Six weeks in France are in the books and it seems like only yesterday that we were arriving to a surprisingly snowy Côte d’Azur. The idiom is definitely true: time flies when you are having fun. There is so much to take in, to learn, to do, to see, to eat, to buy, and to share and not nearly enough time. Within an hour radius of our house you could explore for years and never see everything, which is big problem for us- prioritizing our time, trips, and adventures. Where should we go next? What should we see?
This past week our explorations started in our own backyard. After five weeks of repeatedly telling the kids that the pool is too cold for swimming we gave them permission to get in. Only one of the three kids actually got into the pool deeper than their waist and that lasted all of 10 minutes. They haven’t asked us to get in the pool since. I think they realize now that Daddy was right, the pool was much too cold for swimming. Tip for parents with pools: don’t fight your kids when the water is too cold, just let them get in and learn for themselves.
On Saturday we headed up to Gréolières for some picnicking, exploring, cat petting (wait for it), and to mainly watch stage seven of the 2012 Paris-Nice. As you may remember in week three the girls and I stopped at the Gréolières ruins for some fresh air and to deny any looming motion sickness. When I found out that the Paris-Nice was heading through Greolieres I envisioned the open fields below the ruins as an ideal place to park and set up camp for a day.
Unofficial AYIF Fact: You have to own three cats per person (minimum) before you can live in a French village. Unlike normal American cats, they must also possess secret powers for seeking out the most desirable sunny spots and attracting the naive arms of willing tourists to stroke their fur. These french kitty powers tend to have a mesmerizing effect on my kids as they immediately drop everything and start petting these cats as if they have never petted a cat before. I haven’t told the girls yet, but I’m working on a poster: The Village Cats of the Côte d’Azur. Coming soon to a poster shop in an American mall near you.
For fear that that the gendarmerie would close the roads, we drove up to Gréolières about 4 hours before the cyclists were scheduled to arrive and spent that time walking around the upper and lower ruins as well as exploring the village, which we hadn’t done before. The photo below is a view from the upper ruins looking down toward the village. If you look closely you can see the green fields where we parked the car.
Guess what? Yet another French village cat. It’s a wonder that there are enough croissants to go around with all these cats needing to be fed. (On a side note, be sure and give @FreyDrew a +K because he has been a huge influential about Cats on @klout.)
After walking though the narrow streets of Gréolières for a few hours, we headed back to the car to eat lunch in the sun. The spot we picked for our picnic was absolutely beautiful- green fields, blooming trees, ruins above and below, a view of the village from above, mountains all around, and the occasional paraglider sailing over our heads. Our typical French picnic has come to consist of some fresh bread, cheese, and salami, topped off with a nice pastry or chocolate croissant- nothing fancy, but no one complains.
With a belly full of food and less than an hour until the cyclists were scheduled to cruise by, I walked over to the road and began looking for the best place to capture a few photos. After finding what I thought was a great spot and setting up my tripod, a storm of Paris-Nice race officials, gendarme, and team cars began ripping around the roads and clearing the way for the cyclists. Most of the pool photographers cruised right by the spot I had chosen, but one English fellow decided to stop and shoot only a few feet away. We spent the next 20 minutes chatting about the race, the south of France, Boulder, Le Chantecler (now Colterra), and what an American like myself was doing living in France. Moments later, the leaders were whizzing by with the excitement of the peloton and team cars not far behind. In a matter of minutes the race had come and gone, but the experience of the day and the race is something that our family will never forget.
I snapped these shots of the Paris-Nice peloton just below the ruins of Gréolières.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the photographer I was talking to was the renowned cycling photographer, Graham Watson. Graham’s images of cycling and in particular the Tour de France are a thing of beauty and it was great to spend a few minutes chatting with such an iconic figure in the cycling world. Graham posted the photo he took from the same location to twitter that evening.
After packing up, we took a different route than the race and tried to get up to the top of the Col de Vence before the riders, but we were too late. Instead we had to settle for a spot near the village of Coursegoules, but we found a great area near a bridge and again watched the riders as they sped by, although a little slower after climbing the Col de Vence.
After a memorable day, we drove over the Col de Vence, through Vence, by St Paul and then returned home to view this amazing sunset. We spent the rest of the weekend relaxing at home and enjoyed some drinks and social time with our neighbors and their kids on Sunday afternoon.
I ended week six with a business trip to London that literally flashed by in 36 hours. I was fortunate between business meetings to have a few hours to see some sights, drink a proper pint, and most importantly eat some quality food.