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VIVA LA FRANCE!

September 6th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

In keeping with the notion of “saving the best for last”, we visited the South of France during our last season in the Med. 

Our port of entry to France was Menton. . .

with an Old Port surrounded by pastel buildings.

I confess that I have been a Franco-phile for years, having spent some memorable times on Pampelonne Beach in St. Tropez and driving through the French countryside with classical music floating through the air.

In fact, what I wanted for retirement was a small house in the South of France, with a little garden and maybe a few grape vines or olive trees.  That was before I met and fell in love with Kent, a sailor, who couldn’t envision himself as a “farmer”.  So, we ended up on Destiny in the Med. . .and here we are four years and 15,000 miles later.

Since Destiny was shipped to Genoa, Italy our adventure started there and we headed east.  Now that our journey takes us back west, I realized my dream of anchoring off Pampelonne Beach in St. Tropez and going ashore to Moorea for lunch by beach club launch.

As is often the case with revisiting places you haven’t seen for several years, St. Tropez had changed.  Or perhaps it was my view of St. Tropez that changed more signigicantly.  In the past I had visited this part of the world by land–from the sea it was totally different.

St. Tropez from the bay. . .no traffic.

More serene, less harried–I certainly did not miss the crowds and traffic.

Sunset at Iles des Porquerelles. . .it doesn't get more tranquil than this.

We anchored off Cap Ferrat, spent days in Cannes wandering little back streets, and hopscotched from the tiny kingdom of Monaco to St. Tropez, Ile des Porquerelles and Bandol.  Along the way we savored Cote d’ Provence rose wines, and fine French cheese.

It was a less hurried visit than on prior occasions.  It felt decadent to be soaking up the same sun, enjoy the same soothing water as the mega-yachts that dominate the coast.

Our French sojourn began the end of June and extended through early August–high season in this part of the world.

From Menton we quickly went to Cannes, where our friends JoAnn and David Duquette were just wrapping up their annual visit to the South of France.  I had been through Cannes on several occasions, but never had ventured beyond La Crossiette, the main street along the beachfront.

We anchored off the beach by the Carleton Hotel where JoAnn and David were guests. . .

and were their guests for lunch at an elegant beachside restaurant the next day.

At the Duquettes’ recommendation we returned to Cannes for Bastille Day which was the following week.  We spent almost a week in or nearby Cannes and had a chance to explore its sights. 

Cannes has a fabulous daily market. . .

with fruits and vegetables so perfect they hardly look real.

We arranged to be in Port du Cannes marina for Bastille Day where the afternoon entertainment was watching mega-yachts dock. . .

after touring the neighborhood including the festooned Hotel d' Ville--the city hall. . .

but high winds on 7/14 delayed the fireworks. . .

until Jolie's birthday on 7/17. . .which we celebrated with Prosecco.

We were in Cannes for July 4th as well and dressed ship as we always do for this holiday, although the wind came up and we had to bring the flags down before sunset.  We also toured the Fort overlooking the marina and saw a U.S. warship anchored off shore, with ship’s colors flying.

From Destiny, we could see the Fort. . .

and from the Fort we could see the entire marina and waterfront.

A U.S. warship was anchored off Cannes on July 4th. . .it was good to see USA colors flying.

We actually left Port du Cannes for Monaco on July 4th planning to spend the holiday in the Old Port just under the Prince’s Palace.  After docking and once again putting up our signal flags for the holiday, we discovered that we couldn’t hook up the electric and promptly left–we weren’t in the mood to sit at the dock in July 4th heat without air conditioning.  

Berthed in the old harbor of Monaco. . .for an hour.

While anchored off Cannes we were approached by a boat selling wine and champagne–by the bottle or the case.  Couldn’t resist the Cote d’ Provence rose.  We had seen ice cream vendors in anchorages, but this was a first. 

Only in Cannes do you find boats selling wine and champagne in the anchorage. . .with free wine tastings!

. . .but Kent says they can't compete with the ice cream "dolly" in Villefranche.

Iles Ste.  Marguerite is one of two islands just off the coast of Cannes and a popular anchorage.  There is a Fort Royal on the island with a great view of Cannes. 

Fort Royal on Ile Ste. Marguerite is the fort where the "Man in the Iron Mask" was imprisoned.

Another favorite spot east of Cannes was Cap Ferrat. 

We anchored several days off an incredible estate at Cap Ferrat. . .

where there is a seaside path all around the cape.

Cap Ferrat attracts boats both big and small.

An opti fleet. . .

shares the bay with Le Grand Bleu (carrying a sailboat the size of Destiny on its deck). . .

and Maltese Falcon one of the largest sailboats in the world which we saw in St. Barth, the Aeolian Islands and again at Cap Ferrat.

We worked our way west along the French coast to Bandol, a lovely coastal town.

On the promanade near the Bandol Town Square is a bronze statue of the mythical Pan playing his flute. . .

but part of Pan's anatomy also gets a lot of "play".

Bandol has an active artist community with local artists and craftsmen selling their wares along the quay in the evening.  During the day there is a daily market.

The market has local delicacies. . .

including Paella "to go".

A Monty Python character said “Oh, those French. . .they have a word for everything!”  I have my own variation: “Oh, those French. . .they are so FRENCH!”  It is true the French have an “attitude” that some people (Kent among them) find “off putting”. . .but I find their joie d’ vie endearing.

Perhaps, it is the fact that we have a little white Coton de Tulear, but I have always found the French to be warm and agreeable. 

No one can resist Jolie. . .

even napping she is so cute!

I suspect many French are of the opinion:  “Oh those Americans. . .they are so AMERICAN!”

Nonetheless, I can’t think of a better place to be in summer than the South of France.  Who knows maybe there is a little cottage in the South of France in my future yet.

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  1. Don McLaughlin
    September 7th, 2012 at 11:41 | #1

    A quick note of thanks from Steamboat Springs, high in the Colorado Rockies. Your blog entries and photos are absolutely fantastic. Thank you for sharing your experiences, and I particularly enjoyed your stories and photos of Tunisia. My wife and I will be sailing with our children in the next few years, and you can bet we will visit many of the spots you highlight.

    Best wishes for your trip back across the big pond.

    Thanks again!

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