Plus belle la vie

As you can probably tell from the title of this post (which incidentally I have hi-jacked from my favourite…and now unfortunately defunct…French soap opera) we are still living the good life in our little apartment in St Aygulf. We are having a great time as always and thoroughly enjoying being back in France. Somehow the moment we get off the plane in Nice we switch back into French living mode! This time we have had a mixed time…some days have been very busy and other days where we have done absolutely nothing apart from sitting in the sun on our balcony. But more of that later…let’s start where we left off last month.

If you remember, at the end of August I had that disastrous fall and did a lot of damage to my mouth, teeth and little finger. So, the days leading up to our departure for France were mostly filled with anxiety (were we going to be allowed to go?) and various nurse and dentist appointments. My finger was being dressed every 2 days and was improving slowly but was still quite painful if touched. Happily, on the last visit before leaving Carlisle, I was given a few dressings to take with me and signed off…with instructions to keep it clean and dry if possible. The final dental visit went fairly well, although it was made very plain to me that I had to get a dental appointment in France to have the splint taken off my front teeth the next week. That proved a bit more difficult than we had imagined but we did get an appointment sorted with a dentist at the end of the street where our flat is, as we left England, so we were relieved about that. More on that story later.

The only other things we did before leaving were to help out at a stall in Morton to promote our church’s outreach activities and to meet up with Matthew, Susie and the grandchildren at Carnforth for lunch and a bit of playing in the sea, on the Sunday before we left. We all had a great day there and it stopped me getting too worked up regarding the next day’s travelling! :blush:

The journey out to France all went very smoothly. The train ride to Edinburgh, followed by a tram ride to the airport was good and after a couple of hours waiting in the airport (which we filled mostly by trying to find something I could actually eat with my poorly mouth) we were soon off to Nice, where we arrived to the usual blanket of warmth as we stepped off the plane. We spent the night in our usual airport hotel and the next morning took the bus along to Frejus and then treat ourselves to an Uber ride to St Aygulf. The flat was soon up and running and after a quick visit to the supermarket we had our first (of many it turned out!) lunch on the balcony looking at cloudless blue sky and amazingly blue sea. Bliss!

Our first week here seemed to be taken up with not venturing far from the flat but sorting out lots of things. We did our usual “big shop” to stock up the fridge and freezer a bit – and once again reacted with horror at how much it cost! I’m afraid we have got used to Aldi prices at home now…and these were not Aldi prices! Geoff did a splendid job of firming up the dental appointments, and organising a vet appointment for Xena before she goes back home with hazel later in the month. He also took Sylvie car (who incidentally was running like the little dream car that she is!) for her CT (French equivalent of the MOT) which she passed with flying colours :blush:. He also decided to treat himself to a new guitar as the one he bought here on our last visit has turned out to have been a duff buy really. He was very happy to find one locally at the right price in Cultura at Frejus so he was a very happy boy! That makes four guitars now…two here & two in England…mmmm! I meanwhile was very content to stay close to the flat, paint several rocks and distribute them in and around St Aygulf, go for an evening swim each day, have a bit of a walk by the coast and soak up the sunshine on our balcony :blush:.

We got a little more animated during week two! We took a drive through the hills to St Maxime one afternoon and went for lunch one day to one of our favourite bistros (Bistro dAntre Potes) at Les Issambres on the Wednesday which was fantastic as always. I had my first dental visit…which did not go according to plan as the young dentist was not keen at that point to take off the splint as she felt the bone had not healed enough…arggh! Another appointment was made for the following week…double arghh!! We did the first of our U3A Zoom meetups with our French conversation group back in Carlisle…who were a bit envious of our weather to say the least! Best of all that week was the fun of the annual Fete de lOmelette Giant (yes you translate that rightly!) in St Aygulf at the weekend. It was great fun! We went to the dance on the Saturday night….outdoors of course, with live music and really enjoyed having a bit of a bop even if we can’t dance anyway as well as most of the French guys of our age…and above in some cases! On the Sunday we joined the crowds to watch as the giant omelette was prepared by a great number of chefs (all wearing their toques, white jackets and gongs – small gold omelette pans – plus several dignitaries. They cracked and whisked over 2,000 eggs before cooking the said delicacy in a huge pan over a big fire in the centre of the square. When it was cooked to the chefs’ satisfaction it was divided up and distributed to the eagerly awaiting crowd …including us…with the option of buying some chips to go with it from the hard working volunteers stall alongside the main arena! As it was very hot by now and we had been stood in the sunshine for most of the morning, we elected to take our portions home and devoured them in the shade on our balcony! It was though a great spectacle…and one that we normally miss as we usually arrive a week later.

The second week of our stay got a lot more busy. At the beginning of the week much remained the same…lots of relaxing in and around the flat whilst following our daughter’s progress as they drove through France to come here for a long-awaited holiday. I went to the dentist for the dreaded RdV…only to discover that Geoff had misheard the time of the appointment and we had missed it. This was not good for my stress levels which were already sky high. However, the lovely ladies at the surgery were so nice and I got another appointment sorted for the next day, the lovely young dentist said she was not prepared to take the splint off as she didn’t think the bone had had enough time to heal. I had to come back in a week to review the progress…arghh! Hazel, Phil, Xena and the little one got here safely on the Thursday afternoon and when they had settled into their hotel, we went down to the beach where the little one had her first real taste of warm sand and warm sea! She loved it and was not fazed by the gentle waves at all. We all ate together at the flat afterwards and again it was great to be able to let them all see the flat at long last. They loved it as much as we do thank goodness and now they know why we like spending so much time here. On the Friday morning we gave Phil his first taste of a real French market and the little one also discovered our local playground in the lovely park nearby. After lunch they went off to the villa which they were staying in with their friends which was near Cabris…up in the hills above Grasse. The next day was our 45th wedding anniversary and we drove up to Cabris, where we had a lovely celebratory lunch, before finding the villa for ourselves where we spent the afternoon and evening looking after the little one while Hazel, Phil and their friends went off to the rugby world cup match in Nice. All went fairly well except that we didn’t really find the villa very child friendly so finding things to do with L was a bit difficult. She was very tired though so she went to bed without a murmur and we then just sat on their balcony until the others got home and then we drove back to the flat….in the dark! We are seriously not used to that now at all…and didn’t really like it…lots of narrow roads and very bright car headlights coming towards us was not really fun! Hazel and co came back over to see us the next week and again we enjoyed some really great beach time with L. It was lovely to see her totally relaxed playing in the shallows with a little friend who spoke no English…but they got on very well! We went back to the villa on the Wednesday, after my second dental appointment where I did get the splint taken off at last, to do a repeat baby-sitting stint for the second rugby match for the group. We had sent a post card to our friends Marc and Michelle (Hazel’s original exchange “parents”, who hosted her 30 years ago) saying that Hazel was here, and much to our surprise, they decided to drive over from Bordeaux to meet up with us all on the Thursday. They really wanted to see L I think! So we spent a very busy day on the Thursday meeting up with them, taking Xena to the vet here in St Aygulf (to get her stuff done ready for travelling back to the UK) and having a lovely lunch all together at our favourite bistro once again. It was a lovely day all round and Marc and Michelle were so pleased to have spent some time with them all again. Hazel set off the next day to drive back home after having had a lovely holiday I think :blush:.

We have played at being tourists ourselves a little bit this visit but not as much as we normally do. Last Wednesday we went out for the day and explored the area west of Draguignan…just dipping our toe into Provence. We really enjoyed looking around some of the lovely little villages there, had a great lunch in the main square of one of them (Tourtour) and I even hiked to see a cascade (waterfall) at Sillans-la -Cascade. Yes, this is still me writing this…I don’t normally do things like that! The walk (and all the ups and down steps) did turn out to be worth it in the end, as the waterfall was beautiful. On Friday this week we also took a boat trip from St Raphael to the Lerins islands just off the coast off Cannes. We really enjoyed every minute of that. It was a bit expensive but well worth it to see the coastline of the Esterel from the sea and to actually be on a boat again! I sometimes miss our cruises! The Island itself when we got there was lovely too and all in all we had a great afternoon, which we might repeat another time when we are here.

Our socialising continued at the weekend when we drove through the hills to Theoule sur Mer to meet up with our “cruise buddy” friends Mandy and Carolyn, who are lucky to live here, for a reunion lunch! We ate in a fabulous beach side restaurant and really enjoyed yet another great catch up of all our adventures. We drove home via the fabulous Corniche de l’Esterel, which we love, and stopped off in St Raphael where we enjoyed a bit of people watching and a drink at a café, and enquired into the possibility of taking a boat trip out to the Lerin Islands next week. We had another social meet up with our friend Gisele on Monday evening when we went for dinner at her flat. She has recently become a “mamie poule” (doting grandmother) and so we loved sharing her joy – and lots of photos – of our respective grandchildren! I had knitted a little cardigan for le petit Martin and that was very well received :blush:. We had another social engagement on Wednesday evening when we spent a very enjoyable evening in the company of a lovely couple who have a flat directly under ours. They had invited us to have an apero with them and is often the case here in France, that was more like a mini meal! They had bought some fantastic little dishes from one of the traiteurs in St Aygulf and they were absolutely delicious. We really enjoyed the evening and I hope we will be able to reciprocate the invitation when we are here next…although I suspect my culinary efforts will not be as good!

Our month long stay here in our little bit of Paradise is coming to an end (although we still have a few more days to go before we fly home). We have really enjoyed every minute. We have loved being back in France again. I have loved mooching around the markets and a great brocante one Sunday, where I bought a lovely linen dress for 2 euros and a nice pink shirt for Geoff too. I have not loved all the mozzie bites we have collected between us…and I still have to see those lovely little critters! We have both loved all the time we have spent sitting on our balcony watching all the boats and yachts go by…although as always because we tend to come here as the summer season either is just beginning or is just finishing, we have not always appreciated all the bricolage (DIY) noise in neighbouring properties! For the first time we have not had to do anything in our own flat, which has been a relief! We have had some stunning weather…most days the temperatures have been in the mid to high 20s so we have swum (or in my case bobbed about!) in the warm sea most days and we look healthily tanned! Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and so we have begun the preparations for returning home on Thursday. However…there are still a few more days to enjoy the sunshine and the sea before we get back to the cold and rain of Cumbria.

A bientot mes amis….

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