Too long. Too hot. It’s almost September (28 August), but the temperature on our balcony in the shade is 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees F). There have been far too many days with this sweltering heat, even reaching 38/100 a few times. We have learned to live like the locals, shutting all windows and shutters early in the morning. It is like living in a cave, but it does keep things a bit cooler.
I long for the coolness of the mountains…. Soon we will be off, not to the mountains, but north to Germany where far more pleasant temperatures await, alas some rain too. That’s Germany! We need that rain in Provence. No precipitation for weeks. The garden plants are sad, drooping, very thirsty. I am so sick of watering, but I must prevent my precious roses from perishing. My geraniums and petunias have given up – no more blossoms. Grass — what grass? Nothing but a rock hard brown surface covered with the parched remains of what long ago was lush and green. It’s strange. We are suffering from excessive heat and drought in Provence. In Houston they have Harvey and devastating floods. Climate change is real.
Following are some photos of summer chez nous. We kept cool, sort of, at a mechoui (lamb roasted on a spit) picnic in nearby Cereste. That lamb was tasty. We had visitors, friends Regis and Britta from Germany with their friends Tobie and Allan from Tucson. Tobie scoured the antiques shops, finding many treasures which Allan had to squeeze into the rental car trunk. We are not sure how all that loot made it back to Tucson.Our only trip of the summer was to Paris to see our fabulous American dentist, Dr. Jane. We made time for a visit to the Fondation Louis Vuitton, an architectural wonder.
We had a cute, tiny Airbnb apartment in the Marais which offered this view (below) from the mini balcony. This time we did not get locked in (see previous post, “Prisoners in an Airbnb Apartment,” 2016/11/13)I took a cooking course, The Art of Cooking like Chef, at the renowned Cordon Bleu. I failed to master carre de l’agneau and ended up massacring a beautiful hunk of meat. More on this sorry tale to appear soon in an article on http://www.travelsquire.com
We were happy to lighten our load at a flea market in Reillanne, our town. It is therapeutic, and we need to part with much more.
More visitors, Tom and Lisa from our Stuttgart days came with daughter Remy who is named after that town in Provence. They now live in Middleburg, Va.
More Paris. Dinner with Leonard and Claudine at an Israeli restaurant where the Shakshuka is excellent (see Shakshuka recipe under Recipes, Meat and Mains, column at right).
Bob bids farewell to Paris, quenching his thirst with a beer at Le Train Bleu while we wait to board our TGV back to Provence.
We had a celebration a few days ago to mark the end of this scorcher of a summer, but no end in sight. We had fun nonetheless, and delicious food thanks to chefs Victor and Ishmael.
Today’s Taste is a different and tangy take on summer squash and/or zucchini. Click on squash photo , upper right, for recipe, and scroll down for more recipes.
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Yes, in deep and desperately needing escape. I/we cannot get out from under the ominous, all-encompassing black cloud which has bombarded us with one disaster after another. What did we do to deserve this merde? Did someone put a hex on us, cast a black magic spell of evil?
The current calamity ranks as the worst, yet those preceding were far more than minor mishaps. (see previous posts: “Prisoners in an Airbnb Apartment” and “China II: The Fall”).
More merde followed those catastrophes but let’s start with the present which began the afternoon of April 10.
I was typing away at my computer when a frantic husband ran in screaming. “I need some ice. I need some ice quick.” Too hot? He needs a cool drink? No such luck. He related that he had fallen from a ladder while trimming a tall bush.
I was not terribly sympathetic. At his age, he has no business on ladders. Last summer he fell out of a tree when trying to trim. He has fallen off the wall in front of our property when cutting shrubbery. He relishes climbing a wobbly ladder into our attic. Climbing must have been one of his favorite boyhood exploits. But, he is a boy no more.
He had an enormous lump on his calf. We iced it down. He was in pain, but he could walk/move with no problem. Nonetheless that evening we went to the emergency room at the Manosque hospital, about a half hour away.
And, there we spent 3 ½ hours. Leg was x-rayed. Nothing broken. We were told to wait and see the doctor again. We waited and waited. Many of those who arrived after us had seen doctors and left. My patience and nerves were shattered. I had a killer migraine. Bob was getting antsy. We learned our doctor was on the telephone dealing with a very urgent case. Bob’s leg injury was obviously not urgent. Who knows how much longer the wait would be? We left.
Next day he saw his local doctor. The lump was a gigantic hematoma, now red, purple, pink and horrific. His foot had also ballooned – too fat for his shoes. The doctor ordered a Doppler ultrasound to check for blood clots, and he arranged for the test with a nearby doctor that evening. All clear – no clots.
There had been a half-dollar sized blister on the surface of the hematoma. At some point it burst and a large scab formed. But, the swelling was increasing. The grotesque colors on his leg now engulfed the fat foot, too.
We decided this required another look by a medical professional. His doctor was off that day, so we trekked back to emergency where this time we only to had to wait a few minutes. A doctor checked it out, said it was infected, gave us a prescription for antibiotics and another one for daily at-home nurse visits to change the bandage (a wonderful plus of French medical care). He turned us over to a nurse who we assume followed his instructions and cut delicately around the scab which immediately began oozing thick, black blood (the hematoma contents). She covered it with a large bandage and sent us on our way.
Back home the next day nurse Aurelie I appeared, removed the bandage and was horrified. “They did this at Manosque?” She began pressing the hematoma, again and again and again, draining it of the ancient blood. I watched, incredulous. Would it ever stop? It did, but left a gargantuan cavity in his leg. It is this cavity which the nurses came to clean out and stuff with treated gauze every day. In the beginning it took a meter-length piece of gauze to fill the cavity. The mountainous lump was/is still there, but getting smaller.
Several days passed and a new nurse arrived, Aurelie II. She was shocked. “This does not look good….How long has it been like this?” She urged us to go the emergency department at the hospital in Aix en Provence. We learned from her, and others, that the Manosque hospital does not have a good reputation.
Afternoon plans were canceled and we set off to Aix, about an hour and 15 minutes away. A two-and a one half hour wait merited an examination by a very patient and thorough doctor. He carefully cleaned the “hole,” stuffed it, patched it, wrapped it and sent us on our way with a prescription for a different antibiotic and a new at-home nurse prescription. He also sent a swab of the cavity to the lab. The results later indicated the infection was resistant to the first antibiotic, but the second, the one he had prescribed, was on target.
Meanwhile, our lives have been in turmoil since the fall. My Easter dinner party canceled. A hotel overnight in Aix canceled. A weekend in Italy canceled. My doctor’s appointment canceled. No time for my activities: photo club and French writing group. The real tragedy, the month-long trip to Germany, out the window. We had planned to see some friends, but the trip was primarily a research trip for me. I write for the magazine German Life and planned to gather material for future articles. It was a time-consuming, complicated trip to arrange – reservations, appointments, calculating driving distances and times. All for naught. Merde!
Nurses continued to come daily for the cleaning-stuffing wound ritual, warning us that full recovery would be long. Aurelie I suggested we see a “specialist des pansements” (bandage specialist) at the Manosque hospital, a woman (Hungarian) whom she had great regard for. I made an appointment, but we had to wait 2 weeks to see her.
When the bandage specialist saw the dreadful wound and learned that we had been to the hospital emergency room way back at the beginning of the sorry saga, five weeks prior, she was angry. “Why didn’t they call me? They know this is my specialty?” She said if she had started treatment initially, by now Bob would be recovered.
She advised Bob be hospitalized for a week to start treatment with a machine which would suction all the bad stuff lodged in the cavity. The process would take about a month, as opposed to three to four months if he continued with the nurses at-home
treatments. He would need to spend about a week in the hospital, and then go home with machine.
The machine can hang from his shoulder, like a purse, and can operate on batteries, so he can be mobile. He was given permission to go home for the weekend. We were elated.
On Sunday we were about to depart for lunch at the home of friends in a nearby town.
Telephone rang. Hospital. They had taken a blood sample during his stay. Results indicated “a very dangerous infection.” Get back to the hospital immediately so treatment can be started, they urged. That ended lunch with friends. More merde!
I did some research on the bacteria he had contracted – both common hospital infections, multi-antibiotic resistant. Of course, the hospital insists he did not get the infections from contamination there, even though he had been infection free when entering the hospital.
So, now in addition to the machine, he was/is on a drip of a very strong antibiotic for 10 days. This was the last straw, too much. We were both at rock bottom, very nervous about the gravity of these infections, sick of the hospital, depressed, despondent.
Our sanity was saved, again by the fabulous visiting nurses. After four days back in the hospital, “hospitalisation a domicile” (home hospitalization) was arranged. A nurse comes three times per day, at 7 a.m., 1 p.m. and 8 p.m., to hook him up to the drip which lasts about 1/2 hour each time. The 10 days will end tomorrow, but he will still have the machine, however it only requires a nurse’s attention every three days.
Nurses may call it a miracle machine, praising its medical prowess, but we call it Farting Freddy. It is noisy, emitting sounds identical to farts all too often. We are ready for a return to the world, a meal in a restaurant, but dare we?
On top of this tragedy, and the others previously mentioned, my China fall still haunts me. The broken collar bone did not heal correctly, the bones did not realign (non-union). It is still painful at times. I am (was) a devoted lap swimmer, but the crawl, my stroke, is difficult. Double merde!
Another complication: somehow nerves in my upper arm, below the damaged collar bone, became compressed. My left hand movement is limited, namely the two little fingers which are basically frozen. At first I was told recovery could take a year. Now they say two years. I have learned to type with one good hand, and one finger of the left hand. Many kitchen/cooking tasks remain challenging.
And yet another whopper: basal cell skin cancer. I had a tiny bump on my nose, cancer caused by the sun and not usually dangerous. Removing the mini lump would be a piece of cake, so I thought. Not quite – underneath the skin the lump was not so tiny. Removal left me with 26 stitches on the side of my nose and face. Fortunately I had a skilled plastic surgeon. The scar is easily hidden with makeup. But, after all that, he did not get all the cancer. One cell remains. More merde!
Perhaps there is light at the end of this tunnel of merde. Since Freddy attacked the wound, it is slowly shrinking. While these troubles have been – and still are – annoying, I realize it all could have been far worse. But, we need a break from bad luck. If anyone can offer a hex of happiness and good health, a magic spell of good fortune to chase away the merde, please send our way.
In between all of the merde, we did have a lovely trip to Sri Lanka. See previous post, “Wonders of Sri Lanka.” More on that coming soon. Don’t miss it. If not already a Tales and Travel follower, sign up (upper right). Your address is kept private and never shared.
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We were locked in. No way to get out. The stubborn lock would not budge. We were on floor 4 1/2 by US standards. Jumping out of the window was out of the question. Scream for help – would anyone hear? Despite many phone calls and promises, no one came to our assistance.
One hour. Two hours. Three hours. Frustration turned to panic. During our incarceration, Bob tried numerous times to unlock the door. He was angry. I was a nervous wreck…
I had booked an Airbnb apartment in Paris for two nights between our trips to the US and China. On the Airbnb site this “lovely flat in the Marais” looked gorgeous: bright, roomy, gleaming. At 319 euro for two nights, it was more than we usually spend. But, we would be tired after the all-night flight from the US. We wanted to see more of the Marais. And, although this was a new listing with only two reviews, they were basically positive.
When Angela, our greeter, met us at the door to the building and led us up a narrow, shabby, dirty staircase, I was crestfallen. Could that beautiful apartment be in this rundown building?
There was no elevator. We were loaded down with clothing for five weeks and different climates. Bob made several trips up and down the 4 ½ flights, struggling to get the suitcases up the narrow passages while Angela struggled with the lock. Perhaps I have the wrong apartment; she lamented, and then went up and down to try other doors. No luck. She made several phone calls – I assume to an agent who managed the apartment. Owner Franck had told me he would not be in Paris when we arrived.
This must be it, she said at the first door she had tried, and asked Bob to try. He wiggled the key back and forth many times. He pushed and pulled, but the lock would not give. More phone calls. More tries. Forty-five minutes had gone by, and we were still standing in this dismal hallway. We were exhausted and had longed to relax, take a short nap and then a fun walk. Bob tried the uncooperative lock one more time. Success. We were in.
Angela was elated. We were not. We surveyed the surroundings. Photoshop obviously works wonders. Instead of a bright and spacious apartment, the “lovely flat” was dark, crammed, depressing. The furniture was the same as in the photos, but not much else.
Before Angela left, Bob went outside to test the door. It opened. However, we insisted that someone, preferably a locksmith, come to verify that the lock was in working order. We needed to be sure that when we went out, we could get back in and not end up stranded on that dreadful staircase. She made a call and assured us that someone would show up in 20 minutes to check the lock.
We felt it best to wait before settling in and taking that nap. “We better make sure we can get out,” Bob announced at one point. OMG! Sacre Bleu! The door would not open. We were imprisoned. This can’t be true. But, it was. (Keep reading. It gets worse before better.)
I called Airbnb. There were many options: press 1,.2, 3. I tried all, but always got a recorded message and was put on hold. The relaxing Paris afternoon we had anticipated had become a frantic nightmare.
Since I had no luck with the regular channels, I tried the English language assistance option. Someone answered: A man in Ireland. Hope at last. I told the sorry story. He said he could help and asked various questions about our reservation: address, birth dates…and then the last four digits of the credit card used to make the booking. We have several credit cards. I gave him the numbers of the cards we had with us. No match. I must have used the French card to book. I explained that we did not have that card with us. He was adamant. Without those numbers, he could do nothing for us.
I was incredulous. This was too much. No more hope. Would we ever escape? I blew up. I cried. I used nasty language. He hung up.
Now what? Call the police? The fire department? I went to the window, hoping to find a fire escape, although I doubt I would have had the skill to navigate it. Nothing there. So, back to the French Airbnb number and alas, after a wait, I reached Emeline, a real person who was sympathetic, patient, understanding. She said she would arrange for someone to help us get out, that we did not have to stay in the apartment, that she would email me listings of other Airbnb apartments that had availability, and that we would be reimbursed for the sum we had paid for the apartment, as well as the taxi fare to our new accommodation.
We were making progress. Surely someone would come to break the lock and rescue us soon. I was getting claustrophobic. I needed to escape –soon.
While I looked over the listings, Bob continued trying to open the door. He is usually very patient (not like me), but he was losing it. He was infuriated. Our nerves were frazzled. I looked around, hoping to find a bottle of something potent and alcoholic left behind by a previous guest. We needed it desperately, but not even a tea bag to be found.
It was close to 5 p.m. We had arrived at the apartment at 1:15 pm, and we were still prisoners in this “lovely flat,” still waiting for a savior to come and free us.
Bob tried the door yet again. Eureka! He had the magic touch. It moved. It opened. We were free. We fled.
I had booked an apartment in Montmarte chez Sacha and Sydney which appeared beautiful, and cost just 233 euro for two nights, 86 euro less than Franck’s place. Although we had already given Airbnb 319 euro, we had to pay for the new booking. With too much luggage, we trekked to the corner café, got a taxi and set off to the new flat which was even better than the photos: huge, light, inviting. This time I had picked a winner.
A few days later I checked our credit card details online. We had been given a refund of 3 euro. I was furious, but by this time we were in Hong Kong. I sent an email to Airbnb and learned that to obtain a refund, I needed to proceed with the resolution process and was entitled to a maximum of 275 euro, not the 319 we had paid. Why the 3 euro? A mini reward for all our suffering and a lost afternoon? That remains a mystery
First step for a refund is to fill out an on-line form stating your grievance which is sent to the owner. I did, confident that he would surely grant the refund in these circumstances. Wrong. He refused.
’You insulted me and Angela instead of letting us one hour to manage this issue with the door – which is not a big issue…. It just happened to be a bit difficult to open and needed a bit of oil, nothing I could expect and nothing to be that aggressive… People are not your servants. A host is not your slave Leah, and I will refuse any refund as you were aggressive and made a scandal when there was no real reason to act as you did. You didn’t have to cancel this booking, especially not the way you did …”
One hour? We waited three hours. One should carry a can of oil if booking an Airbnb apartment? No real reason to be upset? It’s acceptable to be locked out — and then locked in– a rental apartment? Cancel the booking? Emeline had done that for us.
I sent Airbnb a response, stating that I did not accept Frank’s decision and explained that I would follow up upon our return, asking them not to close the case.
After returning from China, I filled out yet another form requesting that Airbnb review both sides of the story and make the final decision. I kept receiving computer generated responses which indicated no one had ever read my response. I was getting more than fed up with Airbnb. Back to the phone. (I want a decent hourly wage for all the time I spent on hold listening to Airbnb background music.)
I was patient, and fortunately, eventually, I reached Ellie, an Airbnb case manager. She was understanding, sympathetic – and did not demand the last four digits of the credit card. She checked into the case. Despite my instructions to wait for my rebuttal, Airbnb had closed the case. I had to go back to square one and begin the lengthy process all over.
The entire story would not fit in the space allotted on the Airbnb online form. Ellie said to send her an email with the details and she would forward it. But, it had to go back to Franck first. Again he refused and asked me to stop harassing him. What planet was he on? Did he realize how much harassment his defective lock had caused us?
When you speak to an Airbnb rep/case manager, the person is not permitted to give his or her last name, nor a direct number to reach him/her, not even a personal email address. You have to reply to the general Airbnb email address. I did, but added: “Attention Ellie” to the subject line. My messages did reach her. She responded, but said she could offer no further help and sent our case on to someone else.
That someone was Danny in Dublin. Like Ellie and Emeline, a decent human who was understanding — and extremely apologetic. He called our tragedy an episode of “miscommunication that had gotten out of hand.” Is there such a thing as Irish understatement? Whatever, he assured me that we would get a full refund, 319 euro, plus the taxi fare. Thank you, Danny. We did.
Meanwhile I had gone back to the Airbnb site and noted that the price for “the lovely flat in the Marais” had been slashed, from about 159 euro per night to 60 euro per night. I asked Danny about this. He explained that Airbnb does not inspect properties listed and hosts can set rental prices as they desire. Why did Franck drastically drop the price? Perhaps because he was not getting bookings, he surmised. Hmm..I suspect there is more to it.
Airbnb lesson learned: Be wary of booking a new listing. Look for listings with lots of positive reviews. Just in case, take a can of oil.
This was our second Airbnb experience. Two years ago we booked an apartment in Paris’ 16th district. It was exactly as described and ideal for us. Hostess Nathalie met us, greeted us, had a welcome gift for us, and provided all sorts of helpful information on the area – shops, restaurants, public transportation.
We expected much the same with the booking in the Marais. Franck, it appears, has more than one apartment listed with Airbnb. The same with Sacha and Sydney, hosts at the second apartment whom we never met.
According to an article in The Guardian, the number of Airbnb hosts “has doubled in the last year with revenue up 60%.” Investors, perhaps like Franck and Sacha and Sydney, are buying up properties to rent through Airbnb. “ With that growth has come an ecosystem of support companies, typically property management firms that submit the advert for the property onto the website and then may manage guests arriving and leaving, dropping off and collecting keys, for example,” states the article.
So, don’t always expect personal contact with the owner which was originally one of the drawing cards of Airbnb.
We have not given up on Airbnb. I just booked an apartment in Ventimiglia, Italy, which has numerous glowing reviews, plus lots of kudos for the owners who are on the scene. Nonetheless, Bob insists we not forget to take a can of oil.
China followed Paris, where, sadly more misadventure awaited. Yet another crash, but far worse than the one in India I wrote about in a previous post, “Adventure — and a CRASH –in Kashmir.”
Details on China in a coming post. Don’t miss it. If not already a Tales and Travel follower, sign up (upper right). Your address is kept private and never shared.
I am on the mend, but slightly handicapped (broken collar bone). No new recipes until I can get back in the kitchen and cook with two hands —soon I hope.
In a word, it was HOT. Week after week of temperatures in the upper 90s (Fahrenheit), even reaching 100 and above a few times. My roses, geraniums and petunias had to be watered continually. The grass (what little we have) turned brown. The pool water has never been so warm – too warm for me, but finally warm enough for delicate BB/VR* who was brave enough to jump in. This was only the fifth time he has been in the pool in the 10 years we have lived here. (Thanks to my dear mother who insisted my brothers and I all learn to swim at an early age, I am a swimmer and love the water. BB was not so lucky.)
Fall arrived too soon and too abruptly – for me… One will never be content.
Despite the heat, we enjoyed some fun activities and the wonderful folks who rented our guest apartment at Les Rosiers.
The season kicked off with the arrival of Klaus from Austria, his car loaded with Austrian delicacies and beer. He always brings us a generous gift of goodies, too. This was the fifth season that Klaus and his wife Eva have spent a month in our rental studio. She is still working as a legal secretary in Graz, arrives a week later by plane and only spends two weeks here. Klaus likes to cook and grill – lamb is his favorite. They know the area well, take long walks, swim, and visit friends and flea markets. They have become friends, and it’s always a delight to have them here.
Then came the Belgians, Patrick and Chantal, with two motorcycles and two bicycles towed behind their car. We were amazed. Due to the heat, they spent most of their time on the motorcycles. One of the bicycles was electric, but since the terrain here is anything but flat, they preferred their motorcycles. They took long excursions, almost every day during their two-week sojourn.
Chantal said they have been vacationing in southern France every summer, but always camping. They especially enjoyed the tranquility at Les Rosiers. Camp sites can be very noisy, she said. And, they loved our town, Reillanne.
“It’s an authentic village, not a Disney village like so many in the Luberon,” said Patrick. “There are not that many tourists, not that much traffic.” They like to visit the village cafes and talk to the locals. And, they especially liked the Bar restaurant de la Place where they dined many times.
More bicycles next – a Czech family of four with five bikes. Jakub and Katarina and children Lara, 9, and Luka, 5, were back for the second time. We were overwhelmed with their bicycle prowess two years ago when they set out day after day, all day on bikes, albeit Katarina towing Luka in a carriage and Lara’s bike sometimes attached to her father’s bike. Lara now rides on her own, and Luka rides the bike that can be attached to Jakub’s . We rode with them one day – lots of fun.
They arrived a day late after participating in an orientation competition in the Jura where Jakub took first place in one category. Here he conquered Mont Ventoux for the fifth time. That was the reason for five bikes – a super bike for the challenging climb.
“We always like to come back to Provence, the terrain, the living historic villages that are not just for tourists,” said Jakub. We were happy to have them back.
Wine was the focus for Patricia and Serge, visitors who come from Brittany. They traveled far and wide to buy Provence wine, driving 1,700 kilometers in the region, visiting six wineries and ending up with 14 cases of wine to take home.
Each evening when they returned from a buying trek they shared their adventures and raved about places they visited – some we had not known about. Serge says they always buy the wine of the regions they visit. They live in an area of vineyards near the Loire where he helps harvest the grapes.
They presented us with a bottle of Grand Reserve Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie which we tasted when they invited us to a super fish dinner Patricia prepared. She served the fish with beurre blanc, a well known sauce for fish in Brittany. She shared her recipe which I have tried to master. Mine could not hold a candle to hers, but I will keep trying. When I am successful, we will open the precious bottle of Muscadet.
We visited the US this summer (see previous post, “USA: Summer 2015,” July14) and the Mediterranean coast (previous post: “Cannes: Far from the Madding crowd,” Aug. 20).
We recently went back to the coast for a gala evening at the Hotel Belles Rives in Juan les Pins/Antibes. Our Finnish friends, Terttu and Mikko, have a rental apartment which they generously offered us. In addition to dining and dancing, I swam in the Med which sure beats a pool, and we took a short but scenic hike around Cap d’Antibes.
We are not sorry the heat has subsided, but sorry that summer is over. The days are getting too short. Some restaurants will soon close for the season. No more concerts and village festivals. Winter can be bleak here, and it’s a long wait for spring.
Photos of other summer activities follow.
*Bicycle Bob/Vino Roberto
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The crowds are fierce in this Riviera hot spot in August. And, of course during its famous film festival when the world focuses on all the stars who pose on the red carpet at the Palais des Festivals.
But, you can escape the masses and find tranquility amidst Mediterranean splendor just a short boat ride (20 minutes) away. We visited Cannes again this year to watch outstanding fireworks which are part of an international competition held every summer in Cannes. Fireworks are shot from numerous boats in the harbor and synchronized to music. Worth a trip!
So too is a visit to the off shore islands (Îsles de Lérins): Île Sainte Marquerite and Île Saint Honorat. Last summer we hiked around Ste. Marquerite, the larger island, and savored an excellent lunch on the shore. This time, Saint Honorat, the monks’ island.
Splendid. The tiny island has no cars, no hotels, just one restaurant, two shops –and monks. In 410 AD, Honoratus, a Roman noble who became saintly and sought isolation, is said to have chosen the island, then full of snakes and scorpions and thought to be haunted, as an ideal retreat. Visitors followed. A monastic order was established.
The monastery grew to become one of the most powerful in Christendom. Alas, peace and quiet did not last. Raids by Saracens and pirates in the 8th century took their toll, then later attacks by Spaniards. The monastery was closed in 1788, but reborn in 1859 when Cistercians took it over.
Today 20 monks live on Saint Honorat. In addition to praying, they cultivate grapes, eight hectares of vineyards, five for red wine, and three for white.
We followed the mostly shaded trail along the island’s craggy coastline, past rocky coves, ancient chapel ruins, an 11th century fortress and cannonball ovens. These curious structures were used in the 18th century to heat cannonballs so they would wreck further destruction on the ships they hit.
Signs along the way remind you to keep quiet and to respect the religious ambience – no bare chests. Mediterranean vegetation – pines, herbs, eucalyptus – borders the trail and makes for interesting photos. Other paths lead through the island interior, past the vineyards.
It is truly another world: beautiful, peaceful and quiet. It was hard to fathom that those noisy masses on La Croisette, Cannes renowned boulevard, were not far away.
We stopped to visit the current abbey church and the shop which sold mainly wine. According to a brochure on the island wine, it is “full of spirituality.” All the vintages are named after saints, but you will pay dearly for spiritual wine. The cheapest we found was 26 euro, but most were far more expensive.
At La Tonnelle , the island restaurant, we each ordered a glass of the monk’s brew to accompany our lunch. A glass of Sainte Cesaire (Chardonnay) for me at 8 euro; a glass of Saint Honorat (Syrah) for VR at 11.80 euro. I found my wine too oaky and too Chardonnay. Vino Roberto’s was good, very robust. To take a bottle home: 33 euro. VR reasoned he could buy several good bottles back in the Luberon for that amount.
The lunch (we each ordered fish) was delicious. People watching at this seaside eatery also gets high marks. Pleasure boats cast anchor off shore. A tender ferries passengers to the restaurant, a constant parade of the yachting crowd.
Trip Advisor led me to the Hotel l’Olivier in Cannes, a small, family-run (22 rooms) hotel on a hillside overlooking the Med. Our room was tiny, but our terrace with a superb view was perfect. The hotel personnel were all very warm, welcoming and helpful. It was a bit of a walk to the town center, but good exercise. The hotel has a small pool, flowered terrace for al fresco breakfast, and it’s quiet – a great escape from the chaos of La Croisette. A beach is also nearby. http://www.hotelolivier.com
Another Trip Advisor find, the Bistrot Saint-Sauveur in Le Cannet, a town above Cannes, where we had an excellent lunch. www.bistrotsaintsauveur.fr
A leisurely saunter around the island takes about 1 ½ hours. Boats to both islands run about every hour during summer months. Round-trip ticket to Saint Honorat, 14 euro (price for seniors). More information www.cannes-ilesdelerins.com
Don’t miss Today’s Taste in column at right: DILLY POTATO SALAD, my favorite potato salad.
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