Marcher à L’Arrière

After being home for so long it’s only today I’ve had the chance to finally go through the remainder of my photos from France and get them all ready to be posted. Somehow my brain managed not to explode while trying to maintain any kind of order! I couldn’t forget about the final days at Courmettes, our trip to St-Jeannet while Sam and Janis climbed and Kobus and I wandered the village and snuck into a little restaurant for pre-dinner wine, cheese and a coffee. I made a lovely discovery while we were there, “Weird this block looks like butter, but I’ve never seen one on a cheese platter before… oh… oh… yep I just ate a chunk of butter! Blech!”

Back at the house Sandrine and I made an impromptu batch of Apricot Jam, we ate our last wood-fired pizzas, African food thanks to Kobus, a final BBQ and a little wandering through Tourrettes-sur-Loup one last time. Note that the very last photo is a little house I adored. I never went in it but every time we drove past it I just couldn’t help but long to live in this little tucked away treasure at the top of the canyon. Sigh… Maybe one day?

Summer gets a little crazy but we lived on the mountain with two other houses, the Shepherds and the not so favoured “goat guy.” We love the shepherds though, they’re lovely people and they have a lot to do once the sheep leave for the alps, namely, getting hay ready for the next season. Because there were many of us, and few of them, we went down to help. While I can’t say I did much (though I promise I tossed a few bails of hay before I was reminded I was probably going to ruin my camera with all the dust…) it was hard work and it cuts your skin up like crazy. When the work was all done from the field, to the storehouse it was all we could do to keep ourselves from the cherries as we refuelled.

What looked like a bleak last couple weeks in the south turned out to be, in fact, rather fabulous. Typically I worked on weekends and without a car it would mean I missed out on many great opportunities to get out and see the region but I was shocked to be given the weekend off at a most convenient time and with Janis and Gunta having moved to Cannes Sam, Kobus and myself all packed our things to crash on the sofa and the floor to make the most of the weekend in the city! With the hot sun in full force we swam in the sea three times in two days and hopped on the ferry to Isle-Ste-Marguerite, home of the prison known because of the film “Man in the Iron Mask” as the place where they hid this man away. We walked around the entire island and on the opposite end from the shuttle boats we found a mostly deserted piece of sand to have our picnic and swim. The group soon learned I loath seaweed. I have tried all my life not to be so petrified of it but I am and in another country where you don’t know what stings and what doesn’t it wasn’t helping anything. Tried, as I might, to get in without brushing up against this orchid-esque flora in the ocean the rocks were slippery and wobbly and I kept panicking. Kobus offered me his rather large sandals to try that but being so large it was hard to keep my feet from floating and as I finally made it in ready to swim out to the group there was a large rock beneath me that so happened to sit very high in the water and what I couldn’t see as I swam out was that I was swimming into the biggest, grossest MASS of seaweed. Screaming and splashing, I did what I could to right myself and get the hell outta there but the more I tried the more I kept falling in it, my stomach was the first to be assaulted mid-swim, then my legs then my bum and my feet now badly bruised I wasn’t sticking around for further terror. Call me dramatic but it’s a thing. I made quite the scene with my blood-curdling scream, I’m not sure it’s something most people will ever hear from me, but this, was an exception!

Along with our weekend we all went to Cagnes-sur-mer for a storytelling festival. I must admit, in my mind I was turning my nose up thinking it sounded terrible, which is funny since I know I love a good storyteller. Somehow I wasn’t convinced I could enjoy it but I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at the Renoir estate to see all the French families out with their picnic dinners ready for a night of story and song. After this and our day on the island Sam and his friend Kris ended up going on their way and Kobus and I weren’t ready to head back up the mountain just yet. Both being huge lovers of food and art we took to Nice! I took him to the Cours Salaya where the markets are bustling on the weekends, I introduced him to Socca bread, the famed nicois chickpea flatbread and we stocked up on smoked salt, things for “grignoter” and eventually toward the Matisse and Chagall (!!) museums. Along the way we fell upon a blackfoot festival where we had tasty Merguez for lunch and at the end of the day, tired and exhausted we took the bus to Vence and despite our many attempts at getting a hold of anyone to drive us the rest of the way up the mountain we were sore out of luck. Very sore (actually sore) and we hitchhiked to Tourrettes (my first time!) and then had to hike up the mountain in our “oh-so-appropriate” sandals. We were hot, disgusting and my feet were blistered from days of walking in the intense Southern heat but at least I could finally say I’d done it, I climbed up to our house! He was a great companion for the journey even though he only stayed with us a couple weeks!

Sandrine and I had the most difficult time trying to do things outside of work. We didn’t have the same schedules and so it wasn’t until my last weekend where Raphael and I borrowed a Courmettes car and drove to meet Sandrine and her boyfriend for yet another day on the sea! This time, Theoule-sur-mer. If anyone knows the region, it’s Sandrine. Having been a local her whole life and being curious as she is she can always give you an idea for what to do and where to go, which in my case, is perfect! This beach was great for getting away from the crowds in Nice or Cannes and it was a stunning location, though I haven’t included many photos to do it justice. Just trust me, it’s worth it and if someone suggests a hike to another beach, bring your camera, don’t be like me, walk to the other beach and have to return so you can document the event!

With one day left before my departure for Paris Sam’s guests and I trekked to the Goat cheese farm on the property to watch the milking and to get a tour of the dry rooms for the cheese fermentation. Goats are crazy, did you know that? Crazy. I might even go so far as to say they’re one of the dumber animals I’ve come across. Don’t get me wrong, I love their cheese and they can do great things, but they aren’t too terribly intelligent and they’re a bit annoying. We struggled to get them all off the cliffs and in for milking but once they were there I thoroughly enjoyed getting to enter each new space with awe. I love cheese, I love the idea of making cheese and it was all so fascinating… the only scary room was where the make the Tomme cheese, the smell of ammonia is INSANE. Hold your breath or you might pass out.

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