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

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

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Shenanigans on the French Riviera

Been AWOL for a few days. Moving house to Heyres on the Med and getting Mr Beach House all set for the regatta has been somewhat hectic.  One has to ask “Are we having fun yet?”  I so do not see the joy in competitive sailing, especially at international level, but there are 517 competitors here, so clearly I am missing something.  

Mr Beach House stupidly allowed the Littlest Beach House Brat to assist him in affixing his sail numbers to the sail on our living room floor at home.  Big mistake, as they were 5 mil out and that little shite fight has taken 24 hours to rectify with the measurers.  First attempt was with a knife, by cutting five mil off the back of the number 7, which only led to a second rejection by the measurer and then the purchase and refit of 13 new numbers/letters, as they all had to be moved along five mil.  We couldn’t rip them off and restick, as it’s like trying to reuse sticky tape.  Mr BH being MR BH, he chose the girl measurer on the third attempt and chatted her up with a smile and he passed with flying colours, but not before working up a sweat in the lovely Jack’s sail loft trying to refit the numbers to perfection before Jack closed for lunch at 12.30pm sharp.  It does seem strange that all the ship chandleries close for 2 hours at lunch time, when there are so many guys trying to make ready their boats for the competition, which begins tomorrow.  I mean by all means close for lunch once the regatta starts, but one would think the 2 day window of opportunity pre regatta, would mean they would be willing to take our money at all times of the day, by delaying lunch and staying open.  But this is France and they have been closing for lunch for 2 hours since 1066 and they see no reason to change that, even though there are guys willing to hand over big money just get their boats right for the start of racing.

We are only happy Mr BH did not send all his sailing gear here by freight, as those guys who did have the choice of sailing naked tomorrow (not unheard of on the Med), or forking out big bucks to kit themselves out in new wetsuits, life jackets, tillers and sails etc etc.  As of course none of their gear has arrived and has only been tracked as far Marseilles.  “Ah Marseilles” all the salty old dogs say. “You will never see your gear again.”  Now I can see the wisdom in carting a tiller and all sorts of other crap with us over from London on the Eurostar, even if it did mean approaching doorways side on for 5 weeks, when we were on the move.

As Mr BH is sailing now, we have also lost our very competent driver and the task has fallen to me.  I drove home from the yacht club yesterday for a practise (10 minutes).  It was peak hour and we didn’t set the GPS, because stupidly, we thought we knew where we lived. Consequently we got on the 3 lane highway that hugs the Riviera Coast.  Mr BH even concedes it was the wrong time to have a go at driving my first ever diesel car on the wrong side of the road and even he puts it down to why I almost got us side swiped by another driver as I tried to get off the round about from the inside lane.  

The French driver called me everything under the sun and rightly so. Suffice to say when we got to the supermarket. I parked, got out and refused to drive again.  However, if I don’t man up and try again we will not have much fun, as the beach is 4 ks away so it’s going to be a little dull if I don’t get back on the horse.  If only it was a horse.

The upside is, our cute little house is only a 15 minute walk into the old part of Hyeres from here, but I dare say we will get a little bored with Roman houses and Knights Templar chapels after a week. There are only so many romantic French villages one can take with their kids in tow.  Of course it’s all up hill too,  owing to the 100 Year Wars and the need to build defensively in those times, so the kids soon get the pip with wandering around up hill and it can turn ugly very quickly.

Despite our distance from the ocean, all is not lost. Or so I thought.  There is an aquatic centre but 5 minutes walk from here.  We checked it out yesterday and I have been using it as a bribe for the kids today. I promised them a swim this afternoon if they did not behave badly for the day. They upheld their part of the deal, but sadly it was not to be.  I don’t think I was entirely to blame, but I’ll allow you to be the judge.  

We walked over there this arvo  and were refused entry because I didn’t have a cozzie. I had resolved to read a book in the shade whilst the kids swam.  But mais non.  As I am the proud mother of an under 10, I had to go in as well.........WTF?.  OK that I can handle, so we made the 5 minute walk home and I donned my black one piece.  A most unusual concept around these parts, as even the fattest oldies wear bikinis, which is possibly a hangover from the 1960s Bridget Bardot set in Cannes.  I gave that up 20 years ago and have no intention of trying to fit in on that score. But I digress from our attempt to get the kids wet this arvo.

We walked back to the pool, which was no mean feat in the heat and were refused entry again because we did not have caps.  We were  hot and bothered by then and I just said under my breath “what do you have to do to get a F… swim around here?” whilst smiling sweetly  The answer I do believe is……go to the beach.  Which we will do tomoz. Sadly that did not help the 2 hot and bothered kids I had in my charge this afternoon.  The biggest Beach House Brat got it, but the Littlest lost the plot but happily, she finally settled for a bath in her cozzie when we got home again. Phew catastrophe averted, but let just say I had better come good on providing them with a swim tomorrow, because if I don’t, side swiping the car will start to look enjoyable in comparison to the whinging session I will be in for.

Stay tuned for more shenanigns on the French Riviera

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Accommodation in L'Isle sur la Sorgue

If you are looking for a great place to base yourself in the south of France (Provence) next time you are there, you would go along way to find a town better than L'Isle sur la Sorgue.  Centrally located in the Department of Vaucluse, it is close to all the must see perched villages and other attractions of the Luberon Valley.  Although you can arrive by train, a car is really a must if you want to take full advantage of the French country side.  We stayed in a very cute 2 bedroom apartment overlooking the centre of town.  Again there were loads of stairs, so if you are in any way disabled, this one is not for you.  But stairs seem to be par for the course in most French apartment complexes. The other issue was that being in the centre of town can of course be noisy, but that is one thing I am prepared to put up with, for being right in the action.

This apartment overlooks Place de le Republique. Every French town seems to have a square by that name. The location places you well for the world famous markets, held in the town both on Thursday and Sunday (even bigger and better than Thursday).  The town is full of high end antique stores and the Sunday market has loads of Brocante and some of the most beautifully presented Mediterranean produce I have ever seen.  I will do an entire post on the markets, as they are out of this world.

To my mind, there are very few brocante bargains to be had, but I did get a lovely blue and white French house number, for decoration purposes for 18 Euro in a lovely store, which I thought was quite good.

It was so nice to come home to this comfortable and well appointed apartment every night, after a day out on the hustings in the South of France.  It really was a little home away from home. And sitting at the writing desk, listening to the saxophonist play out my living room window every Thursday and Sunday evening, rose in hand, was just sublime.

If you would like more info on how to stay in this apartment you can go here.



Disclaimer: We paid our own way in this property

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Monday, September 29, 2014

The South of France

I have never walked into a country town I liked and not looked in the real estate window whilst dreaming of buying property there. Yesterday in the South of France was no exception. We drove into a few little perched towns. My favourite of which, was a town called Goult. There was a house there for sale for about 350,000 Euro, built in the 1700's. It's the one the kids are sitting in front of on the rock with the olive tree out the front. It was bulging with olives ready for harvest, the shutters had chippy paint and were just hanging in there and the whole thing had "buying trouble" written all over it.  So why was I in my element standing in front of that house and considering the possibilities? 

 Who can say? I cannot explain my love for France, but it is there all the same.

It's all a dream, because as Mr Beach House said,  'What would you do here?" It's true, once you have done the sites, there's also  alot of sitting around and drinking and eating. You do notice first drinks being poured at around 10am in these parts, as you sit next to these guys sipping your coffee. And I can feel my hips spreading by the day. 

 We don't speak good enough French to run a business, or survive the French red tape of living here, which is affectionately avoided by the French using the system known by the locals as " Le system D". 

   If you want a laugh you can read about what Le System D is here.  It explains why I stood for 10 minutes the other day at the tourist office in Gordes, while the lady behind the desk finished up making her social arrangements on the phone for that Friday evening, before she would even acknowledge my presence in front of her.  Or why at Le Mont Saint Michel, I was left standing at the ticket desk, whilst about three tourist guides pushed passed me to buy up to 50 tickets at a time, which all had to be printed out one by one and signed for, before I could get a look in.  Apparently if they don't make eye contact with me, I don't exist and therefore there is no queue, there is only them. 

 So despite all that and although it's highly temping to up stumps and move the family over here, wholus bolus, I bet the first hint of the Mistral amongst other things, would send me packing back to the moderate climes of the Australian coast anyway.  But it is fun to be part of the last throws of Summer in the South of France and dream of what might be.  Despite it all being a dream and the fact that, the Northern Beaches of Sydney are just as nice, only very very different from this part of the planet, that certain je ne sais quoi will make it very hard for me to leave France and all her quirky in your face rudeness and charms and return home just the same.

Just as an aside, the sculptures you will see further down in this post are owned by Pierre Cardin, who has partially renovated the Chateau in the perched village of Lacoste, which was ruined as so many were, during the Revolution.  The sculptures depict the Marquis of Sade, who built the Chateau and who gave his name to the term "sadism".  He presided over well celebrated orgies in the town and was known to kidnap peasants and do awful things to them.  Ultimately he was convicted and gaoled for 30 years for his sadistic pursuits..

Some query whether Pierre Cardin's lavish sponsorship of operas in the town these days, is leading to a new phenomenon known as Cardinism. Who cares as La vie certainly is belle in the South of France.

I hope you enjoyed a little trip around some of the pretty towns of the Department of Vaucluse in the South of France. 

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