The “Shore” de France. A Return to L’Estagnol. A Dangerous Road to Divinity

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.

L'estagnol. Sign

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!

L'estagnol. Arrive early

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.

L'estagnol. The elusive photographer afraid of speaking to me.

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.

L'estagnol. The elusive photographer

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.

L'estagnol. Goodies on the beach.

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.

L'estagnol. Sailboat in the water

I wanted to swim up and invite myself..

L'estagnol. Where the hell am I

I never tire of this beach…

L'estagnol beach. early morning

L'Estagnol. Some weird seed pods from a pine tree. Very artisticThese 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!

L'Estagnol. Richard in the little snack kitchen

Monsieur Richard hard at work…

L'estagnol. Richard himself. A sweet man.

…until I interrupt him and make him laugh..

Food. Seiche La Planca number 2

..and I enjoy more seiche!

L'estagnol. Another view

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.

L'Estagnol. Entrance to Leoube Vineyards and Olive Huile d'Olive trees.

This is the big-ass gate to the Chateau Leoube.  I want to live here–I’ll take the servants quarters….

L'estagnol. Leoube building

The back next to the boutique..

L'Estagnol. Leoube Olive oil.

We bought a can of GOOD Olive oil and smuggled it back to the States..

L'Estagnol. Leoube Boutique 2

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!)

L'estagnol. No more face makeup. Just on the eyes and lips.

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.

Collobrieres. Village sign


Collobrieres. Who knew it was the chestnut capital. the chestnut capital of France..

Collobrieres. Lost among the vines

…lots of greenery here…

Collobrieres. Fig trees in the wild.

..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….

Collobrieres. Strawberry man.

..and it was even better to come across this strawberry stand..

Collobrieres. Fresh strawberries. Don't pay attention to the sand in my nails.

..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”

Me:                B-A-S-T-I-D-E”

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..

It wasn’t.

My drawing on the way to the monastary

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!

Rue st. Catherine

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 poster

Sainte Maxime is now my patron saint! I’m not kiddin’ either!

And when we arrived home, we had a few well-needed aperitifs!

Food. Theoule. Apartment Kir royales on the terrace.

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.


About Catherine

Far from perfect, but enjoying life as a non-perfect and flawed individual at 60 years young. I'm still wondering what I'll be when I grow up! The characters in my life's screenplay include my better half. He is a refined Frenchman who grew up in Paris and summered in St. Tropez. I grew up in Long Island and summered in Long Island. I am not refined. My three grown children are also a big part of my life. For their sake, they happily live where their careers have taken them! But I can still mother them from a distance! I write about the mundane. I write about deeply shallow issues. But whatever I write or muse about--it'll always be a bit on the humorous and positive side! It's all good!
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52 Responses to The “Shore” de France. A Return to L’Estagnol. A Dangerous Road to Divinity

  1. Mary says:

    I’m loving it! If I can’t be there it’s lovely hearing about it and seeing your pics. I can almost smell the sea!

    • Catherine says:

      Hello There Mary! Thank you. I’m incredibly glad that you are loving this. I”m also quite touched that you are liking the pics too. Please. Please–I can still smell the sea and wish I was back there! XOXOXOXO!!!

  2. mrsicarus says:

    Boring me? Certainly not! I look forward to reading your posts and being reminded of many very happy holidays in France. Please keep writing … Carla in England

  3. junedesilva says:

    Loving the posts and photos of your trip to the South of France – of course! They make me smile. I would love to be an invisible traveller so that I could listen in to your conversations with Monsieur B. I bet they’re hilarious – in a good way. 😎🌞 xx

    • Catherine says:

      Hi June. Oh…I’m glad that you are still loving the posts and photos! LOL. Yeah..our conversations need to be taped! Actually, Bonaparte was quite surprised at how quiet I was during our uphill climb. He thanked me for that–what he didn’t realize was that fear kept me from opening my mouth! XOXOXO!!!

  4. Sharon Daly says:

    Such fun to read your posts! Loving every one!

  5. sunnyd710 says:

    This was my favorite French post to date. Almost like being there. I am in love with the idea of visiting there and I wasn’t before. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Nancy says:

    YOU could never ever be are way too funny for that term…love your posts…I so want to visit France (and Spain and Ireland and…the list goes on and….on) and hope I can do so in the next few yrs. I just made my first trip ever out of the US to Tuscany area and loved it so much.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Nancy. Oh good. You know, I read a lot of those travel blogs and the photography is professional and the bloggers are all dressed up and I’m just a lazy slob who likes to have a fun time! BTW, Ireland is beautiful. Beautiful!!!! I’m dying to go to Tuscany. Oh if only we were all heiresses and could all travel together….XOXOXOXO!!!

  7. Yolanda Baird says:

    Love, love, love the posts! Every picture is a reminder of our trip to Provence last year with friends who live in Lyon. I want to see every picture you took!

  8. Liz McGarry says:

    I enjoy your posts so much…please don’t stop. Your travel posts are almost like being there and your every day life posts show such humor and insight…Love them!

    • Catherine says:

      Hiya Liz! Thanks. No. I won’t stop–I am trying to give the feel of being there and I think I’m doin’ ok so I’m happy that everyone is liking! XOXOXOXO!!!

  9. hipchick66 says:

    I’m enjoying every second of these posts! Keep ’em coming! Xoxo

  10. Jenny says:

    As a new follower to your blog I am really enjoying the trip and looking forward to your next episode. Your writing has a lovely light touch and is not only interesting but really funny. I can picture you and your Monsieur in the descriptions and would have loved to have seen that snooty woman and how you dealt with her. It’s one of the perks of getting older that you don’t get so scared of jumped up sales staff like you do when you are young.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Jenny! Welcome aboard!! I think you are going to enjoy this wonderful circle of friends:) I’m glad that you are liking the writing and even more happy that you get my humor! Isn’t it true though? I”m so over people who may look at me as though I’m not up to par. Fact is, I don’t care anymore. With age definitely comes wisdom! XOXOXOXO!!!

  11. Judy says:

    You definitely don’t “do” boring – I promise! I love these posts! My heart would have been in my mouth and my stomach would have been there before it if I had been in the car going up that mountain – wow1 I’m glad you turned back!
    And you’re right, rudeness is everywhere, but the French do often have the edge! I won’t forget a very rude French receptionist who refused to let us go to our room when we checked in – that Gallic shrug and no explanation. Turned out later she wasn’t going to be working there any more and couldn’t be bothered on her last day.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi judy. *sigh* I’m glad that you are finding the trip posts not boring! *big whew*. Oh–that drive was insane. And I went on Trip Advisor and was surprised at how many people DID make the drive. I consider myself a prime wimp–and I don’t care!
      LOL. Aha–but see, that receptionist was taking advantage of her last day at work. I’ve managed to almost quite perfect that shrug too–but I don’t use it out of nastiness. I use it out of–“I really don’t know-ness”! XOXOXOXO!!!

    • I have more than a handful of colleagues that are queens of rude, putting that stereotype of the French in its proper place: la poubelle!

  12. Leslie Preston says:

    I’m enjoying all of your posts and do appreciate the “Travel Tips”…..even though I don’t expect to be leaving the country. Heck, now that I have all this background information, I could just lie my way through a conversation and say I’d been to all these various places, describe the bathing suit lady at the pool, the ice cream lady at the beach, the roaming contract photographer, the “good” olive oil, the hairpin turns to the monastery, the works…..not that I would, but, you know…

    • Catherine says:

      LOL. Leslie! Converse away! Converse away! I’m over-the-moon happy that you are enjoying the travel tips as well as my adventures! XOXOXOXO!!!

  13. Fiona says:

    Relatively new reader and first comment today. Normally I am not a big fan of travel commentary (used to shudder at the words “slide night”) but I am loving reading about your trip to France.
    The Massif de Mort reminded me of similar experience in the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. Bare knuckle driving with a completely speechless husband. Absolutely terrifying!
    So please, keep ’em coming. Apart from anything else your blogs are performing a public service at a time when many of us are hunkering down and becoming increasingly nervous of travelling anywhere.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Fiona. I’ve never driven on the Dingle Peninsula, but many of my friends have spent time there. MY travels throughout Ireland are on the train from Dublin to Belfast, which was great and the little tram going from the suburbs into Dublin. But–those white knuckle drives are horrific in ANY country! Oh–as far as being nervous to travel–just think of how dangerous it is in the States with absolutely no gun regulations. You’ll feel safer anywhere! Trust me–I love my country, but she needs to buckle down on the gun laws! Truly, I’m happy and touched that you are enjoying my travel posts and there are more to come. Vacation isn’t over yet! XOXOXOXO!!!

  14. theturtle says:

    Boring ???? How ???
    Ah! I see ! You mean if we’re getting tired of so much beauty and lovely photos and your to the point commenting ? 🙂 🙂
    I’m falling in love with that beach (and we’re not short of lovely beaches around here 😉 ) even with those petits moutons of waves 🙂 , would love to take a dip there with mistral blowing or not and freezing water or not 🙂
    Turtle Hugs

    • Catherine says:

      Hey Turtle! Thanks. OMG. It is going to be so hard for me to go to the beach here–with the jellyfish and the undertow and the seaweed. Man. I’m missing L’Estagnol already! XOXOXOXOXO!!!

      • theturtle says:

        You’ll appreciate it even more next year ? And in the meantime think of all the properties of seaweed – it’s like a free beauty spa 🙂
        Turtle Hugs

  15. Irene Albert says:

    Your post are never boring! I forgot all about the Mistral until I read this, one year it was so windy we were able to stand and lean into it. lol Rude???the only rude person I ever came across was the Maitre ‘D at the Lido many years ago. I also love Renaud. Keep writing, I always look forward to your blogs.

    • Catherine says:

      Irene! You are so lucky that you got to experience the Mistral. Bonaparte has talked so much about it that I feel I’m missing something, LOL! I think I may cross over the line to rude if I had to work those crowds at the Lido too. Oh Renaud. I saw that show that Michel Drucker hosts–Vivment Dimanche (sp) and the entire show was about Renaud. It was so interesting–he’s a favorite of mine! XOXOXOXO!!!

  16. Lyn Gerbich says:

    Your blogs are never boring. You paint a picture that I can see while I am reading and the pictures are great. I only discovered your blog about 6 months ago, l love your style and honesty. I love your emails popping up in my inbox, so much more interesting than work one.

  17. calensariel says:

    Boring? Are you kidding? This is the most excitement I’ve had since the grandkids were here 18 months ago!!! I’m loving every blog. <3

    • Catherine says:

      Thanks Lady Calen! Nyah, ha ha. I think my funniest post will be coming up in a few days. It was in St. Tropez during our second visit to see Bonaparte’s dad! Thanks again! XOXOXOXO!!!

  18. Not bored at all. You are now, in my eyes, a travel journalist and writer par excellence. As I’ve said before I can’t keep a diary 3 days before my brain goes to mush. But in your posts we smell the divine French smells, see and experience what you experienced. I particularly liked your description of that winding precipitous road – oh yes. Actually did something like that in Spain – and these roads are hell on wheels! I love everything you write but these posts could be sold as a book!!!!! And may I say reading you is such an escape for me from our dire and stupid political situation. Carry on as you were. Love it xxxxxxxxxc

    • Catherine says:

      Thanks Penny. I actually put together a pack of a few of my travel posts and sent them to a few travel magazines–we’ll see what happens! I’m also glad to give you an escape from politics as of late. I’m dreading going near our TV due to all the crap about Trump. Ugh. I’m scared! XOXOXOXO!!!

  19. Hi! Frank and I had a good chuckle reading the first half waiting for Yanni to start his show. My French didn’t understand your Frenchie’s pmaccent! That was funny!

  20. Rosemary Eychenne says:

    Non, non, non, Catherine,don’t stop. Keep them coming. Love your sense of humour and the ironic ‘notice those big waves ‘. Chuckle, chuckle…..

  21. Rosemary Eychenne says:

    Actually, I have very much enjoyed your stories of Bonaparte’s family. Have seen Danielle in a few films. She’s marvellous. Plus, the Lartigue side of the family. What connections, eh ?

    • Catherine says:

      HI Rosemary. I’m glad you got that “notice those big waves”. I was dumbstruck when Bonaparte referred to them as big as well. Oh Daniele was great–and I especially liked the TV show she was on Madame Professor. A principal who smoked–only in France! XOXOXOXO!!!

  22. JulietC says:

    That beach looks like absolute bliss! Don’t stop as it is keeping me sane during a dull day in the office (most people are on holiday so not a lot going on at the moment), this is such a gorgeous area and I really would love to go. Mind you it would involve travelling with the husband who likes geomorphology – as long as he can stand and ruminate on the age of the rocks and any unconformities he is one happy bunny (I have other interests…). This is just my dirty mind, but initially I did not realise the strawberry guy was wearing more than a hat and sunnies…

    • Catherine says:

      Oh Juliet. Part of the fun of the “strawberry guy” was that he WAS half dressed. No shirt! It was hot! That’s the greatness of those roadside stands!! Dirty minds think alike! I’m incredibly happy you are liking!! XOXOXOXO!!!

  23. I love it keep it going. So cool. looks you had fun.

  24. iolacontessa says:

    I;m in a RUSH………LATE NOW but I had to finish this!I LOVED EVERY WORD!XX

  25. Charlotte Peck says:

    I love these posts! I can’t wait to read them each day. You write with such eloquence and humor, I feel as if you are telling the story just to me. Please don’t stop with the posts!!! I am so glad I recently found your blog!

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Charlotte! Oh..I’m glad you are enjoying. I’m also happy that you are pleased with my storytelling! Thank you for your compliments–words like yours make me want to write more! XOXOXOXO!!!

  26. mareymercy says:

    I remember when I was a kid, my family took a skiing trip to New Mexico, and on the big day we were set to travel up to the ski resort a big-ass storm blew in that, at some point while we were driving up the mountain round, became a full-on blizzard. And here we were trying to navigate that mess while being from Texas and having never driven in snow in our lives! My dad eventually saw reason (probnably in the form of a blinding white-out in front of him instead of a road) and turned around…we ended up getting back to the llodge and riding the little hills on inner tubes instead. Never did go skiing!

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