I'm currently staying with friends in north Italy and we have just returned from four days on the Cote d'Azur. We went in their camper van and camped about 30 kilometres from St Tropez at a campsite near Frejus. It's my first ever trip to the south of France and I loved it - the light and colours in particular which are quite breathtaking. The views, the vegetation and the colours they paint the houses - all divine.
The campsite where we stayed is on the edge of a river and a ten minute walk through a stunning nature reserve to the beach where the river widens into the sea. My friends and I enjoy good food so we didn't slum it with the food we ate at the campsite! The local supermarket sells wonderful oysters, bread, pastries, cheeses ........ and it all tastes so much better outdoors.
The flora in the nature reserve was exquisite - some tiny delicate flowers and the huge broom bushes smothered in bright yellow flowers were quite spectacular and some were over 8 feet high.
The maritime pines are a feature of the Cote d'Azur and we saw many of them on the coastal road.
On Wednesday we took a bus into St Tropez for the day. It's impossible to take a car there let alone a camper van. It's a single lane road that winds along the coast hugging the sea through large towns and beach resorts. In the summer the road is a nightmare and there were a couple of spots when the bus was actually unable to move due to a long line of stationary traffic so the scheduled 1 hour journey took 1.5 hours.
The population of St Tropez is only 5,000 but in the summer it increases to over 100,000 !! Lucikly it wasn't too busy when we were there, however the place was swarming with Vespas for Vespa World Days from 2-5 June in St Tropez to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Piaggio.
We had lunch in a local restaurant, Un Jour a Peyrassol, recommended by a lady in a shop who I stopped and asked, near the bus station. I'm always of the opinion that one needs to ask locals where to eat and this was an excellent recommendation. If we had eaten in one of the restaurants in or around the port it would have been double the price and probably not as good. We were the only non French people in this restaurant so that has to be a good sign! The food was very good (small menu of traditional dishes), the service friendly and efficient. We even returned there later in the day for coffee and ice-cream. We managed to sink two bottles of the beautiful blush rose wine, Chateau Peyrassol, which went down rather too well !
These calamari were to die for!
Tarte Tropezienne (local delicacy)
After lunch we wandered through the streets towards the older part of the town. An interesting mix of hotels, luxury boutiques, food and wine shops and ice-cream parlours.
Hotel de Paris
Hotel de Paris
The gorgeous jasmin covered Auberge des Maures
More of the Auberge des Maures
House of Chanel
House of Chanel
After lunch we wandered through the narrow streets of the town which were quiet and cool after the baking sun of the port.
Then we decided the best way to see St Tropez and its surrounding area was by boat so we boarded one of the boats that takes you out for an hour and shows you the bay. The port is awash with huge "gin palaces" which look incongruous against the old buildings of the town. Then the huge private villas around the bay which are usually accessed by helicopter to avoid the road traffic - the guide on the boat told us who some of them belonged to (if he was to be believed!).
Yacht belonging to owner of Zara
Owner of this monstrosity is the owner of Vauxhall. You can rent it for 50,000 Euros a day!!
Brigitte Bardot's house
Back on dry land we headed around the waterfront to a little beach to rest in the shade. The houses are right on the edge of the beach so get a hammering from the waves in a storm.
We caught the 7pm bus back to the campsite and luckily it only took the scheduled hour as the traffic was fairly light. It was a long day but a very happy one. I could quite happily return there in fact plan to do so very soon. I want to go to Antibes and I'd like to go inland to Aix en Provence.
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Sorry for my radio silence since my last post on 31 October - in the run up to Christmas I was manically busy with client work and in January I headed to Sydney for five weeks.
I thought I'd kick off with one of the highlights of my Sydney sojourn - the coastal walk from South Coogee (where I was staying) to Bondi, a distance of about 10k with some of the most spectacular scenery. I did this walk last year with a friend but this time it was just me, my iPhone and my DSLR. The weather was cloudy, windy and about 26C so perfect for a long walk.
A couple of weeks ago a friend and I went to Charleston, the home of the Bloomsbury Group, to do a lampshade painting workshop with Cressida Bell who is the talented artist granddaughter of the artist Vanessa Bell and daughter of Quentin Bell. I wonder if you are as passionate about the Bloomsbury Group as I am? I devour books about them and have often visited Charleston, Berwick, Firle and Monk's House.
Petersham Nurseries is one of those places that is good for the soul. It is all about beauty and style, both outside and inside. I'm there at least three times a month and have rarely left there empty handed!
It's a half hour drive from my home which takes me across Richmond Park, another place that is good for the soul. It's hard to believe that you are in a big city when you are in the middle of the park surrounded by trees, bracken and deer.
It’s been a few weeks since my last blog post mainly due to been manically busy with client work but I also had a two week break in Italy over Easter. As many of you know, I was married to an Italian and lived in Italy for ten years so it’s my spiritual home and I try and go back at least once a year. I stay with friends who live in the Piemonte region and we usually jump into their camper van and head off somewhere for a few days.
Last week I took a friend to the Chelsea Physic Garden for lunch and a wander. I'm a member of the garden and I love to pop in there to sit and read, have lunch or tea & cake, or a wander. I find it a real little oasis in the middle of Chelsea and a source of inspiration.
We parked in Battersea Park and walked over the prettiest of the bridges over the Thames, the Albert Bridge. I whizz over the bridge on my moped but can't stop to admire it or the view so it was a treat to be able to walk over it and take some photos.
esterday I spent an absolutely amazing day out in Sussex with a friend on a "pilgrimage". Having been to see Charleston House and Berwick Church three weeks ago and becoming obsessed with the Bloomsbury Group, I wanted to return to see Monk's House, the home of Virginia and Leonard Woolf and also to visit the church in the village of Firle where Vanessa Bell, her live-in lover Duncan Grant and Vanessa's son Quentin Bell (from her marriage to Clive Bell) are buried.
It was a perfect English summer's day - cloudless sky, a lovely cool breeze and temperatures around 25C. Be warned now, I'm afraid this blog post is serious photographic spam!!
For those of you who don't know Charleston House, it is the home of the Bloomsbury Group and became a country outpost for a group of artists, writers and intellectuals. It started in 1916 when the painter Vanessa Bell, her husband Clive and their two sons Julian and Quentin moved there from London on the recommendation of her sister, the writer Virginia Woolf. With them were another painter Duncan Grant and his friend David Garnett. They rented the late 16th century farmhouse and despite the house having no hot water or heating, guests increased the household. It became a rather unconventional household of friendships and relationships - they didn't separate or divorce, they just reorganised!!!