Welcome to my travel journal! Below is a sketch of my little holiday before working on Book II of The Adventures of Isabelle series. For pictures, which you may prefer, please click Vision Quest Retreats and you will be taken right to the album.
Thurs. October 8: Left Dulles airport around 6:30 on British Airways (a lovely airline with good food) yes they do feed you. Was lucky enough to be in business class so I had a little sleeping birth/seat. I felt like I was in a ship or even space ship floating through the night sky. An eerie and somehow at the same time comfortable feeling. Watched Mad Max: Fury Road with Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy on the way and was really impressed with that movie. This isn’t a film review so I will just say I LOVED it! After this slept fitfully (it wasn’t late enough for my body to sleep). Breakfast of croissants and something else (too sleepy really to recall but I vaguely recall fruit)
Friday Oct. 9: Arrived groggily at London’s Heathrow airport at about 6:40 am. Would you believe it was foggy in England? I enjoyed a short layover in the very quiet departure lounge before boarding the plane for Nice. Aboard they fed me another breakfast! I went for the “English Breakfast” which should have just been called “Pork with Pork” I don’t do pork so I left the sausage and ham and just ate my little omelette and had more bread. Holiday hasn’t even started properly and I’ve probably gained 5 pounds!
The Côte d’Azur floated into view at about 10:30. The scene was of gentle blue coastline dotted with light colored buildings. We touched down around 11:00. I quickly and easily retrieved my bags and breezed through customs etc. then found a taxi on the curb to take me the 20-30 mins to Villefranche-sur-Mer.
Arrived at the little apartment on the hillside and immediately fell in love with the place with it’s simple décor and large balcony with a stunning view of the port below. Walked up the long hill to lunch then back to unpack and take a big nap. Dinner was a walk down the hill to the old town and wending the way through the ancient streets to the little pizza place on the square. It was Friday night so the little down was bustling but not overly so as this isn’t the high season. After dinner the BIG climb up the hill and to bed.
Saturday Oct. 10: Awoke early to a brilliantly sunny day. After a simple but tasty breakfast on the terrace I made my way down the hill into town. It was market day in the little park. It was a small but colorful little market and had all sorts of fruits and veg and also clothes. I enjoyed picking up a few little different things to fill out my wardrobe. I had packed sparsely, unsure of the weather so I had a good excuse to shop 🙂 There was a man selling paella from a HUGE paella pan so I got some for lunch and some avocado and tomato to go with it. Had contemplated going to Nice but as it was kinda of late decided to take an easy day in Villefranche then get up early to make it to the farmers market in Nice on Sunday. I was good and hungry for lunch after trudging back up the hill and really enjoyed the paella looking out to sea from the sunny terrace. Life is yummy!
After a little afternoon siesta I felt like some exercise so took a walk back down the hill into town. I enjoyed exploring the quaint little town, passing by several little restaurants and shops with people out enjoying themselves on this warm early fall day. I passed through the Villefranche Pétanque club and stood for a while watching the players spread out into several different groups on the gravel area. Just lovely to watch people relaxing and enjoying each other on a sunny Saturday. After this I walked across the ramparts of the citadel then down to the sea wall surrounding it. The bright sun reflected off the yellow white rocks in a distinctly Mediterranean way with the azure sea as the backdrop. After this I walked along the Quai de l’Amiral Ponchardier that runs along the sea to the beach and the train station of Villefranche-sur-Mer. Another trudge back up the hill finished off a great workout.
Delicious dinner that night at La Caravelle in a little alley in the medieval part of Villefranche. I especially enjoyed the pate. They provided a little pot of almost crystalized onion that was sweat and delicious to go along with the pate. My main course was a fresh piece of their local dorade fish with mashed potatoes and veggies. Dessert? Apple tart with vanilla ice cream.
Sunday Oct. 11: Awoke early to have a full day in Nice. A walk down the hill into town to catch the #100 bus for the lovely 20 min ride along the coast. The bus drops you at the port. Then a walk to the farmers market. It was a beautiful little market with the pretty fruits, veggies, spices, meats and cheeses all arranged just so. Even though I had had breakfast before leaving the apartment I could not resist a pain au chocolat and another with almond and chocolate! Ok really good. I tell myself that I walked this off by strolling along the sea on the Quai des Etats-Unis and through Place Massena with it’s colorful edifices and lovely Fontaine du Soleil. Lunch of Salade Nicoise (of course) at Café de Nice then another walk, this time to and around the Place Garibaldi. After this I took the #15 bus up the hill to the Matisse Museum. I’ve always loved Matisse and he holds a sentimental place in my heart as one of my first childhood artistic inspirations so I was very excited to the museum. It’s in a lovely old building and the exhibition held many of his personal artifacts, and many sketches and maquettes of his work but very few of his finished very colorful pieces. In short I was disappointed with this museum but still glad that I went and saw what I saw, still inspiring!
Monday Oct. 12: Touring day! First stop La Maeght Fondation museum of modern art. In short this museum was DIVINE! I loved the exhibition and the sculpture garden with the Miro Labyrinth. It was beautifully designed and if I had not so much wanted to see the nearby little medieval town of St-Paul de Vence would have stayed there for hours. I was introduced here to the powerfully disturbing paintings of Gerard Garouste.
After the museum I walked a short way down the hill then into the town of St-Paul de Vence. It was a charming medieval town and just fun to wander around through it’s narrow streets on the cobble stone streets. A highlight was the decorative walkway that was a new addition to the ancient streets. The place was replete with lovely little galleries and delightful shops. I picked up some tasty black olive tapenade and nougat with figs and pistachios (chewy and sweetly delicious). Every where you looked were perfect little vignetes for the eye, flowers, charming doorways and a gorgeous vista from the ramparts of the surrounding hillsides and down into the valley. Lunch here was a mini salmon quiche and a bottle of fruit juice. Dessert was taken in a little artsy café; a coffee éclair and espresso. The cream in the éclair was perfect, not too sweet and so light!
A coach ride from here to visit the Matisse Chapel, formerly Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence (Chapel of the Rosary). This chapel more than made up for the disappointment of the Matisse Museum in Nice! It’s a work of art designed and decorated solely by Henri Matisse. Built and decorated between 1949 and 1951, it’s an unusually modern and simple chapel with white tile walls decorated only in black line drawings. The simple stained glass is reminiscent of his cut outs and uses only the colors of yellow, blue and green. One of the most unusual and delightful elements was the carved door of the confessional that appears to emit a light pink light from within. Amazingly when you peer closely inside the confessional there is nothing but white light! The rose color comes from the light coming through the blue glass of the stained glass wall outside the confessional. (NOTE: Pictures prohibited in chapel so please forgive pics from online. All other images copyright Nicole Cutts, 2015)
The tour was meant to end with a visit to Tourettes-sur-Loup but the rainy day prevented this so instead concluded with the coach ride back down the mountains and along the coast through a damp and cloudy landscape. No matter as the day had been long and lovely. Picked up a few supplies in town then trudged back up the hill to the apartment. Dinner of leftover paella then to bed to get an early start on writing. My little holiday now done, it’s time to turn my focus to the rewriting of Book II of the Adventures of Isabelle: Journey to Orphalese. (You may read about this in my next installment.)
I hope you enjoyed my little travelogue! For plenty more pics please follow this direct link to visit my Facebook page Vision Quest Retreats with Dr. Nicole Cutts.
Wishing you much continued success and adventure!