a summery slice of life – the Atlantic coast of France

In August 2013 I went to Arcachon, a favourite seaside destination of mine. It’s located just south of Bordeaux on the Atlantic Coast. France is blessed with three marvellous coastlines: the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and the English Channel.

Here’s a two-minute video of the jetty which stretches out over Arcachon Bay.  Just beyond is the island of Cap Ferret.  I can smell that fresh, ocean air and hear the gulls wheeling overhead right now. (I apologize for the amateurish video, I had just purchased that camera and was still figuring it out.)

Below is a post with photos of Arcachon and Cap Ferret, as well as a good hotel recommendation.

https://julietinparis.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/arcachon-and-cap-ferret/

off with his head!

A revolution is in the air. The French are angry. And completely fed up with their politicians. Today, during the ceremony in Nice to pay homage to the 84 people mown down by Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, the French prime minister, Manuel Valls, was booed at before and after a minute’s silence.

Démission!  Démission!” people chanted (Resignation! Resignation!)

There were also shouts of “Murderers!” as Valls and two other ministers left the seafront where an enormous crowd had gathered. Some held up placards calling for the resignation of French president, François Hollande.

Since the tragedy occurred, there has been intense debate about whether the government has done enough to respond to terrorism in this country. 

At the very end of this video below, you hear a woman yelling from her window down into the street as Valls walks by. 

Monsieur Valls…faites quelque chose ! Y’en a marre ! Nos enfants sont morts !

Mr. Valls…do something!  We’ve had enough!  Our children are dead!

 

homage to Nice

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I used to go to Nice all the time throughout the 1990s.  Nice (and other towns strung along the Côte d’Azur like hedonistic ports of call) was my pleasure station, my secret destination, my sybaritic delight. I would escape to it on the night train from Paris, and it was always thrilling.  Another thing I love about Nice is its close proximity to Italy.

It saddens me profoundly to read that since the July 14 attack, hotel reservations, the Nice jazz festival, and other concerts have all been cancelled. I said in my earlier post ‘Do not come to France’, but that was wrong. I was angry. Now I’m saying ‘Do not stay away.’

Below is a travel piece I wrote a decade ago and posted last year on this blog. It is my Nice.

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NICE, a multitude of pleasures

I don’t know who said living well is the best revenge, but as I savoured a mouthful of succulent grilled fish served on a bed of roasted vegetables and washed it down with a swirl of chilled Puligny-Montrachet ’93, I felt inclined to agree with this maxim. I was lunching on the beach in Nice where only the French can turn this otherwise commonplace act into a sybaritic event.

Ahhh, the Côte d’Azur in early June….(July and August are to be avoided. May, early-June, September and October are the best months.) The obliging waiter removed my empty plate and brought me a crème caramel for dessert, a tiny cup of steaming espresso at its side. I surveyed the turquoise sea that gently lapped twenty yards from my table. The sun shone from an azure sky, white parasols fluttered in the gentle breezeI peered across the Mediterranean for a glimpse of North Africa beyond….all was right with the world.

After lunch, I strolled over to my rented lounge chair – which can cost anywhere from 20 to 40 euros for the day, depending on what private beach you’re on – and flopped down with the intention of burying into a good novel, but somehow those tantalizing waters, rippling and sparkling in the sun, stole my attention away. After an hour or two of utter relaxation lying inert on a thick, white-towelled mattress, I ran to the sea and plunged into its cool, therapeutic waters.

I like the Sofitel Splendid Hotel because of its central location, comfort, and stunning rooftop terrace, a perfect place to enjoy cocktails during aperitif hour, or l’heure de l’apéritif, as the French say. The whole of Nice is spread out below from sea to mountains behind. As twilight descends, the panoramic view becomes bathed in a blue haze signalling that it’s time to descend into the streets and find a good restaurant for dinner.  There’s a small pool on the roof of this hotel.  When my sister and I  were teenagers we used to race in it (while my parents sat further away and sipped cocktails.)   The pool’s still there and completely unchanged…here it is. 

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Eclectic, elegant and extraordinary is how I would describe the Windsor Hotel located in the middle of town. Its 60 rooms are decorated with murals or designed individually by modern artists. There’s a lush, tropical, enclosed garden with small swimming pool where you can have your meals, a lounge bar with open fireplace, gym and sauna.  Links to both hotels are at bottom of page.


hotel windsor nice

La Trattoria, located at 37 rue de France at the corner of rue Dalpozzo is a cheerful, casual restaurant serving up large pizzas cooked in an open oven, pasta dishes, seafood, big salads, steaks. Sit on the outdoor terrace or in the spacious, rustic interior.  Nice abounds with pizzerias.  There’s a huge Italian influence in this city.

Old town of Nice:

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Plunge into the ancient, twisting, bustling streets of the old quarter and drink in the intoxicating atmosphere of this exuberant, southern French city. This is where I spend most of my time wandering happily, getting lost in the maze of ruelles and stopping frequently for an ice-cream, glass of chilled rosé, lunch or espresso, depending on the time of day.

Great lunch spot:

Lou Pilha Leva, 10 rue du Collet on Place Centrale

Stand in line and place your order through a window then carry it to one of the large wooden tables outside. Taste the local specialties – socca (a thin, chick-pea pizza crust); pissaladière (pizza with onions and anchovy topping); salade nicoise and other savoury dishes.lou one

L’Art Gourmand, 21 rue Marché

An establishment worth visiting for its divine home-made ice creams and sorbets offering the following flavours: licorice, violet, rose, fig, melon as well as conventional flavours.  Home-made sweets such as marzipan, nougat, chocolate, calissons, sugared rose petals, candied fruits and caramels. Upstairs is a tea and coffee salon. (I’ve read some client reviews since this was written and they’re not very complimentary.  Apparently, you should avoid the tea salon, just get the sweets and ice cream then go.)

Museums:

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If you only have time to visit one museum during your stay in Nice, I recommend the dazzling Musée Chagall, located high above the city in the residential district of Cimiez (take bus no.15 direct from the centre of town below – check this bus number.)  I love the name Cimiez which is derived from the French word, cime, which means summit or mountain peak.

This is such a special place.  Marc Chagall’s sumptuous paintings are based on the Old Testament and the depicted theme is entitled The Biblical Message. The canvases are complemented with sculptures, engravings, a tapestry, mosaic and stained glass window. The cool, modern building sits in a peaceful park-like garden containing wild lavender and rosemary bushes, cyprus and olive trees. 

Small snack-bar outside and small gift-shop Inside.  closed Tuesdays

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While in Cimiez, there’s also the Musée Matisse to visit.  Located in a 17th-century Genoese villa that houses the personal collection of the painter who settled in Nice in 1917 and died there in 1954. It comprises works from all periods, from the very first paintings made in the 1890’s to the gouache cutouts of the end of his life. There’s a unique collection of drawings and engravings, most of his sculpture and personal possessions.

Bus no. 15, 17, 20, 22 (better double-check these bus numbers)   closed Tuesdays

HOW TO GET TO THE RIVIERA:

Train: I used to take the night train from Paris in a First-Class couchette (air-conditioned cabin, free bottles of mineral water and only 4 couchettes to one cabin, as opposed to 6 couchettes in Second-Class), but, sadly, they don’t exist any more.

Night trains used to leave Paris’s Gare de Lyon around 10:30 p.m. and arrive in Nice the following morning around 8:30 a.m.

The SNCF has phased out night trains with sleeping compartments down to the Coast.  Sleeping cars, it seems, have gone out of fashion.  Too bad, because I used to love the romanticism of old-fashioned train travel.  

Air France has 15 flights a day from Paris to Nice starting at 7:10 a.m. and ending at 9:10 p.m. The duration of the flight is 1 hour and 20 minutes.  There’s also Easyjet and Ryanair.  And the fast train, the TGV, during the day.  I’ve just looked at the SNCF website.  There are night trains, but they’ve abolished couchettes and sleeping cars.  Instead they offer a reclining seat (très uncomfortable to sleep on.) A one-way ticket costs 44 euros.  Leaves Austerlitz station at 21h22 and arrives next morning in Nice at 08h37.

Excellent day trip from Nice to a market in Italyon Fridays there’s a huge outdoor market in Ventimiglia, Italy, only a 40-minute local train ride from Nice. (It’s very crowded, so keep an eye on your personal possessions.) “Every Friday all year round, French residents and tourists from across the border flock to this popular street market along the lungomare (seafront). They also come for the daily indoor fruit and vegetable market, for which the town is justly famous.”

http://www.hotelwindsornice.com/en/

https://www.splendia.com/fr/splendid-hotel-spa-nice-nice.html

laxism…again

truck

A truck driver of North African origin pulls up to the security barrier that blocks vehicles from entering the Promenade des Anglais. “I’m delivering ice cream,” the truck driver of North African origin says to the cops. And despite the entire country being on HIGH TERRORIST ALERT because of Bastille Day celebrations and advance warnings of an imminent attack, the cops wave him through.

They do not search the inside of the 20-tonne truck. They do not ask to see the driver’s ID papers. Had they checked Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s ID papers, they would have learned that he had a police record of violence, theft, petty crime, domestic violence and use of weapons.

(I have deliberately emphasized “of North African origin” because every single terrorist attack that has occurred in Europe over the last few years, starting with Franco-Algerian Mohamed Mehra in Toulouse in 2012, has been committed by men of North African origin. These male terrorists all share the same profile: loners, losers, marginalized, petty criminals, violent, divorced and possessing sociopathic or schizophrenic tendencies. Many have served prison terms; it is there where they are radicalized/indoctrinated.)

France is becoming a laughing stock, if not already one. Here are two reader comments from a British newspaper – French government – get your act together! We don’t need to hear platitudes every time something like this happens. Haven’t you learned anything over the last year or so? You obviously do not care enough about your citizens/visitors.

A refrigerated vehicle. If it were, the engine would have to be running to drive the compressor – and for nine hours? Unbelievable dereliction of duty by the police involved.

From THE GUARDIAN newspaper – A report into the Paris attacks emphasised the difficulties posed by France’s six different intelligence units, which answer variously to the interior, defence and economy ministries. Overseas intelligence agencies complained to the parliamentary inquiry that it was impossible to work within such a bureaucratic mess. A recent parliamentary inquiry into the November attacks had revealed flaws and shortcomings in France’s unreformed, multi-layered and poorly co-ordinated intelligence service. The commission highlighted a “global failure” of French intelligence and recommended a total overhaul of the intelligence services, including the creation of a single, US-style national counter-terrorism agency.

This is the 4th terrorist attack on French soil under President Hollande’s watch. I believe that he and Bernard CAZENEUVE, minister of the interior, should resign. But French politicians do not resign. They obfuscate, play the blame game, and practice denialism.

The bottom line is that this monstrous tragedy, like the others, could have been prevented. Those who lost loved ones in the Nice and Paris attacks should sue the French government for gross negligence and putting civilian lives in danger.*

Do not come here. Your safety is not ensured.

Hollande = OUT!!

* You don’t need to sue. I’ve just read that France will be compensating all victims. The link below is for victims of the November 2015 attack in Paris, but I guess the process is the same.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/paris-terrorist-attacks-applying-for-compensation

Take Me to Neverland

I’m happily planning my August trip to my most favourite city in the world, LONDON. So much to see! So much to do!  If I could, I’d live there. But it’s an expensive city. And I have a good job in Paris. It would be foolish to leave.

I did live in London, all throughout 2005. It was a memorable year. I worked, I met new people, I stayed in a friend’s house in Fulham while she was in Africa for a year. I explored the city and had a lot of laughs with my friend Sherry. I enrolled in a photography course at Central Saint Martins, London’s college of art and design. It was an evening class and I used to love riding home at night, back to Fulham, on the number 14 double-decker bus. I’d always sit up top.

Given the choice, I’d rather be a Londoner than a Parisian. I think I’d be happier. (Why did I return to Paris?)

Anyway, while searching the internet for plays, exhibitions and concerts to attend, I came across this – Take Me to Neverland: Peter Pan from Play to Book and Beyond.

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Florence Nightingale Museum
12th May to until 30th October 2016

Reading Peter Pan and watching the TV movie with Mary Martin playing the lead role was one of the defining moments of my childhood. So I’ll go to this exhibition.

Using the magical collection from Great Ormond Street Hospital, Take Me to Neverland: Peter Pan from Play to Book and Beyond tells the real story behind Peter Pan. Discover the origins of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan, from the success of the 1904 play to the many adaptations that have continued to inspire both children and adults over the past century.

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children has been closely associated with Peter Pan since Barrie gifted the copyright to the hospital in 1929. Since then, the timeless story continues to help make the hospital the incredible centre of hope it is today.

The exhibition will include early editions with classic illustrations of the story including works by Mabel Lucie Atwell and Arthur Rackham, and Peter Pan’s Postbag, a collection of children’s letters sent to Peter Pan from 1906-14. Also on display is one of the original bells that was used as the “voice” of Tinker Bell in the 1904 play and a selection of Peter Pan memorabilia never before displayed in public.

Stay tuned for new London posts in August. To look at old London posts, go to the very top of this page and type “London” into the Search box.

PREVIEW – Here’s another museum I plan to visit. There’s a current exhibition called SWEPT UNDER THE CARPET. SERVANTS IN LONDON HOUSEHOLDS, 1600-2000. There are also beautiful gardens to walk in, a café and gift shop, and a permanent exhibition of Period Rooms.

lovely Geffrye_Museum

The Geffrye explores the home from 1600 to the present day. Evocative displays of London living rooms and gardens illustrate homes and home life through the centuries, reflecting changes in society, behaviour, style and taste.

Set in beautiful 18th-century almshouse buildings, the museum is surrounded by gardens – a much-loved oasis in the heart of inner-city London. 

http://www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/

Avignon summer festival

cropped-festival-avignon-stage.jpgopen air avignon

The Avignon Festival is held every July in the courtyard of the Popes’ Palace, as well as in other locations around the city of Avignon. Founded in 1947 by Jean Vilar, it is the oldest theatre and performing arts festivals in France…and one of the world’s greatest.

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THE DAMNED

This is the play that everyone’s talking about right now. Direction is by Ivo Van Hove, artistic director of one of Europe’s most inventive theatre companies, the Toneelgroep in Amsterdam. Actors are from the prestigious Comédie Française troupe. THE DAMNED will be televised live from Avignon this Sunday night (July 10) at 22h50 on France2.

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damn twodamn three

Here’s the story – To protect their interests as Nazism triumphs in Germany, the steel tycoons of the fabulously wealthy Essenbeck family see no other solution but to ally themselves with the new regime and murder the patriarch, old Baron Joachim. Intrigue and machinations, betrayals and murders: the appointment of the new head of their steel empire will turn into a ritual of Evil in which the corruption of the relationships between individuals echoes the cruelty and brutality of the political context.

In this struggle for survival and against all odds, it is Martin – the incestuous and paedophiliac progeny of powerful Baroness Sophie – who will manage to eliminate all his opponents and become a zealous servant of the regime, ready to reign on the empire he inherited. He will, however, have to pay a high price, living a cold life irremediably devoid of love, goodness, and beauty.

http://www.festival-avignon.com/en/

If you click on this link below, you’ll find a good and comprehensive list of hotels, B&Bs and campsites in the region as well as restaurants, markets, etc.

http://www.provenceguide.co.uk/festivals-and-events/avignon/avignon-festival/provence-FMAPAC084CDT0000174-1.html

food trucks

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For years I had been (enviously) reading about the success of food trucks in cities such as Los Angeles, Seattle and Sydney while lamenting the fact that none existed in Paris.  And then in 2012 a taco truck called The Cantine California rolled into town, right on the heels of a burger truck called Le Camion Qui Fume, owned by a California native.  And, as to be expected, these mobile kitchens were eyed with haughty sniffs of suspicion and disapproval by the natives here.  After all, France is a world leader in la gastronomie française. Buy lunch from a truck and eat on the street with one’s hands??  Que le ciel nous en préserve !  (Heaven forbid!)

Let’s face it, the French are snobs, especially in terms of food.  But the good news is there’s a faction now who are less snobbish because they’ve lived in London, New York, Montreal, Sydney and other cities.  This experience has made them far more receptive to new and different ideas.

These photos were taken last August at La Défense, Europe’s largest business district on Paris’s west side.  I now work here. The Esplanade de la Défense, the long walkway lined on either side by trees, apartments, restaurants and skyscrapers, is dedicated entirely to pedestrians.

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It’s a pleasure to stop at the many shaded squares along the way and watch office colleagues playing boules (pétanque) on their lunch hour.  As if they were in a provençal village rather than this important business district that houses the headquarters of multinational giants such as TOTAL, EDF, Areva, Axa, GDF Suez and Société Générale, to name a few.

IMG_4914IMG_4916IMG_4918IMG_4919The further you walk towards La Grande Arche at the end of the Esplanade, the thicker and higher the buildings. But there’s still lots of open space.  And lots going on.IMG_4930IMG_4927IMG_4931IMG_4950

Some people dislike La Défense because of its concrete slabs and dehumanizing uniformity. They say the place is devoid of charm or soul.  I happen to disagree.  I find a poetic expression in the design of the urban space here. I think the planners have done an excellent job in humanizing the concrete landscape with the presence of outdoor art installations, grassy squares and benches, fountains (one which vigorously splashes up and down in tune with classical music played loudly on speakers), whimsical sculptures, seasonal markets, a summer jazz festival, etc. The best part though is the open space and absence of cars.

How to get there – take the central number 1 metro line to Esplanade de la Défense stop.  There are restaurants, shopping galore in the CNIT building or in the huge shopping mall called Les Quatre Temps complete with multiplex movie theater called the UGC Ciné Cité with 16 screens.  You can also take an elevator to the roof of La Grande Arche, the Danish-designed white cube, and look out at the stunning view.

Word of caution – I would avoid walking around this area after nightfall.