432 Photos - Aug 27, 2012
Photo: A Labor Day departure, a three-hours-too-long layover in Zurich, a one-hour flight to Nice, and a short car ride to the outskirts of Grasse brings us to this B&B, where our host Monique (formerly an Air France flight attendant) has lived for 22 years.Photo: We did not know the meaning of the word Bergamote, which we would discover on our last morning here (foreshadowing …).Photo: There are nice views from the front terrace into the surrounding countryside.Photo: The home’s lower level, which also houses guest rooms (we are on the upper floor).Photo: What passes for a two-lane road in rural France can be quite surprising for we Americans, but we’ve seen this often enough before to not be surprised. We are on a small dead-end road, and without the expert guidance of our trusty GPS (“Madame La Carte” [The Map Lady], now 4 years old - ancient by GPS standards!). I’m not sure how we would have found our way here - or to many of our destinations, for that matter.Photo: We wound our way around such roads for two weeks, and a bit over 1100 miles, in this very comfortable Renault Megane.Photo: Just down our little Chemin de Roumiguires (never did figure out the origin of that word) was this reminder that we are indeed in a Mediterranean climate.Photo: A final look into the surrounding countryside, before a well-earned night’s sleep.Photo: Day 2, and let the touring begin! We wind our way north, picking up some elevation on the way to our first stop.Photo: And here it is up ahead - the village of Gourdon, a nice “perched village” (at 2500 feet) carrying the One of the Most Beautiful Villages of France designation, a number of which we would see on our travels. (You would expect tourists to go to the least beautiful ones?)Photo: Gourdon window. (Given my known interest - OK, OK, obsession - with French windows, a number of these will be appearing in this album.)Photo: We are here in the French Department (there are 101 of these administrative areas) of Alpes-Maritimes, whose rugged hills, as here, can extend very close to the Mediterranean coast.Photo: Gourdon windows.Photo: There are nice views into the surrounding countryside of the Loup river valley.Photo: Tourism is the largest industry of the Alpes-Maritimes, and Gourdon is no exception - although as our first morning stop, the village is not yet completely awake for “licking the windows” (as the French call window shopping).Photo: Gourdon windows.Photo: Gourdon window.Photo: The small Ste-Catherine church dates from the 12th century, with extensive 17th century alterations.Photo: Preserved in the church is the 19th century clockworks.Photo: A final look into the countryside, and we’re on our way down.Photo: Our next stop is Pont du Loup, with the Loup (wolf) river flowing gently by here. It’s not even large enough to be called a village - it’s official designation is a “lieu dit,” a “named place.”Photo: The attraction here is this artisinal candy/jelly operation, but note the concrete pier at back center right - the remains of the 1892 bridge (pont) which is no longer here, having been destroyed in WW II by retreating German troops. The building, at that time a perfume operation, was also heavily damaged, and afterwards rebuilt for its current use.Photo: In the lobby is this impressive 19th century armoire.Photo: Here is the room where the fresh fruits and other ingredients (like rose petals) are received and initially processed - small batches, as can be seen by the copper kettles at the rear.Photo: More operations here, including jelly processing (note the stack of cans at center left).Photo: Here the starting point for hard candies, where the hot mixture is poured out to a thin sheet onto the table at the rear.Photo: The still-warm sheet is passed through these rollers to stamp out the lozenge shapes common for such candies. The tour is interesting, and (as I’m sure they know) with the free tastings at the end, we don’t leave the gift shop without some goodies: cans of jellies in both mandarin and rose petal flavors.Photo: We intend to stop at the picturesque village of Tourrettes-sur-Loup, but it turns out to be market day there - which we know from experience is a good time to see a provincial market, but often a bad one to see the town (congestion from the market crowds). So, we move on instead to Vence, our first return visit from our only other Cote d’Azur visit 6 years ago (that one in December). We’re here on the Place du Grand Jardin, where the daily market is just ending. We’ll shortly have lunch in one of the tented outside cafes across the street.Photo: I sometime get a request from Mme to take such a picture for fashion ideas.Photo: We move on to the 15th century Old Town, which is well marked with historic plaques like this one.Photo: The quality of the water in the nearby fountain is well documented indeed.Photo: A quiet corner in the Old Town.Photo: Looking down one of the narrow Old Town lanes.Photo: Vence window.Photo: A central feature in the Old Town is the Cathedral of the Birth of the Virgin. The original structure is from the 4th century, on the site of an older Roman temple, but it has been modified many times over the centuries, to its present blend of Romanesque and Baroque styles.Photo: Another quiet corner in the Old Town.Photo: Vence window.Photo: Vence window.Photo: The ochre-colored City Hall on Place Clemenceau is celebrating its 100th birthday. We assume that the red and yellow flag next to the French red-white-and-blue Tricolore is the Departmental (Alpes-Maritimes) one. We also usually see the white-stars-on-blue European Union flag, but none is apparent here.Photo: For our last stop of the day, we finally make our way to the Mediterranean at Antibes - originally Antipolis when founded by the Greeks in the 4th century BCE. Our car park is in the bustling modern section of the city here at General de Gaulle Square.Photo: It’s a very short walk into the winding streets of the Old Town, here along the main Rue de la Republique.Photo: City Hall in the Old Town on Place Massena. Note the open wrought iron belfry at top - very common in this area, where stone structures would be easily damaged by the strong coastal winds.Photo: The Old Port and adjacent Port Vauban make up the largest yachting harbor in Europe, capable of mooring more than 2000 vessels, some as long as 500 feet.Photo: The ramparts and fortifications date from the Middle Ages, when fortifying such key ports became an important tasks for French kings.Photo: Fort Carre was the work of the noted French military engineer Vauban (1633-1707), who in the 1680’s fortified an earlier structure, whose 4 bastions gave it the Square Fort name. We’ve seen some of Vauban’s vast body of work in other places, such as Concarneau (Brittany) and Entrevaux (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence).Photo: Gravette Beach is popular even on a late weekday afternoon.Photo: Some of the oversized yachts which call on the port here.Photo: A closer view of the Old Town near the beach, with the church tower at center.Photo: Old Town doorway.Photo: The Church of the Immaculate Conception and its 11th century watchtower, built of stones taken from earlier Roman structures (and thus the reason the town lacks Roman ruins, as they were “mined” for later buildings).Photo: The restored 18th century church façade.Photo: The church interior, with small windows typical of the period.Photo: And a final look down an Old Town street, completing the busiest day (by number of stops) of our two week stay.Photo: Our third day begins in Eze, the most popular (and therefore probably most commercial) of the Cote d’Azur perched villages. Here is the view from the parking lot, up to the chateau ruins (destroyed by Louis XIV’s troops in 1706) at the top.Photo: Never seem to miss a picture of City Hall …Photo: Looking up the ramparts, to the tower of Our Lady of the Assumption Church, completed in 1772.Photo: One of the medieval gates on the way up. The fortifications date from the late 14th century onward, under the rule of the House of Savoy. Eze finally became part of France in 1860.Photo: A typical view of the village’s narrow lanes.Photo: And another (less commercial).Photo: Now making our way up to the chateau summit.Photo: Surrounding the summit is the Exotic Garden, with many succulent plants, designed by the agronomist Jean Gastauud in 1949.Photo: The view inland from the summit.Photo: The summit view down to the church, whose plain exterior contrasts with the interior ornamentation.Photo: Now at the very summit (1400 feet) looking down the Mediterranean towards Nice.Photo: The view down towards the modern part of the village (population about 3000).Photo: The Garden contains some interesting statuary, here the Earth Goddesses.Photo: More on the Goddesses, and their creator, Jean-Philippe Richard. The plaque notes that his work explores the “mysteries of femininity” - a guaranteed approach to long-term employment!Photo: A short history of the chateau, the English version apparently coming from a very early version of Google Translate.Photo: Some name dropping on this plaque, on the many writers and celebrities who found their way here. In addition to those named, Walt Disney is said to have spent quite some time here.Photo: There is also a portion of Eze along the seaside, with the path down reportedly about a 45 minute walk (no word from this end about the duration of the ascent …).Photo: Eze windows.Photo: Eze window.Photo: Eze window.Photo: The church interior is quite Baroque, and includes trompe l’oeil paintings. There is even an Egyptian cross - a reminder that the village dates back to the time of the Phoenicians, who worshipped the goddess Isis.Photo: A final view from lower in the village, over some cafe umbrellas to the surrounding hillside.Photo: Back to sea level, and the charming little fishing port of Villefranches-sur-Mer . The town name comes from the late 13th century, when Charles II, Duke of Anjou (then Count of Provence) enticed the area residents to settle close to the coastline to secure the area from pirates. He established Villefranche as a “free port” - thus the name - granting tax privileges and port fee rights that lasted into the 18th century. It changed hands a number of times before becoming part of France in 1860.Photo: The waterfront area here, Port de la Sante (Health Harbor, hmm...) is deceptive, as it is quite deep, and so a popular mooring spot for the largest yachts of royalty and the super-rich.Photo: Now making our way into the seaside Old Town.Photo: It’s a typical maze of narrow streets, as here along the Rue du Poilu.Photo: Looking up one of the many stairways to the 18th century Baroque St. Michael’s Church.Photo: Outside the commercial center of Old Town, the streets become quiet indeed.Photo: The are many cafes right on the water, but with noticeably higher prices that just one block in (location, location, location …), so we opt for the latter - nicely shady, but still with a pleasant see breeze.Photo: An especially nice lunch today, starting with Niçoise Salad and escargots.Photo: Then salmon and calimari, both in a Provencal style with a sauce of tomatoes, garlic, carrots, and zucchini. Now, we arrived physically several days ago, but (as on many of our trips) this is the moment when I have the distinct sensation of truly - body, mind, spirit - having fully landed. A very pleasant sensation indeed. …Photo: We enter the recently restored Citadelle St-Elme, from the mid-16th century.Photo: The defensive fortifications are impressive.Photo: The restoration was completed 30 years ago, and the interior now houses the city offices and several art galleries.Photo: And here, in one of the interior courtyards. some of the art.Photo: The town rises to an altitude of 1750 feet, with the Mont Alban Fort occupying some of that high ground. The citadel was erected in the mid-16th century by Duke Emmanuel Philibert to secure the area, following a sack and occupation of the city by the Franco-Turkish armies.Photo: Large cruise ships like this are common in the area, and we did meet some Americans in Eze taking a day trip from one such vessel.Photo: And our visit here concludes with a picture of one more city hall. We intended to make a stop at St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, an especially luxurious seaside town, but parking proved difficult, and we felt fully satisfied with our time in Villefranche, so we wrapped up the day’s touring here.Photo: Friday finds us in Cannes, where we park right under the Palais des Festivals, where the Cannes Film Festival is held annually. This week, however, it’s crowded with people, boats, and boat tschotskes of all sorts - but not of much interest to us.Photo: During the film festival, stars are frequently photographed on these steps.Photo: The walk along the La Croisette beachside promenade includes many such handprints of the stars, such as this one of Julie Andrews.Photo: Lots of French stars, of course, such as Jean-Paul Belmondo.Photo: And here, Catherine Deneuve. I can just picture it: the young Catherine, removing her hands from the impression, and washing them with a local floral olive oil soap in scented water, then coming slowly towards me, and reaching out with those hands to gently but firmly caress my   <<error: allowable character limit exceeded>>Photo: Here, looking over the boat show tents crowding the Old Port up to the town’s historic district, Le Suquet.Photo: The Cannes waterfront has quite a number of very upscale hotels.Photo: The La Croisette area also has, of course, numerous shops, boutiques, and cafes.Photo: Memorials like this can be found in towns far smaller than Cannes, reminding us of the devastation in both damage and death suffered by the country in WW I in particular.Photo: And up we go to Le Suquet, by the Tower Staircase.Photo: The medieval Chateau de la Castre (from the Latin castrum: castle) now houses a museum.Photo: There are fine views into the town from this elevation.Photo: And also of the Old Port, where a number of tents of the boat show (Festival de la Plaisance) can be seen at middle left.Photo: Close inspection of the Old Port moorings reveals no shortage of mega-yachts here.Photo: Another view over Cannes’ rooftops towards the bay.Photo: Cannes is home to a number of opulent 19th century villas, typically with Italian-style or medieval castle themes, and I think we’ve spotted one here at high zoom.Photo: Also in the historic quarter is L’Eglise de Notre-Dame de l’Esperance (Our Lady of Good Hope Church - a common church name in a port town, as a symbol of safe travels for sailors and seamen). The church construction started in 1521, but was not completed until 1641.Photo: A typical example of a plaque in the local dialect.Photo: There are a number of oversized murals in Cannes celebrating the film industry - this may be one of them, but we’re not sure who’s being celebrated here.Photo: Cannes windows.Photo: Cannes window.Photo: Here on the bus station, this giant mural clearly celebrates the film industry - close inspection will reveal a number of well-known actors and their movies.Photo: And we bid farewell to Cannes by way of one of the giant brightly wrapped bon-bons to be found around town.Photo: Our original plan was to drive right to Saint-Tropez, but at Monique’s suggestion, we instead park across the Saint-Tropez Bay at Sainte-Maxime, for a nice lunch at this beachside resto.Photo: And by beachside, we mean this view right across the street.Photo: Even the local pigeons are enjoying the sun and water today.Photo: Sainte-Maxime is a pleasant family-oriented beach town. The scene here is quite a contrast from that on August 15, 1944, when the beach of Sainte-Maxime was at the focus of Operation Dragoon, the invasion and liberation of the Southern France during WW II.Photo: On the waterfront at the small Old Town is La Tour Carree (Square Tower) - built by the monks (who came from the Lerins Islands outside Cannes to found the village around 1000 AD, building a monastery and naming the village after one of their Saints) in the early 16th century to protect the village from invaders.Photo: In the beach waters is this small floating dock, which would be equally at home at many US beaches.Photo: And here comes our ride to Saint-Tropez!Photo: And off we go, leaving Sainte-Maxime in our wake.Photo: It’s only 20 minutes across the bay, and so Saint-Tropez comes quickly into view. The town name comes from the Roman officer Torpes. Legend has it that his conversion to Christianity angered the emperor, who had him beheaded and set adrift in a small boat, which some time later made landfall here.Photo: We pass this tall ship as we approach the harbor.Photo: No, not one of those mega-yachts common here, but instead a very serious looking French naval vessel.Photo: At the port is this reproduction (which we have seen elsewhere) of this famous declaration by General De Gaulle in June, 1940: “To All French people. France has lost a battle! But France has not lost the war! The government has surrendered, giving in to panic, forgetting honor, and delivering the country into servitude. Nevertheless, nothing has been lost! Nothing has been lost, because this war is a worldwide one. In free places, immense forces have not yet acted. One day, these forces will erase the enemy. On that day, France will be given its victory. Then, she will find again her freedom and her grandeur. Such is my purpose, my only purpose! This is why I invite all French, wherever they find themselves, to unite with me in action, sacrifice, and hope. Our homeland is in danger of death. All struggle to save it! Long live France!”Photo: There is quite a bit of interesting art in town; we’ll see more in this style.Photo: As expected, there is some very serious boatage around. I wonder how many days of mooring charges here would deplete our life savings …Photo: Parking along the Old Port (with its many restos and shops) clearly shows the preferred transportation for navigating the town’s narrow and busy streets.Photo: The Old Town contains, as is typical, narrow lanes like this one.Photo: The town church is from the 18th century, replacing an earlier beachside one. The statue above the door is Torpes, in his Roman centurion attire.Photo: A mature olive tree graces a small town square.Photo: The Porte du Revelen (from 1550) has sharp, narrow bends (chicanes) as part of its defensive structure. This part of town became the preferred location for post-WW II celebrities, including Brigitte Bardot (some of whose scenes for And God Created Woman were shot in this area).Photo: The Jarlier Tower (1564) marks the corner of the village that historically separated the interior (protected) areas from the rapidly expanding more dangerous areas situated outside the wallsPhoto: Saint-Tropez windowsPhoto: This series of arches is along one side of the Misericordia Chapel (1635), where a religious order ministered to the sick and to prisoners, and conducted funerals, until the mid-19th century.Photo: In a more modern part of town is the Place des Lices, home to the weekly markets on Tuesday & Saturday.Photo: Petanque is said to be played every day of the year on this square, and today is the finals of a tournament.Photo: Now back at the Old Port, looking over to the 15th century Portalet Tower and ramparts.Photo: Wrapping up our time in Saint-Tropez, we find another sculpture in this patina-and-gold style; interesting …Photo: Then a ferry back to Sainte-Maxime, and some nice roadside scenery on the way back. There are some interesting towns off the bay in this area; maybe next time …Photo: Our last Cote d’Azur day starts in the resort town of Menton (“The Pearl of France”), located very close to the Italian border, here on the small square which includes City Hall.Photo: Said City Hall is a lively place on Saturday, with civil weddings taking place in rapid succession, including those for women of a certain age, as they say. The Marriage Room here Is renowned for its design by noted artist-poet-filmmaker Jean Cocteau.Photo: The wedding crowds fill the square and street in front of the building.Photo: Well, I’ve lost track of which one of Menton’s multiple small churches and chapels this one is.Photo: There are, of course, numerous fine hotels in town only a short walk from the beaches.Photo: On the way to the beach, we spot this nice piece of tile art on a local building.Photo: The beaches along Sun Bay are uncrowded on a mid-September Saturday.Photo: We get our first reminder here that clothing-optional is common on French beaches. However, US Internet regulations prevent any further images or discussion in this area …Photo: Above the casino, we get our first view of St. Michael’s Church and the adjacent Immaculate Conception Chapel, probably the most photographed symbols of Menton.Photo: A better view up the hill to Old Menton, which we will visit in a bit.Photo: The medieval (1636) defensive bastion, with its 4 tiny watchtowers, is now home to the Jean-Cocteau museum.Photo: The port is east of Old Menton, on Garavan Bay.Photo: The pedestrian-only streets of Old Town just off the bay are crowded with shops and restos.Photo: And on a sunny Saturday, with people too!Photo: Menton is well known for its citrus output, and hosts its well-known Lemon Festival every February - a multi-week party of music, dancing, and parades. These Menton lemons are 1 euro each (about $1.40), but are guaranteed to weigh at least a half-pound.Photo: We have lunch at a nice cafe along the pedestrian route.Photo: But not here …Photo: The marriages at City Hall are finished for the day, but the paper rose petal confetti lingers on.Photo: Menton windows.Photo: Now making our way to Old Menton, and passing these colorful homes on the hillside below.Photo: This colorful bit of art at the base of the stairway leading to St. Michael’s church commemorates the 50th anniversary of Menton’s chamber music festival, held annually in August.Photo: The several staircases leading up to St. Michael’s Church all have this mosaic-like pattern of small stones (typically turned on edge, for longer wear).Photo: This plaque gives little of the history of the staircases, whose construction started in 1753. The lower one is named for the church itself, and two upper ones carry the names of two parish priests (Ortmans and Gouget). As the plaque notes: “These diverging staircases confer a theatrical dimension to the whole of the square and its two churches.”Photo: Menton door, with the traditional alcove-and-saint (here, Madonna and Child) above, which was offered to spare the household from the plagues and other unpleasantness of medieval times.Photo: Now on the square, with the twin towers of St. Michael’s church (left) and the Immaculate Conception chapel (right).Photo: The view from the square down to the Plages des Sablettes (Hmm … Little Sands Beaches?)Photo: The Church main door. Construction started in 1619, but the tower was not completed until 1702. The annual chamber music festival is held on the square in front of the church.Photo: Farther up the church façade, from the 19th century.Photo: One more walk down the back staircases to a quiet area of Old Menton.Photo: Menton windows.Photo: The French word to describe our journey up to the picturesque mountain town of Sospel, is lacet, for the frequent narrow switchbacks resembling laced shoes - which is the literal meaning of this word.Photo: The Bevera river flows right through the middle of town.Photo: The “bateau lavoire” clothes washing basin (named for its boat-like shape) is said to still be in use.Photo: The double arched 13th century (although most of what remains is from the 16th-17th centuries) Romanesque Old Bridge was a key crossing point (and toll station) on the road from Nice to Turin. It was destroyed during the German retreat in WWII (when the town was also heavily damaged), but rebuilt in 1951 with the original stones, to the original form.Photo: The Place Saint-Nicholas buildings are a mixture of old and new, with the ground floor used for gatherings of the 18th century town council.Photo: Most of the arcades on the Rue de la Republique (the main commercial thoroughfare until the 18th century) are now walled up, but a few are still visible.Photo: A local merchant’s sign.Photo: Saint Michael’s Cathedral was built between 1641 and 1762, with only the bell tower remaining from the earlier 14th century church.Photo: Sospel window.Photo: The square in front of the church is paved with designs in white and gray stones.Photo: The church is the largest in the Alpes-Maritimes Department.Photo: The flattened dome ceiling with gilt and frescoes decoration is typical of basilica-style construction.Photo: The preaching pulpit, with more of the elaborate gilt-rich paintings in view.Photo: The town has the usual remnants of medieval fortifications. The town’s importance as a medieval trade route is reflected by the fact that it was the second largest city (after Nice) in this region in the 13th century.Photo: The town’s hardware/general store has this clever advertisement of its wares.Photo: Sospel is a gliding sports center, and as we relax on the Place du Marche, I catch this parasailer at high zoom just before he disappears above the trees. Then, after an enjoyable visit to this backcountry town, it’s once again down the lacet route to our lodging.Photo: Sunday is moving day, starting with our usual breakfast on Monique’s terrace. We share the table all week with a pleasant Belgian couple.Photo: The mystery of the bergamote is revealed! It’s small citrus fruit, looking just like a lime at this point, but it is not sour, according to Monique. It turns yellow when ripe, and can be used in jellies, but it is mostly a popular ingredient for the local perfume industry - reportedly, about half of all women’s perfumes worldwide contain some bergamote oil.Photo: Grasse window (looking from the breakfast table to Monique’s kitchen window).Photo: And off we go to Provence, with our first stop this Sunday morning the town of Fayence in the Haut Var backcountry. As we start to wander, the bells of St. John the Baptist Church (1750), begin to sound, sweet and clear, over the town and its surroundings. It’s one of those wonderful and unexpected sukkah (consult your local Buddhist for details) moments which make travel such a pleasure.Photo: The ever-present WW I memorial.Photo: City Hall and its colorful windows sit atop one of the town’s roads.Photo: Fayence is a perched hillside town, with the opportunity to walk up for some panoramic views.Photo: Fayence windows.Photo: A quiet corner, including one of the 13 fountains to be found of town.Photo: The medieval fortifications were not yet in place for the Saracen invasion which led to the complete abandonment of the village. The town was repopulated in 1391 by the fleeing residents of nearby Callian, whose town was destroyed by the forces of Raymond de Turenne.Photo: The view from the town high point out into the surrounding countryside. Fayence is considered a major center for gliding in Europe.Photo: Fayence windows.Photo: There is some nice mountain scenery as we roll along towards the Gorges du Verdon.Photo: The absence of rural zoning regulations seems well reflected in this home’s location. I thought immediately of an old Bugs Bunny cartoon, where he says to Elmer Fudd as the latter walks unwittingly towards a cliff edge: “Watch out for that first step, doc - it's a lulu!”Photo: Now approaching the Gorges eastern end, we pass the village of Comps-sur-Artuby, which also sits on the northern edge of the large Canjuers military reservation, various signs of which (including large signs!) are evident not far from the road.Photo: More of the landscape very close to the Gorges.Photo: We have finally arrived, with impressive views to follow of the Gorges du Verdon (often called the Grand Canyon of France, or even Europe) from the Mescla overlook. The name comes from the mescla, or "mixing," of the Verdon's waters with those of its Artuby tributary in this area.Photo: Some sense of the heights of the Gorges here.Photo: And also of the depths - up to 2300 feet down to the Verdon river. At the river depth, the span can be as little as 20 feet in places.Photo: While at the top, the span varies from 650 feet to one mile.Photo: This bridge is being set up for bungee jumping, with signs like “Take the challenge!”, but we do not, and depart before the action begins.Photo: Kayaking, hiking, and rock climbing are all popular here.Photo: The Verdon river is a vivid turquoise blue, which will be more evident in the lake we will come to shortly.Photo: Geologists surmise that the river flowed through an underground cavern before the Verdon Gorge was formed. Erosion slowly weakened the cavern’s roof, which eventually collapsed under its own weight, opening up the great chasm. The river then washed away the huge volume of debris generated, leaving behind the gorge we see today.Photo: Now descending, we get our first view of the Sainte Croix du Verdon lake.Photo: The village of Sainte Croix du Verdon, with fewer than 100 year-round residents, sits on a rocky promontory above the lake.Photo: The striking turquoise blue of the lake (the third largest in France, at a bit over a mile wide, and 8-1/2 miles long) is from its Verdon river source. The lake was formed by a hydroelectric dam (Le Barrage de Saint-Croix) completed in 1975.Photo: Near the bridge at the narrow end of the lake, where the Verdon river enters from the canyon, there is a lively group of paddle boats, canoes, and sailboats cruising about - no motorboats are permitted on the waters here.Photo: By early afternoon, we arrive at the picturesque cliffside village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. The town is most renowned for its faience, the glazed earthenware produced here since the 17th century (when a monk brought the secrets of the glazing from the Italian town of Faenza - hence the name). The upper part of the four-level Lombard Romanesque (Italianate) bell tower of the 12th-century Notre-Dame church (restored in 1928) can be seen at center left.Photo: A stream from the limestone cliffs flows right through the center of town.Photo: And the stream continues on down into the Maire Valley below.Photo: We have a nice late casual lunch at this little resto located in a quiet corner of town.Photo: Cobbled switchbacks lead up to a small chapel a center left (more shortly). There is also a gold painted star on a 750 foot chain between the two cliffs, above the chapel (look carefully - it's there!). According to legend, the knight Bozon de Blacas, held prisoner by the Saracens during the Crusades, vowed to hang a star over the village on his return. How it was originally hung there is a mystery. The current  fifty-year-old star was rehung by helicopter after the chain snapped about 10 years ago.Photo: The Notre Dame de Beauvoir chapel is from the 12th century, with additional restoration in the 16th. It sits on the site of an older 5th century structure, when a monastery was first founded here. The path leading up is lined with the stations of the cross in panels of the local faience.Photo: After several more hours of country driving, we are “home” at the Mas du Kairos in Venasque, where we spent 12 nights 2 years ago.Photo: Venasque window.Photo: The getting-reacquainted tour of the village includes this familiar view out to the Carpentras plain.Photo: Our whole Monday is spent in a revisit to Arles, which we did not give adequate time to on our previous visit. It starts here on the Place de la Republique, looking at City Hall behind the 4th century Roman obelisk (which toppled in the 6th century, was rediscovered in the 14th, and placed at its current location in the 17th).Photo: Also on the square is St-Trophime Church, named after the first (3rd century) bishop of Arles. The 12th century west portal facade here contains some of the finest examples of Romanesque religious sculpture, including Biblical scenes (e.g., the Last Judgment on the semi-circular tympanum) and images of various saints.Photo: The church interior is minimally decorated and dark, with small high windows.Photo: The famous church cloister was constructed in the late 12th and early 13th centuries.Photo: The sculpted details on the slender pillars are considered especially noteworthy.Photo: The fine details on carvings such as this is striking.Photo: Cleaning of the cloister’s interior began just a few years ago, and is still incomplete.Photo: The cloister was built for the priests who attended the bishop and managed the church property. Under a papal decree, the priests lived like monks, with a common dormitory, refectory and cloister inside the cathedral enclosure, and further separated from the city by a wall.Photo: As can be seen here, the cloister’s construction changed over time from Romanesque (circular vaulted arches at left) to Gothic (pointed arches at right).Photo: The remains of the Amphitheater, built under the Emperor Augustus in the first century BCE.Photo: The size of the structure attests to the importance of Arles as a Roman colony, where the theater was used to support and maintain the traditions and beliefs of Rome in remote areas such as this.Photo: The structure is only a remnant of the original which could hold 20,000 spectators, as many of the stones were removed and used to construct early Christian churches.Photo: The street art may not be as classic as in the Cloister, but it’s interesting in its own way.Photo: A very quiet residential street in Old Arles.Photo: Rivers were of course key to fixing a city’s location, and the Rhone here is no exception. The Trinquetaille Bridge seen here was completed in 1951.Photo: Arles windows.Photo: Arles window.Photo: We don’t visit the famous Arena on this trip, but we do have lunch at this shady spot just outside.Photo: The remains of the Roman baths (Thermes Constantin) are adjacent to the Rhone.Photo: The large and sophisticated structure was built in the 4th century CE.Photo: The parts of the structure (built of alternating rows of bricks and small worked limestone blocks) remaining include the hot rooms, the pools, the ventilation system for the hot air circulating within the walls through tubuli (hollow tiles) and between the piles of bricks (hypocausts).Photo: The full structure, an important social center for the town’s residents, included hot and cold pools, and a gymnasium (palaestra).Photo: A bit of French whimsy here: “This house founded a very long time ago.”Photo: The Arles cryptoporticus (by definition, a semi-subterranean gallery whose vaulting supports roofed porch structures above ground, and which is lit from openings at the tops of its arches) is from the first century BCE. The cryptoporticus consists of three double, parallel tunnels arranged in a 'U' shape, which are supported by fifty pillars.Photo: Masons' marks on the stonework indicate that it was built (from 20 to 30 BCE) by Greeks, likely from Marseille.Photo: Similar structures in other cities were used as granaries. However, the one here is too damp for prolonged storage and may have been used as a slave barracks. Then, up into the sunlight and back to Venasque.Photo: Rick Steves has both admirers and detractors vis-a-vis European travel, but there should be broad agreement on his (if it is, originally) belief in having a vacation from your vacation. We’ve reached our halfway point today, and our bodies say this is the day. It seems to consume as much energy driving the narrow, curving roads of south France for 2 hours as it does navigating 10 hours of I-95 back home! So, we spend the morning relaxing in this shady spot out back.Photo: For lunch, we amble on over to the neighboring village of Saint-Didier. The bell tower is inscribed part way up with the well-known French motto “liberte, egalite, fraternite” and the date 1756.Photo: Saint-Didier windows.Photo: Fountain behind locked gates.Photo: A view of the other aide of the bell tower, from the courtyard containing the aforementioned windows and fountain.Photo: This fountain seems to be of more historical importance, as its gets its own plaque.Photo: Here, the story of the fountain. It dates from 1685, having been built following the discovery of a water source nearby in 1666. A source of clean, abundant water was critical to the town’s development as an agricultural center. Also, because of the water’s believed curative properties, a hydrotherapy center also developed in the town in the 19th and 20th centuries.Photo: Having had our fountain interest piqued, we proceed a short distance to Pernes-les-Fontaines, to see some of the 40 (according to the Tourist Office brochure) named fountains in town.Photo: The oldest parts of Our Lady of Nazareth Church date from the 11th century.Photo: The fortified Old Town is entered here by the Porte Notre-Dame.Photo: The gate’s towers are machiolated, with the openings used to drop boiling water, hot oil, and other undesirable liquids on medieval ne’er-do-wells.Photo: The Fontaine du Cormoran is probably the most well-known, both for the cormorant with outstretched wings on top, and the nicely decorated base.Photo: The covered market dates from the 17th century.Photo: This plaque inside notes some of the older measures used, and the fact that the market contained standards of weight and volume to verify the merchants’ claims.Photo: Here, the 11th century Clock Tower, once part of the wall fortifications of the Counts of Toulouse castle.Photo: And up the tower we go.Photo: A nice view across town towards Mont Ventoux, which we will visit on a less hospitable weather day.Photo: The view back down to the Romanesque church, which was on the first (1840) list of designated French Historical Monuments.Photo: Some more history of the Tower: the clock was installed in 1496, and the wrought iron campanile (bell tower) in 1764. Until the French Revolution, the campanile was topper by an arrow with a cat chasing a rat. This gave rise to the old French saying “as high as a Pernes cat.”Photo: The town’s fountains come in all sizes and shapes. Most were built in the mid-18th century, following the discovery of a large spring, and the town added “les Fontaines” to its name in 1936.Photo: Wednesday brings us to the lively city of Aix-en-Provence for our first visit there. We start here at the western end of the Cours Mirabeau, the historically most fashionable street in Aix, from its start in 1650. The La Rotonde fountain (1860), the Cours’ largest (of four), is topped by three giant statues representing: art (facing towards Avignon), justice (facing Aix) and agriculture (facing towards Marseille), and various animals underneath.  Some travel philosophy: why take pictures of well-known objects which can be easily seen on the Internet? For an interesting view on this subject, see http://observersroom.designobserver.com/robwalker/post/pictures-of-the-familiar/30518/Photo: The Cours Mirabeau (which takes its name from an 18th century count of both renown and mixed reputation) is 480 yards long, 46 yards wide, and contains 445 plane trees planted at 11 yard intervals. One side of the street is populated by banks and businesses, and the other by restaurants and cafes.Photo: La Fontaine des Neuf Canons (1691) was a popular watering spot for flocks of sheep and goats.Photo: Next is La Fontaine d’Eau Thermale (warm water) from 1734, and an outlet for the naturally heated water used here in spas since Roman days. It’s also called the “mossy fountain,” for obvious reasons.Photo: And finally, La Fontaine du Roi Rene (early 19th century), the popular and enlightened king who ruled during Aix’ golden age in the latter half of the 15th century.Photo: We head into the Old Quarter, rich in both history and shopping.Photo: The daily market is going strong on Place Richelme.Photo: Well preserved statuary like this is seen on building corners.Photo: The mushroom vendor has things we’ve never encountered before.Photo: And the produce is of course impeccably fresh.Photo: Aix windows.Photo: Madonna and Child reside on this building’s corner.Photo: The Clock Tower (1510) on City Hall Square features an astronomical clock from 1661. The bell in the wrought iron tower dates from the 16th century.Photo: The Square is quite lively at mid-day, with cafe umbrellas surrounding this fountain.Photo: A closer view of the Tower’s clock, with figures representing the four seasons appearing in turn.Photo: We have a nice lunch on the nearby resto-rich Place des Fontetes.Photo: A faded old wall ad for wax - but what kind, and for what, I’m not sure.Photo: The Cathedral of Our Savior has architectural elements ranging from the 5th (Roman foundation) through the 17th centuries.Photo: In Provence, dual signage in both French and the traditional local dialect is often seen.Photo: Elaborately carved wooden doors (often walnut) are present on as number of city buildings.Photo: This plaque commemorates the city’s liberation on August 21, 1944 by combined US and French (both military and local resistance) forces, with praise given to the unified liberators.Photo: Aix windows.Photo: Although the façade and tower of this old city church survives, it seems to be all shops now.Photo: Walking back to our parking garage, we pass these elegant shops and undoubtedly high-priced apartments not far from the Cours Mirabeau.Photo: And on the drive home, we pass Venasque’s little neighboring perched village of Le Beaucet, whose summit’s 11th-12th century chateau is in the process of renovation. The fresh goat cheese (one of about 100 kinds in France) which we enjoy greatly at breakfast each morning comes from here.Photo: Day 10 of our travels starts with a return visit to the very popular perched visit of Gordes - which is thankfully still quiet at this time of the morning. The 10th century castle at the village’s center was remodeled during the Renaissance.Photo: The village, overlooking and so controlling access to the Calavon valley, has been of strategic importance since Roman times.Photo: A typical calade: the narrow cobblestone-paved streets which make up much of the village.Photo: These narrow paths wind down the hillside.Photo: Never was able to find more information on this small medieval chapel.Photo: Gordes windows.Photo: A better view of the chateau, rebuilt in 1525 by Bertrand de Simiane. with elements of both medieval and Renaissance architecture. The machicolated towers contain terraces for artillery. Three stories of "Renaissance windows" were added in the tall curtain walls, and arrow slits can be seen on all the surfaces of the construction: towers, walls and bartizans (wall mounted turrets - part of one can be seen on the extreme upper right).Photo: A final parting view of the village.Photo: Midday brings us to Lourmarin, home of the popular writer on things Provencal, Peter Mayle. If the busloads of tourists (Japanese in particular, we understand), who used to descend on his former village of Menerbes in search of his home, have discovered that he has moved here, it’s not evident on this quiet Thursday. The village’s main attraction is the chateau, a mixture of 15th century and Renaissance styles.Photo: A village fountain.Photo: A disadvantage of a midday arrival is the lunch closure of many sites, and the chateau is no exception. So, I satisfy myself with a walk around the perimeter.Photo: Chateau tower window.Photo: I get this shot of a chateau terrace by pointing the camera through an iron gate.Photo: Some nice gardens, and olive groves, on the back side.Photo: A view of the chateau’s fortified walls.Photo: I’m in luck! There is an art exhibit on the grounds. so I can at least poke my head inside, to this unexpected view. The chateau interior was extensively (and privately) restored in the 1920’s.Photo: A typical narrow village lane.Photo: Lourmarin windows.Photo: The village’s war memorial.Photo: Lunch for Mme is the always-popular pizza selection, and feeling very French today, I opt for the steak tartare. While the other ingredients are already premixed, the egg yolk sits off to the side, allowing the diner to contribute to the preparation.Photo: For the day’s final stop, we move upcountry to the hillside village of Saignon, which overlooks (and so was used in medieval times for defensive purposes) Apt a few miles away.Photo: The town’s sturdy 12th century Romanesque church of Notre Dame, also known as Saint Mary of Saignon. As early as the Middle Ages the church was a destination for pilgrims from throughout Provence, but also for those traveling to Rome via the Domitian Way, and for Italian pilgrims going to Santiago de Compostela.Photo: The church interior, with the lighting typical of the small windows in Romanesque architecture.Photo: The fountain on the small village square (called by the diminutive “placette”) is topped by two statues, representing agriculture and abundance through industry. It’s the work of the Apt sculptor Joseph Sollier, a pupil of the renowned David d'Angers (1788-1856).Photo: Saignon windows.Photo: And up we go, via medieval gates and ramparts.Photo: This small chapel near the summit is in active restoration.Photo: The overlook point has wonderful views of the surrounding countryside of the Calavon valley.Photo: At the very summit is the Rock of Saignon, an important symbol of the village, and whose use goes back to ancient times as an observatory and signaling point. (The village name is believed to come from the Latin signum: signal.) In the 12th century, three chateaus stood in this immediate area. By the time of the French Revolution, they were in serious decline, and the village folk used most of their stones to build homes of their own.Photo: At high zoom, looking over to the village of (I’m pretty sure) Bonnieux.Photo: Below us is a good example of a borie, the stone (and nothing else - no mortar, no supports) Provencal huts which have existed for thousands of years, although most of the 3000 or so in Provence today date from the 18th century and later.Photo: The village Clock Tower was built in 1584.Photo: Saignon window.Photo: And we end the day’s touring with a brief stop at the village cemetery (another one of my French interests).Photo: Day 11 begins with another one of Josy’s wonderful breakfasts on the back terrace, including 6 kinds of jam, and lavender honey (cheeses, fruit, yogurt, baguettes, and croissants still to come). Note also the half lemon studded with cloves at middle right - a common Provencal device to keep away wasps (although Josy says a small hunk of raw meat hung at the far end of the terrace works better).Photo: And another day that we have to endure this view of Venasque during breakfast …Photo: Now in Roussillon, where we spot Mont Ventoux in the distance at high zoom, and hope that the fine weather we are having will hold for our return visit there (foreshadowing …).Photo: Roussillon is a busy little town, and quiet corners like this are in short supply. For a small town, we find we can easily spend 5-6 hours here on a non-market day - more than any other of its size.Photo: Roussillon window.Photo: A first view of ochre cliffs on the right, along with some of the countryside scenery.Photo: Some of the ochre shades to be found in the town’s buildings, a substantial number of which date from around 300 years ago.Photo: Evidence of the French attention to food freshness at a local specialty grocery: “The goat cheese arrived this morning at 9:17 AM.” The Banon variety is especially highly regarded in Provence.Photo: The 19th century bell tower is topped with the usual wrought iron belfry.Photo: Roussillon City Hall, in one of the 19 (!) shades of ochre which have been mined near the town.Photo: Roussillon windows.Photo: A typical information plaque, here of the local church, noting its 11th century initial construction, and frequent renovations. It was dedicated to St. Michael, and contains several baptismal fonts and side chapels.Photo: And here, the simple church façade.Photo: Roussillon windows.Photo: The view from the church square overlook into the countryside.Photo: Another view of the bell tower, with the clock now in view.Photo: A typical shopping lane, where I leave Mme, to explore the ochre further.Photo: Now on the Ochre Path (Sentier des Ocres) on the edge of town, to view both the ochre formations and flora of the region.Photo: Ochre resulted from sedimentary deposits formed when Provence was water covered (from 230 million to 100 million years ago).Photo: The different iron oxides which make up ochre are mixed with sand to give the various formations seen.Photo: Ochre was mined here for hundreds of years, and production in this area reached 40,000 tons in 1929, before being displaced by various synthetic pigments and dyes.Photo: The plants in this area are in some ways as unique as the ochre.Photo: And here, more on some of the plants.Photo: Now starting to run out of things to say about ochre …Photo: The walk includes the aiguilles des fees - fairy needles.Photo: A bit of information on ochre mining.Photo: All the ochre-ing builds up a hearty appetite, and we have a treat for lunch: aioli, a uniquely Provencal mayonnaise made from garlic, egg yolks, and olive oil. It’s served here with a typical mix of poached fish and steamed vegetables. We could have easily used twice the amount they provided each of us in the red hexagonal bowls.Photo: And we end the day back in Venasque, where the last Friday artisinal food market of the season is wrapping up on the square.Photo: Saturday is devoted to two towns on the Rhone, beginning here in Beaucaire.Photo: One of our guide books describes the Old Town as having “an ancient, empty air,” which would be hard to argue with today.Photo: City Hall on Place Georges Clemenceau is from the late 17th century by Francois Mansard. It is notable for its stone carvings and Ionic columns.Photo: The weekly Sunday and Thursday food markets are held in this building across the square from City Hall.Photo: The Notre Dame des Pommiers (Our Lady of the Apple Trees, literally) church was constructed in the early 18th century, on the site of an earlier, smaller Romanesque one.Photo: The convex façade and the cupola structure are characteristic of a distinctive “Jesuit” style that can be found in some other notable buildings in Provence.Photo: The church interior.Photo: One exterior wall contains a Romanesque frieze saved from the earlier church.Photo: Here’s that “ancient, empty air” again on the Rue Ledru Rollin, as we move from the Place Georges Clemenceau to the Place de la Republique.Photo: Here the Hotel des Margallier entrance, with its flanking telamones (male column structures).Photo: Finally some signs of life, on the Place de la Republique.Photo: Beaucaire windows.Photo: On our way to walk a bit of the ramparts, we get our first view of what remains of the 11th century (with 13th century renovations) castle of the Counts of Toulouse.Photo: The grounds of the Beaucaire fair, which began in 1217, and expanded in 1463 with a tax-free charter by Louis XI. The fair prospered through the 18th century - the town’s residents made most of their annual income in the fair’s few weeks - and then declined with the coming of industrialization and railway transport.Photo: In the early 17th century, the castle sheltered the governor of Langeudoc (Montmorency) and his entourage from the forces of his adversary, Louis XIII. Upon their defeat, Cardinal Richelieu ordered the castle largely dismantled, and so only a portion remains.Photo: We move right across the Rhone to the better-known town of Tarascon, parking next to St Martha's Collegiate Church, which is half-Romanesque (12th century) and half-Gothic (14th century). According to folklore, in the first century CE, St. Martha subdued a legendary beast - the Tarasque - which rose from the Rhone to terrorize the area. A festival to commemorate this miracle was started by Good King Rene in 1474, and continues to the present day.Photo: Tarascon is best known for its exceptionally well-preserved chateau, which was started in 1401 by Louis II on the site of a previous Roman fortification, then completed in the mid-15th century by his son Good King Rene.Photo: This multi-story banner welcomes visitors to the chateau entrance.Photo: And a banner that size befits a castle with these dimensions, with the walls rising to 160 feet. Here, a view up the side, revealing the machiolated towers and the crenellated wall summits.Photo: The so-called Lucky Fountain greets us near the entrance.Photo: And here, the fountain’s story, taken from Good King Rene’s 1457 Book of the Love-Smitten Heart. As much as my middling French allows, it appears that the waters of this fountain contributed to the defeat of the Tarasque.Photo: Here, some of the 200 apothecary jars in the 18th century dispensary of the St. Nicholas Hospital.Photo: The castle sits right on the Rhone.Photo: This is (I think) the Artillery Tower.Photo: And this is (I think) the Clock Tower.Photo: The castle’s interior structure is as impressive in its way as the exterior.Photo: The central staircase turret provides the principal access between floors.Photo: The exceptional preservation of the castle is due in part to the fact that it was in active use as a prison until 1926. Here, an 1853 letter from a prisoner to the Tarascon mayor, who humbly asks to be released, as his only crime is his Protestant faith.Photo: Here in the living quarters of his favorite residence are these portraits of Good King Rene (Rene d’Anjou, 1409-1480) and his wife Jeanne de Laval. Per his popular name, he was considered a just and generous ruler, as well as a writer and patron of the arts.Photo: Now at the top of the castle, looking over to the Rhone to the castle remnants in Beaucaire.Photo: There are somewhat more modern structures in this direction!Photo: Here, the view down into Tarascon.Photo: This view across the upper level shows some of the chimneys from the rooms below.Photo: Now back at ground level in the Old Town, which is as quiet as the side streets of Beaucaire.Photo: The 17th century City Hall, notable both for its façade carvings and stone balcony.Photo: These painted trompe l’oeil building fronts really stand out from their surroundings.Photo: One of three city gates remaining from the town’s medieval fortifications - but I’m not sure if it’s St. Jean, Condamine or Jarnegues (although the religious statue on top suggests the first).Photo: Sunday dawns a bit gray, as we’ve had our first rain of the trip overnight, as we make our way to Orange for the first time. Here, at the fountain and roundabout near the (closed) tourist office, and the sign: “Orange: Crossroads of the Cote du Rhone Wines.”Photo: The town itself is very quiet on this Sunday morning.Photo: As we approach the famous Roman Theater, we find these remains of some of the town’s ramparts. It’s not clear whether these are Roman, or from a 17th century Dutch period for the town (before it became part of France in 1713).Photo: Here, the exterior view of the main stage wall, which Louis XIV called the finest wall in his kingdom. The Roman Theater was closed by Church edict in 391 CE, then abandoned, pillaged by barbarians, used as a Middle Ages defensive post, and became a town refuge during the 16th-century religious wars.Photo: Here, a portion of the semicircular cavea, which held up to 9000 spectators (separated by social class). Roman citizens typically spent a large part of their free time there, as much of the entertainment (mime, pantomine, poetry readings and commedia dell'arte-style farces) lasted all day. The entertainment was open to all and without charge.Photo: Here, a view of part of the stage wall, which is 340 feet long, 120 feet high, and 5 feet thick. It is topped by a modern roof, which serves the important function of minimizing further damage to the wall. Principal actors entered through the center door, and secondary performers by the two side ones.Photo: The theater has been home to a summer festival (Chorégies d'Orange) for more than 100 years, today with only operatic performances given (theatrical ones are centered in Avignon). Columns such as this were typically topped with statuary.Photo: The theater was built early in the 1st century CE during Augustus’ reign, and this 11 foot statue of him (returned to this location in 1951) is prominently displayed.Photo: Orange window.Photo: The Triumphal Arch nearby is on the Via Agrippa running from Lyon to Arles. It was built about 20 BCE, to commemorate the campaigns of the Roman Second Legion (whose veterans were given priority to land ownership when the town was founded in 35 BCE). The Arch is 64 feet wide, 63 feet high, and 28 feet deep.Photo: The arch is decorated with various reliefs of military themes, including naval battles (Augustus’ victory over Anthony & Cleopatra), spoils of war, and Romans battling Gauls.Photo: The arch was built into the town's walls during the Middle Ages as part of its defensive fortifications. Restoration work on the Arch began in the 1850s.Photo: Weather notwithstanding, we make our way up to a return visit to Mont Ventoux, and have some good scenery, considering the grayness of the day.Photo: Now at the summit, where the temperature has dropped to the upper 30’s, and we have the place almost to ourselves - although we pass the usual groups of bikers attempting the climb.Photo: As we depart, we even have a few snowflakes fall on the window, but the drive back is otherwise uneventful.Photo: A final walk through Venasque finds this window.Photo: And this one.Photo: And one more view out to the Carpentras plain.Photo: Our hostess Josy with husband Jean-Charles. She is retiring after 11 years of running this B&B, and before that was a nursing instructor in her native country of Switzerland. We’ve spent 20 nights here in two visits, and are sad that there will be no opportunities to return. However, Dr. Seuss should have the last word here: “Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."Photo: About 3 hours by car, dropping it off at the Nice airport, then a short shuttle to out airport hotel, and a bus into town, and voila! - we are back on Nice’s seaside Promenade des Anglais, which we last walked more than six years ago under somewhat chiller December conditions.Photo: The private beaches come with various amenities - for a price.Photo: And a bit past the shallow water, the uniquely azure color of the Mediterranean which gives the area its name.Photo: Our lunch spot on the Cours Saleya (a well-known market street) did not include one of the big seafood platters like this, but was very good nevertheless.Photo: The market street is indeed bustling today - pretty much its normal state. Henri Matisse lived in the bright yellow house at the end of the Cours Saleya from 1921 to 1938.Photo: We do a bit of wandering through the Old Town shopping streets.Photo: Hey, we remember having a nice meal at this resto 6 years ago! The prix fixe menu seems to have moved from 15 to 18 euros, which is still a good bargain.Photo: Nice windows.Photo: The Baroque façade of the Nice Cathedral (Basilique-Cathédrale Sainte-Marie et Sainte-Réparate de Nice), which was built from 1650-1699.Photo: The church’s Baroque interior (which includes 10 chapels) is rich with elaborate plasterwork and frescoes. Behind the main altar is a picture of the Glory of Saint Reparata, the virgin martyr to whom the cathedral is dedicated, and whose relics have been here since 1690.Photo: When we were here six years ago, the street between to Old Town and the bus station was completely torn up for a tramway under construction. We’re glad to see it’s completely finished now - we doubt that PENNDOT could have engineered such a timely completion …Photo: This unassuming little snack shop is quite the local institution. Its name translates as “take and go” in the local dialect. You order food from the takeout window, then sit at a table, where a waiter comes to take your drink order.Photo: Nice window.Photo: Nice now has its own bicycle rental system like Paris’ Velib, here called Velobleu.Photo: Nice windows.Photo: We find that as at Menton’s sandy beaches. Nice’s pebbly public ones are also clothing optional; However, US Internet regulations … yadda, yadda …Photo: Interesting arrangement for a handicapped access beach - no doubt also clothing optional.Photo: A final look down the Promenade, towards that symbol of Cote d’Azur luxury, the neoclassical Hotel Negresco.Photo: The sight of an airport hotel can only mean that our two weeks in France have come to an end. We are sad to leave, but it is time, and Dr. Seuss is right again ...