Cotignac – a lovely village in Provence


Sad to leave Sanremo but as it was raining it was time to go! 

Yesterday I got the train and went to Monaco. Thought I’d drop in on Prince Albert! Went to the Casino and didn’t break the bank, had lunch and a walk but it was a bit wet to really enjoy. The place appears to be dripping in money. Lots of good looking sports cars being driven around the streets and lots of women all dolled up with high heels ! Not really my scene.


Packed up the apartment and said a fond farewell to Hilda , the lady upstairs who has kept an eye out for me. Have made arrangements for Robert, an Austrian man from the school, to drive me to Cotignac! Poor man – I literally jumped at the chance for a lift. 


COTIGNAC


Arrived yesterday – before the Brannocks as I was able to get a lift from Austrian Rob. He has a friend here who has a vineyard just on the edge of town. So too good an opportunity not to miss the train changes! Got here at 11:10 in the rain, but driving up the main street it looked so lovely and inviting I knew I was going to like it. 

The B&B is at the top of the town just off the little square with the Hotel de Ville and the war memorial and as it was the 11 November there had just been a little ceremony . 

I booked a B&B with a lovely lady called Dany so I found her place with Robert’s help. It’s an amazing old house in the village … just before the cliff goes up. 

She showed me my room which is like a grandma room- old furniture, big bed, rugs, heating, kettle, old tv, and bathroom. The house is a one room only per floor- literally. The staircase winds up and at each little turn(landing) there is a door. I’m on floor 2, so left my big bag on the ground floor in her workshop. She does lead lighting and has all the gear set up on the street level – though there is a main entrance in another street where you come in just above my room! 

After I settled I went for lunch with Dany at her friend Martine’s restaurant. It’s on the little square near the B&B. A lovely place and Dany is so nice. That’s the good thing about being on your own, people are more open and kind. 


After lunch I took a walk, and then a sleep was needed and it was so quiet I went off to sleep. Then by late afternoon when I was reading and about to go out for another walk I heard voices. The Brannocks had arrived at their new house and were talking to the other owners the Smiths. Unbeknown to them I could see them out the window and nearly called out but didn’t want to disturb them. They hadn’t seen the house before purchase and had a fair bit of business to do and as I wasn’t expected till Tuesday I  thought I’d lie low!!!! But now I know where they are! Right on the corner in the little square next to the Hotel de Ville ( town hall) . Great spot. (Ginetta you will love this village) 

The Brannock’s brown house

When I got going I had another walk this time up the street leading to the hills behind. Really lovely views of the town. I wandered back after walking for an hour and decided to have a glass of vino (“vin here) soup and an early night. 
Watched a French movie with Vincent Lindon and even though it was all French I could just make out what was happening . It was really good, moving and sad. 

So off to sleep and sleep I did! 

Cooking class – una grande festa

Last night I went to a cooking class at Zemin – an agritourismo in the town.
There were 5 of us. Lesley the German girl, Barbara also German, Roberto from Austria and a surprise – an Australian called Ryan. He turned up at the school as we were meeting up to leave.
He is an engineer on a boat in the harbour and is here for 2 months repairing and working on the boat. He’s been having private lessons to help him with his work.
He was very nice , the usual friendly outgoing Australian whose Italian was worse than mine.


We met at the school and headed off for the  bus station a few blocks away. The bus left by Via Roma and proceeded to follow the coast line. I thought the driver was driving extremely fast but the others said this was  usual in Europe.

We got to the next village and got out at the new station where a slim dark Italian man met us. This was Fabio son of La mama. He drove us up the hill and we drove down a narrow land lined with fruit trees and pulled outside a two story house with a lovely garden where a goat was grazing and the sided of the house had tiled tables, a bocce court, a small swimming pool an outdoor BBQ and a bar. It is an agritourismo, quite well know in this area I believe. 
Mama Lena made us very ŵelcome. She spoke no English but her eyes sparkled with good humour and we were ushered into her kitchen and made part of the family . She started with pesto, which  isn’t hard except this one was to be done fatto le mani  (by hand). Robert and Ryan (the Austrian and the Australian) offered to do this with the mortar and pestle. I got to start on the next job topping and tailing les fragoli ( beans) and the other girls peeled potatoes and sliced the biggest zucchini I’d ever seen on a mandolin. 
We made all the courses – but no meat tonight. We started with the fresh pesto on pane, then made spaghetti con fragoli potatoes and pesto. Then a vedura torta which had the sliced potatoes and zucchini onion and buffalo mozzarella . It was made in a cake tin in layers and baked. This was served with the caponata made with fried eggplant, onion, tomato, olives, capers and of course oil. It was delicious. Then we made a dolci with sultanas soaked in white rum, flour eggs, sugar etc. rolled into balls and baked. 
Ŵe all sat together in the dining room of the restaurant continuing to drink the wine we had  started  when we were cooking. It was a lovely evening of laughs and conversation mostly in Italian, discussing eating habits in both Italy and our own home countries. Fabio couldn’t believe people took their coffee away and walked along the streets drinking it! Not very relaxing he said! Also that we mostly only had one course or maybe a main and dessert. I explained that this was because we often snacked in the afternoon. He thought that was strange! 
We finished with either Grappa or Limoncello ( guess what I had) and caught the bus home. 
What a night. 

[l to r] Ryan (the Aussie sailor), Fabio (the teacher), Lena (our hostess), Lesley, Barbara, Roberto (my Austrian “chauffer” to Cotignac)

Thursday is cooking day

Tonight I am going to another cooking class with people from my school.
We’re off to an agritourismo. All to be done in Italiano!  Will keep you posted. I’m at school now – just finished class and as I have no Internet at the apartment I have to blog and email here.
Thanks to all who have been reading and for your comments. I love getting emails.

Wednesday in Sanremo


I’m sitting in a cafe in a little piazza listening to the son of the owner playing the piano. It is so surprising to hear classical music being played at lunch time. The sun is shining and I’m about to eat risotto al fungi porcini
Then this afternoon I’m going bike riding along the coast. After Paris where it seemed to rain most of the time it’s lovely to have clear blue skies and a little warmer. 
Today I moved class again. I had them fooled I guess about how good I am and they had put me in the advanced class. But today happy to be back in intermediate! Better here with 2 males. Adrian from Switzerland and a young fellow from France. Both nice.
This is a lovely place. Bigger than Lerici where I was at the beginning of my holiday. It has a nice sea front and port with lots of boats. Then the town – a lovely street for the passagiate in the evening and quite a few shops with lots of high-end shops which reflects the clientele who come her for holidays I guess. 
There is a casino here in a gorgeous old building but I believe that’s the best part so haven’t ventured in there yet. Lots of slot machines as they are called here. 
Yesterday afternoon I had a big walk first of all uphill. There is an old part of town here called La Pigna which has the steepest, oldest streets. I climbed and climbed and it was like another world. The people up there have a few little piazzas and I think must hardly ever venture downtown. There were children riding bikes around the piazza and then taking off down the hill to cries from their mothers “basta basta”. I saw old men talking, women in huddles all looking at me wondering who I was, and slouching teenagers doing whatever they do when they don’t go to school or work. All really interesting. Took a few photos which I hope you will see soon ( to overcome problems I have been sending them to Steve and he has been adding them to the blog! [yea! Steve!]) 
Then following that I had a big walk along the sea front as the evening was so calm and almost warm. There’s an old port and a new one. Lots of yachts and little boats all bobbing along . It must be really busy here in summer. Lesley who is at the school (German girl living with her Italian boyfriend) works in an office at the port and said it is crazy all summer. She works 7 days some weeks and now is having some time off.
Lunch is finished now and was buono. In the time I have been sitting here lots of locals have come and greeted  the owner of the cafe, dark men have approached me selling bags, watches and belts – but so far no sunglasses! Now it time to go and get the bike. 

Bike riding heaven


Bike riding heaven


Let me take you  on a bike ride.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

I walked to the bike hire “tent” named Nolobici – deciding was too nice a day not get out. I took the bike for half a day – not sure how far I would want to go.
The bike track is called ” Pista Ciclabile” and  runs along the coast using a disused rail track. What a sensational idea. 
As I set off I had no idea how long I would be cycling . I just set off with my bag in the basket and an idea I wanted to stop for gelato and coffee along the way.                          
I had heard it was flat and this was true which made the cycling even more attractive. 

So off I went and this is what I saw.
The road out of town

The area of Sanremo near the water is a typical Italian beach front port. Boats everywhere and even lots of people even though it’s not summer. However no swimmers and very few people on the beaches (mind you, the beaches are not as wonderful as ours)  

I cycled along passing the Villa used by Alfred Noble when he wasn’t awarding prizes!
The ocean was blue and the sun was shining. I passed a Grandfather playing with his grandson on the beach. 

Grandpa playing

Then a group of fit looking young men having lots of fun playing beach volleyball. It was easy cycling and I had time to look around. 

The track is only for walkers in one lane and cyclists in the other two. I passed through my first tunnel, well lit and in summer would be a relief from the sun I’m sure.

A Tunnel (shaky as I was riding!)
I rode past a series of what looked like sun shades but they had another use- solar panels.

Shades / solar panels

 I rode over little bridges where the creeks run into the sea and got to admire the boats along the way-  and the ducks who looked quite at home and were enjoying the bread an elderly man was throwing to them. 

Ducks on the river

Then I passed a series of covered gardens – all shading vegetables. Italians love using every inch of land in a productive way. The gardens ran all the way up the surrounding hills. 

Gardens

I saw fishermen trying their luck and just chilling out. 

Fishermen
The signs a long the way were as colourful as they were helpful. The maps showed the coast with “siete qui”  Showing where you were. 

The sign

I saw many churches, most of them little with shining domes and bells ringing out the time . 

A Church
As I rounded a curve I saw a jaunty yellow building and thought … Great somewhere for coffee. No! It was a cemetery! With fantastic views and lots of fresh flowers. 
The Cemetery
I got off the track at Arma Di Taggia and explored the little streets, but it was only 3pm and all the little shops were closed and I couldn’t find a gelato! So back on track I passed along through Riva Ligure and then into one of the bigger villages San Lorenzo. I got off the track and rode around the port where there were quite a few very glamorous, serious money boats.

 Serious fun boats
I stopped for coffee where the lady owner made me welcome and claimed it was a 
“stupendous – molto  bello oggi”  a beautiful day. 

The Cafe

I agreed with her and sat in the sun for coffee as the local Policeman  arrived for his coffee. He was so smartly turned out that I thought perhaps it was an episode of Inspector Montalbano. 

Constable Montalbano

Back on the bike I rode along the stunning waterfront of San Lorenzo and stopped at a Cafetteria for a gelato. Yum. 

He’s everywhere!
While I was there the hour for passagiate had begun and the ladies arrived, very smartly dressed, for their afternoon chat – and gelato! A wonderful tradition. The men met as well and sat by the water on the carved wooden benches.
I must the Italians are much more social and outgoing than their neighbours the French. All the people we met in French villages were lovely – but we hardly saw any out and about let alone met! 

It was now about 4 so having ridden about 18 kilometres I thought I should head back. Riding back into the afternoon sun was a little more difficult but the light made everything look so different. Lots of locals were having a more serious style of passagiate in the late afternoon sun. 
The sun started to sink behind the hill making reading the signs a little difficult . 

But I just turned around and looked at it from another angle. 

I rode back into Sanremo as the sun was setting I was a little saddle sore but very at peace in this inspiring location.
Home!
What a ride. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I did. 

We all love the rides we have at home – at the coast and of course the wonderful Coogee to Bondi cliff walk but this was right up there with there as one of the very best “by the sea” ride/walk. 

I walked back into town, found a lovely cafe for an afternoon Aperal Spritz ( remember them Pat, Anne and Narelle?) and thought how lucky I was. Just wish I had someone here with me to share this wonderful afternoon


Tuesday – Market Day

Tuesday – Market Day


Slept well despite my sore arm from dragging my bag! 

Off to school and was put in with better students – so there are 4 girls.
Lesley, German 28 lives here with her boyfriend and speaks so well! Carla, 25 into the 3rd week of an intensive and living for a few months in the area! Also good. Melissa, 18, French, from Monaco, filling in time after leaving school . Also quite good – and me! Struggling to keep up. They are very nice though. 
The new teacher for us, Irene, thinks she has the lower class as she did some really basic stuff that even I could do. Poor Lesley was quite bored. Hope she comes back tomorrow. 
Last night did my little bit of supermarket shopping – but in the little stores near my place. A lovely  deli  had some great pesto, bread, and a few other things. I have missed the Italian food! 
So this afternoon I’m back at school watching an Italian movie and hoping to understand what is going on . I think the 3 girls in my class are all heading home and don’t need to watch the film as they probably go to the movies here anyway. 
Will keep you posted! 
Oh yes , it was market day in town and I visited after clas but didn’t buy anything! Not even the shoes I liked as there is no room in the bag! 

Back to Italy

New adventure : Back to Italy


Goodbye to my Paris apartment

My day on Sunday started early. I finished all my list of things for Paris so off I went in a taxi to Gare de Lyon, for my train. There was a problem getting one yesterday so today I am off to Nice via Marseilles. 
I arrived in Nice after an ok stop in Marseilles where I didn’t have to lug the bag up and down stairs. Then onto Nice. By then it was raining hard, dark by 5.30 and got off the train in pouring rain and had to walk the length of the platform . Then found there was not lift so had to carry the bag and the extra cabin bag, down then up lots of stairs. Then walk 200 metres to the Best Western ( which was by this time something I was regretting booking). Why? because I thought I don’t want to have to get a taxi. I can walk I thought. But in the pouring rain with 2 bags that were by now very heavy! 
Arrived dripping and hungry and asked was there somewhere I could get some dinner. Helpful man on front desk said ” Oh you’re in Nice, you must go out for dinner” Go on a train to the water front! Are you joking I thought! This is the water front as it was teeming outside. So I asked if I could possibly have something ordered in and he said helpfully “you can have tomorrow’s picnic lunch”. The hotel gives everyone a packed lunch. Have a picnic in your room he advised with a smile. Well it was so much fun in my room eating a tuna sandwich and watching tv. At the least I got an English speaking channel and got to hear all about the election in the USA. Lucky me. 
Next morning bright and early I was first for breakfast and then back to the station – in reverse. This time down the stairs and then up to the platform. Oh why I thought did I choose this! 
I arrived at Ventimiglie where you have to change again for an Italian train. But I cleverly walked out of the station and got a bus which landed me half an hour later near the school I am attending. I struggled in and up and got started with a test of my Italian. I settled down and was put with Mario and a very nice young man as my teacher in a class of mixed bodies from France, Germany and Switzerland. I’m such a novelty. 
Walked around the town after class dragging my bag and looking for my apartment. Eventually a very nice young man took pity and carried my bag up a very steep hill. (shades of Lerici, Pat, if you are reading this) 

Hello to my Sanremo apartment!

Apartment is nice with lovely views of the town towards the sea, with a lovely helpful lady named Hilda in the upstairs apartment to help me settle in. But no wifi! Oh no I thought – cut off. So my nights will be spent reading and typing things up to send at the school the next day.

Versailles.

Today up early and on my way to Versailles. All very easy. I just walked two blocks to get the train and I was on my way with a train load of others in the rain. 

It took about 40 mins and I thought I was clearly going to avoid the crowd by going on a Friday – a lower crowd day. Not so. I had per bought my ticket so was ready to hop to the front and found the queue already a mile long. It was raining and cold and I could sympathise with the whining children in front of me. 
Finally got in and the crowds were almost unbearable. We shuffled through and I tried to enjoy myself but it was hard. It eased a little around the fantastic hall of mirrors but not much. I revived by having tea at Angelina, the famous Salon de The.  Then I strolled the large galleries of art before deciding to tackle the gardens. I went out and it was raining and cold so I decided I had seen some great gardens already and Marie Antoinette’s house at the far end of the garden I would look at in movies. I had seen it in 1977 so perhaps it was the same? 

I got the train back to Paris as I had another Opera at 7.30 and I wanted to look my best – not all wind blown. 

Got ready and this time took the metro and got there early so went across the road to look at the special Art exhibition set up in the gardens opposite the Opera House Bastille. Some great art and some way out art. 
I then found my seat. Amazing but no one at the door to check you in? The bell had just gone and not an usher in sight.
Anyway my seat tonight was in the 2nd row, 2nd balcony. Great view. Had a lovely lady from ” the village of Montmarte” as she so charmingly put it next to me. She was elegant and lovely and then her friend arrived and they were both charming. They told me a friend had moved to Brisbane but “it did not agrees with her. She was scared of zee snakes”. I told them it was not unusual to find snakes in the garden, but we were used to them. They looked amazed. 
Then the young man on the other side joined in and I had another new friend. He was on his own as his wife was away and doesn’t like Opera. He was about 30 and was very sweet. I spent interval talking to them and they were all really lovely. The Opera -“Daughter of the Regiment” – was really good. It was a great production and my new friends told me the director and the conductor were well regarded. It was a good production but was in French as were the subtitles – not a word of English, so even though I knew what was going on I missed a lot. There were quite a lot of spoken lines as it was a fairly light opera. One particularly good solo – by the heroine who was to be separated from her new love – brought tears to more than a few eyes. The lady next to me sobbed and was mopping her eyes for several minutes after. The French are so demonstrative! Not usually! 
It ended happily, as all operas do, and down came the French style crowd and cock a doddle dooed . It brought the house down. 
I took the no 69 bus home past the Louvre over the bridge with the view of the Eiffel Tower down Bve St Germaine and I was home.  

All Saints Day.

I have been very quiet since my day of indulgence! But only on this blog . . 
In fact I have been very busy tying to get to the end of my “must do” list for Paris. 

After Wednesday night out by myself I took it slowly again on Thursday and, as it seems to rain every day, I allowed myself a little read in bed before hitting the road. 

I just finished reading “The Submission” recommended by Jill and I loved it. Check it out. It’s about an architect who wins a competition for his design for a memorial for the site of the 9/11 disaster. It’s full of controversy and I really enjoyed it. It will be referred to later in this blog. 
Anyway, it kept me busy this morning until I got myself ready to hit the road. What I love about Paris is the enjoyable walking. I walked a new route and found myself in new areas as I walked to the Rodin museum. It’s in a charming street near  Invalides. It only took me half an hour and I saw lots of interesting things. It was very quite out as today is a public holiday and everyone was sleeping in. By now it was only 10.30 so I wasn’t that late! 
The Rodin Museum is a wonderful place and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t been before. It is located in the old hotel Bodin where Rodin and some other creative souls lived and created. It has a new entrance to the grounds where some of the major sculpture are housed and then you can move into the gardens to view the famous “Thinker” and “The gates of Hell”. 

                                         I think it’s called the Eiffel Tower

                                        Where did I leave my clothes……?

Then you enter the Hotel itself with more wonderful work. His work is magnificent and, having read the book The Submission,  

I was reminded when I read about a competition Rodin entered and was the subject of great controversy when the jury to select the winner couldn’t agree. Very similar to the book. Anyway he became famous bought the beautiful old hotel and donated all his work to France . But the French being …..well French, took some time deciding if they would accept. We call it playing hard to get. 

I kept walking to Invalides and admired its grandeur, and moved on to Champs de Mars to once again admire the Eiffel Tower and then wander back along the route the no 69 takes along Rue St Dominique. I got home by the time the rain started again and rested the feet for an hour before heading out again . This time over the Pont Royal and through the Tuileries. A it was a public holiday everyone was out. I saw the crowds playing games, walking hand in hand, sliding down slippery slides, sitting on the same green chairs I saw in the Luxembourg Garden, drinking wine, playing cards and chess and generally enjoying being out.

Boys will be boys.
This time I didn’t stop. It was much cooler and I was on a mission. I hurried along Rue de Rivoli, past Place Vendome and all the high-end shops and into St Madeleine’s church  where I wanted to hear the organ concert. I stayed for about 45 mins of heart stopping, ear deafening, organ playing to a very diverse crowd.

St Madeleine’s

I then enjoyed window shopping and it may have been a public holiday but all the rich were out in the top-end shops and most people around me were carrying bags! Oh how they loved the luxurious bag here in Paris. With the name clearly on show. Prada, Gucci, Armani, Choo. You name it and the Russians, Chinese and assorted other rich people were toting them around. I tried to maintain an air of mystery as I rubbed shoulders with them – at the windows.

Which one for home?
I shouted myself a glass of wine and slipped home around 8pm for a meagre dinner of quiche. I greeted the team of workmen on my arrival home. I may not have mentioned but the team are working on the unit I share the landing with. There are 3 very polite men there from 8 in the morning till 8 at night. Someone must be paying them a lot to finish and they tell me they be finished on Saturday. They greet me morning and night and make me feel very welcome. Not to mention safe and watched over. 
Off to bed with a new book – Robert Harris “Fear”. Hope I don’t scare myself.