerings here, but I don’t see beyond the baba. It’s just exquisite.

What to choose? Photo by kat.
Dessert flight. Photo by kat.

The walk back–and there’s the Bg Dipper in a crystal clear sky–isn’t nearly long enough.

We hang out in our living area, check the news. RIP Jerry Lewis. I recall a story when my father–a stage hand at that time–met him, and the inscribed lighters Jerry gave every member of the crew on the show. Thinking back deeper this morning, this was either at The National or The Carter Baron in DC, and Lewis played The Devil in Damn Yankees. Nearly sure of that, though I was very young.   BW remembers seeing him in Hellza Poppin’, and Jason heard a story about him going out the Stage Door to greet and spend time with a woman with MD.

The French President has called for a national day of mourning.

Today we’re taking a day trip to the French Grand Canyon. I can’t remember the name of the gorge–but will have it for tomorrow’s blog. The last time we were here, we drove the couple of hours, but there was tremendous fog, and we saw nothing but the thick curtain of mist. Today’s clear and bright, so we should have a fine view.

May have to shorten today’s workout as we want to leave around ten. Dinner at the villa tonight so we can stream some footage of the eclipse we’re missing.

There’s mist rising off the hot tub in the morning cool. I should carve out time for that.

Fancy hat stand. Photo by j a-b.

Nora

Today’s #randomkatness:

Random Panda. Photo by kat.

Provence, France Day 13

Short workout and some fine, hot jets before what turned into a marathon touring day.

Our sights are set on Gorges du Verdon, and the helpful concierge desk gives us a route, so off we go.

I take a half a Dramamine, and Kat opts to depend on her mints. Both of us suffer from motion sickness, and the route’s windy.

My Dramamine outlasts Kat’s mints by a thread, and just under two hours in, BW pulls over so she can get out and breathe, walk, settle. Then she takes the wheel as it helps to drive.

There’s a big fortress on a high hill, little villages, larger ones. Landscape that goes from woodsy to pastoral to rocky and steep. Now the road isn’t just windy. It’s sinuous, snaky, switchbacky–and all the Dramamine in the world isn’t going to handle it.

We stop often, which is good. End up turning on a little, skinny road already lined with cars that turns out to be a route down to a beach–and a jump-off point for white-water rafting.

No thanks!

Crowds of people, high cliffs, so many crisped trees from this long drought. We stop again, a couple little stands, lots of people, and walk. Walking good!! Everything’s so dry, and the landscape’s like the moon. Gray and stony as we climb, but the views are awesome. Wild rock formations–one so big and smooth and level it looks hewed by a giant’s axe then polished. Others are rough and tumbled, high and rounded, and it’s such a clear day it seems you can see for miles and miles and miles.

Straight down. Photo by BW.

 I buy chips at a stand as salt sometimes keeps things settled. They help some.

Up, up, up. The gorge is pretty amazing. We get out for a overlook. By now my legs are shaky–a side-effect of the queazies, but the being out in the air’s better. My mistake? Looking down even for a flash at the overlook.

Not sure if Nora’s signaling that BW is close to the edge. It would be a long way down. Photo by BW.
Cute selfie at the Gorge. Photo by kat.
Selfie with a view. Photo by BW’s phone.

Holy crap!!! Uneasy stomach drops to knees, whines: Don’t do that!

We’re seriously high here. There’s a guy whose vertigo must be worse than mine sitting on the platform, holding onto the rail and obviously working himself up to look. I opt to look out, just out and absolutely not down. And that’s another painting.

The river is that strange, beautiful teal where the river cuts its curving path through the steep, green cliffs. It’s lined with brown as it must be considerably more shallow now than usual. From this height it looks as though you could walk across it.

A river runs through it. Photo by kat.
A river runs through it. Photo by BW.
Straight down. Photo by BW.
River and mesa. Photo by BW.

Kat points out getting back up once on the other side would be a serious issue.

It looks–what I see down from looking out–like one of those toy landscapes on a model train set. You know those trees are tall and huge, but they look so tiny, and make a deep green, bumpy carpet on the sheer rise.

The cliffs rise up higher and higher, and the green gives way to stone or vegetation burned brown by the sun. Hawks circle in the sky.

We go through rock tunnels–literally rock with rough, stony arches–and odd stone  juts like free-form rock awnings, skinny, ever-winding roads, climbing higher. For a while we follow a little blue car in a parking game. We seem to arrive at a pull-out just as the car leaves, and slide into his spot. Handy.

I see a sign that puts us at 1285 meters. That’s high, even this math and distance declined woman knows that’s high. Between the height and the constant swerving road my system has failed.

Anyone who experiences motion sickness knows once you pass a certain point, that’s just it. You’re going to be queasy and off for the duration.

We make our descent, the mountains high around us, and finally into a pretty hill village–a pretty big one–at roughly four in the afternoon. Too late for lunch, too early for dinner for most restaurants. But we park, and we walk. I know my family asked what I wanted to do, but I had to tell them: I need to be led. My mind is mush, and can’t make any rational decision.

We walk. It’s a pretty town, I can see that. Color, movement, shops with their wares displayed, people walking dogs. And a beautiful, shady promenade on the way to the only restaurant we can find serving at this odd hour.

It’s busy and noisy, but we can order. I think plain, simple pizza as it might soothe. One slice is all my system accepts. I distract myself watching the waitress who hustles and looks distracted and out of sorts. And when I see her go into the bathroom, come out in a different outfit, I wonder why.

As she continues to take orders and serve, she’s not off-shift. Maybe it’s her evening waitress outfit. The bar and its tender are busy throughout in this little place. Jason comments I must be sick because I don’t even look at the gelato display.

Food bad.

No poking in the shops for me either at this point. My goal is home where the world will be still.

But we’re nearly two hours from that paradise.

Still, the route back is straighter for the most part, and heads down (or winds) through forest and farmland. Gorgeous green stands of trees, quiet fields. We wonder at the lack of livestock. We haven’t seen a cow or sheep so far in Provence. Horses, but no other livestock.

Vineyards, forests, pretty houses. Kat is steady on the wheel.

A huge lake–that wonderful color–with a beach and the people spread on it. Boats on the water, swimmers all making a living postcard.

And at last, the road home. There’s our market. And finally our turn into the resort.

Walk to the villa, breathe, sit in a seat that doesn’t move. Heaven.

We watch livestream from the States on the eclipse, and that’s pretty amazing. I think about food, decide to avoid that and just sit and relax until bed.

This will be my last adventure involving hours of serpentine roads.

Today I’ll happily stay put, workout, maybe take a swim. If my system’s fully recovered, it may be a good day to write for a couple hours. I think my traveling companions are ready for a vacate day as well. We left before eleven yesterday, returned about seven. That’s a long day.

Some answers to questions I’ve seen in comments:

No, I really don’t get recognized, and am grateful. Most people don’t recognize writers, so it makes it easy.

Yes, I think the proximity to Italy–esp in Eze–was an influence on the cuisine. Italian food is everywhere. (and yummy.)

I’m reading New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson–science fiction about NY, and a particular group in a particular building–decades after climate change has flooded the city.

And to add Jason and Kat nipped me by under a hundred steps (both of them) on our Weekend Warrior challenge. I’m working on defending my title for the Workweek Hustle.

Nora

In today’s #randomkatness:

Bird by kat.

In case you want to experience some tiny portion of Nora’s motion sickness, watch BW’s gif over and over.  I dare you!  ~Laura

Trigance on the way to Verdon du Gorge. Photo by BW

Provence, France Day 14

It really is a constant state of beautiful.

Every morning I sit out to catch up a little with the world, write this blog, and am wonderfully distracted by beauty. Watching the pink haze over the eastern mountains as the sky goes blue, and the changing light in through the trees. It’s a fine, fine way to begin each day on a holiday.

We took (certainly for Kat’s and my sake) a full recovery day. I did a good, steady workout, capped by much needed yoga while my gang disbursed–K&J for their walk, BW to breakfast then photo work.

I considered working, then considered my still shaky system and mushy brain. Decided on reading instead.

Finally pulled it together enough for actual clothes in the afternoon. Jason and Kat back, settled into their work, but how about walking up for lunch?

Walking good. Anything not involving car good.

I have to keep lunch light–it takes time for my system–so abused–to rebound–but it’s good to be out and about, hear chatter. There is a truly gorgeous breeze. We walk through the hotel, and I spot art I’d missed. I’m not at all sure what some of it represents, but it’s interesting and fascinating and fun. 

Golf ball with keys. Photo by kat.
Drama BW-style. Photo by j a-b.
How the day’s drinks progress? Photo by kat.
If you’re going to have a hand model, may as well make it practical. Photo by j a-b.

We pass the Kid’s Club, and oh so cute! They have a kind of modular little mini-golf, and a little boy is having the best time just pouring colorful golf balls in a hole, digging them out again.

Mini-golf. Photo by j a-b.

Back to the book, take a nap. I’m not a napper, but this is all about system recovery. Kat says her calves are tired. Not sore, tired. She naps, too. I stagger awake, take a swim. Hmm, am starting to feel almost level again.

Somehow it’s evening, and I still want to avoid cars. We have some left-overs and will order the rest from room service. I sit with my book again, then see the cat–definitely pregnant–make a dash across the terrace. 

The visitor. Photo by BW.

I say: kitty, kitty, which is universal cat language. She stops, gives me a suspicious look. I have a bag of chips nearby, toss one. She stares–I pretend to look away. She creeps, creeps, creeps up to the chip. Sniffs, snags, bolts.

Amused, I go in to get myself a drink, see her through the kitchen door, sort of slinking back onto the terrace. I grab what’s left of a round of brie out of the fridge. There she is, eyeing BW, eyeing me when I come out. I tear off a tiny bite of brie, toss it. She creeps closer, sniffs. Now we’re talking! More brie tossed–a little bit closer. She’s definitely not coming much closer, but she’s happy to have the brie.

What cat wouldn’t be?

I go in, pour a little saucer of milk–she’s eating for several, after all.

She drinks the milk, and is now relaxed enough to sit and wash herself–very thoroughly after her meal. Then she departs–I think she has a place in the woods near here. And as our own Kat points out, there are plentiful lizards to snack on.

If she comes back, I’ll find some little snack and some milk for her.

We’re having the most gorgeous evening, something about it. The light, the air, the breeze. It’s just one of those perfect interludes.

Now it’s time for our meal–and I still keep it light. System recovery is near complete. Kat and Jason bought cookies at the market, and Kat warms them up–divides one at my request so I have about 1/8th of a cookie. My girl is spoiling my man, serving him warm cookies and cappuccino after dinner. He will miss her when we’re back to reality! 

The Linzer tort game is strong in Provence. Photo by kat.
Choices, so many choices. Photo by kat.

A little more reading, then ZZZZZ.

And now it’s another stunning morning. I’ll pick my workout, clean myself up. I think to work as I seem to be back to normal. BW and Jason have their glider ride this afternoon. Have I mentioned their cast-iron stomachs? This has always been the case.

I’ll stick with the terrace and solid ground. Kat may go down to the aerodrome with them–not to fly, but to take pictures.

We have reservations here for dinner–so no car again today.

So workout, work, maybe a swim, a book someone else sweated over, and a bellini or two while I hear about the men’s adventures in gliding. 

BW avant Cize. Photo by NR.
BW Apres Cize (in his undramatic way). Photo by NR.

A fine way to spend a gorgeous day.

Nora

In today’s #randomkatness, a sequel and a quiz:

“Dude, I’m sorry I was late. Look at me!” Photo by kat, caption by Laura.
Spot the import! Photo by kat.

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