Monday, June 27, 2016
Clear skies. No humidity. And a bit of wind. Bonaparte is worried because he thinks the Mistral has made a visit. Overlooking the terrace before we depart for a second visit to L’Estagnol, he is concerned about the possibility of large mouton (the French word for whitecaps—I’m incredibly fluent, you know) in the little bay area off the sea.
I laugh and tell him it isn’t a big deal and we are off.
We passed the many hectares of vineyards and Olive tree orchards belonging to Leoube, a local company that produces wine and olive oil, and I explained to Bonaparte that I wanted to stop at the boutique for, as the Barefoot Contessa would say, good olive oil. He promised me that we would stop on the way home.
Back at L’Estagnol. The best thing about this sign is that I have no idea whatsoever the bathing information that is posted means!
The familiar drive seems quicker this time and we arrive to an almost empty beach. It may be windy to the French, but to me, it is merely a heavy but comfortable breeze. The water that was as smooth as glass last week is now fitted “wiz leetowle” waves. These waves are nothing like the Atlantic or Pacific!
See those “huge” waves? Yeah. Bonaparte and his mistral. Those waves were gone about two hours later!
The only mistral that took place was the song “Mistral Gagnant” on the car’s radio as we were driving here.
The sea is freezing but I don’t care. It’s refreshing. I shiver as little droplets of ice cold water fall on Bonaparte. It makes him stop complaining about the possibility of a noisy child next to us and, instead, he complains, in French, about the water I just sprinkled upon his gloriously tanned body!
A group of young school children arrive at the beach which nearly kills Bonaparte. I remind Bonaparte that he has a granddaughter the age of these kids. He says no more.
As a look up, one of the children greets me with a wave and a “Bonjour”. I smile, wave back and say “Bonjour” back to her. For Bonaparte’s sake, les enfants end up at the far end of the beach.
I spot the same photographer that I saw last week. He walks up and down the expanse of the beach snapping photos of the sun worshipers for a fee. He is professional. I call him over because I want to write about him in the blog.
The mysterious photographer passes by. I’m surprised he didn’t want to photograph Bonaparte’s tanned legs! Can you spot those giant waves in the water?
I’m intrigued by this photographer. Bonaparte is annoyed by this photographer. I ask Bonaparte why he is annoyed by what I’m intrigued by. He mumbles something in French and reads the paper.
I’m glad he made a sale!
Being typically French, the photographer is polite and cordial in his broken English. He explains that he is “under contract” with a company and declines to be “interviewed”. Bonaparte validates his decline. I snap a couple of photos of him and let it go. The photographer’s contract is certainly binding!
The ice cream girl walks by with her colorful little ice cream cart. I want so badly to eat everything she is selling but I refrain after looking down at my blubbery gut.
I wish I had gotten a better photo of the gloriously tanned ice cream girl but I was distracted by the word “Nutella”!
Her skin is the color of caramel. Her tan is perfect. She is a race unto her own. I regret not snapping more photos of her legs. I would have taken the photos with me to my next spray tan appointment.
The little boy next to us has dug a hole. And he keeps going down to the water with a bucket to collect water. He fills the hole with water and the sand soaks up the water. He doesn’t give up. This is pure entertainment for me.
I wanted to swim up and invite myself..
I never tire of this beach…
These fuzzy things had pine cones inside. I took some home to try to use as beauty blenders but they fell apart.
Ever the budding journalist, I made my way to Chez Richard to take some pics. I had the pleasure of meeting Monsieur Richard while he was working in the smaller kitchen. He was so pleasant and funny! He has a great staff and we enjoyed a second delicious lunch. And yes. I repeated my seiche!
Monsieur Richard hard at work…
…until I interrupt him and make him laugh..
..and I enjoy more seiche!
Back at the beach for a while before leaving….
We enjoyed the remainder of our time at L’Estagnol and made the stop at the Leoube Boutique.
This is the big-ass gate to the Chateau Leoube. I want to live here–I’ll take the servants quarters….
The back next to the boutique..
We bought a can of GOOD Olive oil and smuggled it back to the States..
The wines looked great too–but the sales help wanted us out of there…
I’m going to be real here. In all my years of traveling in France, we’ve only experienced one moment of rudeness. It was in Nimes and a waiter who served us was a real prick of misery. But—that was his personality.
Our visit to Leoube was our second experience with the art of rude. Perhaps it was because both of us looked like the monsters that came in from the beach. The blue chambray dress that I had worn on multiple occasions was looking a bit raggy. My face was as red as a tomato; my former “beachy” waves were now a mass of frizz that looked more like facial hair rather than wispy tendrils softening my face.
Bonaparte was wearing his bathing suit and an old Lacoste shirt that had a few tiny holes in it.
We were the French equivalent of Walmart shoppers. (Well, I was wearing my Walmart earrings!)
Was it my still-wet-from-swimming-and-clumps-of-sand dress? Was it my lobster red face? Was it my Walmart special hoop earrings that disgusted the sales woman at Leoube. WTF cares? I got my “Good” olive oil!
You would think we were a disease the way the sales assistant handed over the can of expensive olive oil to us. *SHRUG* You can’t win ’em all.
Travel tip: At one point or another, you WILL be confronted with rudeness or the act of someone being dismissive to you. Do NOT let this affect your feelings on an entire country or its people. Miserable people happen. They happen at home, during local travels and travels abroad. Let it roll off your shoulder. 99.9 percent of the people you meet will be incredibly cordial, helpful and downright nice!
We drove around and became slightly misguided (lost) as Bonaparte took a wrong turn. The wrong turn led us to Collobrières. We ended up making a strawberry purchase from a roadside stand and driving through this cute village.
..is the chestnut capital of France..
…lots of greenery here…
..and fig trees grow wild. I was so pissed off that the figs hadn’t reached ripeness yet. I would have CLIMBED this tree for that fruit. I love getting figgy with it….
..and it was even better to come across this strawberry stand..
..Now THIS is a strawberry. These were incredibly juicy, fresh, sweet and full of flavor. Why can’t we get strawberries like this at home?
As we drove around aimlessly, our conversation went something like this:
Me: “What’s a bastide?” (pronounced by me as bass-tide) “I’m seeing that word a lot”.
Bonaparte: “Eh?” “Wa ahr ou seee-eeng?” Plez spell eet”
Bonaparte: “Ahh..Bassteed!” “Is a fortified town” “I mean a leetowle town surrounded by eh fort”.
Me: “Oh.” “I thought it was a bad Frenchman—you know, like, HEY you dirty bastide!!!!!”
A pause and a brainstorm by Bonaparte.
He decided that we should take a drive to the Chartreuse de la Verne, a monastery on top of a huge mountain in the Massif des Maures. Since we were at the Massif’s edge, he thought it would be a fun way to spend the remainder of the afternoon.
This is the monastery that we attempted to visit. The Chartreuse de la Verne. I did NOT take this photo. It is from Wiki..
This is basically what we were faced with. Our wide car, a winding road as narrow as a string of yarn, and a monastery close to heaven. Neither of us was ready to take THAT trip!
It turns out that the monastery was sitting on top of a massive mountain in the Massif des Maures—which, I renamed Massive de Mort. This is a road where you can literally fall off the edge of the earth and nobody would ever find you. And vultures would hover around your decaying body and eat you. And your bones would turn to powder and fertilize the trees. Thusly, Massive des Maures = Massive Mort. The road was winding and the drops were steeper than the Gorges de Verdun. I couldn’t even look out of the car window let along try to take a photo.
It was either my heart that was in my throat or it was the seiche from lunch swimming its way up my stomach to escape. I couldn’t even open my mouth anyway—I was that petrified. I don’t even think the competitors in the Tour de France would attempt this road!
Had we gone any further on that road, I’m afraid my fate would have turned me into Sainte Catherine!
Finally, Bonaparte found a little area where we were able to turn the car around and make our descent. He didn’t feel comfortable. This is not a drive we will attempt in the future.
We’ll find another monastery closer to ground level.
After reaching the bottom of this huge mountain, we saw directions to Ste. Maxime. It was great to see signs of civilization once again. It was even greater to drive along the coast on a road close to the earth.
Sainte Maxime is now my patron saint! I’m not kiddin’ either!
And when we arrived home, we had a few well-needed aperitifs!
A few rounds of this to soften the stress of that drive were sorely needed!
CAVEAT: Please let me know if these posts are boring you. I’m keeping it real with no smoke or mirrors and am hoping you are enjoying. I only have a few more posts about our trip so next week, I’ll be back to writing about other stuff. I’m hoping you are still enjoying!
Here’s Renaud with his mega-hit of 1985. Mistral Gagnant.