Saturday, July 28, 2007


My God! A month and a half since I have written anything here. I have a backlog of blogs to write but little time at the moment ... hopefully they will appear in the autumn when it is dark at 5 p.m. and the thermometre starts to drop dramatically.

Last week G and I stayed with friends who have a house just outside of Valbonne in the south of France - a great week with some good food and wine. I admit to not venturing out much as July in the south of France is really not the best time of the year for sightseeing and also it was extremely hot, so most of the time was taken up lazing by the pool. I managed to read 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen' by Paul Torday which was an ideal holiday-by-pool book - light-hearted, easy to read and amusing. I also took Andrew Marr's book 'A History of Modern Britain' but it's a hardback so not suitable for pools, but have plunged into it (the book!) now that I am home.

We ventured out one day to St. Paul de Vence and of course, regretted it bitterly. Although we arrived early, the place was already heaving with every nationality under the sun ... a quick coffee and then a trip round the village. Sorry, but what a load of rubbish - every second shop is an "Art" gallery selling absolute tat and if not a gallery, a souvenir shop selling the usual rubbish one finds everywhere. We found a "real" gallery and were attracted to it as they had a Chagall litho for sale. As a matter of interest we went in to ask the price. The two girls in the shop were fine, and we got the chat about the symbolism in the picture, how it had belonged to his daughter, how it was she who had had it framed (badly) etc. The cost was €60,000! We both did a 'that's a reasonable price' face, as if we bought pictures like that every day, and just before leaving, G said to one of the girls "Tell me, we were discussing Chagall earlier, and neither of us can remember his real name". Talk about two blank faces! I wonder whether they knew he was buried in the cemetary in St Paul de Vence? I admit to being amazed that for the modest sum of €60,000 these girls, albeit very charming, knew nothing about what must be one of the villages' most famous artists, and if I were spending €60,000 I would want them to know everything about the artist.

Rushed back to the car and headed for Eze, but on the way there decided that it would be just as busy as St. Paul, so we took a vote and agreed we would go to Italy for lunch! Crossed the border and headed to the hills looking for slightly cooler temperatures. Our lack of food led us to the Principality of Seborga totally by (happy) accident. It is a small, pretty hillside village with no tourists, no touristy knick knack shops, a couple of restaurants and that is about it. We had a lovely meal in a little courtyard (far cheaper and far better than what we would have found on the French coast at this time of the year), a wander around after lunch and generally had a great day, especially after our disastrous start. So definitely a place to recommend if you are down in the area this summer and need to escape from the madding crowd.

One other gastronomic recommendation I can most definitely make is to try and get a table at the Auberge du Vieux Chateau in Cabris. It is at the top of the village and there are the most wonderful views over Grasse and to the coast. We had booked a table outside, and when we arrived ... no table! What could have become a rather unpleasant scene was immediately transformed by the wonderful owner into a memorable evening. He suggested we admired the view and he would bring us all a glass of champagne on the house and so we did just that. A bit of juggling of tables and five minutes later we were installed outside. A small 'carte' with a choice of 4 entrées, 4 main courses and 4 desserts and a good choice of local wines. I ate the best salade niçoise in the whole of my life there - sounds boring? Not this one. It is not cheap; we had a bill for €200 for the four of us, but we had had wonderful amuse-gueule, a three course meal that was perfect (we could also have had cheese but didn't), a bottle of good wine, 2 bottles of mineral water and coffee. The staff were young, friendly and knew their job and we had a marvellous evening, so was it expensive? I think not.

Next week G and I are off to the north coast of Brittany, as I am desperate for some 'real' sea and 'real' fish - two of the things Switzerland cannot provide! Then to Jersey to see my Mum and eat more fish and stroll along empty beaches and hopefully I shall be back here with batteries recharged ready to rise at 5.30am on the 20th August when the favourite son starts another school year!