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Happy 80th Birthday Mom: Menerbes and Provence, Cassis and the Cote D’Azur

Happy 80th Birthday Mom: Menerbes and Provence, Cassis and the Cote D’Azur

Sep 30th, 2013, 07:16 PM
  #21  
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Yes, I knew that tuscan!
kwren is offline  
Sep 30th, 2013, 07:20 PM
  #22  
 
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What a great trip report!
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Oct 1st, 2013, 01:35 AM
  #23  
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Thanks Starrs!
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Oct 1st, 2013, 05:34 AM
  #24  
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Monday - One last breakfast in Nino’s restaurant – a large basket of fresh delicious breads – and while we were eating, Nino went to the garage in the pouring rain to get the car out and bring it down to the harbor within the 2 hour time slot, and get our luggage. He could not have been more accommodating. We would definitely stay there again!

Now we were off to Fayence through back roads because one of my mom’s friends raved about it. I remember passing through Bagnols en Foret, pretty scenery, and all of a sudden we were faced with a very steep hill covered with buildings all the way up the side: Fayence. After a lot of zig-zagging to get to the top, we made it and used our Zone Bleue Disque for an hour at a time. It was so nice to have one of those. I don’t know if it’s easy to get one in any tourist info center, but I’d certainly ask. We shopped for souvenirs, went to a beautiful fabric store and had a snack. Driving out the other side was really fun with all the tiny roads in the old section.

Back out on the main road, we were stuck behind a huge pile of hay bales on a swaying truck and it passed the time imagining when the whole thing would collapse. We passed through Grasse, but we weren’t tempted to stop because it was packed with busses and tourists and we had been there many years ago. Our route took us through Le Bar sur Loup and Le Pont du Loup and wound us around gorges and past old aquducts. A beautiful ride. We were headed towards Tourrettes-sur-Loup to get to our next stop, Le Mas des Cigales. We had to take a tiny road before reaching Tourettes s/Loup and turn back the way we came until we reached the gate. We rang the bell and were let in to the prettiest garden area and typical French farmhouse. We had the Lavande room and it was oh so sweet. There was a pool and a far-off hazy view of the Mediterranean. Perfect. Stefaan and Veronique, the Belgian owners, live there and couldn’t have been nicer and more welcoming. We chose our room based on the Internet pictures and once again were not disappointed – they looked exactly like the pictures and had parking, breakfast, TV, A/C:

http://www.lemasdescigales.com/en/pictures/

The entire mas was gorgeous. The breakfast area was under a pergola covered with wisteria and with every breath of a breeze there was a soft lavender shower of petals. If it was cold, there was an indoor area with a large round table too, and it was available for our use in the evenings. There was an honor refrigerator with drinks. All so cozy! We had picked up some picnic food and had our dinner at the table in that room.
kwren is offline  
Oct 1st, 2013, 06:05 AM
  #25  
 
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Wonderful places, kwren. Please keep this coming!
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Oct 1st, 2013, 12:58 PM
  #26  
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Tuesday – Breakfast at the Mas was wonderful, and as explained to us, more Belgian than French and included meats and cheeses, made to order eggs as well as the typical French breads and yogurts. Veronique explained that they felt they could only offer a full breakfast as that was their culture. All the better for us!

The Gorges du Loup were gorgeous (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun) and we followed along for about 10 minutes to the Florian Confiserie des Gorges du Loup, a renowned candy maker who specializes in crystallizing violet and rose petals. The setting was magnificent by a rushing river. Luckily, they give some tours in English so we waited for the next one. We loved seeing the entire crystallization process, as well as candying orange slices and making hard candies and jams. Of course there was a shop of products with copious samples, and of course we bought quite a bit.

Next we went to St Paul de Vence. We had been there before so my mom didn’t want to go, but I persuaded her to go again and it was worth the trip. I settled her at the Café de la Place and quickly walked through the old town, enjoying the detail such as the flower designs made out of pebbles in the walkways. Lilies of the Valley were on sale throughout since it was almost May Day. The highlight of the day though was sitting at the café for hours just watching the petanque players. We ordered snacks, then later ice cream, and later still I graduated to wine. Warning: the waiters were extremely rude and barely civil the entire time we were there, but the price was right and the boules games went on all afternoon so it was definitely worth a visit for the entertainment. We were fascinated by two players in particular who we named: “Monsieur Santon” who had the craggy look of the typical santons we saw everywhere, and “Monsieur Conspiracy Man” who kept coming over to talk to us and each time ended up railing on and on about how 9-11 was all a conspiracy! We had quite the conversations with him! (It helped that he was very good looking!)

We finally left and while driving through Tourrettes-sur-Loup on the way back to the mas, decided to park in the square and walk around. There were many narrow streets with views and shops and finally we settled in at La Grange on the square for dinner. We both had Daube, a beef stew over noodles and it was pretty good, real comfort food. The service was good and we were glad we had stopped.
kwren is offline  
Oct 1st, 2013, 02:28 PM
  #27  
 
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I'm sorry they were rude to you. I stayed three times there at the Columbe D'Or and found everyone friendly. I loved upstairs at the post office with all the photos of celebrities who stayed in the village.Also the Maeght
Foundation was one of my favorite art treats there.
I love this area , You chosed wisely. MORE
cigalechanta is offline  
Oct 1st, 2013, 08:26 PM
  #28  
 
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What a lovely report of a wonderful trip; it's one of my favorite places, too. I'm leaving for France on Thur., and eventually to Uzes. I was toying with idea of heading east to the Luberon again for day trips, and your descriptive and evocative report has convinced me that I must do that!
How special that you and your mom could do this together.
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Oct 1st, 2013, 11:18 PM
  #29  
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Cigale...is the Columbe d'Or in St. Paul de Vence and is it within the walls of the old town? If so, how do you get your luggage there?

Grandmere...my mom is already talking about another trip!
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 05:05 AM
  #30  
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Wednesday – The weather was great today so we were able to eat breakfast outside with the flowers and view. Afterwards, we took the 5 minute ride back to the hilltop-located Tourettes s/Loup via the winding roads (Tourettes-sur-Loup is in the Alpes-Maritimes department) for their market which encircled the square. We were lucky again to get parking right there. We bought jewelry, a leather bag and enjoyed looking at the olive displays, the spice and salt tables, the handmade goods. Particularly enjoyable was the lack of tourists (and English) and lack of tacky souvenirs. We went back to La Grange for a crème brulee with crystallized violettes on top. Tourrettes s/Loup, as noted on a sign entering town: "Cité des Violettes", grows violets which are used by Florian for crystallization and in turn used on some desserts here. We also learned that violets have been grown there for over a century and are celebrated in a festival with music, dancing and violet-covered floats in late winter/early spring. I bet it's hard work to tend to that many violets!

After lunch, we returned to the Mas for our own game of petanques on their court. On the way to the court, Stefaan and I talked about the traditions of boule players and he mentioned an important one: drinking! He mentioned Ricard/Pernod and I replied that I had never tasted that. We proceeded to pick up the pouches with the boules and went to play. About 20 minutes later, there was Stefaan with a little tray with some Pernod, water and ice for me! How unexpected and proof that they really went out of their way to make us feel at home.

We finished up our game and went to rest by the pool and then got ready for the Table d’Hotes, a meal prepared and shared with the owners. This was something I had always wanted to do and a big selling point of this place for me. My mom said she didn’t want to do this, so I told her I’d gladly get her something to eat in the room, but that I really wanted to go. She finally decided to go too, but in the end was so happy with her decision. It was 28 Euros per person for an aperitif and onion tart, coq au vin, wine, mousse au chocolat and coffee or tea. It was wonderful to eat with Veronique and Stefaan and 4 other guests from different countries, and hear their story about the move to France and decision to buy a B+B. A later Table d’Hotes was posted for Sunday with paella, but sadly we would be gone by then.
kwren is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2013, 06:56 AM
  #31  
 
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Is the parking disk you got at the tourist office (Zone Bleu Disk) for elderly or handicapped only or is it available to anyone? Your trip sounds marvelous!
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 07:16 AM
  #32  
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I'm going to say it was for anyone to help avoid having people park in prime spots all day. I'm not elderly (at least I hope I don't look that way ) or handicapped and the woman in the tourist office offered it to me and explained how to use it. I meant to bring it home but we accidentally left it in the car.

The places you can use it and the amount of time you may stay are indicated on a roadside parking sign. You set the time of your arrival on the "clock" and return in the allotted amount of time, according to the sign. I was shopping in St Paul de Vence and realized my time was up. The shopkeeper said it was allowed to change the time to a new arrival time...so I did. I asked someone else about this too and they told me the same thing. Lastly, I also asked a policeman watching me and he said OK too. Seems that that would defeat the purpose so I don't want to definitively recommend changing the time every hour...just in case, but it worked for me!
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 07:32 AM
  #33  
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I just lost the end of my trip report somehow! #-o Redo!
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 10:35 AM
  #34  
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Thursday – our last breakfast at the Mas and we were back on the road, this time headed for Nice which was only 14 km away, although via secondary twisting roads. I had searched the Internet a few nights previously and had found a good deal at the All Seasons Hotel - Nice Aeroport Arenas. It was inexpensive, spotlessly clean, very modern, yet colorful and adorable with free airport shuttle, breakfast and WiFi. Good find for an airport hotel - I loved it. We dropped off our luggage and hit the road for a Cote d’Azur drive.

We started off along the main road in Nice along the beach. My mom enjoyed seeing the old architecture and I enjoyed the beach activity and harbor. We decided to follow the Moyenne Corniche past Monaco (beautiful from above), to Menton and almost into Italy. I had read that taking the middle coastal road gave the best views and I have to agree that they were stunning. In Menton, I wanted to cross over into Italy for one minute and come right back just to say I went to Italy, but my mom was adamant that her health insurance wouldn’t cover her if she entered Italy (!). How do you even begin to deal with that logic, so I just turned the car around! We had a snack in Menton and took the highway back to Nice, but not before going to a very small hilltop town north of Nice in search of a restaurant.

It was exciting to be in such an old town with tiny roads. There had apparently been some sort of festival because there were strings of flowers strung across some of the streets and hearts of flowers on some doors. The roads got narrower and narrower. Just when I had managed to safely drive us all the way through the narrow streets and had one last turn to make, I noticed a fairly large cutout on the right side of the road where a staircase led down. I was afraid to go too close to it and have a tire slip down into the cutout so I pulled a bit to the left just before turning and wouldn’t you know it – screech! I cut the turn too close, scraped the building’s rocky corner and dented in the door. I was crawling along and there wasn’t THAT much damage, but it sure did make a lot of noise! Well, for the first time ever, we had gone for the unlimited insurance so luckily we were covered for that. Now and then I do make a good decision!

We got the heck out of there without finding a place for dinner, looked around a nearby town for a restaurant that suited us with no luck, and finally went down towards Antibes and had dinner at St Barths at the Marina on the Baie des Anges. I had a steak which was fine and after almost running out of gas in the search for an open gas station, we headed back to the hotel for our last night in France.

Friday – our departure. We had to get up and eat at 4:00 am because of our early flight. The hotel was so wonderful to open up their breakfast buffet ½ hour early for us. They had piles of fresh warm croissants, chocolate croissants, fresh crunchy baguettes and a very good buffet. A nice way to leave Nice! We had a stunning view of the Alps on the way to Munich. We continued on to Chicago, which my mother still doesn’t understand, but hey, if the cheapest flight takes us to Chicago, then we go to Chicago - and then back to Pennsylvania.

Looking back, would I have done different things, walked more, visited more museums and shops had I been traveling without my mom? Of course, but this was ‘her' trip and I was glad to go at her pace, see what she had been dreaming of, and help her get settled while I quickly got the lay of the land. I was certainly thrilled to make this trip happen!

Fin
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 10:50 AM
  #35  
 
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Wow! kwren, you are really very nice to your mother. I'm in awe of you, and your trip report.
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 11:46 AM
  #36  
 
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As another adult daughter who travels with her mom I was happy to read this lovely report!
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 12:04 PM
  #37  
 
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kwren, yes, it's almost opposite the boules court
we drove there with our luggage and someone parked the car.
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 02:04 PM
  #38  
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cigale - hope you had a zone bleu disque! How often did you sit at that cafe and watch them?

I've heard about the Maeght Foundation and would have loved to go, but my mother had been there and wasn't interested in going back. That's OK - I'll be back sometime and it gives me something to look forward to!

Merci tuscan and low country!

Lowcountry - now I can start my next report!!! You know what it is!
kwren is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2013, 02:23 PM
  #39  
 
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ALWAYS get car insurance when driving in France!!! Good call.

I also wanted to go to Italy, so we did in fact take the train from Nice, 2 stops into Italy. Got off the French train in Ventimiglia and then got on an Italian train for one stop to Bordighera. We had a nice lunch there. I so wanted a passport stamp, none to be had

Sounds lovely all around. I often wonder what it would have been like to travel with my mom. Maybe someday, I will travel with my daughter....
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 05:34 PM
  #40  
 
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kwren - Yes! I am really looking forward to your next trip report.
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