Anyone who is anything of a Francophile is undoubtedly familiar with Peter Mayle’s 1989 book “A Year in Provence”. Well, since we are spending the entire month of July 2016 in Provence, this post is the appropriately abridged “A Month in Provence”. We arrived in sunny, fragrant Villefranche-sur-Mer on Friday July 1, 2016 and we are scheduled to depart July 31.
Once again we are spending time in France with our good friends Rich and Dawn Davis. Rich and Henry Warner have known each other since 1972 when we were both engineering students at the University of Washington. We then subsequently ended-up collaborating together at Boeing on many projects over the 30+ years of our working careers. We have found that we all travel great together, as we have common likes, schedules and styles and we have a fun time with each other.
Due to a need to take advantage of pre-existing miles, Rich and Dawn flew separately from Jill and Henry Warner. We all departed Seattle on June 30 a few hours apart. Jill and Henry Warner landed at the Nice airport via London on British Airways around noon on a beautiful, warm Friday. Since the day was young, we had elected to walk the approximate 10 minute distance from the Nice airport to the nearest train station.
Unfortunately, the route was mostly uphill, albeit not steep. The sun was warm and the air was humid – all of which contributed to arriving at the train station hot and sweaty. We stepped inside the tiny train station expecting a bit of relief from the heat, only to find the crowded interior even warmer than outside. After waiting in the considerable line, it was finally my turn with the single ticket agent. As I leaned on the counter, I felt the nice cool air spilling through the sliding money/ticket exchange tray. So while the rest of us sweated in the hot room without the benefit of even a fan, the French public servant was comfortably cool behind his glass partition.
As the reader-board announced that the next train was going to be late, I asked the agent when it was arriving. “Bientôt (soon)” he responded. We exited to the platform, which was marginally cooler and waited. During the roughly 30 minute wait, four trains heading in the opposite direction stopped at the tiny station, before one finally came along our way. It was three stops to Villefrance-sur-mer from Nice St. Augustin.
Our apartment in Villefranche-sur-mer is in the heart of the medieval city that is pedestrian only. Lots of picturesque, narrow streets and multi-level stairs. Unfortunately, the train station is at sea level and the apartment was uphill, so once again we had the opportunity for a hot and sweaty workout. We made it to the apartment and were met by our friendly landlady Muriel Berdat who has done a fantastic job coordinating with us on the trip. The guide she sent us for the city and the apartment is easily the best we have ever seen. She actually had Google street shot pictures of the route from the train station to the apartment with hand-drawn arrows depicting the path.
The apartment was very clean, the A/C had been turned on and everything was delightful. The apartment has two full bathrooms and two bedrooms with queen size beds. The apartment is in a 1600′s building, but the inside is completely modern. Muriel speaks excellent English, having studied in the US and she certainly knows how to be a welcoming hostess. She left us a basket of snacks, assorted coffees, wine, tapanade, some drinks and various other goodies. If you are ever inclined to to spend time in the French Riviera near Villefranche-sur-mer, please contact Muriel Berdat at www.myfrenchrivierarental.com.
Jill and Henry Warner got settled in the apartment, rested a bit, then went to the local épicerie to buy some staples, like wine, cheese, saucisson, french bread etc. while awaiting Rich and Dawn’s arrival. After they got here, we all decided we were too tired to go out for a sit-down dinner, so we made do with the provisions Jill and I had purchased. After a glass (or two) of local wine and a lot of jet-lag, we were all pretty tired, but we managed to snap a successful selfie after a couple of attempts. Then it was off to bed for a loooong nights’ sleep.