Finally my dream came true!
A few years ago I wanted to travel to Provence in France with the main goal to see the lavender fields that I had seen in so many post cards and travel magazines on flights etc. etc. It looked so amazingly beautiful. It was in 2014 and hotels were prebooked etc. Luckily the flights were not booked because the vacation plans got ruined and changed due to a business trip to Edinburgh in Scotland instead and a Science conference I had to attend to. However it turned out to be a very good vacation after the working week.
My husband joined me after 6 days and we spend 4-5 more days in Scotland, playing golf etc. It was just a bit different than we had planned from the beginning. Scotland turned out to be a fantastic destination and that year in particular, since 2014 was the warmest summer they had experienced in 20 years. We read the headline in their newspaper one morning “Another day of uncomfortable weather” and we smiled and thought to ourselves they are just not used to warm climate here. Now back to 2018 and finally heading to France.
We started our journey in Nice and spent the evening and also the day after, by the Promenade de Anglais and around the harbour. In the morning we, like many more went to the local market opposite the Promenade. The fruits in all the stalls looked so nice and it was really tempting to buy a basket full of tomatoes, peaches etc. It was great atmosphere in that market. We
also walked up to the highest peak from where you have a fantastic view over the nice NICE(!) beach. After Nice our next stop was Monaco and Monte Carlo and we took a tour in a “Hop on – hop off” bus. Usually this is a splendid way of getting a glimpse of a city for the first time and to tell you the truth I am not sure we had taken the time to go and see even the famous Casino if it wasn’t for that one of the stops was right next to it.
I’m happy that we got the chance to see this place with all the rich and famous strolling outside blending with tourists, watching the Lamborghinis and Ferraris and McLaren luxury cars. Not to mention all the enormous yachts in the harbour. Gosh, so much money and capital in one place! It sure is a different world from Bangkok and Sweden as well. It was also quite amazing to think of that the Formula 1 Grand Prix race goes through the number of tunnels there is and that they are driving at 200km/hr(!!) I wouldn´t do that for all the money in the world.
We then drove back towards Nice but had booked 15km outside of Nice high up from Cagnes-sur-Mer towards the mountain and a fantastic hotel called Chateau Le Cagnard, ww.lecagnard.com which I highly can recommend. The hotel is situated in a medieval castle and beautifully restored and decorated. We learned that it is a Swedish owner to this place and that was my guess already for breakfast the following day. Who else would choose to serve herring and salmon at the breakfast buffet? Not a French person any how is my guess. The room we stayed at was really lovely and I was very thrilled about the staff´s willingness to offer me the room I had seen on the hotel´s website.
In the evening we walked up to the top of this area where you find numerous restaurants and a chapel. There is also a boule area in the public square. What we didn’t know was that they didn’t serve any food between 14:30 and 19:00 and exactly 14:30 we arrived together with some other tourists very hungry and thirsty. Thank goodness that beer can be quite filling. It was long but still hours until we finally got our pizzas around 19:20. It was time for us to leave for the next destination, which was Marseille.
Marseille has been know more for being an old industrial city with lots of problems earlier such as higher criminality than other cities in France but has improved in many ways the last ten years or so as I have understood. We stayed in the harbour and it was time for the Football World Championship Semi Final this our first evening. We cheered and laughed and clapped our hands together with a lot of football fans and we shared their joy at a nice restaurant close by.
It was a memorable evening to be in the “right” country for this event this time I must say. Day two we spent in the fantastic artistic alleys and if you like to see mural art this is the place to go. It is everywhere you turn and some of them are really amazing. You could sense the bohemian side of Marseille here. By the harbour there is also a new modern cool arty, touristic thing in a big space and that is a huge roof mirror out doors. Everyone wanted to look up and take photos in the reflection.
No need for selfies. You took a photo up towards the roof to get your selfie(!). Some street acrobats came also and drew the attention to the public for a while with their show. There is a cute blue train (looks like a big toy train), which you can take around the city and we did that too and we did an early morning walk the last day up to the cathedral on the hilltop – Notre Dame de la Garde. It was a hot and very steep walk but worth it of course. There are many churches and cathedrals in Marseille but we picked the highest located one mainly for the view. So, finally after a number of great days and fantastic French cities it was time to go to Aix en Provence to look for charm, lavender fields and vineyards.
I had booked a hotel with a very common name – Hotel de France located in a small square: www.hoteldefrance-aixen provence.com and it was just perfectly located and quite charming too. Right outside the entrance door was a café/pub and 3-4 other places with lots of people drinking, chatting and enjoying themselves. The first thought was: – Oh boy, we will have a noisy night in this place and lack of sleep!! But in fact it was the opposite. When you opened our hotel room window it was very loud from all the people, but once you shut the window it was totally 100% sound proof. Thank goodness.
We were also impressed with watching outside in the morning when everything was emptied, no chairs, no tables no nothing – so that the cleaning of the street could be possible. Around 8am it was spick and span, clean and almost spotless. Fantastic. 15 minutes after the cleaning was done, the restaurant staff put everything out again and the morning Espresso could be served. I almost immediately fell in love with this place. The market, all the nice streets, the wine, the cheese we ate was incredible. Warm Camembert with smoked Chorizo sausages, toasted small bread. Just yummy, that’s all and in perfect French setting. It was only the man with the French beret and a accordion that would have made this almost “too good to be true”.
We spent three nights here in this charming town and then head off to the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Senanque – a monastery I had read about that is supposed to be surrounded by lavender fields. And yes, there was lavender in front of the place but there were also hundreds of people taking photos. We paid tickets and went inside but it was not much to see actually, just three empty medieval “rooms” so not worth the 22€ if you ask me. The best places came when we had left and it was actually on our way back to Nice when we choose “not high way-roads” and we had lavender and vineyards all around us. Magnificent is the best word. It was just so beautiful everywhere we looked. Back in Nice and chose to be close to the seaside again.
It was the final and then I mean the final of the World Cup. My goodness what a joy to see all the people cheering and they were so very happy. They won the Gold medal. Best in the whole world in football to hold fours years to come – not bad at all. We were very happy for them and as one girl said at the restaurant later on by the promenade de Anglais: You know we suffered so much pain and sorrow after the terror attack and now this – I think we deserve it! Some joy, celebration and laughter to our people. I can only agree with her. Vive La France. This story could have ended nicely here, but in fact it didn´t. Our last day turned out a bit different than we expected. Many years ago I was in San Remo Italy celebrating a jubilee with co-workers from Malmö, Sweden.
I wanted to go back with my husband to show him where we were and also to visit the Alfred Nobel museum. Between Nice and San Remo is just an hour drive so we checked out from our hotel and took off. Along some Italian roads we came to the seaside and San Remo only to find that the museum was closed. I recalled it was Monday but in fact this museum was closed both Monday and Tuesday. Remember this folks if you ever go. So my dear husband just has to live with it, without having seen the summer home of Alfred Nobel. I think knowing him that he takes this quite well.
We found the great hotel Royal in San Remo and I got a bit nostalgic since we spent 3 very nice days there and I also remember the “freeflow” we were offered as part of our celebration one evening, in the hotel bar and a few nice Mimosa drinks we enjoyed there me and a colleague. Memories. Good memories. I was not too happy in that working place (a law firm) but I must say that this trip was very nice and memorable, in all aspects. Only the roads could be improved a bit but besides all was great. Back to Nice and we took this time the highway, which in fact is a quite nice one for being a highway. You have the mountains on the side, great view all around and through some tunnels etc. Not too bad at all.
We went straight to the airport to return the hire car and had planned to enjoy the business lounge since we both are Gold members of Star Alliance. Car returned, bags checked in, looking hungry for the lounge only to find there isn’t one. SAS and Star Alliance only has a business lounge left in Paris we were told. I am not sure if this is the truth but in Nice there is none. Time for a meal then in a airport restaurant with lots of noisy kids running around, a chicken that was not cooked enough and had to go back to the kitchen etc.
Time to go to the gate for boarding. There came next surprise! 40 minutes before the flight was supposed to take off, it said cancelled on the sign. What?!! OK – to make a long story short we had to spend another night in Nice and we were happy that the airport is so close that it only takes 15-20 minutes to go back to the promenade again. It didn´t bother us too much since we still had vacation so we just went down to the closest restaurant and shared a bottle of nice red wine and had dessert and went back to Copenhagen the next morning around 10. All was settled quite smoothly and we were rebooked by SAS very fast.
There was a thunderstorm in the evening so we guess the cancellation was due to the weather. In that case in fact one should be thankful that they take this precaution and decision and not risk our lives. To summarise – it was fantastic 11 days in France, which I highly can recommend to anyone. It is not the cheapest destination in Europe but to go there at least once in your lifetime – please do! We met very friendly and nice people and I must say their English skills have improved over the last 20 years. Good for them! And for the rest of us.