Stroll around Sisteron

Our impression of the town was “quiet”. We saw not many people on the streets, locals or visitors, even though it was the beginning of tourist season. We scratched our heads as we wandered around the town centre.

It was an early Friday afternoon and the weather was fine as you can see on the photo. However, there was hardly any pedestrian in the town! What is going on?

A better view of the amazing ridge was available from the citadel but mum didn’t want to tax her left knee so we decided to walk to a viewing point near the river.

We walked through a short tunnel and came out to the riverside…

Until we visited Sisteron, we never saw anything like it so we were very much impressed by the sight. ‘Isn’t it amazing?’, mum gazed up towards the summit as I read the information board by the handrail.

After admiring the ridge, we walked back towards our hotel, hoping to find a supermarket…

Hmm…, where is everyone and where is a supermarket? Apart from a couple of souvenir shops, there was no shop or cafe opened in our sight.

At one of the souvenir shops, mum came across the exact tea towels, which she bought in Avignon, being sold much cheaper, and she was rightfully disappointed. ‘Oh dear, I seemed to have paid a premium price!’, she huffed irritably.

We tried another part of the town, hoping if there was any grocery shop…

But no, there was no such luck…

A bakery was firmly shut! No croissant or cake was available.

After escorted mum to the hotel, I went out to scout for a grocery shop…

Eventually, I found one shop which sold basic stuffs like milk and bread. The place didn’t look great and the shop mistress was rather grumpy but I was happy to replenish our supplies.

A thunderous rain came down in the early evening after I came back from a shopping expedition.

The sky went dark all the sudden and the rain came down with such ferocity, we were pretty shocked. ‘Aren’t we lucky, mum?’, we nodded in agreement. I said so because during the time we visited France, the weather was pretty awful. With some luck, we had been dodging all the bad spells.

Let’s have our fingers crossed! We nodded and munched on pains au chocolat I brought back from the shop…

Sisteron, here we come!

Ugh, I feel really weird today. The inside of my mouth feels like made out of a sandpaper and it’s horrible! It appears that I picked up some head cold during last week and I have started to feel the effect. Oh no…

Anyway, I am going to resume my “mum & daughter road trip” chronicle, which was very much interrupted and delayed, from this afternoon!

After visiting Menton, the easternmost town of France, our next destination was a commune called Sisteron. We u-turned towards Nice via A8 and came off the autoroute at exit 52.

As we moved towards the north-east along D6202, the roadside scenery started to change from the one around the Mediterranean. The terrain more rocky and the greenery more abundant, definitely we were getting closer to the Alps…

I must say that we really loved travelling through France by car. The view was gorgeous and most of the route was immaculately maintained. And at every service we dropped in, we enjoyed tasty treats – even though the coffee was from vending machines.

The reason why I picked Sisteron as a destination was because it was within the 200km range drive – I figured out this distance from my past experience of long distance driving holiday. If I limited the maximum distance to 220km a day, it would leave a plenty of time for sightseeing and also I didn’t feel too tired.

From Saint-Benôit, the road became N202 and the flow of traffic became more sparse and leisurely…

Another reason why I chose to visit Sisteron was the town’s unique geological feature.

Behold the sight of Sisteron!

When I first came across the picture of Sisteron while I was planning the road trip, it reminded me the Devil’s Tower in the movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. ‘Wow, this looks cool! I must show it to mum!!’

The amazing appearance of Sisteron was the result of a “recumbant fold”. It displayed exactly how the Alps was formed by the layers of rock from the ocean bed which were pushed up and folded over like pleat by the gigantic force of the two continents of Europe and Africa! Don’t you love to see how it happened by time-laspe video?

We arrived at Sisteron around 1:30 PM…

Our hotel, Grand Hôtel du Cours, was in the middle of the town and it had a very dark underground car park…

As we stepped into the reception, we noticed it was a rather old-fashioned establishment, very dark woodwork decor and burgundy coloured soft-furnishing kind of place. Even though they didn’t provide any Wi-Fi, the hotel had a lift (!), therefore, mum and I had a much easier time transporting our ever expanding baggage to our 2nd floor room.

The room was small and sweet…

View from our window…

Hmm…, there seem to be a public parking right under our nose. Was it a mistake reserving the underground parking for €12?…

‘Let’s stretch our legs, mum!’

We left our room to explore the place…


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

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