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St-Tropez – Jun 27, Sunday
It was comfortable to stay in a French apartment, instead of a hotel. We had homemade breakfast. Before we started our road trip, we had the opportunity to plan our routes thanks to Google Maps and the broadband access that came with the apartment. Our plan was to head southwest from Nice, drive 135 km along the coast to Saint-Tropez, and then retraced our route and stopped at Cannes. From Cannes, continued to Nice’s direction and stopped by the ancient village St-Paul-de-Vence.
Saint Tropez is beautiful. There are so many yachts and sport cars. Ferrari, Porsche, and even Lamborghini. It was a Sunday. A perfect day to stroll along a town by the sea. During our visit, there were an outdoor exhibition of sculptures created by Fernando Botero. I am not sure if those are permanent fixtures of the city. His works of art appear to be proportionally exaggerated, or “fat” so as to speak. Some of his works remind me of that fat bird we have along Singapore River.
I read that the ancient town Ramatuelle is restored to perfection by the celebrity population. Cynthia’s French colleague has recommended us to pay this town a visit. So we did. Ramatuelle is close to Saint-Tropez. By the time we reached the town, it looked as though the town was closed. There was a policeman standing behind the barrier. A quarantine? I tried to inquire if it was OK to park right outside the barrier and the stern looking policeman pointed at an empty lot. I tried to inquire if we were allow to entered and he nodded. Apparently, during Sundays, the town is closed so that the workers can clean the street thoroughly with chemical. This must be one of the richest town in France.
Beyond the sparkling clean small town center, up the hill is a windy road that led us into a town so anciently beautiful, so out of this world. All the houses are well maintained, decorated with flowers of different colors. And outside the houses, we found strange looking life size figures dressed up in clothes. I joked with Cynthia that these figures would come alive at night, this village would become festive, full of laughers, and then at the break of dawn, they would turn back into immobilized figures. I had this idea because the village was eerily quiet.
When we hear the word Cannes, we would probably think of the Cannes Film Festival. Cannes is quite a major city. Certainly larger than St-Tropez. I am unsure how Cannes compares to Nice in terms of size and population. By the coast, there were pubs crowded with people watching World Cup live. That day, it was England versus Germany. We saw Germans wrapped in their national flag cheering happily while the British looking sad and stressed. We took a walk up the hill, passing the famed boulevard de la Croisette, and on the top, we found Musée de la Castre (which we skipped) and Notre-Dame de l’Espérance (which we entered and found no one inside). The view from the top of the hill? Very much like what we saw in Monaco.
After Cannes, we headed northward and into St-Paul-de-Vence.
It is hard to describe St-Paul-de-Vence in words. It is one of the most famous and visited hill villages of the Nice hinterland. The village was once a French frontier post facing Savoy and has been heavily restored in recent days. The winding streets and the medieval buildings are authentic. There are galleries inside the village selling high quality commercial art. From afar, the village rests on top of a hill fortified by an external wall surrounding it.
St-Paul-de-Vence, in a way, reminded me of the trip we had in Spain. Day 7 specifically when we visited Toledo. Back in 2009, Cynthia got me into driving through the ancient town and I got stressed up by the narrow roads. Before we entered St-Paul-de-Vence, I saw some roadsigns that probably said: Park here or park outside. But it was in French. I was not sure what it said. At the entrance to St-Paul-de-Vence, I thought I saw a gate that probably said: No unauthorized entry or enter at your own risk. I hesitated and wanted to make a reverse. Cynthia said let’s go. So, in I drove with a small commercial vehicle tailgating me, perhaps wondering what these two tourists were doing. At the first corner, it was so tight that I needed to do a reverse and retry. No good. The entire car ride was a torture. The roads were much narrower than the narrowest roads we have seen in Spain. The most breathtaking thing was that some parts of the road were for the traffic from either direction. As our car made it out of the village, unscratched, I praised the Lord for watching over us.
We enjoyed walking inside this ancient village. It would probably be more lively if we were to visit St-Paul-de-Vence on a weekday when the shops are open. St-Paul-de-Vence is not that far away from Nice and we were toying with the idea of having our dinner in this village or having takeaway pizza and chicken wings in Nice (money saving mode kicked in, as you can see). We have decided to spoil ourselves with a pleasant dinner in St-Paul-de-Vence. Cynthia picked a bistro gourmand called “La Cocarde”. The food was delicious, well presented. I seldom publicize restaurant addresses here in my website but this one is special (for our future reference too). It is located at 23 Rue Grande. If we shall return, we certainly hope that this restaurant will still be around.
France has many strange toilets. Inside this restaurant, I found a toilet that has a mechanism in place to clean the toilet seat – automatically! How it works is this. After someone uses the toilet, a rectangular sponge is lowered onto the back of the seat. And then the entire toilet seat rotates with water sprayed onto it. The seat is then dried, after which, the sponge is lifted. When I described this mechanism to Cynthia, she did not believe. I think till today, she still thinks that I had too much wine that evening.
After our dinner, the sky was dark. It was rare because we were often home when there was still light. In Europe, the days are long in summer. Since both of us are unable to wake up ridiculously early during our holidays, summer holiday in Europe works for us.
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PS. Thank your for reading our journal and feel free to drop a comment or two. You may wish to view our photo collection for day 8 too.