Sunday, February 26, 2017

Saint Paul de Vence - Beautiful Hill village - Cote d'Azur

St Paul de Vence - Exquisite beauty on the hill

Today we are going to travel a bit down South to the Cote d'Azur.  It's Winter vacation currently and I'm dreaming of summer and travel, so I wanted to share a bit from a trip in the summer of 2015.  We spent a week on the Cote d'Azur and explored the surrounding area.  It has such a different feel than the Southwest where we live.  This is one of the beautiful hill villages located just to the North.

St Paul de Vence is probably the most well known hill villages of the Côte d'Azur mostly due to its association with some of the world's greatest artists.  Over the years names such as Picasso, Chagall, Matisse and many more have either lived here or been inspired by it.  The town has one of the best private modern art collections in the world, the Maeght Foundation, and nowadays the whole village is full of art galleries and studios.  It's an art lovers paradise and it's truly beautiful, a sight to be seen.  The narrow lanes are perfectly cobble paved and every building is renovated and maintained to a high standard.  The downside to this is that it gets very crowded, especially in the summer.

St Paul (as it's known locally without the Vence) is one of the oldest medieval villages on the French Riviera and its ramparts, constructed in 1540 under Francois 1eme, are still pretty much fully intact.  In the Middle Ages this village produced wine, olives, oranges and figs but this declined over the years until the twentieth century when numerous well-known artists made it their home base.

It was a beautiful winding drive into the hills and we arrived to park our car in a lot on the outskirts of town and then we walked into the village.  I loved the local feel, the relaxed atmosphere of the residents, some of whom were planning a game of petanque. 
As we walked past, I was taken by a lovely sculpture garden just sitting to the right near the church. I loved the cat and the girl sitting on the globe.  Each of them unique in their own right, and there was beauty in the juxtaposition of the old medieval buildings and these modern sculptures.
We started wandering down the main street.  I love the warmth of the stone and the narrow cobble paved street.  You can see from the photos that it's now shop after shop after gallery all open for visitors.  I found many of the gallery very original and beautiful  Truly a mecca of lots of artistic talent housed in this little village.
The village is kept up beautifully and the flowers, fountains, plants and trees all add to this beauty of an oasis located high in the hill tops.
I loved this sign - which translates to I create, I make it and I sell it (in my studio).  Such a great philosophy for inspiration and motivation.

As we walked the length of the village we found ourselves exiting out along the medieval ramparts to see the beauty of the hills and the mountains that surround us.  It is truly breathtaking.
We wandered back between the village and the outer wall, spying beautiful gates, stairs and narrow walkways.  It's a vibrant, thriving village, full of life, art and stunning medieval architecture. 
At the end of the wonderful warm afternoon in the shade of an Olive tree, we enjoyed some delicious ice cream.  The flavor - one specifically unique to this area - Lavender and yes, was it divine!!
So if you are traveling around France, the Cote d'Azur is not to be missed and especially driving up into the hill villages.  Are you ready to book your vacation yet?    I know I'm looking forward to returning soon.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Citadel at Blaye - Just North of Bordeaux & Blog update

The Citadel of Blaye - a solid and strategic defense fortress.

Good morning everyone and Happy 2017,

They say the hardest part with keeping up with a blog is writing on a regular basis.  Yes, this is my first post in many months, life just sometimes takes over and the blog unfortunately took a back-burner to juggling work, kids, activities and the everyday adventures of living in France. Believe me, even after 5 years there are still surprises about living in France as an expat.

I'm currently on Winter hiatus from regular work of tour guiding for the river cruises on the Garonne.  Hopefully this time will enable me finish the many draft posts I have started over the past year.  A couple things for my regular readers, who may only know me through this blog or who may be following me on facebook, twitter or Instagram. For the past couple years, I have been separated from my husband and we are currently in the midst of working through our divorce.  Yes, I'm choosing to stay in France for many reasons, so yes, this blog will continue, it's been and will continue to be a great way to share our life and show off this beautiful region.  Perhaps one day, when all is done, I'll write a post of how to get divorced in France -needles to say, I'm learning a lot.
I thought that for today the Citadel of Blaye would be a great place to share. (Perhaps it's my inner voice of battle and   The girls and I go there from time to time to walk around - it's located about 45 minutes Northeast of Bordeaux at the beginning of  the Garonne River.  The Citadel of Blaye is a Military complex  built between 1685-1689 and sits overlooking the Gironde estuary.  It was designed to control navigation from the Ocean heading to Bordeaux other points further upstream.and it complimented by forts on Block Island in the middle of the Estuary and Fort Medoc located directly across on the West bank.

The design and construction of this citadel was supervised by the famous military architect, Vauban and is an example of his well-know and recognizable star-shaped walls surrounding the fortress.  Inside is very much a "city within" with a church, various buildings, barracks, garrison and even remains of an old medieval castle.  Since 2008, this site as been classifies under UNESCO and is definitely a must see when you come to the area.
It's a beautiful place to wander around by yourself, with someone special or as a family.  You might even get lucky enough to time your visit with one of several festivals that are hosted inside the walls.  It's free to enter and on a nice day, one sees people relaxing on the grounds, or even picnicking on a blanket.  You can pay for a guided tour to understand more of its history and fun facts - or you can just wander around breathing in the countryside and beautiful views of the river.

Inside the cloisters of the church.  It's truly a city within itself and a fascinating part of history.

The final photo is taken from the citadel walls looking toward the village of Blaye.  I highly recommend spending some time here as it's located  so close to the Bordeaux.  Wishing everyone a wonderful day and hope you come back to read more.  Would love to hear from any of my readers, feel free to comment.

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