Villefranche sur Mer

Villefranche sur Mer
it all starts with a beach

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Aloha, Cannes

It's my last day here in beautiful Cannes. I head to the pharmacie as soon as I can move - up all night in PAIN (the back thing, aggravated by carrying a huge box up to the poste yesterday. The pills from the doc back home didn't work; 800 mg. ibuprofen didn't touch it. She gives me Voltaren, and by the time I finish the NYTimes et un café, I'm good. Vive la France!  I went back to pack and clean my Suquet studio, grateful for this sweet home base the last several weeks.
Now I'm back at the Salsamentaria, sun pouring over my shoulders. Brando brings me a lambrusco (I have 2 more free cards). He was the one I met the first time here when they had just opened and I had just arrived...was that July? We practice Italian (buongiorno, tutti bene) and he recommends the pork cheeks with fried polenta (Guancialini di maiale al lambrusco con polenta fritta). OMG! Best meal here yet!! I may have to postpone veganism til my next life :-) I finish with un café and that fab little choc cookie they serve.

This week I catch a beach day, join a friend from Germany for fabulous oysters just down the street at Atoux & Brun, spend a quiet afternoon prepping the next 2 weeks of my trip - Rome, Florence  (just had to do more Italy!), and London (where I get 2 days with family). Yesterday Pablo picks me up for a road trip up mauka - to  the foothills of the Alpes - Valbonne, Opio, Gourdon, Coursegoules. Lovely!
It's been such a (mostly) happy time here. Other than the theft of my iPhone (3 months now without a smartphone - yikes!) and betrayal of a friend, Cannes has outlived my expectations. I'm feeling so happy and so high, grateful to have lived here long enough to taste the sweet experience of living in France.
I'm off to Rome in a couple of hours. Will bid adieu to Yvan and wait for El Hami to drive me to Nice...
bidding a fond aloha to Cannes and the Côte d'Azur.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Yachting Festival, Cannes, France. 9-14 September, 2014

Before the memory slips away, I want to share some moments and images from the fabulous Yachting Festival show here in Cannes.

9th September, opening day at the Cannes Yacht Festival, highlight of the European boat show season. I grab my camera and head to the far end of the Quay St. Pierre for the first scheduled press conference at Sirena Marine. It's hot, despite the sea breeze, but a chilled rosé helps. The new boat - Euphoria is staged and lovely. This game is clearly a boys club (makers, shakers and press), with beautiful women strategically placed around for eye candy. Over 550 yachts and 50,000 visitors are expected here this week.

I meet three happy Italians (aren't they always the life of the party?) at the charging station, enjoying the refreshments too. Then we move on to Fairline Boats, which enjoys a large corner placement and serves up champagne and pupus. The Fairline Squadron 60 makes its World Première at the show - which sees more world launches than any other boating event.  The new CEO, Kevin Gaskell, introduces the new 48's and discusses the total reorganization of the company, including the replacement of 22 of its 25 managers. They're beginning to see market growth again and taking advance orders.

By seven I make my way up to the upper celebrity deck of the Festival for the opening press party. The views over the old port and Suquet as well as the Croisette are amazing! I meet up with the press gals who processed my press pass the day before...and meet a few other souls. I've been noticing how multi-lingual Europeans are. Of course. The champagne is flowing, and I am the only one taking photos. Apparently the press do not cover themselves :-)

I check in Wednesday with my friend Laura di Gianni for the mega yachts...and a boat trip across to the other port (Canto) for more yachts, 'used' yachts...and sailing ships. Helicopters and drones are hovering. Friday I visit the catamarans...and stay for the big Sunreef cocktail party - gifts, fabulous live music, food and ...more champagne. Before heading home, I head back to the Sunseeker and Princess Yacht parties.

I hesitated to go - this being a game for the 1%, but I learned a few things: boats are also for families, charters & suppliers (small businesses); there's a growing demand for yachts that power themselves with renewables; there's big boat demand from Israel and the Middle East, and the Chinese market is growing fast; this is a people business. I watch the sea trials and deals being made on the boats. I love the people I meet, and the yachts are amazing!

Interviews with Yacht Festival folks:
Adam - Fairline. Sydney. I've been with company five months, after importing European boat brands to Australia for twelve years. I handle dealer visits and factories and shows to Asia/Pacific the industry! It's a beautiful product, but mostly I love the people I sell to. He admits the tough times since '08, but is excited about the current and projected future under new management. Loves having Kevin at the helm. "He's the reason I came aboard."

Christina from Poland at Sunreef. Former British Airways PR and Board Member.
It's my first Cannes Yacht Festival as I'm new to the company, but I love it! This is a Polish company, founded in 2000. We have 80 two and three-hull yachts sailing all over the world, with most of our yachts for families from the Middle East, Israel, and the US. China is a growing market for us. They love our product, and whereas the British are all into the tech gear, the Chinese are only interested in the fun. We've customized one as a floating restaurant in Dubai. Actually they're all customized, taking about a year and a half to our shipyard in Gdansk.
Our 'Ché' model is our largest at 114 feet and plenty of room for eight guests and 5-6 crew. The'70 Power' has solar panels, wind and hydro power generation, LED lighting, and lots of power-generating and saving devices. It's a demand of the market. Our 165-foot 'Ultimate' will be our biggest yet. And we expect to enlarge our charter company as well.

Collin Sykes. Former CFO to midsize companies in the US and UK. CFO now one year with Fairline and happy with the progress which began with a deep listening to customers and dealers. 2009-10 were dark years, but when banks retracted investors started coming back in 2012; we took losses in 2013, with dealers overstocking. We began financing our dealers, and today we have only shareholder debt, no bank debt on the balance sheet. The reorganization has turned things around with fresh ideas, new technologies. Still cautious, he is moving forward with a waiting list.
I'm feeling great loyalty to up, helping others to build their careers up. I enjoy the hard work, hard-earned money, customers from the Middle East, Russia. Europe is  flat right now, but US is picking up. 2015 looks good, with new products and dealer inventory the lowest it's been in five years. Competition - Princess (LVMH Moët Hennessy • Louis Vuitton S.A. is a French multinational luxury goods conglomerate) and Sunseeker (Chinese-owned).

Valeria Povergo, St. Petersburg Russia. 27. Director of Ordinar (new online Russian publication), former sub-atomic engineer.
This is a prelude to the upcoming show in St. Petersburg. We're "independent and Interesting". I'm staying a week here in Cannes and loving it. It's a great venue for the show...and kick-off for the season, with all brands - famous and unknowns alike. There are definitely unique brands here, which is my focus.

Friday, October 17, 2014

3 French Vignettes: Côte Cops - Getting Around - French Fashion

 Côte Cops
I've been noticing and thinking about police, especially since the Ferguson killing news saturated the media, with people here actually shocked that such a thing could happen. Living in the US, this is a regular occurrence, so as sad is it always is, it is not surprising. Here the general public have no guns, and they're rare on police, so that kind of violence is virtually non-existent. Instead police work to serve and protect. On foot, bicycle, motorcycle, and horseback, they integrate themselves into communities, making all of us safer. 

I ask them for directions, information, photos. I am not alone in turning to them instead of running from them.
I watch as they stop people, engage them in gentle conversation, try to help, whether it's someone needing a shower (directs him to the municipal showers) or a meal or assistance with their car or scooter. They're mostly on the street, not in offices til a call comes in. As pro-active peace-makers, they exhibit the humanization (rather than the militarization) of law enforcement.

There are so many things the French do so much better than we do - healthcare, food and product safety, recycling, environmental protection, education, transportation, consumer and community protection, etc, etc, etc.


Getting Around
I've been five months without a car...and love it! Transportation here is so good, I don't need one. OK, two times up in the hill towns I would have appreciated wheels, but for the most part getting around is easy - a quick walk to the train station or the tram or to a bus will whisk me anywhere in southern France. They're clean and safe. Men and young people offer seats to the elderly (and moi:-). Buses run here in Cannes until 3am. Smart cars and bicycles can be rented by the hour or the day, from convenient locations all over Nice. Tourist trains and double-decker buses give a great overview of a new town, with hop-on/hop-off options for 24 to 48 hours (depending on the city).

Trains (both SNCF and TGVs) allow for great views, as beaches and villages fly by...while I recharge my camera battery, read my guide book or latest Nice-Matin or NYT. Almost all the train stations are undergoing improvements all the time. (When was the last time you saw our infrastructure getting improved?)
The train stations, old and new, have shops, cafés, stationary bikes you can pedal while you charge your tech gear...and pianos, free for the playing. And someone's almost always playing - Beattles, jazz, classical. I arrive early one day at La Gare de Cannes for a trip up the coast to St. Rafael and Fréjus, check the schedule and platform, order 'un café' and sit to enjoy it with a warm, crispy chocolate croissant. I hear it faintly at first, then fill in the instrumental with the song in my head - "when I find myself in time of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be..."

In Monaco a Lamborghini screeches to a halt to let me pass, then guns on. Walking, I have right of way at crosswalks. All over the Côte d'Azur roads are filled with bicyclists, like everyone's on a Tour de France. Or on a motorcycle. And for cars, digital signs throughout town show available parking spaces in various garages. How thoughtful. Smart cars compete with Porches, and in Nice, Auto Bleues are a great alternative - an electric car you can rent by the hour or by the day.

The French just move people around so much better than we do back home, where cars are a necessity. How I would love to hop a train from Ashland to San Francisco or Portland...or even Grants Pass. A coastal route would be divine! Like so many other things, I will miss the great transportation when I go back to the US.


French Fashion
~ where a little dog or motorcycle helmet or baguettes under the arm
are fashion accessories
Every time I'm in France (especially Paris), no matter how well I dress or how hard I try to look fashion-forward, I always feel like a country bumpkin. Not that I have any fashion sense back home, but here - oh, la, la. There's something beyond fashion at work here - the shoes (yes, spike heels even on cobblestones), the handbags, gorgeous shirts, skinny pants, the way a scarf is tied. It's about confidence, the tilt of the head, the excellent posture, tiny sizes.

Yes, people here are tiny. Young and old are smaller in general than Americans. In summer it's short shorts, bikinis, crop tops on younger women, linen pants, Italian shirts, and fabulous accessories on older ones. Now scarves and sweaters are tied luxuriously around necks and strappy sandals turn to kick ass boots. Men get in the act too. No mom jeans here, just hip-hugging, butt-flattering stretch jeans, scarves, shoulder bags...amazing shoes.

And why not? Just in Cannes there's shopping of every price and quality available. On the Croisette - Chanel, Gucci, Dolce & Gabana, Prada...high-end fashion houses where a small handbag is E900, E1500 for a blouse. One block back, Antibes Street offers mid-range prêt-à-porter options, and by the time we're back to Rue Meynadier bargains abound in local French and Italian clothing/shoe/accessory choices. A cute dress for E15, a blouse for E9, a E12 bikini.

In a town like Cannes shopping is fun and truly therapeutic. I bought an Italian blouse, a summer dress, leggins, sandals, and a bikini, and already I feel more French. Now if only I were a size 2.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Théole et Napoule

I take the 20 bus to Coubertain where I wait over an hour for the 22 up the coast. Enjoy a bière pression at Royal de Chine, and jones for a few dim sum, but they only have the huge buffet midday. So I walk slowly back to the bus stop, hop on the 22, arriving by 13:30 at Théole Marie, a charminng little French beach town. Wandering around the square to the seafront, I drop in at an exhibit of local artists, then settle in at Palazzo Beach for a seafood risotto, sav blanc, and wonderful café gourmand. 

Onward to the Chateau de La Napoule and the incredible story and art of Henry and Marie Clews. It's too late for the guided interior tour, but I'm allowed to meander through the extensive gardens and along the seafront. A product of the Belle Epoch and the Clews, this restored chateau today is a national treasure, offering classes, scholarships, exhibits, soiréés, and support artists.

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Weekend in Provence

A Weekend in Provence: Arles, Les Baux, Avignon

Arles. The train pulls out at 8:15 on a clear, beautiful morning. I'm very comfortable in 15/51, after someone shows me the codes at the station. The sea flashes by on the right, Alps on the left (yes, I'm sitting backwards). I surround myself in white light, safety, peace and joy...then all travelers as well. The temperature is perfect. The ride is smooth. With a transfer in Marseilles, I arrive at Arles by noon...and within minutes am lost. The Tourism Office is closed (what???) I find a pharmacie for directions. The Colusseum is 'fermé' for a private event before the bull fights. An arab guide sneaks me in with my press pass for "un photo".
I make my way down through the jardin to find I have just missed the morning parade and fetes, and the huge market is closing up as well. I take refuge in a church with a fascinating art show, then am lost again, wandering (hot and tired...and hungry) until I find the bus stop (wanting now to just get out of dodge). After waiting, a woman tells me I need to go to la gare for bus 57. There is no way I can walk that far back, but finally a small shuttle bus arrives and takes me there, free. And just as bus 57 is leaving for Les Baux. I ride with women from Chicago and Kansas City, grateful for a translator. They're on a 10-day rush through London and France. I'm exhausted just listening to them. The driver engages me, tells me I speak really good French. I hear that several times on this trip.

Les Baux is a jewel, starting with the woman at the Tourism Office who issues all my press passes and prints out background info for the historic town and its best attractions. The hotel is just across the street, and my room is ready. I drop my backpack...and myself for a few moments, but I haven't eaten yet today, and I'm hungry. It's 3 pm, and the dining is pau until 7, so I walk across the street to Au Porte Mages, where I spend an hour reviving. The restaurant is a haven of sun and shade, olive trees, and sweet service. Plat du jour is grilled lamb, with veggies and frites...and a nice rosé. Afterwards I meander through town, making it up to the top and the Chateau - the film in the little church, the bulwarks and fortifications, walls and views. and everywhere the bauxite.
At 8:15 I make my way to the dining room...and end up with a lovely warm fois gras with salad and pommes et fruits rouge. Then sleep 8 hours!

Carrieres de Lumieres
I didn't know it before, but this show was the reason for my trip! Stunning images, displayed as never before. Uniquely fabulous, it puts you into the mind (and heart) of the artists...and into some future world where art is alive in each of us.

The quarries were dug to extract bauxite and limestone used to build the castle and the town of Les Baux.  Carrieres de Lumieres - Quarries of Lights is amazing enough, but the show - Incroyable!

"Klimt and Vienna - a century of gold and colors" showcases 100 years of Viennese painting, with a trip to the heart of the colorful and bright works by Gustav Klimt, his contemporaries, and those he inspired.

Total Area of projections: 7000 m²
Height of projections: 6-14 meters
Running time: 35 minutes
Technical equipment: 100 projectors, 26 speakers ...
Number of projected pictures: 3000

" This show is a work on emotion, to feel what the artist in question wanted to convey with his work. This is why music is so important;  the goal is that all the senses are awakened to capture that emotion. My interest is to give the public the opportunity to see art differently."
Gianfranco Iannuzzi

Culturespaces, producer of the show
"Our mission is to help public institutions to stage their heritage and develop their cultural and touristic attraction. It is also to democratize access to culture and for  our children to discover our history and civilization in remarkable cultural sites."   Bruno Monnier, CEO

Vive la France!

I enjoy a lovely breakfast at Le Reine Jeanne, looking out over the baux landscapes, then walk to the cave for the show (see above)...and back to check out. E100 for the room, dinner, and breakfast!

Avignon. Catching the 11 am bus, I wind through little back roads with farmhouses, greenhouses, vineyards, orchards, olive groves. This must be the bread basket of France, Europe even. The bus driver navigates his Mercedes Benz and rocks some great American music from Van Morrison to Michael Jackson as we pass rivers and irrigation systems, fields of broccoli and cabbage, apricot orchards, cherries (still!).
The villages each have a 'Credit Agricole' bank...and Roman ruins - a delightful trip, arriving after an hour in Avignon. Entering the wall, I'm just a couple of blocks to another extraordinary Tourism Office, where I'm issued press passes for the Pont d'Avignon and the Palais des Papes. First the Pont, made famous by its memorable song:
            Sur le pont d'Avignon
            l'on y danse
            l'on y danse
            Sur le pont d'Avignon l'on y danse tout en ron
I climb up to the bridge and explore, shooting pictures of the bridge, its little church, the Rhone, and views. Then I dance.
After a walk back to the square, I enjoy a salmon grillé, too tired to deal with the moules. Then I hop a little tourist train as a break from all the walking...and to get an overview of Avignon. The Palais des Papes is interesting enough, gothic but claustrophobic and musty, so I don't linger, despite its long history and interesting art and frescoes. The seat of the Christian world in the 14th century, more recently recognized as a World Heritage site, it bears the mark of nine popes who ruled here until Rome took over.
Fatigue overtakes me, and I plunk down at a small café for a Stella then call a taxi to shuttle me to the TVG train station, the new (10-years old) one, outside of town. It's clean and shiny, with good signage, shops, and restaurants. A trio peddle at a small bike stand to recharge their phones. Two young men share the free piano. It's a total bummer we don't do trains (and train stations) like the French! I buy water and a sandwich for the trip home, which due to the TVG is half the time of the trip up. We're off at 19:40, passing by farms and factories (yes, the French still make things). I watch the sunset sprawl across a wide expanse of Provence, heading home. Cannes is the third stop, just two hours later.