Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Shenanigans on the French Riviera Part 3

Hyeres (pronounced ee air) is an Olympic sailing town and forms the western boarder to the the Cote d'Azure in France.  It is definitely not in the same league as St Tropez, but nevertheless, is a very beautiful coastal town and ultimately it began to grow on me.

Old Town Hyeres France
The following is the story of what forced me to get back behind the steering wheel in France and discover more of this lovely part of the planet.

In the interests of seizing the day and not dying of cabin fever, we walked into town yesterday arvo (a very pleasant 15 minutes) with the distinct intention of booking something to do, via the tourist office.  When I sidled up to reception, there were literally 6 or 7 women behind the counter, some of whom were hunched over 'les plans de la ville', genuinely assisting people with their enquiries.  When it was my turn, I decided to ask in English, as I thought I may be missing something, because my use of French the previous few days before at the tourist office, had come to nothing.
I asked if I could speak English and the answer was “Yes” , so I proceeded as follows.
“Can we book a tour to do something in or around Hyeres tomorrow? We don’t much mind what it is” I eagerly asked, happily in the knowledge that I would fully understand the answer to that question. 

Old Town Hyeres France

The lady said.  “There was a walking tour of the old town this morning.” 
“Anything else?” I asked.
“Non”, was the distinct reply. 
“OK well we’ll take the walking tour.” 
Madame came back abruptly, almost with an eye roll.” That was this morning, there are no more tours this week.”
This was Tuesday, so I said “What?  No tours at all?”
“Yes that’s right, nothing.”
Call me old fashioned, but I must say being Tuesday, I was somewhat surprised.
One does wonder, what is the point of having a tourist office manned by 7 employees, if there are no tours to sell, but there you have it.  You just have to cop it sweet. This is France and my role is not to question why.  But, I am reminded of say Noosa, which in some ways has a similar feel to Hyeres and I cannot not help but think of all the companies there, lining up to take money from holiday makers, if they are willing to part with it.   Hell, I would have even taken the kids deep sea fishing if I could have.

Hyeres Beach
So here’s a hot tip!!!!  There is a shed load of money to be made for anyone willing to create some interesting tours showing people the sites of Hyeres and environs on a regular basis.

So failing any organised tourism, I thought I’d have another go. Whilst there is a distinct fear of getting on a train (not possible as Hyeres station/line is closed for an upgrade) or bus and never being able to find my way home again, after a week in Hyeres, I think it would have been safe to call myself and the kids desperate to find something to do.  So I continued, by querying the lady about taking public transport down to the Port of La Tour Fondue, a short 7kms from Heyres, in order to get the ferry over to the Island of Porquerolle.  That tour was supposed to happen in any case via the regatta, Mr Beach House was sailing in, but the lay day and associated events were cancelled due to there being a lack of wind at the beginning of the week.  There seemed to be no consideration of the spouses. The sailors weren’t available, so they cancelled the trip to the island.  OK then.  There seemed to be an issue with numbers as well, but every time we tried to find the lady at the yacht club to book the tour to LÍsle de Porquerolle, we could not find her.  She was always at lunch.

Kite surfing at Heyres

So back at the tourist office in Hyeres, in response to my query about public transport down to the ferry port….this was what I got…..“Oh yes the bus number 67 goes to the port.”  Oh great I thought, that bus stops at the end of our street. So I went through the details with her to make sure all was clear and resolved with the kids that this would be our adventure for the next day, Wednesday.


So the next morning we bid Mr Beach House farewell, as he drove off and set off ourselves for the bus stop about an hour later.  When we got there, the electronic ticker tape thingy said “67 Pas de Service” which means ‘ Bus 67, no service’.  It also said '63 Aeroport Hyeres 10 minutes'.  I tell you what, at this stage a 14 hour trip to Berlin without luggage was staring to look attractive.

On closer inspection of the timetable on the bus stop wall, it said the 67 bus ran. Mon, Tues, Thurs and Friday, but for some reason not Wednesday.  Maybe because it starts with a W or something,  And of course today was Wednesday.  You could probably feel the heat from where you are, half way across the planet, as the steam shot out of my ears.  I was a little gobsmacked as to why the lady at the tourist office, I had spoken at length with the day before, didn’t tell me about Pas de Service on Wednesday, when she knew we were going to attempt to catch the bus today, ON A WEDNESDAY.  Maybe she couldn’t be bothered, but really, call me old fashioned, but this woman is being paid to help tourists. Clearly she didn't see it like that.

Gum trees in the exotic section of the Parc Oblius Riquier in Hyeres
So at that stage we had 2 choices, return home and continue to be bored stiff, or get on the other bus,  to Hyeres Aeroport, which came in 10 minutes and coincidentally, went down past the yacht club Mr Beach House was sailing out of.  I thought to hell with it.  I am going to find our car and we are going to get down to that flipping port if it kills me.  I hadn’t driven the car since I was nearly taken out in the round about 2 days before, but it was time to get back on the horse, whatever the outcome.

Old Town Hyeres
Luckily I had the second set of keys in my bag, but I hoped to find Mr BH down at the yachtie, so he didn’t think the car had been stolen, upon his return to shore.  As the wind was howling early, the sailors had already left the port and I can tell you it was no easy feat finding his sailing bag amongst the 500 plus competitors' bags, but I knew where he rigged his boat and just started lifting up boat covers until I found it.  I left a note on his bag to the effect of what I was doing and said if we were not back by 6pm, to come looking for us. 

 Now to find the car.  Happily my husband is a creature of habit and I started looking in the general vicinity of where he usually parks and bingo, we had found it within 15 minutes. The driving is actually pretty easy on the wrong side of the road, it’s just the multi lane round abouts that get me.  This time I hung in the outside lane and all was well. We found the Port, had a lovely lunch (another funny story in itself, but if I tell you, you will start to think it’s me and not the French, God knows I am questioning it myself)  

Although we resolved to go to L'Isle de Porquerolle later in the week, I tentatively drove the 7kms down to the jumping off point at La Tour Fondue (the Melting Tower), just to check out the tiny port and to have lunch.  The parking lot was bigger than the village, but it was a lovely little spot, with a fort, a few shops and restaurants and a some holiday houses.  It was still before 12pm when we had had looked around, but we decided to have some lunch in any case.  There were several lovely restaurants with views of the Med, and the kids decided they wanted pizza, so pizza it was.

We took a lovely table by the window next to the sea and had a fabulous afternoon checking the place out.

 We got back to the club before Mr Beach House in the end.   All in all it was a lovely day and just goes to show, if you get off your ass and face your fears things can work out for the best.

The funny thing is one of the other wives had also tried to catch the 67 bus down to the port that day and failed after having visited the tourist office as well. She told her partner that the 67 bus didn’t run on a Wednesday and he didn’t believe her.  At the post race drinks, she told me she was glad I had turned up as I could confirm this crazy phenomenon of being directed by those who should know, to take a bus that doesn’t show up. So now I have a new friend. I said to her come out to lunch with us today and we can cheer each other up.  Stay tuned for more adventures on the French Riviera.

L'Isle de Porquerolle
Post script:  I ended up taking my new friend Zeena down to the port La Tour Fondue later in the week and we did make it to the lovely Island of Porquerolle after a few false starts. Check out all the sea glass we found over there. 

Sea Glass

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

An Iconic House in Palm Beach for Sale

An Iconic House in Palm Beach for Sale

Well Beach House of the Week is back and what a way to launch its return.

This house is possibly the one I covert the most in Palm Beach.  We often launch our dinghy from near by and I am always in awe of this lovely house as I pass it by.

On the shores of Pittwater, the combination of Walta Bada designed and Kavanagh built has class written all over it.

This house can be viewed on Saturday this weekend at 12.15.  Why not bring a picnic and set up in the very quiet park next door after you are finished your viewing.  Personally I couldn't think of a better way to spend a day on Sydney's Northern Beaches.

For all her details and a floor plan, go here.  

I hope you enjoyed the tour

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Monday, October 20, 2014

A Beautiful Day in St Tropez

Wow what a stunner St Tropez is.  Mr Beach House was loathe to go, but I said we can’t come all this way and pass over probably the most famous beach resort in Europe if not the world, so we went to lunch in a restaurant with sand on the floor..........I mean they actually meant to have sand on the floor.

Apparently with one road in and out, it can take two hours to get in in August, but October was fine. Still crowded due to a Porche pow wow in town.

 The cars did a concours d’elegance, (drive by) past our table, whilst we were having lunch.  Just fine if you don’t mind a little carbon monoxide with your potatoes. The Biggest Beach House Brat loved it and decided he wants an orange one.  Good luck with that kiddo.

The whole town is posers on parade and I loved every minute of it. The shops were amazing and it being the end of the season, I bought 2 Turkish towels for 10 Euro for the lot.  So you see, despite it being 'St Tropez, double pay' there is something for every one.

There is also an air show at St Maxime this week, which is across the bay so from St Tropez, so we watched in awe as the acrobats and military planes did all their stuff, flying in formation.

 We had a stunning lunch on the quai across from all the big stink boats in a restaurant called LÉscale.
The wait staff were beautifully dresses and very chic and the tables were elegantly laid.

Everything in St Tropez is pricey, but I thought the 3 course menu at 39 Euros was fantastic value.  That was 3 courses of some of the loveliest food you will ever taste.  My cafe gourmand dessert even had coffee included.  But it was also about the location and the people watching too.  Everyone comes to see and be seen in St Tropez and it's fabulous. So many things about the French are.

Oh and despite being married to a boat builder, I still think the best boats are other peoples.

And check out the sand on the floor, personally that was not my favourite part of it.

After lunch we then took a walk up to the town square to watch all the Sunday Petanque games.  All in all it was a wonderful day.

Oh and check out the new trend in bathroom vanities.

Rather cute I thought.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Shenanigans on the French Riviera Part 2

 Hi Beach Dwellers.

Here's the next episode in Shenanigans on the French Riviera:

We found a cute little beach just down from the yacht club with a great hotel two doors down, that does good coffee and hot chocolate. So the kids are getting to swim on a daily basis and I have access to an easy coffee fix in lovely surroundings.  Yay!! The private beach concept is a little weird, but when in Rome and all that.

I have come to the conclusion that all coastal holiday towns are the same, the world over.  The general rule goes something like this, beach and associated water sports, eat, drink, fun park, done……..and of course living in a coastal town in Sydney, thankfully without a ‘fun’ park, means it is no novelty to us.  So………’Lost in Hyeres’ as a title to this post, would be an understatement.  However this is Mr Beach House’s week/10 days and I am willing to take one for the team and lie back and think of England, if you will.  Concerning the sailing any way.  Although this morning I was thinking of Berlin, as there is an international airport here in Hyeres and I thought why the hell not, whilst he is sailing. However, when I googled the prices to get from obscure French coastal country town, to Berlin, I started thinking of England again and realised I would have to sit this one out. It seems a shame, when we are so close, but you have to draw the line somewhere and $4500 for a round trip in airfares alone for me and 2 kids, is it. Plus the fact that the trip takes 14 hours, as they all seem to have to go through Paris and some require an over night there.  So the reality is Hyeres-Toulon airport appears to be international in name only.   I only wish I hadn’t told the Biggest Beach House Brat until I had done my research.  But as I said to him, “You are 11 and will have your chance when you are paying the bills, to get to Berlin one day.

The crazy thing is, there has been very little wind and so the laser fleet has been kept on hold on shore for most of the regatta so far, which is a little ironic.  Even though there has been very little sailing, Mr BH cannot leave the yacht club in case racing is called on.  Like I said in my last post “Are we having fun yet?”  I have not been to a regatta with him sailing alone for years, so I had forgotten how much I don’t like it, but it is his birthday present and all, so I am trying to be nice to him.  Considering he gave me a bottle of Pommeau de Normandie for my birthday, I think I am being very nice indeed.

Post script to the sailing: The fleet finally got out to race at 5pm last night, having arrived at the yacht club at 10 am, so it was a long day.  MP got a 4th, which was a big improvement on the 32nd from the day before.  He even said if he had got another 32nd, he would have packed it in.  The Radial Laser fleet hasn’t even had a race yet, even though they have gone out twice, so there are a lot of sombre guys hanging around the yacht club this week.

On the upside, there were a couple of good markets here yesterday and I scored a lovely yellow handbag for $30 and a great little box of octopus salad for lunch, which I ate whilst watching the kids swim.  It was the best I’ve ever had. I only wish I had taken a shot of the stall selling it.  The lady had great big pans of gorgeous food, one with paella, one of snails cooked in garlic and parsley and another with octopus in a spicy tomato sauce and all sorts of fabulous food. She had tasting plates out front, so you could try before you bought and it was some of the best food I have ever tasted. The kids eyes were out on sticks when I ate the snail, which is weird, since they were quite OK with eating the frogs legs I ordered for them in L‘Isle sur la Sorgue.

We also had the good fortune to discover Port Grimaud (near St Tropez) the other night, even if the drive through the hills was something else. What is it with narrow winding roads with no barriers, over looking cliffs and French drivers?  This time there was even a car over the side, which was a damned sobering wake up call, but friends from the UK and OZ were doing a regatta over in Port Grimaud and we met them for dinner.  The port is a development built in the 1960’s out of the salt marshes, so totally environmentally unfriendly, but if you can get past that, it is really interesting.  The whole thing was built at the same time and no 2 house facades are the same.  It’s like a gated community with cute French villas and you have to go over a moat with security guard to get in.  All the villas back onto the marina, so you can park your boat at your back door, so it’s very cool.  As for the drive home, lets just say I over did it on the rose at dinner in preparation. Mr BH did the drive in his usual laconic and in control way.  So you see I owe him on many levels, so will press on here in Hyeres in the hope that things get more interesting this week.

Whilst we are on the topic of development, Hyeres is another interesting phenomenon.  It’s looking very tired with high rise apartments on the water front, reminiscent of the tacky ones in Miami.  I reckon if the French just leave these for another 20 years, which lets face it, they have a history of doing with their buildings, the place will start to look charming again.  Further down the isthmus the high rise stops and the houses are free standing. It really is a very pretty part of the world.  I do have a soft spot for the French Beach House I must say.

Here’s to more wind and a bit more action for us for our last week in La Belle France.
      Lets just say, it looks like I will definitely finish my book before I get home.

Port Grimaud France

Port Grimaud France

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