My last day . Sad but happy



This morning I packed, unmade  the bed, visited the markets, had a coffee in the Place de Mairie and got into the car for the trip to Nice and the flight home.

Oh how I’m going to miss this laid back life style, the eating out, the mooching around, the       foreign accents, the walks around the villages, the autumn leaves, the neat gardens, the graceful houses, the iron work on houses, the fresh baguette, the musical “bonjour” each morning. All of it will be missed.
As will the Italian equivalent: the operatic way of life, the friendly embracing people, the “bonjourno”, the ” allora”, the Aperol spritz, the pencil pines, the caprese salads, the beautiful vegetables, the quiet villages during siesta, the blue skies, the autumn colours, loud voices, church  bells, nonnas with creased faces and friendly smiles, the markets, vino or vin (depending on the country)  rouge / blanc / rose  / rosso  / bianco.  All of it will be missed. 
But I’m so lucky I got to share it with generous Steve, and Pip my lovely niece,
beautiful smiley Pat, my lovely sister Catherine, my two “oldest” fun friends Narelle and Anne, with 
wonderful friends Lindy and Geoff, Jill and Chris, Carmel and Peter, and Margaret and John . It was an experience shared and bonds made forever. Thank you all.
I’m sitting in the Qantas/ BA airline lounge (upgraded to business – thank you Our Lady of the 
Upgrades and generous husband Steve) and I’m just about weeping with the joy of remembering the details of this wonderful adventure. I’m sorry I didn’t get to share with more of my friends from 
home but I know you were with me in spirit and have been reading the blog.
See you all soon – lets drink a glass of bubbles and celebrate together. The 16th is as  good a day as any!

Last day in Cotignac

Again, a gorgeous autumn day so we decided to say good bye to Rose and Vaughan and then wait for the Brannock’s next visitor Rachel Nolan. If the name is familiar to Queenslanders, she is the former Minister of the Bligh Government – on a four month stay in France deciding what it do next. Interesting!

Margaret and I unmade, then made beds and prepared to say farewell to Rose and Vaughan. Pity their car didn’t start so they didn’t get to go!! I wandered the village and send a parcel to Jordan, Rob’ s girlfriend in California. It’s her birthday. The French post office works in a slightly less operatic way than in Italy, but they lack the packaging the Italians have to offer. I wanted a small packet  but the ones they had were only for France. The man had to go behind the scenes and come out with a bent piece off cardboard that I had to roughly write the address on and put the wee little present inside.
He then used masking tape to make a kind of envelope. Very strange. I hope it gets there.

We spent the afternoon waiting for one group to depart and then Rachel to arrive, but life is very laid back in Cotignac so it wasn’t a problem. Margaret and I walked up to Notre Dame, the short way – all uphill! But not like the long way of last week (see story “A walk in the woods”)

We finished with a glass of rose in the village and then showered and prepared for my last dinner – at the lovely La table a la Fountaine. We arrived there around 7.30 which is early by French standards and got a table upstairs. We enjoyed a Coup de Champagne and a delicious fish dish.

Lots of laughs and my last night was over. So sad. 

Tourtour

Today we visited some of the little villages in this area called Var.
The weather was perfect and John and his friend Vaughan decided to ride there and Marg, Rose and I drove.
We stopped in Salernes first and sat in the sun for a coffee admiring the view and the weather. Then we walked though the markets and bought food for dinner.  Found the most beautiful looking fresh artichokes so thought we could manage something nice with them.

We continued our drive towards Tourtour and starting winding up the mountain. It’s a small hill town and the hills a covered  in autumn trees blazing in red and gold. We passed the cycling men labouring up the hill and gave them an encouraging wave as we whizzed by.
We arrived via a vary narrow street controlled by lights as two cars can’t pass.  Parked in the main piazza or Place as they are called here. It’s a vy pretty space with the usual cafes but has a vy lovely garden area overlooking the view down the valley.
We wandered around the streets and chose a place for lunch. It was a clear blue day but a little chilly so decided to sit indoors with a view through the windows!
After eating beautiful duck confit and a glass of Rose we walked around the village and up the hill to the church and lookout. It’s a gradual climb through grassed area filled with picnic tables indicating just how busy it must get in summer.

We took a few photos then headed for home and the cooking of the artichokes.
I decided to google and you tube the ” how to ” and Margaret and I set about cleaning and preparing them. It w a bit of work but oh my the results were worth it. We loved them.
This was followed by risotto with Chanterelle mushrooms. Yum
To bed feeling happy and a little sad a tomorrow is my last day.

Aix

Lovely day at the markets and exploring this lovely small city in Provence.

I love markets but even I have to admit defeat! I’ve seen most of the things on show at several other markets. So as much as I love going I am almost shopped out and just really enjoy the atmosphere.

I think the best markets I’ve seen these holidays would have to be in Bardolino. I was there with Anne and Narelle and we had so much fun and the things on the stalls were so very good. Who could forget the leather coat man, the coloured wallets, the cotton knickers, the Italian pottery, the shoes etc.
Today’s markets were good but there were too many scarves and too many winter clothes.

The food was good and we bought lots of things for dinner.Tonight we cooked veal roast with winter roasted veggies followed by poached pears and chocolate sauces. Delicious.

Then the lights went out! Much confusion ! But eventually they came on again and we finished dinner.

Tomorrow we’re off toTourtour about half an hour away. Fingers crossed for more fine weather. Driving through the country side is so beautiful at the moment. The trees are losing their leaves and look so golden and red, surrounded by a mountain of leaves.

 Really magic . 

Cotignac


The days are going so quickly. 

I’ll be home soon and I think I’m ready! 
We’re been busy exploring this village and others nearby. Today we went to several places around the district and stopped for lunch in Aups. Then Margaret and I wandered through Carces nearby before stopping at Carpe Diem winery for a small tasting. 
We got in the mood for tasting after a rather lovely on in the main street if Cotignac yesterday. All the locals turned out for a tasting supplied by the boys  at the Spar supermarket. They supplied wines – the new beaujolais and lots of little eats. The street was awash with people tasting and air kissing. We met some other Aussies so matched the locals with both drinks and laughter.

 
Jenny and Peter Smith left on Friday morning and Vaughan and Rose, a young couple from Switzerland and friends of John and Margaret’s, arrived on Friday afternoon. So it was housework and cooking – something I have lost touch with over the months. 
We had a lovely dinner and drank some of the new Rose from Carpe Diem and then a beaujolais from the boys! 
Off to bed. A day trip to the Aix en Provence markets is on tomorrow and I’m excited. 

Last stay of my trip- Cotignac

Tuesday

Visiting the Brannocks in Cotignac

Today I moved to the Brannock’s house (owned by a group of Australians). It was just 12 steps down the road from the B&B. Margaret came to get me and help with bags and met Dany, the owner. Dany very kindly gave me some homemade quince jam and savoury quince for cooking.
Village Fountain
Arrived here at the new house which is right on the Place de Mairie. It’s a big house with 5 levels. Quite grand. 
The House (with brown shutters behind waitress
You enter at the street level and there is a “summer  room” which isn’t finished yet. Steps up around a white curved wall to bedroom 1 – a large room off one side of the steps and and a large bathroom off the other side. 
Up the steps again to the kitchen  on the back of the house and the main living dining on the front overlooking the Place de Mairie. Two large shuttered windows, a fireplace, two handsome white chandeliers, rugs, comfy white lounge, wine rack, pictures, dressed with white crockery and wineglasses all complete the look. 
Peter and Jenny Smith have been working hard to get the house ready. Margaret and John arrived Sunday and have been helping add things, do some shopping and generally dress the house. All the furnishings are lovely . Everything chosen carefully add to the comfortable feeling of the place. The owners will enjoy this place for many years to come. 
Yesterday Margaret and I went to Brignoles – about 1/2 hour away – to buy a wine rack they had seen. We managed to fit it in the car and also purchased 2 bowls for 3 & 2 euros each . It WAS  a second hand shop. 
The Wine Rack
In the evening we headed of to a very smart restaurant along with Sophie their real estate agent and Susana the lady who will look after the house for them in lots of little ways. She arranges the workmen, advises on places to shop and will look after any friends who come to stay. Both young women are interesting and fun to talk to. One is French, the other American Japanese married to a Frenchman.  The food was great and we walked home in 5 minutes at about 12.15am!!!!!
Slept well  in bedroom 3 and got up for breakfast around 8. Great start to my stay in Cotignac. Check out the Australians in Cotignac Facebook page and see the house. 

A walk in the woods

A walk in the  woods


I got up fashionably late … Dany said not to hurry and we had breakfast together at 9. We managed to talk in English/ French, a little about our families and our travels. She’s a very nice,  calm, refined lady, and gave me some great hints on Cotignac. I said I had walked yesterday and was intending to have another walk today. So she said “you are fit?”  And not wanting to admit that possibly I’m at my most unfit, I agreed that, yes, I was fit. So she got out a map of the area of Cotignac and prepared a route for me. 

Off I went with a piece of fruit and a water bottle. No sign of the Brannocks as yet!
 I walked up the side of the town past the cemetery and continued on what I thought – hoped – was  the right way. 
Come along with me:

I walked down a leaf littered trail and over a fast moving stream or small river. It had that lovely gushing whooshing sound. I climbed up the other side for a while and then spotted the waterfall feeding the stream. Other than the water it was so quiet.

I passed the only person I’d seen so far – a man working on his property.

I came across some flat ground with vines growing in yellow and red –

and then along to Chappelle St Martin.

It is covered in red leaves and and sat proudly on the corner overlooking the vines. I turned right (although instinct told me to turn left) and crossed another stream, rounded a corner and had to jump out of the way of the big tractor with a friendly wave from the driver. And probably an “Allors”

I came out onto Route 22 and walked along till it met Route 13 and, wanting to head towards St Joseph’s, took that route. I sat on the fence for a minute and watched the horses in the nearby field. No cars came along and it was quiet except for the water as I was crossing the river once again. I continued on up the hill and met the road coming up from St Martins where my instinct had been right before and I should have turned left! But never mind the road was lovely … I came to another left turn where I consulted St Joseph before turning towards the monastery. It was now a shaded road, very quiet, with several little altars along the way. I felt watched over! I caught sight of St Josephs monastery and then took the turn which said Notre Dame which is where Dany had said to go. 
It was a walkers’ path and before long I came across some pools of muddy water almost blocking my way (shades of San Gim- remember?  Steve, Peter and Carmel). 
I was hoping no more flooded roads and then of course there was one. I had to scramble up onto the rock wall to pass it and hoped I wouldn’t fall in! I took a big stick with me to help balance and hoped I didn’t look like a crazy German trekker!  Mind you I had been walking now for an hour and half and had seen one person. 
I came across a barn of sorts used for farm machinery for the vineyards nearby and then another intersection. Decision time. Paved road or walkers’ track? The adventurer in me said walkers’ track so off I set. 
Allors more mud! More scrambling, climbing fences, balancing and hoping my shoes would hold up. I was wearing my new boots from Paris which are a cross between a pair of slippers and walking shoes. So far so good! 
Fortunately “our lady of the way ” was there  to guide me along.

By now I had eaten the fruit and drunk the water so I was seriously hoping I did fall off one of the walls. 
I saw gates for a vineyard and even through I didn’t see anyone it gave me hope. 
The views were magnificent out across the valley and in the distance I caught sight of a building.

Then I came upon another altar. This one had a little glass door which I opened to have a better look. Inside were flowers and mementoes and two cards with pictures of loved ones.

I must say I was hoping they had not come to grief on this path as by now it was very rocky walking. The little card for Jeanne said (and I think this is what it said, as it was in French) pray for her, she disappeared! I sincerely hoped that I didn’t disappear along this track. I saw a rocky shed – possibly for the lost and weary to shelter! Thank goodness it was blue and sunny weather. The path was now up and down and very rocky. 

Then another intersection with an enormous cross and a little chapel for St Bernard. I think he was the patron saint of lost walkers? It had a little altar inside so I sat a moment and hoped I was almost at Notre Dame.
And I was. The stations of the cross appeared as if by magic and I followed them and there in front of me was Notre Dame.

I didn’t know what to expect but it was gorgeous. A real sanctuary with a special outdoor area for silent prayer. As it was now 4 hours of walking I said a prayer of thanks.

I can’t tell you how lovely it was walking – so silent – so rocky up and down hill. I was greeted by one of the priests just  before he jumped on his scooter and went off – probably for lunch. 

I decided after visiting the church to complete the pilgrims walk into town. 

So downhill I went over a rocky path with St Therese  to guide me through the woods. 

I passed several altars  and caught sight of Cotignac getting closer. 

I crossed the river yet again and walked in through the main street and low and behold a market! 

It was now nearly 2pm and I was hoping the restaurants were still serving lunch. They were! 
I treated myself to a delicious lunch – a gourmet salad of the area’s produce, including a fresh artichoke, aubergine, pumpkin, leaves etc YUM; a glass of wine YUM,  and then headed home to get the iPad to let you know about my adventures. 

As I passed through the little square I saw the local council men talking down the remembrance flags from yesterday. Lest we forget.


Tonight I am off to a movie. Dany asked if I would like to go with her and Martine,  her friend who runs the restaurant I had lunch in yesterday. Such a treat. And the movie is in English. There is a movie festival here at the moment and one or two of the movies are in English to cater for all the local English people who own houses here. Dany said it will have French subtitle for her and Martine! it’s called Paperboy with Matthew McConaghy and our own Nicole Kidman. 
I’m sitting in the sun writing this at the local bocce club . The men are in full competition mode. The autumn trees are amazing. 




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Last day in Sanremo…. Out if order! Just this before Cotignac!

Last day at school 


It’s funny that by the last day of a week  you are finally feeling comfortable and it’s time to stay goodbye. 
I can see why it’s better to come for two weeks to any language school! 
Anyway Adrian, Mr French teenager (permanently attached to his telefonata) and I had our last session. Mario the teacher was calm quiet, sweet and shy. He had no girlfriend he told me because he was waiting for the right girl to come along! Sweet. I bought him coffee today during our break. He was most appreciative. These little breaks are great. You get to go to a neighbouring cafe and enjoy a coffee. They encourage you to go so you can do the ordering etc and feel part of the local community. By the end of the week the people in the cafe know you and greet you with smiles and usually even remember your order. Probably to avoid having to wait patiently for each class member to get it out! 
We returned  to class and the second half is spent doing the last part of our serialised  story – in this case the final part of a mystery. All very exciting. 
We had just about finished when the school director Daniel (looks like italian Steve Martin)  and the school secretary (an adorable Brazilian girl called Simone) arrived in class to make a presentation. They gave me a certificate and a “piccolo regalo” – a little present of two locally made soaps all tied up with ribbon and flowers (Sanremo is known as the flower city). Such a lovely way to end.

[l to r]             Principal Daniel, Francesca, French Pierre, Teacher Mario, Secretary Simone, Swiss Adrian.
Though it was not over yet. I had the afternoon booked to visit the Villa Nobel where Alfred Nobel lived and worked after he had blown up several other locations in Europe. 
But before that  I took a little visit to the post office to post a small box home – its always an  interesting experience in an Italian post office. This was no exception as the man behind the counter adopted me. I had forgotten to bring my passport so had to dash back to the apartment. When I returned he greeted me like an old friend but then it took a full 15 minutes to arrange it to be sent. And I had already completed all the paperwork. They almost had a whole file just on me by the time it was over. And I had a new friend. 
Finished the afternoon at the Villa which was interesting and then walked back along the waterfront and had a drink with Robert, the Austrian, to plan our trip on Sunday. Robert happens to be going to Cotignac where I and going to stay with the Brannocks so I’m going with him. Can’t believe how well it’s worked out. I was not looking forward to trains and changing trains on Monday. This way I arrive early – before the Brannocks, but I also have a day to explore and rest. I’m staying at a local B&B. 
Tomorrow last day in lovely Sanremo. 
Oh can you believe – while I’ve been typing this I have been watching the final episode of Junior Masterchef Australia! Dubbed in Italian! What a hoot! George sounds funny but not as silly as Mr Cravat Matt sounds.