Euro Road Trip Part 2: Provence, France

17 Apr

You’ve probably already guessed this section of our trip was planned by Stuart. Anything involving snow sports, pale stone buildings with painted shutters in gelati colours and long, wine lubricated lunches are Stuart to a T. He’s also partial to old fashioned scented roses, wisteria, mimosa, irises and wild rosemary and thyme. All are abundant in Provence.  

   
    

 First stop – St Blaise an hour north of Nice, to stay at Jean-Claude’s remote mas (old stone house). I had my doubts as we turned off the main mountain road and wound our way ever further down a steep goat track past newly planted grape vines. The house finally came into sight across a gorge.

Jean-Claude’s 19th century house was owned by the artistic, female mayor of St Blaise until she died. He bought the property ten years ago and converted it into chambre d’hote as a retirement business. With only birdsong, trees, mountains and glimpses of a distant house the setting is total tranquillity. 

  

    
 Mozaic by former owner.

We spent our two days walking the hills, first to a ruined chateau (built 1232 AD) above St Blaise, and then up from Aspremonte to the ridgetop above Tourette-Levens to capture the panorama of the snow-covered alpes maritimes. A little yoga by the pool and an al fresco dinner on our patio helped us relax into Provencal living. 

    
  St Blaise  
   Ricard of course! 

  Jean Claude’s lemon tree. My lunch at L and Lui in Aspremont. So good! 

 Aspremont 

    
 Mid-April is low season, few restaurants are open in the nearby perched villages of Aspremont and Castagniers. Those that are were glad of our custom. These are artistic communities with several well known sculptors and painters in residence. We enjoyed spotting the prolific whimsical metal sculptures by Jean Pierre Augier on the roadsides, in village squares or by churches. 

    On hill trails we’d pass only one or two joggers, walkers or mountain bikers. Daytime temps were around 18-22 degrees C in the daytime and 12 degrees C at night. A little cool for the pool but ideal for hiking and biking. 

 No art direction here – note t-paper, rubbish bag etc…..

  A week before our road trip south Stuart had realised the Monte Carlo Masters tennis was on when we were staying near Nice. We thought it unlikely we’d get ticket but returns for the doubles matches were available online for the day we wanted to go. Only 37 euro for a full day’s play with the Murray brothers (and their respective doubles partners) up second and third matches on our court, The Princes Court. This is red clay court tennis with seating similar to court three at Wimbledon, except that at the MCCC you can watch super yachts glide past between points. 

    
 I won’t go into the little drama we had getting to Monte Carlo (I was understandably nervous about leaving our rental hatchback in insecure parking after the Grenoble debacle) and then leaving the Monte Carlo Country Club (it involves a Renault roadside assistance truck and some swear words). That would spoil what was an otherwise perfect day of tennis. Only the lone sea gull patrolling the blue sky above our heads could have had a better day than us! 

  Monte Carlo Beach Club

 Jamie Murray serving. 

 And big brother Andy in action. 
  As to the results: Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares won against Rohan Bopanna and Florian Mergea 6:2, 6:3, while Andy Murray and Dominic Inglot lost to Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut in a tie break. My take home message – wear matching tennis kit if you want to win.

And behind us on Prince Rainier court the mens’ singles were battling on with Rafa, Wilfred and Gael going through. We watched on the big screens between our matches.

We heartily recommend this ATP event, it’s well run and not expensive if you can get yourself to Nice. Start date for 2017 is April 17.

 Dejected, Andy and Dominic leave after their loss. 

  Now we’re in the hills above Nice, holed up in a cosy chambre d’hote, Colline de Vence, near Vence. As you can see from the photos it is Provence at its most picturesque.   

    
 Mid-April continues to turn on perfect walking weather. Yesterday we hiked from Colline de Vence via Raphael’s Chapel to the wonderfully preserved medieval perched village of Tourettes-sur-Loup for lunch at L’Epicerie and to buy provisions for supper. Round trip was four and a half hours. Plentiful spring wild flowers are attracting a myriad of colourful butterflies; everything from lavender to pure white with wing tips dipped in orange, to bright lemon yellow. 

    
 Wall frieze in Chapel Raphael. 

  
    
    
   
   We are reluctant to move on, but as ever, when we find somewhere we love, we pencil a return visit into our itinerary for next year. Maybe to stay here! 

 

2 Responses to “Euro Road Trip Part 2: Provence, France”

  1. Heather Watt April 21, 2016 at 11:36 pm #

    Did you say perhaps to STAY in Provence next year- wow!

    • Sharon Tickle April 22, 2016 at 5:39 am #

      Just for three weeks Heather. Will take bookings for short visits so keep it in mind! S&Sxx

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