Éze

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

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

Cassis Calanques Cruise

Oh my god, more than a year has passed since I visited Cassis with mom! I really must continue with our chronicle or otherwise all the details will fade from my memory…

Since I came back from Japan, I plunged into my No.1 passion, hockey!

I miss my mom but I am also relieved to be back into my normality in London. 😊🏒💕

Now then, I shall jog my memory and report about our mini cruise around Cassis’s spectacular inlets.

During the peak season, cruise ships left every fifteen minutes and the tickets were bought from the ticketing office by the harbour…

There were three kinds of cruising – 45 minutes, 60 minutes and 90 minutes, depending on how many inlets the ships would visit.

We opted for the 45 minutes one.

The weather was perfect for cruising!

Despite being weekday, the harbour was busy with tourists who were also eager to visit the famous Calanques.

We managed to find seats on the upper deck.

By the way, he wasn’t a captain…

We waited about 20 minutes until all the seats were fully taken. And then, the ship started the engine and we moved out of the harbour…

The sea breeze we enjoyed while we waited under the bright sunlight in the harbour turned more like gust as soon as we were into the open sea and I was very glad that I didn’t forget to bring a jacket.

I must say we were very lucky to visit the Cassis that day because the weather went down hill from the next day.

During the 45 minutes’ cruising, we visited three inlets.

The blueness of the water was breathtaking. Where the depth of the water was deep, it was beautiful sapphire blue and it turned to shimmering turquoise blue where it was shallower…

Who wouldn’t love to spend a day on a boat, doing nothing other than picnic and chilling out?

Eventually, our time was up and the ship headed back to the harbour.

Now, we will have some nice lunch! Mom and I alighted the ship and started to walk towards the town centre…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

La Tarte Tropézienne, Cassis

Cassis, a reputed coastal town of Côte d’Azur, was about half hour drive from Aix-en-Provence. Visiting the town was earmarked to be one of our road trip’s highlights and we were praying for good weather.

And our player was answered! We found a gorgeous blue sky over our head. A perfect weather for visiting the seaside.

We came off from A50 and went through a few hairpin curves…

‘I don’t see any coastline yet.’, mum complained. Guardrails were cutting the line of our sights and the only things we could see was the blue sky and the line of trees.

The traffic slowed down as we approached a toll gate…

I can’t recall how much the toll was but it was around €3.00?

After driving through narrow and winding streets of Cassis’s residential area, we arrived at a very smart carpark. The place was modern and stylish with a fancy ironwork and colour scheme. Even though the charges weren’t cheap but I was impressed by most of the French public car parks in their towns and cities. They seemed to be well designed and pleasant to park a car. And we always felt safe.

‘Wow! It’s busy!’ Despite being weekday morning, the car park was almost full and we had to park in the lowest level. How busy will it be during the high season!, mum and I shook our heads with disbelief.

I don’t know about you but the sight made me very nostalgic…

It reminded me of the illustrations of my all time French children’s book, Caroline et ses amis, á la mer…

All those pinwheels, who will buy them, you may wonder. But the atmosphere of seaside is such, I would have been lure to buy one if my rational side of me didn’t stop me!

The first settlers of Cassis were the Ligures who arrived at the shore around 500 BC. They were originally from the north-western Italy and they established their lives by fishing and farming.

Today’s Cassis is a popular tourist destination and the place is teeming with visitors who want to visit its famous cliffs and inlets.

A well-presented town centre…

Despite the aged appearance, the buildings were well maintained and the tiled streets and pavements were immaculately clean. The town was very smart.

Look mum, La Tarte Tropézienne!

La Tarte Tropézienne is a chain patisserie which has branches mainly in the South of France. They sell not only the famous tarte Tropézienne but also more usual French cakes and pastries.

Tarte Tropézienne! They came in different sizes…

Let’s have some with coffee before we go cruising, mum!

Doesn’t it look cute?

It was delicious too! While we enjoyed our morning treat, I chatted with a staff who made up delicious coffee. She was shocked to hear that I drove from London all on my own. She was even more impressed when I told her that I would drive back to the UK, tracing the eastern side of France.

‘By the way, is there any public convenience nearby?’

She told us that there was one in a town square which was adjacent to the shop.

Place Baragnon…

The square with a fountain seemed to be also a home for several ducks…

Hey guys, do you know where is a public toilet?

The public loo was in the north corner of the square and it was one of those “automated” kinds. I had seen a similar one in London for years but never had the courage to use one.

Oh well, I’ve got to bite the bullet now because I have to test drive it before sending mum in!

The loo wasn’t dirty but it was a bit scary. In the back of my mind, I couldn’t help worrying if the door wouldn’t unlock and I would be trapped inside!

Thankfully, no such thing happened and I sent mum to use it too. However, I stood right next to the door and kept on asking her if everything was ok. It must have been a peculiar sight for the passers by…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Blog at WordPress.com.