Just lodged for 10 days in a converted sheep barn in Vence, France. Had the joy of some fabulous and disappointment of some not so fabulous meals. We were busy enough, but not so much that we succumbed to full vacation mode, as we balanced outings with restful days and evenings. And then there were the mosquitoes…
Where we stayed:
At the foot of the mountains, below the old city of Vence we had beautiful views all around. This is Bob’s chosen spot for Kindle time. Because of mosquitoes, I had to stay indoors more than I would have liked. The circumstances were actually quite unusual as it seems we were there for a particularly horrible infestation, and the locals warned us about the challenges. Good news is that the stores had large displays of bug prevention options. We stocked up on sprays, wrist bands, and even found room diffusers – which all seemed to help.
Evidence of the barn walls made our living area uniquely cozy. In the mirror you can see the “stairs” up to the bedroom and bath.
Getting on to the ladder was a might tricky. After that, the climb up was a piece of cake.
If the ladder was a problem there was an outside entrance to the bedroom. Perfect for getting suitcases indoors. Not so perfect given the lack of light in the evening and the bug patrols that gathered about.
Walls were three-feet thick. Kept us nice and cool when the days were warm.
Ceilings were pretty low in some places. Bob made it through the stay without one bonk on the head.
What we ate:
Our first stop after arriving in town, as usual, was to get provisions. When we got to the grocery store we were a bit befuddled with getting a cart/buggy (depending on what part of the USA you live in). The carts/buggies are locked together. Turns out you have to use a coin to push the catch backward. The coin stays in place and when you bring the cart/buggy back and relock, the coin is returned to you. FYI: we did not see strays anywhere in the lots, so it appears to be a good system.
Mussels, mussels, everywhere – even at our house. Bob found a bag, cleaned and ready to cook, so it seemed like a good time to make it happen. We played around with ingredients for the broth and decide that it had to be provençal. When in Rome…or in this case, Provence. They were incroyable! I am embarrassed to admit we finished that whole pot. But, as Bob kept reminding me, there really isn’t a lot to eat in any one of those critters. But still… a whole pot… along with green beans, cucumbers and baguette.
On the way back from one of our outings Bob jokingly commented that he could sure go for a McDonald’s burger. I typed it into the GPS and Voila! – there was one just ahead. We parked our car in McDonald’s gated and ticketed lot (first 2 hours free) and went to make our choices. All orders are done at kiosks, and when I saw a Croque McDO I just had to try it. Background: Croque Monsieur, essentially a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, is one of my French restaurant stand-by options. A perfect Plan B for all occasions.. But, heck – I like a grilled sandwich most anywhere/anytime. (Just ask my kiddos about our make-your-own grilled cheese buffet nights.) McDO = McDOn’t.
This is the disappointing truth of the McDO: a hamburger bun turned inside out (in France, with all of that great bread – a sacrilege!), white America cheese (again – in a county with some of the best cheeses available; American???), and a processed pork product that strongly resembled bologna. My myrtille frappe (blueberry shake) was tasty for about one slurp as the sugar quickly overpowered everything else. Bob’s chicken sandwich was dry and bland, made from processed chicken with some sad lettuce and a “soft and icky” roll; fries were soggy; diet soda passed muster – but that is probably because there wasn’t much McDonald’s could do to change the Coke product. Let’s just say, in a rephrase of the chain’s slogan, We were NOT lovin’ it.
Favorite place for a long and leisurely lunch : Vence city center square, under the gorgeous sycamore trees. Made me a bit homesick for the trees that line our yard in Reno.
The pizza with its thin crust, the mound of fresh greens, the chilled rosé. It is a bit of a surprise that we ever eat anywhere else.
But of course, we did. Part of the fun of dining out is reading the menu boards and the featured dishes of the day (plat du jour). Just so you know – I am a sucker for restaurant specials, so this was right up my alley. If a restaurant offers a featured dish, I order it. If a chef puts her/his name on a dish, I order it. If an establish puts their name on a food offering, I order it. That’s just the way I roll, and it has provided me with some of my best meal experiences. So – if you want me to order it – name it.
What we did:
A drive through the Maritime Alps to Castellane – a lovely small town that gateways the Verdon Gorges. Stopped for lunch at a charming restaurant on the town square and had – what else – the plat du jour!
More of those beautiful sycamores.
The sycamore leaves even showed up in the ironwork on their streets.
And after lunch we sat on this bench to enjoy a treat from a local patisserie.
On to The Gorges. The huge rock outcroppings are the first sign we see of the beauty that lies ahead.
Coming into The Gorge we comment on the the striations and coloration in the cliffs. Because of erosion, it almost looks as if it is melting.
Verdon Gorge, itself. Not as grand as our Grand Canyon, but breathtaking in its own right.
Into busy Nice for a museum day. We joke that traveling new roads with signs that are not in English can make finding a parking garage a day’s worth of excitement. Then once at the garage there is the whole ticketing thing to navigate. I am going with the theory that these challenges provide enough mental stimulation to counteract some of the aging brain syndrome.
Musée d’art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain. Contemporary art, but not much to get excited about. Many times the highly conceptual and, frankly, unfocused art pieces felt like a reach; contrived. (Remember this comment comes from a novice, not a true art critic; but I do know what I like.) The building, on the other hand, made this a worthwhile visit. The structure kept us investigating spaces and views. The downside – it needed some serious interior maintenance. I believe Bob compared it to NYC subways in the 70s. Ouch.
The piece we both liked: Birds, by Armand Ferdinand.
On closer inspection, vice grips!
Same artist, with his take on coffee grinders.
A day at Eze. We left our car down there.
So we could walk to the top to get the views from here – Jardins Exotiques. It was windy, and for some reason that added an extra thrill to being up so high, overlooking the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. Or maybe I am just getting more like my Grandma Dahlstom (Grandma D) who had to put her head down by her knees and close here eyes whenever we drove to high elevations. I can still see her crouched in the back seat of our car on the way up to Lake Tahoe. Neither of our boys could figure out what that was all about (cue infectious childhood laughter)… but I get it.
Just 6KM from our rental – one of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera: St-Paul-de-Vence, home to Fondation Maeght. Now THIS is what I appreciate in modern art, displayed in a perfectly curated environment. We loved the Miró labyrinth.
We loved the hilltop views.
We loved the indoor galleries where you can walk up close to each piece.
A blissfully wonderful 10 days. Putting this locale (sheep barn and all) on our newly created Return Again list. France, Part 3 awaits.