Monday, August 8, 2016

A Different Kind of Color
miles of walking

I thought it would be a charming town, the original French Riviera, where aristocracy flocked in the 18th century, as well as literati like Kipling,Tolstoy, D.H. Lawrence, Wharton, Stevenson, some royalty: Queen Victoria, and a lot of surrealist artists.  Hyères also called Les Palmiers, for it's 7000 palm trees, is the cut flower capital of France and the southern most town in Provence
Though now maybe it is a bit tarnished, and a bit rundown, usurped by the nouveau star power of Cannes, Juan les Pins, and Antibes
  it still sounded PLUS + ou MOINS - like a slam dunk!

- 1
distances are not what they seem on the map
Hôtel du Portalet is in the old part of town
on the slopes of the Castèou hills
way across town from the train station and too far to walk
taxi drivers can't drive into the Old Town
so I was dropped off a couple blocks from the hotel
- 2
holidays in foreign countries can be miserable 
It was Saturday March 26th, the beginning of the three day Easter weekend.
- 3 
don't believe everything you read  
My room was not charming, a third floor walk up, with spotty internet at best, 
and a snooty and extremely unhelpful proprietor.

The whole place was shabby, depressing, a far cry from Mama Shelter and Mas de la Chapelle and equally if not more expensive.
I wasn't happy
Once installed in my new room, with a better connection (no internet, no White Queen,YIKES!)  
 I went off to have lunch and explore the old town heading up to Place Massillon with its Tour des Templiers, and a multitude of restaurants.  It was a beautiful day.  
I thought things were looking up
- 4
Looks can be deceiving:
I picked the prettiest spot for lunch
with the slowest, most inept waitress imaginable
a  very greasy, heavy tarte aux oignons
topped off with a tepid coffee
 Lunch done, I was glad to be on the move, through the twisty climbing streets studded with stunted olive trees that snaked around medieval buildings up to and through Parc St Bernard to Villa Noailles and the ruins of the 12 century château, perched above it 

the park was beautiful, wisteria in full bloom
Villa Noailles click here for more

was built by the architect Robert Mallet-Stevens in 1923 for Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, patrons of modern art (particularly surrealism) in the 1920s and 30's
Cool I thought! 

Here's where Balthus, Dali, Man Ray, Buñuel, Miro and Brancusi, Gide, Giacometti, Cocteau, ne plus ultra of the avant garde, created, played and performed.
Jean Cocteau, André Gide, Marie-Laure de Noailles et Georges Auric leafing through "La femme 100 têtes" by Max Ernst at Villa Noailles, Hyères, 
Photograph: Marc Allégret,1930, 

- 5
 heydays don't last forever
Villa Noailles is now underwhelming. Seriously lacking much of interest beyond its wonderful gardens and remnants of its former glory.  The cubist house is currently used as an arts center, and has been stripped down to it's bare bones with some dusty faded letters, photos, sheets of music and news clippings peppering the once astounding rooms, all that's really left of the artistic innovative modern place it once was
- 6
 french schools seem to have vacations every other week
teeming inside and out with teenage school groups (Easter vacations!) who were difficult to avoid and loud
I was cranky
(but probably would have liked it a lot without company)
 photo by Alain Vernoud
 so I escaped by climbing up to the château
  First built in the eleventh century by the Lords of Fos, and used for defense, 
the castle was expanded through the years until demolished in 1620 by King Louis XIII. 
finally a   
the view 
That was my afternoon
merde, what was I going to do tomorrow.....Easter Sunday?
miles: 10.25 

Easter Sunday
When in doubt find a market
How about public transportation?
Since the hotel was far away from the Marché au Port St Pierre,   (a seaside resort town, not on the sea??)
I went out to find the bus
it was Easter......need I say more?
so my dinner money went again to a taxi-driver

The market was okay.  It was drizzling out, I didn't like the town, I was still cranky and not in the mood.
I walked through a boat show at the port, boring...and just kept on walking. Eventually I found some beach, some beach houses, rich summer cottage communities still vacant in March along the edge of a protected pine forest
I loved the pines!

Pine Trees Seaside Pierre Bonnard 1923

I kept walking, and walking, all the way to Capte
Then I found a boulangerie in the tiny town, had a coffee, used the facilities bought some wonderful flaky pastry feuillette
and headed back.
And when I started on my hike back to the hotel, I saw them
 in the Salin des Pesquiers, the ancient salt marshes

and finally was glad I was there,
turned up the volume of my music
and kept going

a big
a glass of Angueiroun rosé at Le Glacier de la Tour
place Massillon
and a salad with smoked salmon

but not enough to not be glad to get out of Dodge

3 trains to
Golfe Juan
Le Pin à Golfe-Juan (The pine at Golfe-Juan), 1926
Raoul Dufy (French, 1877-1953) 

When Napoléon Bonaparte escaped Elba in 1815 and landed at the beach in Golfe Juan on the French Riviera with 1200 men at 3pm on March 1, he announced to his troops:
L’aigle, aux couleurs nationales, volera de clocher en clocher, jusqu’aux tours de Notre-Dame

(The Eagle, the national colors, will fly from steeple to steeple, up to the towers of Notre Dame)
- 8 
is it really true?  Are smart phones really necessary?
I landed at the train station, with no entourage, just heavy bags, and proclaimed
where the hell are the taxis!!

Pablo Picasso & Francoise Gilot, Golfe-Juan, France, August 1948 Robert Capa

Golfe Juan's claim to fame
 big yachts
it seems as though bunches of artists liked it around there too
for me
Golfe Juan was neither a + nor a -
it was just a place to spend a night
but there was a + or two
Mixto fritos at Olives
the best coffee at Bar L'Escale by the Old Port on Avenue des Frères Roustan

miles: 6.5

March 29, 2016
Dale (director of artist residency A.I.R. Vallauris) 
picked me up (the car was a definite +) and introduced me to my new digs for the next four weeks

1 Boulevard des 2 Vallons, 06220 Vallauris, France

View from my window