Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Côte d’Azur’ Category

the birthplace of christianity & l’abbaye saint-victor de marseille

“If you’ve been to France, chances are you haven’t been here, France’s second-largest city, the oldest city in France. It sits right by the Mediterranean. The food is famously good. Yet it’s a victim of bad reputation, bad history. Marseille—as it turns out, exactly the kind of place I like.” –Anthony Bourdain

One things leads to another.

Anthony Bourdain died June 8 in Kaysersberg, France.

When I heard the news, I recalled his episode about Marseille from Parts Unknown (Season 6, episode 2) on Netflix.

That meant rewatching Anthony Bourdain and chef Eric Ripert sitting outside the Café de l’Abbaye, sipping pastis and enjoying the sun.

That reminded me of the many times when I was strolling that area of Marseille, and I had eventually had sat à la terrace at the same Café de l’Abbaye and had sipped a pastis.

That reminded me of some photos I had taken during a visit to l’abbaye Saint-Victor de Marseille nearby.

I have read that the Abbaye is one of the most popular tourist sites in Marseille.  I am not convinced.   It is not easily accessible.  Parking is difficult.  I have not yet visited the interior of the abbey when it has been crowded.  I have often walked the tomb-like rooms alone.

I am not prepared to give an accounting of my visits.  I can say I am fascinated with the place because of its age, its history.  (It is best to learn that history by reading about it in French.)

If only I had a guide, someone to tell me what I was seeing, to explain the different construction levels.

I can share some pictures though and a YouTube video.

Looking up I was impressed with the vaulted ceiling and the sunlight that burst and illuminated the interior. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

But wait, there’s more!

the walls of the ghost citadel of entrevaux, france

“For I perceived that man’s estate is as a citadel: he may throw down the walls to gain what he calls freedom, but then nothing of him remains save a dismantled fortress, open to the stars. And then begins the anguish of not-being.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Citadelle

Entrevaux was founded in the 11th century by the inhabitants of Glandèves, an ancient Roman town. It was heavily fortified by King François I in the mid 16th century and by King Louis XIV towards the end of the 17th century, in order to defend France from the Savoie invaders.”

Entrevaux, or ‘between valleys,” is one of many small, easily accessible, medieval villages up the Var valley from Nice, France.  It is situated, as the name suggests, between two valleys on the Var river.  It can be reached by car, but I prefer taking the small gage train, the Chemin de Fer de Provence, from a Nice train station.

Nice has two train stations.  Most travelers know the Gare de Nice-Ville on Avenue Thiers that is used by the TER, Intercity, and TGV lines.

A second station, a private one, is the Gare des Chemin de Fer at 4 Bis Rue Alfred Binet in Nice.  From here one will take the Chemin de Fer de Provence inland to Entrevaux.  It goes as far as Dignes-les-Bains, which is, incidentally, the setting where Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables begins.

I like visiting Entrevaux for a few reasons.  During lunch I will always order an entrée with some secca de bœuf, or secca d’Entrevaux, “a type of dried salted beef made in Entrevaux.  Similar to the Swiss Bindenfleisch, it is typically eaten as a starter.”  I adore the small bridge, the “royal gate,” that crosses the Var and leads into the village.  It helped to protect Entrevaux from invaders.  Finally, my favorite reason for going is the Citadel that stands above the village and provides a commanding view of both valleys.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

But wait, there’s more!

uncanny wall art in cannes, les murs peints

When I think of Cannes in southern France, the film festival comes to mind, of course. In the spring articles appear in the papers announcing the jury and the list of films to be shown. Cate Blanchett is the “president” of this year’s jury (2018).

Sometimes I hear someone pronounce the word “Cannes,” and I cringe. Too often tourists say “cahn” instead of “can”. Granted, the “a” in “Cannes” in French is pronounced not as flat as the “a” in “can,” when it is spoken by an American. Listen to Rick Steves, the American travel writer. He mispronounces it eight times in one video.

There is more to Cannes than the Festival de Cannes and the trivial concerns about mispronouncing its name.

All over Cannes one can find wall art, les murs peints. The paintings are not graffiti. They are commissioned pieces. The artists are established, recognized.

The walls are sometimes painted with “realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimension,” or trompe-l’oeil (deceiving the eye).

(Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!

jetties stick out, don’t they

JETTY “a landing stage or small pier at which boats can dock or be moored; a breakwater constructed to protect or defend a harbor, stretch of coast, or riverbank.”

JETÉE « Construction formant une chaussée qui s’avance dans l’eau, destinée à protéger un port, à limiter un chenal. »

Walk from Antibes to Juan-les-Pins in the early morning or late afternoon and stroll along the board walk—la promenade—toward Golfe-Juan. Look to the Mediterranean Sea, one cannot help it, of course, and admire the many jetties that jut from the shore line.

« Ce qui m’a déterminé à publier ce livre, c’est que souvent, étant à Rome, j’ai désiré qu’il existât. Chaque article est le résultat d’une promenade, il fut écrit sur les lieux ou le soir en rentrant. » —Stendhal, Promenades dans Rome, Avertissement.

I suggest the early morning or late afternoon hours, because the sun is more pleasant then, and when the shadows contour the jetties.

« On a fait (…) des jetées de pierre, qui s’avancent fort loin dans la mer (…) » —Racine, Explication des médailles, iii.

One can, of course, stay in a hotel in Juan-les-Pins and not walk there from Antibes over the small hill. I would not recommended it though for several reasons. (I will leave it at that for the moment.)

« Je serais bien l’enfant abandonné sur la jetée partie à la haute mer, le petit valet, suivant l’allée dont le front touche le ciel. » —Arthur Rimbaud, Enfance

The bay of Golfe-Juan is broad; the shore line sweeps from Cap d’Antibes in an arc toward the town, Golfe-Juan, and there a hill stops abruptly the sweep as a road rises and heads for Cannes.

« Les deux jetées de Dunkerque qui prolongent le quai du port s’avancent loin dans la mer. Les gens de la noce occupaient toute la largeur de la jetée du nord, et ils atteignirent bientôt une petite maisonnette située à son extrémité, où veillait le maître du port. » —Jules Verne, Un hivernage dans les glaces, p. 221.

Along the beach from Cap d’Antibes to Golf-Juan are many jetties, unimpeded, free for exploration. I offer six.

(Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)