Friday, September 26, 2014

Mediterranean Hill Towns

We leave the Dordogne and head to the Cote d'Azur.   Not that we had planned to go there, but we have a few days left between Montauban and our rendezvous with the owners of an apartment in Canet-Plage--near Perpignan.   France's road system makes it easy to travel considerable distances without much hastle--though not without cost.  The autoroute exacts a toll and the cost of travel from Montauban to Nice adds up to approximately 50 Euros. Not a paltry sum.  And that, of course, doesn't include gas.  But we are longing to be in familiar territory for a few days, and besides, there are things to be seen that we haven't yet seen despite our multiple trips to the area.

We find a hotel in Sophia-Antipolis, France's equivalent to the Silicone Valley of California.  We arrive around time for the evening meal.  The hotel is, not surprisingly, full of people in the area for business reasons.  It isn't a touristic area and is out of the way of the hot sites.

In the morning, we make our way up to the hill towns behind Nice.
Blowing glass in Biot
Biot is famous for its glassworks and has several glass-blowing studies, including a studio specifically for the purpose of receiving great busloads of tourists and shepherding them through a tour, a museum and a shop. We visit this place for the first time.  In previous years, we visited a small studio and shop where we purchased several glass pieces that we continue to enjoy.  We move on to the old town high above the glass studios to see Biot's quaint heart.

Driving through Grasse, we arrive in Fayence for the first time. As a rule, we walk along the streets and alleys to enjoy these towns.
Going upstairs in Fayence
Here, however, instead of walking along from one block to another here, we walk up and down the stairs.  At the end of each block, the sidewalk ends and the clear message is "Go up the stairs to the next block."  

Market is over in Fayence.
The market is just in the process of breaking down but provides the clear central square to see the church and the view of the large flat valley, including the aerodrome famous for gliders because of the lift provided by the geographic configuration.
The aerodrome from the main plaza

Eggplant salad with ham, walnuts, goat cheese

We find a nice place for lunch and enjoy a delicious meal of eggplant salad with dry ham, pomegranite seeds, goat cheese, arugula and walnuts--not to mention the extraordinary chocolate mousse.  
Mousse au chocolat

We then go in search of Terre Blanche, a highly-rated golf course in the area.  We approach the front entrance of the golf course while passing by a metal fence that surroundeds the entire course.  The bottom of the fence is concrete to prevent digging under it.  The top of the fence holds both cameras and motion sensing devices.  Overkill?  I believe so.  The guard at the gate instructs us to go to the hotel entrance where his colleague will be informed about our arrival.  As we arrive at the hotel entrance, we think better of the visit and tell the "colleague" that we have decided to leave, thank you very much.  We turn around and exit--feeling utterly unwelcome and somewhat nefarious.   

St. Andrews is probably the most famous golf course in the world followed closely by Pebble Beach.  (You notice I don't feel the need to describe where Pebble Beach is located.) Fences?  Motion detectors?  Colleagues?  I think not.  Terre Blanche displays an astonishing and oppressive level of security.  I'll admit the cars in the parking lot do not resemble our humble little Peugeot.  But really?  And the chateau on the property was owned by Sean Connery for 20 years or so.  But again, really?

We head for the clean, cool water of the Mediterranean for a cleansing.
Hello from La Napoule
We feel welcome at the beach in La Napoule where we have visited on several occasions. The beach is surprisingly busy for a Thursday afternoon. Families, singles and couples.  Some fish off the breakwater.  A yacht is anchored in the bay. Sailboats litter the water in the distance. We park and put our feet in the water--or at least I put my feet in the water --without raising any eyebrows or calls to colleagues to make sure our motives are pure.  We are refreshed and cleansed and head back into the hills, stopping on the way at the Carrefour for some good wine and take-out food for dinner.  

Good day and validation for our decision to visit.      

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