France: part 3: The Riviera, Burgundy and Paris

The French Riviera

The French Riviera

We then drove to the French Riviera, known locally as Cote Azur which portrays a totally different scene…passing by its beautiful coastline, beaches and the mansions of the wealthy. We came to our hotel located outside Nice, located on the Mediterranean coast and the capital. It had its glitter and glamour during the 18th and late 19th centuries when the British aristocrats came and made this city popular. But all that has gone now. Some of us took the bus to Nice to explore Nice as others went to a prearranged dinner at Nice.

Nice town

Nice town

I never realized how big Nice is! We walked towards its old part, Vieux Nice, whichI am told hasn’t changed since the 1700s. Its tiny streets are crammed with markets, delis, boutiques, cafes and bars. Art is very much a part of Nice life and many art museums are dedicated to Henry Matisse, Marc Chagall and Renoir, but especially to Matisse who moved here from Paris. We walked by baroque style mansions and cathedrals.

Nice

Vieux Nice

Historically, Nice has been settled by many Europeans though there is so much Italian influence here. It almost felt like I was in Italy, with its pretty Venetian colored buildings and sidewalk cafes serving pizzas and Italian fare. It was founded in 350 BC by Greek seafarers from Marseilles, and in 154 BC by Romans who settled further uphill, then and during the 10thcentury was ruled by Counts of Provence, and finally in 1860 became part of France. The English aristocracy and Russians came here for its mild winter climate to get away from their harsh winters.

Nice

Nice

Then we were interrupted by someone singing an opera. She sounded amazing as we walked by her and crossed over to the beach area. We strolled along the beach, called the “Promenade de Anglais” (Walkway of the English) enjoying its beautiful sunset and watching the ‘beautiful people’ walking, bicycling and skating by.

Nice

Nice quay

We walked back to the old town to have something to eat. Cafes menus had stuffed vegetables, Nicoise salada(crunchy lettuce with olives, anchovies, green beans and tomatoes), socca (chickpea based pancake sprinkled with black pepper), stockfish( dried codfish soaked to remove its salt then simmered with potatoes, tomatoes, onions, garlic and olives), daube, a rich beef stew cooked with wine, carrots, tomatoes and herbs served with ravioli or gnocchi. I ordered something light… a pissaladiere, with a pizza like base topped with onions, garlic, olives and anchovies, and fresh orange juice.

Paul de Vence

St. Paul de Vence

Next morning we drove to see St. Paul de Vence, a historical little artsy village atop a hill looking out to the sea. As I entered this place it felt like my dream place! It was so adorable and pretty with numerous art galleries, art museums and lovely buildings with colorful flowers in front of them. I could not help taking photos of every place I stopped! St. Paul de Vence has been well kept and preserved, and has panoramic views as you stroll around its ramparts. As an art lover, I could spend a whole day here walking its narrow cobbled pathways and discovering its art shops and cafes and gorgeous hotels with great views.

Paul da Vence

St. Paul da Vence

This was a haven for many artists who made it their home, and others who came for a visit including Matisse, Chagall, Picasso, Soutine, Cocteau, and Leger. revels in art. Matisse lived near here and designed and built  the Rosary Chapel near the village entrance. His signature  sculpture of a woman stands near the chapel.

Many galleries line the streets, and sculptures are all over even imbedded in the walls and in the stones under our feet. We walked to Chagall’s cemetery, which had an amazing view of the surrounding area, then walked down to the blue and white ceramic tiled roof of Matisse’s Chapelle du Rosaire.

Chagall painting

Chagall painting

Paul da Vence entrance

Matisse sculpture near entrance

walked along the inside of the rampart to find a place to eat. As I strolled on the west side, I came across an intimate little restaurant called Malabar. I was curious as it was named after the Malabar Coast of southern India. I was early for lunch so took a seat that had a great view. The pleasant waitress co-owns the restaurant with her husband, who is also the chef. When I asked why the name Malabar, she answered that they both had spent some time there and loved the place and thus the name.

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Provence tapas with rose

Provence tapas

I enjoyed the rose wine while waiting for my lunch… tapas of Provence. It was made with fresh ingredients and tasted delicious. I savored the food and wine while enjoying the view. It was blissful being here and as my thoughts drifted to the artists, I thought to myself…. I could retire here and be a painter myself!

In the evening we drove through the beautiful Riviera coastline towards Monaco, the world’s second smallest country.

The views were spectacular and we made stops to take some great photos. It was a beautiful sunny day, and many were sailing in their fancy yachts. From above, these yachts looked like tiny glistening jewels in water.

Monaco

Monaco

Monaco

Monaco

We first stopped at a restaurant overlooking the water to have some Monegasque dinner. I was excited to try a new cuisine but the meal was a big disappointment…thought visually attractive it was poorly done and had no flavor! The chicken was tough and rather bland.… almost just boiled and covered with a meager unflavored sauce. After the meal we walk to its balcony to enjoy the view. It was gorgeous! At least the view outside made up for the poor meal.

Monaco is a sovereign state and its approximately 7600 citizens do not pay taxes. Its dialect is Monegasque (mix of French and Italian), similar to the Genoese as it was once part of Genoa. We drove up the red brick street and gorgeous gardens overlooking the coast and stopped to see the Royal Palace then strolled around to take some photos.

Cathedrale de Monaco

Cathedrale de Monaco

Next we stopped at the Cathedrale de Monaco with Romanesque Byzantine architecture, to see King Rainer and Princess Grace’s tombs. It was a beautiful cathedral. As you look around the area you see only grandeur and opulence as there is much wealth here. We walked by Jacques Cousteau’s museum, the Oceanographic Museum perched on the cliff-top, with a pretty garden and a gigantic sculpture of an octopus.

As it was getting dark, we reached Monte Carlo casino, the first casino inaugurated in 1863 by King Charles the III. All the “beautiful” people were out, strutting in their finest and sexiest! We came to a square (Golden Square) and sat in a café called Le Café de Paris, next to the casino.

Cafe de Paris with fellow 'mates'

Cafe de Paris with fellow ‘mates’

Café de Paris with fellow 'mates'

Café de Paris with fellow ‘mates’

We had a glass of wine and watched people before going into the casino. It was a fun and lively scene around us. The casino looked grand and was elaborately designed… and cars were pulling up front to let out the jet set and the fashionable. The huge hotel in front of us, Hotel de Paris, was lighted up beautifully and looked even grander than the King’s palace!

Tour director and coach driver

Tour director and coach driver

After our wine we went into the casino. I felt like we were in a police environment with tight security and formalities.

Monte Carlo Casino

Monte Carlo Casino

Then we walked in the casino itself and I decided to play the slot machines. As I walked around to pick a slot machine, I looked around and saw well-dressed tourists and some sexily dressed girls sitting around and watching the in-coming people. After playing few of the slot machines (I won by a barely small amount!) we walked the manicured garden in front and watched the crowd and lights. Now the place was getting more crowded with more

fancy cars pulling up to let people out, and the crowd increased as it got later in the night. Monaco is pretty and well kept but not sure if I want to live in a place like this. I will have to constantly worry how I look and dress and what to wear! That would be too much for me as I am not a jet setter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next morning we made a stop at Grasse, the perfume center of France to get a tour of a perfumery, called Fragonard.

Perfume factory, Grasse

Perfume factory, Grasse

Perfumes made here use locally grown jasmines, orange blossoms, violets, lavender, mimosa, roses as well as other flowers from around the world. We went through the extraction and distillation process and then to the olfactory section where the scents are identified and the finale perfume created.We were told that the perfumer goes through training for at least 10 years to identify the different scents. It was a fun time ‘smelling’ the different fragrances and determining their characteristics.

Route Napoleon

Route Napoleon

 

 

 

We started our drive back to Paris but first stopped for lunch at Castellane where Napolean Bonaparte had lunch 200 years ago. The town is surrounded by beautiful mountains and streams and is a hiker’s paradise.

Castellane

Castellane

Café in Castellane where Napolean Bonaparte had lunch

Café in Castellane where Napolean Bonaparte had lunch

The main square features a pyramid and there are few eateries and stores with a chapel perched atop the rock. Castellane dates back to the sixteenth century, and is at the cross-roads of Route Napoléon and the Upper Verdon road. It is tucked down in the steep Grand Canyon du Verdon.

After lunch headed towards Lyon through Burgundy region, driving through breathtaking views of the Alps along the panoramic windy Napolean Route.

View  of the Alps from Napolean Route

View of the Alps from Napolean Route

This was the route Napolean took on his return from his imprisonment in Elba, in 1815. Each turn of the road on this route was simply spectacular!

View of the Alps

View of the Alps

Along the way we stopped by a rest stop for a photo shoot of our group against the Alps.

My wonderful fellow travelers, tour director and coach driver

My wonderful fellow travelers, tour director and coach driver

Then we headed towards Lyon passing by gorgeous countryside before we stopped to stay overnight. Next morning we drove through Burgundy passing many picturesque vineyards and went to medieval Beaune, the region’s wine capital.

Hotel-Dieu des Hospices de Beaune,

Hotel-Dieu des Hospices de Beaune,

Beaune is noted for its wines but we did not have time to do wine tasting. We visited Hotel-Dieu des Hospices de Beaune, a 15th century hospice built in 1443, referred to as a ‘palace for the poor’. As I stepped into the courtyard of this hospital, I was impressed with its gorgeous turrets and rooftops covered with multicolored tiles. The rooms have beautiful paintings and murals and an 18th century pharmacy.

Inside the Hospice, Beaune

Inside the Hospice, Beaune

Then we stepped out and walked into a market. We walked around and looked at the fresh produce and gourmet items on display. I was particularly interested in the local mushrooms and cheeses…what a variety they had…and some that I had no idea of. So I eagerly tasted some of the samples were handed out. After walking around, the colorful flavored mustards caught my eye and I bought some to take home …as well as some of the local spices.

Mustard heaven!

Mustard heaven!

Lavender and mushrooms, Beaune

Lavender and mushrooms, Beaune

Cheese stall, Beaune

Cheese stall, Beaune

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then headed off to Paris, the “City of Lights” and went directly to see the Louvre.

The Louvre and the Glass Pyramid

The Louvre and the Glass Pyramid

This was my second visit and it was spectacular as ever, seeing the galleries with collections from all over Europe as well as Greek, Etruscan, Assyrian, Coptic and Islamic art.

Pyramid in front of  the Louvre

Pyramid in front of the Louvre

The classic paintings, sculptures and other artifacts—of the famous Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, Venus de Milo, The Dying Slave, the Raft of the Medusa, Virgin and Child and the beautiful murals on ceilings, were as I remembered them.

Mona Lisa, The Louvre

Mona Lisa, The Louvre

The only new art piece for me is the glass Pyramid that covers the entrance and was built by an American Architect, I.M. Pei. I felt this glass pyramid, impressive as is, did not belong here as it clashes with the era and style of the Louvre. The Louvre was built as a fortress in the early 13thcentury and rebuilt in mid 16th century as a royal residence. In 1793, the Revolutionary Convention turned it into a national museum.

Painting, The Louvre

Painting, The Louvre

The Louvre is huge, with so much to see as it has so many galleries to cover, including the staircases, the 4 floors and 3 wings. We had a guide who took us to specific paintings and sculptures.

Painting, The Louvre

Painting, The Louvre

The Louvre

The Louvre

That night we went to a cabaret, something I had not seen when I was in Paris the last couple of times. It was located at Montmarte, and as we drove through here, I remembered many areas of it. This place attracted writers and artists including Modigliani, Piccaso, Renoir, Cocteau, Chagall and Vincent Van Gogh. Here are the wonderful cafes and unique bars, and where the nightlife goes on.

Moulin Rouge, Paris

Moulin Rouge, Paris

And we passed by the Moulin Rouge, another iconic symbol of Paris. It was a fun evening at the cabaret, with a great night performance of dancing and singing…and the company was enjoyable.

The next day we took a quick city tour, visiting Notre Dame, with its amazing French Gothic architecture.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame

Notre Dam along the Seine

Notre Dame along the Seine

Then we drove past the imposing Eiffel tower, Arc de Triomphe, La Sorbonne, Opera, Place de la Madeleine (church of St. Mary Magdalene) and the noted boulevard, Champs Elysees.

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Eiffel Tower, Paris

We drove by strollers, cyclists, and joggers at the banks of the river Seine, which divides Paris into two parts. At night it looked hauntingly romantic with reflections of the street lights simmering over the water.

The River Seine, Paris

The River Seine, Paris

The broad boulevard of Champs Elysees stretches from Place de Concorde, an impressive square that centers a 3300 old Egyptian obelisk with 8 statutes at the corners. This was where royal functions took place and which during the Revolution took center stage where King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and other royalty were guillotined. Here is Arc de Triomphe (a monument dedicated to Napolean’s victory at Austerlitz), the 18th century palace, Palais de I’Elysee (the official resident of the French president), and boutiques, antique shops and jewelry shops.

Joan of Arc, Paris

Joan of Arc, Paris

We also drove by the Latin Quarter, the center of higher education since the Middle Ages (and it was called Latin quarter because the language spoken then until the Revolution was Latin). We passed by La Sorbonne, the distinguished University of France and the Eiffel Tower, with its spire reaching out into the sky and defining Paris’s skyline.

Versailles Palace

Versailles Palace

We drove to Versailles, a rich and bourgeois suburb to see its Palace, built with grandeur and opulence. Louis XIV transformed his father’s hunting lodge into this monumental palace, the Chateau de Versailles in the mid 17th century, to show the power of the French monarchy. It was the political capital and seat of the royal court from 1682 until 1789, when the revolutionaries took over.

The Gardens, Versailles Palace

The Gardens, Versailles Palace

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Versailles Palace

Versailles Palace

Tapestry, Versailles

Tapestry, Versailles

Versailles Palace

Versailles Palace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That evening we went for our farewell dinner and danced to Gipsy Kings music! And I could not leave France without trying escargot! So I had it as an appetizer prepared with pesto and garlic …and to my surprise it actually tasted good, with a chewy texture of clams and oysters! It was a fun evening…as well as a bit nostalgic, saying our goodbyes to each other.

Farewell Dinner, Paris

Farewell Dinner, Paris

Actually enjoying escargot!

Actually enjoying escargot!

Escargot

Escargot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then our tour director took us on an orientation of Paris at night. Paris looked even more beautiful. The coach stopped nearby Eiffel Tower. The director said we were in for a special treat. We walked closer to it and took some photos. Then…. suddenly it lighted up and kept blinking for five minutes. It looked spectacular! As I stood mesmerized by this sight, it started to drizzle…. but all I did was just stand there and admire this wonderful view!

Eiffel Tower blinking!

Eiffel Tower blinking!

Many thanks to my fellow mates and our tour director, Georgiana (who was full of information), as well as the coach drivers for a wonderful fun trip! Looking at my photos you might wonder… all I did was eat and drink wine…but as the saying goes…when in France, do as the French do!  I did just that!

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Categories: Featured, France, Journeys, Tastes, Traditions

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4 Comments on “France: part 3: The Riviera, Burgundy and Paris”

  1. maria mercedes bejarano
    August 30, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

    I am so proud of you !! Way to live the good life !! Good food , beautiful places .. Go
    Sushee , GO !!

    • September 1, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

      Yes mi amiga Maria…I enjoy doing this and hope to continue with it.

  2. Pierre-Alain
    September 1, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    Susheela,

    Thanks you so much for sharing your great trip, wonderful pictures and your joy of life.

    I already know France, but your photos and your description , I feel like to return to France.

    Continue to make us dream !

    Pierre-Alain.

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