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Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday in Vence, City of Art and our home for another week

The vegetable lady
Back gate where I got MA into Vence old town

We decided to get out of the apartment today via the wheelchair I rented for Mary Alice.  We've had it a couple of days now and M.A. is used to it.  The weather was beautiful this morning; bright blue sky and temp in the low 70's.  MA wanted to get in the car, park in a pay parking lot and let me push her into the old village.  I convinced her I could handle the wheelchair on the incline and we could go into the old walled village through the back gate, about 40 yards from our apt.  After breakfast we began the task of getting up a stepped incline and 10 steps to the parking lot.  One of the residents, Stephen from Munich, Germany, helped us with the wheelchair and getting her to the parking lot.  At the parking lot all I had to do was push her into the old town.  The back gate is about 40 yards from the parking lot.
Coffee at Henry's

Once we got into the village and up to "Henry's" Nola was waiting for us.  We had coffee at their favorite table and watched the people go by.  It was "market day" in Vence and I excused myself and walked around the corner into the Friday market.  Local residents bring their vegetables and fruit, and other stuff into town, set up a table and sell their produce.  One of the ladies who I call "the vegetable lady" had the nicest lettuce and tomatoes.  I asked her if I could take her picture and she said yes, however she would not look at me.  I also got eggs and picked up a loaf of bread at the boulangerie.

Lunch at La Victorie

After Randy joined us at Henry's we decided to have lunch across the street at La Victorie.  The wait staff made room for MA's wheelchair and she and I split a Margarette pizza (cheese pizza).  It was good to get out of the apartment and good for MA's recovery.  She is doing fine and making progress every day.

The Vegetable Lady

French sausages

French cheese

Vence:  Old walled city

Monday, September 24, 2012

Aix en Provence: What happened?

Last Thursday, Mary Alice, Nola and I drove to Aix en Provence, a major city in Provence that is renowned for its fountains, university, and it's connection to Cezzane.  We arrived shortly after 12Noon, parked the rent car and we were strolling the Cours Miranbeau, a major pedestrian mall in the middle of the "old town" of Aix.  I suddenly heard MA yell, I looked back and saw her on the sidewalk with her lower left leg at a 90 degree to her upper left leg.  I knew immediately it was BAD.  Several Aix Municipal Police Officers came to our assistance and called for an ambulance.  It took several minutes but the paramedics arrived.  They straightened out MA's leg, loaded her onto a stretcher and put her into the ambulance.  I explained to the French officers that I was a retired police officer and they told the ambulance drivers to allow me to accompany MA to the hospital.  Normally only one person is allowed to ride with the injured party to the hospital but they extended a "police" courtesy and allowed both of us to go with her to the hospital.
Photo of MA & Nola just prior to MA's fall

She was taken to the Central Hospital du Pays de Aix, a university hospital on the north side of Aix. (P.S. if you're wondering how to pronounce the town, it's pronounced like a head ache, with out the head) "aches in provence."  So she was seen immediately in the ER, taken to X-ray, and diagnosis with torn ligaments in the knee and a small fracture of the knee cap.  It required surgery, a 4-5 day hospital stay and a long term rehab period.  We were lucky that Nola was with us as it allowed me to return to Vence (2 hours east of Aix) pick up some needed essentials and return the next morning, which I did.  MA had undergone surgery and she was in room 242 in the orthopedic wing of the hospital.  Nola had stayed with her during the entire time.  MA would be in the hospital for 4-5 days.  It would be 5 days because we went back to our apartment in Vence on Monday.
Aix Market day in Panorama
I can't say enough about the French medical staff of the hospital where M.A. was treated.  All the nurses and especially Dr. Braden for his care and attention to detail.  We were treated with compassion and kindness from everyone at the hospital.  MA recovered enough to travel on Monday.  We went to X-ray, and we check out.  We were trying to figure which credit card to put the bill on because we thought it would be quite  expensive.  We paid "$0" for all the care we received.  We could not believe it.  The 2 hour drive back to Vence was uneventful, except getting MA down from the parking lot to our apartment. She scooted along down several steps to #15.  We will take it easy until the flight home on October 6th.  I hope she will be more mobile than she is now.
The five days in Aix allowed me to explore the city on Sat and Sun morning as Mary Alice slept.  Aix is typically French with a huge market on Sat and smaller one on Sunday.  The streets are narrow allowing only  one car down "One Way" streets. I will post about 10/300 photos that I took on the two days exploring Aix on the blog and the rest I will put up on Smugmug later.

Church of St Espirit and the lighted pulpit
Two of the churches I found were the Church of St. Espirit and the St. Sauveur Cathedral.  This photo is of the pulpit at St. Espirit.  I just happened to be there around 11AM when the sunlight hit the front stained glass window and the refracted light hit the pulpit.  I thought it was a "neat affect".  God really does shine his light on the "word of God" as preached from

Saint Sauveur Cathedral

Cloister at Saint-Sauveur Cathedral

Stained Glass Window at St. Espirit Church

Wrought iron belfry 

Statues at the entrance door to Saint-Sauveur Cathedral

Organ instruction at Saint Sauveur Cathedral

Nothing like a fresh baked roll for breakfast

I gave this guy a 1E coin and he danced the jig for me.

Add caption

More Aix market 

The spice table at the Aix market

I don't know if I will be sending any more blogs this trip as we are in a recovery mode.  Comments  are welcomed.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Coaraze & Menton: Two very different villages

Wednesday, September 19th

MA's sister Nola joined us today for a trip to the two villages of Coaraze and Menton.  Coaraze is a perched village that we looked for last year but couldn't find.  The GPS did its thing and we were off toward the A8 east, the French equivalent of the Hardy Toll Road and then on to the D15.  We started climbing, and climbing, switchback after switchback, arriving at our destination.  Parking was easy and we began to explore.
The village is perched about 1300 feet above sea level.  It made the list as "one of the most beautiful villages of France.  Entering through the main gate is like a walk back in time 200 years with all the characteristics of a "perched village" like narrow cobblestone streets, hidden passages, a high wall encompassing the entire place making it easily defensible against pirates and invaders.

It is also known as the "sundial" village.  I counted at least ten but I'm sure I missed some.  We found the central church where people used to worship, also a very elaborate adjacent cemetery.  We know to look for a "lavoir" or outdoor laundry where fresh water flows into a basin and people washed their clothes.

Everywhere we looked we saw beautiful surrounding mountains and valleys, as well as many, many olive trees.  We passed by a very old French gentleman who tipped his hat to MA and Nola.  I caught up with him and pursuaded him to let me take his picture.  He smiled with a boyish grin and was off on his walk with his dog.

From Coaraze we drove back down the mountain stopping in Contes for lunch.  Then we were off to Menton on the coast.  This city is a modern seaside "French Riviera" vacation spot complete with traffic congested, tall $$$ condos and thousands of sunbathers.  We luckily found a place to park and walked down the boardwalk.  After an ice cream we headed back to Vence via Monte Carlo.  We'll save that for another day.  Later, WW


Lunch on the beach

Monte Carlo yacht fleet
This will be our last TWW update for a while.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Our Place in Vence: Le Fontaine Vielle / Tuesday 9-18

Greolieres on the side of a mtn.
MA's sister recommended the apartment we are in here in Vence. We decided on dates after September 15 when most of France has come and gone on their August vacations, therefore rates are friendlier.  The building is called Le Fontaine Vielle (The Old Fountain).  It is very, very old, but very very renovated with everything you could possibly want for a 3 week stay. We are on a narrow dead end street with a small parking lot enough for 6 vehicles.  I quickly learned to back in to our parking space in order to be able to exit back and onto the street, face forward. There's a lot of logic to having a "Smart Car" which we do not!

I used the small Canon to take a video from our patio that overlooks a deep gorge.

The apartment overlooks a deep gorge.  The grounds are very "garden like" with grape vines covering the walkway paths and patios.  The white grapes are actually good.  We even have a sand court for playing the traditional Provence game called boules.

There's a kitchen/living room, bedroom with king bed and bathroom and a very large front patio with a table for dining and chaise lounges for my naps!  MA and I went to the local grocery store yesterday and got all the essentials like really fresh vegetables for salads and some great French cheeses.  We enjoy our homemade dinners on the patio watching the sun call it a day. We have internet service and a TV with a lot of channels, only one I can understand, BBC.  Well, almost understand.

We drove up to Coursegoules this morning and picked up Nola and Randy.  The four of us made a day of it at a small village west of there named Greolieres.  After a walk around the village we had coffee and drove down the mountains through a deep gorge to Tourrettes-sur-Loup where Nola lived for many years back in the day!  We walked around there, I took some new photos for next year's exhibit at L'Alliance Francaise, then we found a cafe and had lunch.

Later this afternoon MA and I walked into town and found a store where she bought a 220 volt hair curler (one less thing to pack - take that Air Berlin!). Also I found two adapters for our 110 volt converters.  We finished the day off on the patio with a supper of soup and salad.  Tomorrow is another day and I have some plans for a village that we could not find last year. Nola is joining us and spending the night tomorrow, so the three Musketeers are "on the road again"!

Later, WW.............the rest are just photos from today, enjoy.

Church in Greolieres:  Typical Provence  cast iron bell tower

Decorative Window in Greolieres

Front of the Church in Greolieres

Sidewalk Cafe in Tourrettes sur Loup.....ready for lunch

Tourrettes home decorated with flowers

Lavender door in Tourrettes

There was an art class painting this street in Tourrettes.

Church in Tourrettes, Interior

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Journey to Vence

The Journey to Vence:  via New York, Munich, Dusseldorf, and Nice

Mary Alice (MA) and I left Houston on September 11th.  Since then we have traveled far and had some challenges.  So here we go!

Our first flight was to New York and then on the Munich getting in fairly early Wednesday.  We quickly located the S-Bahn red and white train that whizzed us on into Munich, in fact 3 blocks from our hotel.  These things do not happen “automatically”. I may be the family photographer but M.A. is the travel planner in charge of planning ahead!

The next flight from Munich to Nice would be two days later on Air Berlin. We were seriously warned on their website not to show up with any checked luggage weighing over 50 lbs or your ONE and only ONE carry-on no more than 13 lbs.  This meant a very small bag only for my camera and one of the three lenses.  The other two were carefully sitting in my vest pockets. 
Anyhow back to the beginning, the flight to NY was uneventful except for the approach to the airport which takes you down the Hudson with the Big Apple on the left.  My camera was in the overhead so no pictures but it’s a wonderful sight to behold.  The beginnings of the new World Trade Center tower are becoming very visible from the air.

The flight on to Munich was good; MA slept most of the way.  I watched movies like the “Hunger Games”.  Our daughter-in-law Sue and two oldest grandchildren have read the book and raved about it.  I, of course, was cheering on the young woman who could shoot a bow better than any man and I liked the ending.  The other movie was “Dr. Strangelove” a classic Stanley Kubric masterpiece about an Air Force general launching a nuclear attack on the Soviets.  The plot is dramatic but the movie is actually a comedy.  The most memorable scene is when Woody Allen (President of US) tells his AF Chief of Staff (Geo. C. Scott) who BTW is wrestling with the Russian Ambassador, anyhow the President announces: “No fighting allowed in the War Room!”

It was raining in Munich, most of our first day there.  Munich customs was nothing.  We got our passports stamped and we were out the door.  As it was 11 am in the morning and we could not check in until 1 pm so we decided to leave our bags at the hotel and see some of the sites. 

We love the Hop-on Hop-off bus for getting a grand overview of a new city but as it was raining we just rode around and did not hop-off.  On the 90 minute tour in the rain I did not take a single photo.  I would make up for it the next day.  We got back to the hotel around 2pm and got checked in, got up to the room and I lay down and took a good long nap.

We were given a great recommendation for a restaurant for dinner, Park Cafe Hofbrau, so we walked there and back and called it a night for almost 10 hours of sleep. The next day we grabbed the underground and headed for Marientplaz where those famous musical clocks perform.  MA found the Apple store while we waited for the clocks to begin and she was delighted to have all that free WiFi.
Holy Spirit Church: Munich

The next day we were up and at it by 5am, train to airport; find Air Berlin with our 50/13 pound bags.  All our concern about the carryon was for nothing.  MA even asked the agent if she was going to weigh the bags and she didn’t even glance at them, nor did the check-in agent at the gate, nor did the flight attendants.  So on we went to Nice via Dusseldorf.

The landing approach to Nice is truly a sight to behold, the beaches, the yachts, the fancy hotel buildings, absolutely stunning.  We were meeting MA’s son Jim at the airport because he was arriving nearby on a train from Geneva.  His wife Sue was already in Nice staying with MA’s sister Nola.  No problem finding Jim (He’s 6’5”).   However, our luggage failed to appear and truth be told, I was more than upset.  For one thing, to keep carryon weight down I had reluctantly packed my precious laptop in one of the checked bags.

MA had arranged for a rental car through Hertz about a month ago.  After waiting in line the Hertz gal said she had only and economy car left as all the others had been rented.  I asked her what kind of car was it and she said it was very "French" and it got good gas mileage.
Citron CV2, great gas mileage!

I’ll shorten all this, the bags were delivered a day later, everything was just fine, and we changed out of the clothes we had been wearing since we left.  Everyone met at our hotel and on we went to St. Paul de Vence, and charming and very old city.  From there back to Vence, dinner at La Victoire and we all called it a night.

Second day we headed toward the center of Nice, had a great lunch, got our feet wet in the beautiful blue Mediterranean, drove on to Ville Franche, and portside city, back to Vence, steak dinners, and now it was Sunday.
On Sunday we were guests of our dear Air France friends Chantal and Michel who had recently purchased a lovely apartment 3 blocks from the beach at Juans les Pins. We had snacks there, went out all of us for lunch, then loaded onto Michel’s boat for a ride over to Antibes where all the big yachts are.

This morning we got Jim and Sue to the train station and waved them adieu on to Paris where they’ll spend about 14 hours and then on home to the their much missed children.

MA and I checked into our apartment which we will call home for the next 20 days or so.  We spent a lot of time in the local supermarche buying groceries for our stay, reading labels in French, trying to figure out how to say things like “bacon”.  We’re taking it day by day from this point on so I will close by saying the weather is beautiful, 75 degrees, blue skies, just how we remembered it.

Won’t be so long-winded next time, lot to catch up on for our memory book!  Later, WW
View from our apt.