Trip to the south - last part...

To finish my trip to the south of France, to meet sun and friends, I returned to the Menton region – for the third time since I started blogging. There are several reasons to go there -  the beauty of the landscape is of course one and another, the most important  one, was to again meet blogger friend Jilly.  Have a look on her sites here, about Menton, about Monte Carlo, about her dog friends

I already made two posts about the little city Menton, so this time I will just show you the looks of the new Jean Cocteau Museum and of the beautiful covered market.

Actually Jilly’s home I just behind Menton, up on the hills, close to the wonderful village Gorbio. With a long history from the time of the Templars and the Crusades, this little village is today one of the best examples of what you expect a village in the south of France to look like. Watch the elm on the central place, planted in 1713 – celebrating its 300 years anniversary by special festivities this summer.

Jilly took me on a ride into Italy, so close, along the Ligurian coast. Menton and Gorbio are almost on the border and are French only since 1860.

We visited first Bussana Vecchia. A few kilometers up on the hills (see top picture), this little village was hit by an earthquake in 1887, killing some 2000 people. The village, largely destroyed, was abandoned, until after WWII when some immigrants from southern Italy moved in, soon expelled by police forces. Later, since the 1960’s, artists from all of Europe - and despite continued “fights” with authorities - work and live here. 

The two churches lost their roofs. A church tower remains….

No chance for a car to enter the village.

We visited a few art galleries…

… and met a number of dogs, cats, some hens and a cock.

We then drove down to the coast, to San Remo, a central city on the Italian Riviera, today known for its music festival and many other cultural events, during the 19th century a place of resort for the Austrian Empress “Sissi”, the Russian Tsar family, Alfred Nobel…  There are still a few palaces left, a casino, an orthodox church… ,

… but once again, the nicest part is perhaps the narrow streets behind the sea front. 


The trip in the south continues...

Still abandoning Paris… for a while.

My trip in the south continued in the direction of Marseille. Here are some general views of the water front, around the “Vieux Port “ and some landmarks… the Cathedral, the Notre-Dame-de la Garde Basilica, the cupola of the former almshouse “La Vielle Charité”, the Town Hall.

Marseille - and the surrounding Provence region - is a European Capital of Culture in 2013. New museums and temporary exhibition space have been built, to a large extent to be found on the waterfront. 

The inner part of the “Vieux Port” has got a mirror roof, a nice place to hide on from too hot sun (or possibly rain).

The result of these efforts seems to be that the city centre, including the “Canebière”, is full of visitors; good for the city.

The entrance to the 19th century music hall “Alcazar” has been saved, but it now opens to a municipal library.

What I personally prefer is to walk around on the narrow streets in the old quarters, feel the atmosphere, possibly eat a local (thin, excellent) pizza, possibly have a pastis…

After Marseille, with the sun setting, we followed the coast in the direction of La Ciotat.

With blogger and travel friend Alain we were invited by a new friend, Sylvie, met during our recent Senegal cruise.

An important shipyard at La Ciotat was closed in 1987, but some of the infrastructure remains as some kind of memorial. New naval activities specializing in yachting is progressively taking over the space. Some nice examples of yachts of all sizes can be found in the port.

La Ciotat also offers some wonderful “criques” (see also top picture)...  

… and, behind the port, some nice old streets and alleys.

The Lumière brothers, who invented cinematography, had their summer residence in La Ciotat and some of the world’s first movies (1895) were filmed here,.. 

... e.g. “The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat”…

… and the world’s first movie comedy, “The Sprinkler Sprinkled”.

One afternoon we took a tour to the hinterland, visiting medieval villages like Le Castellet, La Cadière-d’Azur… surrounded by the Bandol vineyards. 


Most of the wisterias were gone, but...

I was away south… so I cannot resist against some non-Paris posts.

My first destination was Sète, where I met blogger friend Alain. I already posted about this little town, so I just show some pictures from our sailing on Alain’s boat, in very light winds.

We made some nice visits in the beautiful hinterland. Here are some shots from the 11th century “Pont du Diable” (Devil’s Bridge), built by Benedictine monks. It’s a World Heritage Site, part of the Santiago de Compostella Route. Why such a name, given also to some other old bridges? There are different versions. One of them just says that these bridges were built under difficult conditions with the Devil as adversaire. 

The bridge leads you to Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert with its Abbey  with origins from the early 9th century. Part of the cloister was moved to the Manhattan Fort Tryon Park and its cloisters museum.

We also visited the Salagou Lake, as most French lakes, an artificial one, created by the end of the 1960’s.

Another stop was at Pézenas, a very nice city, maybe especially known for having been the home of Molière’s “Illustre Théatre” during some years in the 1650’s. Molière failed in Paris in the beginning of his career and his reputation was based on his years in this region … which allowed him obtain the favour of Louis XIV and to return to Paris. His statue is of course to be seen.

One particular detail is this old gate in a narrow street.

We also made an overnight stop in the Minervois region, invited by friends to Alain.

There are some charming villages, including Minerve, which has given its name to the region. You may note that the river has made its own tunnel.

In addition to wine, the region is also known for its marble. Quarrying has been undertaken here for centuries and especially its red marble is known, although you also find other shades. To see this marble polished, you may go to Versailles and elsewhere. There are several quarries around. We visited one which today is only occasionally exploited – by Italians from Carrare . An abandoned windmill previously served to cut the marble.

When having dinner one night on the beach of Sète I observed these fast-flying gnats … and tried different exposures. :-)

(Next episode will be about places closer to Marseille.)