Friday, January 18, 2019

Villefranche-sur-mer 2019 - 4 Saint Jean Cap Ferrat

Dear Friends,

Yesterday we took a walk that we have wanted to take for a long time but had never found out how to get started.  First, I should provide some orientation.  Below is a map showing the edge of Cap de Nice on the west side, the rade (harbor) of Villefranche, Cap Ferrat and then the bay of Beaulieu on the east side.   You can see that Cap Ferrat is a rather substantial peninsula sticking out into the Mediterranean Sea.  The little finger of land jutting out from Cap Ferrat to the east is called the finger of Cap Ferrat.  We think it looks more like, and should be called the, thumb of Cap Ferrat.  We walked around the finger, only about a two mile walk but incredibly beautiful.

The photo below certainly makes all of Cap Ferrat look more beautiful but even it does not capture its true beauty.

The entire cap is covered with huge (and I mean huge) villas owned by very rich, but not always famous people.  Today the real estate signs are in French, English and Russian.  We suspect that there is a fair amount of money laundering/tax evasion going on.  You can read about one offering for just $69 million here.  Despite the power of money, there are walking paths throughout the cap and one that goes all the way around it so in effect none of the villas have direct access to the sea, except for one, the villa that used to belong to David Niven.  You do not have to worry about these poor homeowners trying to take a swim in the sea.  Virtually every villa has its own swimming pool.  In addition, many of the ones that but for the walking path would be right on the sea have a tunnel under the walking path that leads directly to the sea with no need to be near the ordinary people.

The walking path around the finger is a very easy path that is for the most part quite flat and well maintained even though there are times when the terrain is rather uneven.  Here I am on a part of the path farthest out into the sea.  In the background you can see the main part of Cap Ferrat.

The views all around are incredible.  In this picture you see a little spit of land which is just part of one of the villas with the main cap in the background and flowers (remember this is January) in the foreground.

I really love outdoor flowers in January, something we don't have in Minnesota.

While the picture below was not taken from the walking path, it was taken from the finger of the cap. For those of you unfamiliar with the coast line of the Mediterranean, the picture centers on the town of Eze.  It is a beautiful medieval town perched on a cliff.  You can read a quick summary here.  In addition to loving the town, I have always been fascinated with the bridge to get there.  You can see it quite well in the photo.  It is scary to take the bridge so high up even by car.  I am really amazed at some of our friends here who walk from Eze-sur-mer (Eze on the sea) up to Eze.  Not only must they walk up a virtually straight up hill, but they must cross the bridge on foot - cars on one side and a fall to certain death on the other.  The town itself is just to the right of the bridge.

At the end of the walk we came to this drinking fountain which provides a message we all would do well to remember and live.

Thanks for reading and please comment,
The Unabashed Liberal

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Villefranche-sur-mer 2019 - 3 Pétanque Pique-nique

Dear Friends,

Every group of people needs an event organizer to come up with new fun things for the group to do.  For the group of people from around the world who we know in Villefranche, that person is JP.  He is french and was born and raised in this region, but he has spent a lot of time in the United States, including a stint as a chef in New York which is where he met his wife, an American.  Yesterday he organized an excursion to a park on top of the hill on which Villefranche is build.  Everybody was to bring their own lunch to the park where we would play pétanque and have a big pique-nique.   JP was not content to have just any ordinary pique-nique, so he brought several great things.  Here he is with Jane and the wide variety of things he brought to drink - coffee, hot water, hot milk, cold milk, and hot chocolate mix.

I do not have a picture to show, but JP also brought water and soap so that we could all wash our hands after playing pétanque before we ate.  He thought of everything.

We started out with several pétanque matches.  Here is JP measuring which ball is closer (the object of the game).  It is hard to see, but he has a cord made specifically to do these measurements.  Exact measurements are often needed but normally the distances would be much smaller than in this photo.  In defense of our skill level this picture was taken just after one of the players had rolled a really hard ball into the group to break it up, and he did.

We were quite a large and diverse group.  Here is the women's international team - one each from France, Canada and the United States.

Some of the spectators and players began to eat even before the matches were done, particularly the men.

JP surprised everybody by bringing not one but two galettes des Rois for desert.  This is no ordinary cake obviously since it is the cake of kings.  The French now have it to celebrate the feast of Epiphany.  If you think an incredible mille-feuille pastry with and an equally incredible almond paste, you might get the idea.  As part of the celebration, a small trinket is placed in the cake.  You can learn more about the cake and the traditions here.  JP got up at 6:00 to make the galettes.  What a treat they were!!

In the most religious galettes the trinket is a baby Jesus but in more secular ones it can be almost anything.  The person who while eating the galette finds the trinket becomes the king.  In this case, only one trinket was found.  Which demonstrates one of the two dangers of this tradition.  The first is that the trinket is small enough to be swallowed and hence not found at all or found much later.  The second is that you might find the trinket by breaking a tooth on it.  I was the lucky finder of the trinket  (without breaking a tooth) and became the king.  See what a great crown I got!

While the men did not get their picture taken as a group, the women did.

A great time was had by all, and we thank JP for organizing and providing the special treats.

Thanks for reading and please comment,
The Unabashed Liberal

Friday, January 11, 2019

Villefranche-sur-mer 2019 - 2 Our Apartment

Dear Friends,

I think it is important for your enjoyment of our stay in Villefranche that you understand how wonderful the apartment we are staying in is.  I want it clear that I am not rubbing it in that I am here on the Côte d'Azur, and you are wherever you are that is not here.

I have described our apartment in detail in a post a few years ago here.  It is great. We are here each year for the month of January but unfortunately have to move to another apartment for February.

We have always had trouble spotting our apartment from the other side of the rade (harbor/bay) of Villefranche.  So the other day, I walked to the other side.  Here is what it looks like from our apartment using a telephoto lens.  It is about 0.4 miles from our apartment to the other shore shown below.

We put some colorful clothes on our balcony to help spot our apartment.  I then walked around to the other side, leaving Jane in the apartment.  She could see me, but it took a couple of phone calls and some handkerchief waving for me to spot her.  This picture shows our apartment but amongst many others.

As you can see we are right in the middle of the Vieille Ville just back up a steep hill from the water.
As I zoom in you can see our apartment more clearly.  We would normally move to the apartment on the right of the picture that appears to be shrink wrapped for the month of February.  Since the exterior needed to be redone and our landlady decided to take this opportunity to remodel the apartment, this year we will move to a smaller apartment that you cannot see in these pictures.

Here you can see Jane waving from the balcony.

Now that we have done this study, we can easily see our apartment without the help of a telephoto lens.  

Thanks for reading and please comment,
The Unabashed Liberal