Thank god, we weren’t acrophobic! Because a view from the top of Jardin Botanique d’Éze was spectacular but also vertigo inducing.

After our disastrous visit to Menton and Monaco, we arrived at Éze around 4pm. We parked a car at the bottom of the commune and walked up a winding path which was lined with souvenir shops and galleries.

History of this eagle’s nest commune is impressively old – the place started its existence from the 12th century BC. Because of the location, the commune changed hands numerous times between the French and the Italian, and during the late 14th century, the French took over control from the Savoy, Italian royal family.

Awaiting at the summit of the commune was a botanical garden and the entrance fee was €5.00.

The garden was filled with various tropical plants and flowers.

And sculptures…

The path was immaculately kept and it was easy to walk around, even for my mom with a cane.

At the very top of the garden, there was a stone shelter which looked like half-finished (or half-destroyed?) and benches.

A view looking over the Mediterranean was truly breathtaking and we were very glad that we managed to visit Éze in time as we were to leave Southern France early next day.

Now, we will walk all the way down to the car park…

I highly recommend the place as long as the weather is fine and warm.

Creative knitwear by Kaori

Menton, Monaco & one photo

Are you intrigued by the title?

It is exactly that. I have only one photo from Menton and Monaco. Mom took it with her iPod Touch while we were spinning around a roundabout!

Please let me explain.

My mom is a fairly chilled-out kind of travellers. She is not at all obsessed about itinerary and also she is not very demanding. However, the way she is becomes a bit annoying when she decides to throw everything on my lap, typically saying ‘I’ll be happy to go wherever you choose and do whatever you want!’ Come on, mom. Won’t you help me with homework?

During our last year’s road trip, we visited Menton, a place which was right next to the France-Italy border and famous for their lemon.

‘Why don’t we drive to Menton first and then to Monaco and to Eze?’

Ok, I admit that I should have done more to find out about the place before we set off on A8 from Nice. I could have found out from the internet that Menton was a modern town, not a rustic commune like we imagined and their famous lemons were already harvested in the spring and therefore we wouldn’t be able to see them on the trees.

‘We don’t see anything to do with lemon, do we?’ Mom craned her neck to get a better view of our surroundings. Apart from the concrete lemon by the entrance of the town, we saw nothing to do with lemons!

It appeared that we were on Menton’s main thoroughfare but the weekend traffic was very heavy and all the roadside parking spaces were taken up by the locals. ‘Oh, this is not what I imagined!’, I scratched my head and mom laughed ruefully, ‘Oh well, it doesn’t matter.’

Eventually, Avenue de Sospel, on which we were travelling on, ended at the junction with Avenue Carnot, and we had to make a decision. ‘Mom, we are heading to Monaco now.’

Please don’t ask what we saw at Monaco.

Because we hardly saw anything other than road signs and endless underpasses!

It happened very quickly but I missed an exit at a roundabout near the city entrance and as a result, we ended up travelling on a one way system which led us away from the city.

‘We were in Monaco without seeing the place!’

The only thing we could do was to laugh at ourselves and learn from the mistake…

P.S. I’ve found a photo of subterranean Monaco from my photo album! Mom must have taken it while we were speeding away from the city…


Museé Picasso Antibes

One of the reasons why we decided to visit Antibes was because the town had an association with Pablo Picasso.

He moved to Côte d’Azur from Paris in 1946 with his then muse, Françoise Gilot and he spent his next ten years in French Riviera.

This is a portrait of Françoise. Picasso created a series of paintings and lithographs of her as La femme-fleur – a flower-woman.

When Picasso, then 61 started a relationship with Françoise was just 21.

Even though Picasso once described a period he spent with Françoise in Antibes as “La Joie de Vivre”, her account of life with him was not so rosy. She recorded in her memoir, “Life with Picasso”, which was published in 1964, their stimulating but also tumultuous life together.

On the wall of the Musée Picasso…

A stone structure which overlooked the Mediterranean Sea was originally a Roman fort and in the 14th Century, it was rebuilt as a residence of Monaco’s ruling family, the Grimaldi.

The stronghold of the royal family became Antibes’s town hall in the early 18th Century and from 1925, the place was called the Grimaldi Museum, housing archaeological artefacts.

During the late summer of 1946, Picasso arrived to the town and he was invited to use the former guard’s hall on the second floor as his studio. Even though his stay wasn’t lengthy – only two months, he produced 23 paintings and 44 drawings.

In the studio, Picasso worked mainly in the night while Françoise stayed in their abode in Golfe-Juan which was 5.5km away from Antibes.

When Picasso was leaving, he donated all the works he created during his stay in Antibes to the museum on one condition that the works would remain in the museum permanently.

I found the gallery space very relaxed and intimate.

The amount of the exhibits may not be abundant like the one in Paris. However, the space was very unique because it was where the famous occupant created more than a few of his iconic works.

Picasso must have looked out of the window and saw the same scenery.

Picasso, he is an enigma…

His vision, his creativity, his personality, everything about him is a mystery to me.

A man with an insatiable thirst for self-expression. That is Pablo Picasso.

Now, let’s go and find the old town centre where Picasso and his friends must have had seen and lived…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Antibes & Parking

Our next destination was a town called Antibes.

We left Aix-en-Provence after breakfast and took A8. The sky was a little overcast but we were grateful because it was not raining.

As I mentioned before, the general weather in France during our holiday last year was volatile to say the least. In Northern France especially, they had lots of flooding and also sudden hails brought about lots of damage to the vineyards in Southern France. During our last night at Aix-en-Provence, we heard through an open window, the rain drops hitting the leaves of the lime trees lining the street while watching an evening news. ‘Oh god! Look mom!!’ The scene on TV was extraordinary – the flash flooding causing havoc to Paris metro! The murky water was gushing into the entrance of the station and some of the unfortunate passengers who caught up in the event were taking off their shoes and trudging up the stairs. Mom and I both agreed that we were very lucky regarding the weather so far.

As we got nearer to Saint-Tropez, the passing vegetation changed to palm trees…

We came off A8 at Les Moulins and followed D35 towards Antibes. At one of the roundabouts along the route, we saw a rotunda-like apartment building…

It’s so 60’s like, don’t you agree? A very groovy looking building. I liked it very much.

Locating the entrance to a public car park was a little troublesome. We ended up driving around aimlessly along maze-like streets…

Eventually, we managed to untangle ourselves from the labyrinth and found the approach to the underground car park.

The car was parked at a bay number, 2082!

Mom and I were very happy to be out of the maze…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Le Castellet

This Brexit business is really eating me up. The past two years, I have been have been wrenched and depressed because of the mess. When will this status quo end? And what will happen next? I have had enough of this nonsense!

BTW, I am a firm Remainer, Ok? And I LOVE EUROPE!! All the Europeans I have come across in & out of the U.K are dismayed by those Brexiteers. While the world faces much bigger threats, such as the climate change, why do we allow those small-minded politicians to manipulate us in order to satisfy their selfish ambitions?

During the present uncertainty, what can I help me to lessen the anxiety over the impending global doom? Focusing on what I can protect and nurture and staying positive. I should be thankful for my ordinary happiness and be kind to my fellow living creatures. And of course, I should keep up with my blog! Recalling what a fabulous time mom and I had in France will be a great remedy for my present pessimism.

After our lunch at Cassis, we headed to our next destination, Le Castellet.

The village was about 27km away from Cassis and it took us about 40 minutes to drive.

When we arrived at a visitor’s carpark, it was empty. ‘It’s so quiet, isn’t it?’ Mom looked around as she put on a hat. As we stepped out of the carpark, we saw a group of appeared to be German tourists, climbing back into a coach with a German numberplate.

‘So where is the village?’ There was no obvious signage to the place. Still, I reckoned it must have been at the end of ascending road we were on.

So I was right! We reached the outskirt of the village.

We got slightly sweaty because the sun was strong and the climb was rather steep.

A light breeze and the beauty of scenery around us was a reward for the effort…

The entrance to the village…

The village has a long history – it is more than 2000 years old. The first settlers were the Celts, then invading Romans and barbarians, and the next settlers were the Saracens. Eventually, the old settlement on the hill was officially recorded as Castellarium in 1030.

The location of Castellet was important for defending and communication throughout its long existence. It became a part of the Gallo-Roman empire, and during the Medieval times, it became a protected township which belonged to the Baux and King René of Anjou…

Mom and I walked towards a village centre…

Looking back the entrance…

What is the meaning of those plants hung upside down? We wondered. Are they some sort of talismans?

Streets of the mediaeval villages are narrow and the ones in Le Castellet were no exception. Most of the streets we walked on were barely wide enough for a van. It would be a huge logistic headache for any builder who worked on building projects around here, I thought.

As we got closer to the village centre, we started to see more gift shops…

One thing I found rather disappointing was a lack of originality in the merchandise they sold. So far, we saw nearly identical gifts, especially, tea towels and soft furnishings, at every village and town we visited.

Cafes and restaurants were closed until dinner time…

Ice cream shops were open though.

A church was the tallest building in the village…

The inside was comfortably cool.

Spotlessly clean cobbled street. How civilised! I wished if the streets around Shoreditch were free from litter like Le Castellet…

Lush blooms and green were everywhere to be seen. Unlike me, who is not interested in gardening, Mom loves looking after flowers and plants. So she was happy to see those well-tended hanging baskets and flower beds.

We decided to head back to our car…

Ahhh, a Chihuahua!

Are you enjoying a quiet afternoon? My late Chihuahua, Mr.B, loved chilling out on a pavement during summer days too…

Then, we met two Yorkies! Oh, how I missed my Bella in London…

So, our visit to Le Castellet was over…

There was a souvenir shop outside of the village wall and a large dog was chilling out by the door…

Postcards and fridge magnets on sale. Even though their style wasn’t my cup of tea but they looked cute en masse.

Quiet early summer afternoon…

Mom, we are almost there. She was a bit tired after negotiating steep ups and downs of Le Castellet.

We returned to Aux-en-Provence after making a quick detour to stock up at Carrefour.

Next day, we were heading to Antibes!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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