Monday, March 23, 2015

Sunday in La Napoule

Suddenly, my days have become very relaxed. I know this part of the Mediterranean coast from my Nice visits and I feel no urgent need to explore. Yes, I'll go back to Nice. And I'll head for the hills. And I'll set (a reluctant) foot in Cannes. But not today.

For one thing, I wake up to a drizzle. I know it will end and I know that in the week I'm here I'll have plenty of sunny days and so I ignore it. I unpack, I throw a week's worth of laundry into the machine and I settle in.

But I also notice a small puddle somewhere in the vicinity of the brand new (well every single thing in the apartment is brand new) washing machine.

Now, Jean-Paul and Martine were so concerned about leaving me alone in the south that they had planned on remaining in the hotel next door for a few days, making sure that all worked well and that I would have in them a resource for anything I needed.

I shoo them away. They'd already pretested the apartment by living in it for a few days.
But you don't know the area! What if you need advice?
I nearly roll my eyes. It's not all that new to me and you've given  me plenty of advice!
Jean-Paul hesitates, but I insiste. Martine misses her dog up in Alsace. They've been away from their home for a while and the drive back is long (8-9 hours).

Go! I repeat this (multiple times) when they come this morning, even after showing them the puddle. Jean-Paul calls Mr. le Plumber and tells me he'll be here in a half hour.
Go! I can handle Mr. le Plumber!

And so we say our good byes and they drive off.

I turn on their lovely preprogrammed classical music on their exquisite sound system and settle in to wait.

Mr. le Plumber comes promptly. He dismantles everything in the bathroom. He needs a part.
I will return! He assures me. I tell him I'll wait to buzz him in.
He returns.
He sweats.
He tries to turn down the heat. Me, I'm just enjoying the warmth after all those blistery walks along the English coast (even though it's wet today, the temps are in the upper fifties F).  But, I feel sorry for Mr. le Plumber who is stuck in a very warm space between the washer and a wall. I turn down the heat.

After a while I notice that it is approaching 11. I ask him if he minds if I pop out for a breakfast. I have visions of the last croissant disappearing. Good bread products must be taken seriously and I know that only one bakery is open today.
But I need to get another part!  He, who speaks little if any English, knows the name of the part in my language. Joint! he says proudly. C'est le joint!

Well that's okay. I'll go out and get my coveted bread product and return to eat it here. The apartment has a Nespresso machine. It has butter. It has milk. In other words, it has a good foundation for a breakfast at home.

I pick up the essentials.

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(see all those guy jeans? Another French tradition: send your man out to get the bread)

A baguette, an almond croissant at the bakery and then strawberries and wild strawberry preserves and eggs at the cute little food store and I go back home and Mr. le Plumber gets his part and I set out my breakfast and this is how one could say that I ate my first breakfast in France (well, it is noon, so really brunch) with Mr. le Plumber.

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After he leaves, I turn the heat back on and relax. I seem to be very good at that here.

Do I get ambitious in the afternoon? Here's a surprise: what I do is I iron my freshly washed and dried pants. I never iron anything back home, but I feel disheveled enough in France (as compared to the perfectly groomed French woman) without having to add wrinkles in my pants to my appearance. And so I iron.

Popping out for a quick exploration is not particularly attractive as it starts to drizzle just as I step outside. I admire the tiny little beach right across the street and wonder if Snowdrop would enjoy it.

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(It's raked every night which I think is quaint in the off season...)

I watch hardy types sit outside at a cafe-restaurant and enjoy an afternoon refreshment...

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... against the backdrop of bobbing boats.

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Back at home, I again get too comfortable on that lovely sofa. This wont do!

The rain has stopped and I decide to go to the Tourist Office. The walk is by the river, inland and I estimate it to be 45 minutes each way. (That would put me at 1.5 hours of brisk walking for the day -- I must arrest this downward trend!) I want to stock up on information about the area.

La Napoule, for me, isn't really a destination in an of itself. Like Sorede where Ed and I stayed so many times, it doesn't offer sights per se (though it does have a crumbling old castle, so perhaps it has one over Sorede), but it's pretty, it looks out to the sea and it even has a small beach for those who need that time on the sand. Its greatest virtue though is that it's an extraordinary base from which I can explore the area. Unlike so much of the crowded and spoiled Mediterranean coastal towns, La Napoule offers calm and serenity. It has great eating choices and everything is at your fingertips: good bakeries, a train station -- all just around the corner. The train station especially makes this place pretty perfect. In most other seaside towns and cities, the station is removed from the waterfront or anywhere you're likely to stay and so going somewhere becomes more of an effort. Here, I can be on a train five minutes after leaving the apartment. Jean-Paul and Martine have truly discovered a Mediterranean jewel. (And the reason they found it is that she had remembered coming here as a little girl for a summer with her aunt.)

But on a cloudy Sunday afternoon, I don't want to head out anywhere and so I use this day to simply collect information. Or I mean to do that.

I am not the only one walking the river walk. This is such a French (and Polish!) thing to do: eat a big meal then go out for a walk.

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(this is where the river meets the sea; choppy waters today!)

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(women talk, men talk; just not with each other)

And so I am glad I rejoin humanity out here among the flowering pear trees.

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But since this is the off off season, the tourist office is closed (Sunday closures continue until the end of March), so that you could say the goal was a bit of a fizzle, except that I did step into a bakery, just to look and I happen to catch the moment when the baker is taking out a fresh batch of baguettes with the most heavenly aroma. (Another French tradition: to buy your bread for the evening in the late afternoon, so it is as fresh as it can be.)

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The walk back is even better because I can appreciate its nicer twists and turns and all that this path has to offer.

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...which includes, every once in a while, views onto to the tip of the Alpine range to the north.

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Dinner, well, it appears that I have picked a place (Le Tire Bouchon) where good looking young people go. I am definitely twice as old as nearly everyone there. Maybe they have left their babies with grandma. Maybe they're just thinking about whether to start a family. [France has one of the higher fertility rates in Europe at 2.01 per woman, but the mean age for starting a family is also high at 29.9 years for the mother. Compare that to the States: 1.88 births per woman, with a mean age of first birth for the mom at 25.4.]

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It's thought to be a tapas wine bar and I see that many simply order charcuterie trays of meats and cheeses. Perhaps they had their main Sunday meal with families, in the afternoon.

The food is exceptionally good. Consider this gambas tempura -- delicate, with an intense dipping sauce.

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The French around me is rapid and intense. It's as if the young people here are loaded with a verbal energy that cannot be tamed.

I finish and walk slowly to my little apartment by the sea. The moon, new and thin, is nonetheless shining brightly over the Napoule  rooftops. The clouds are chased away. It's going to be a sunny Monday here, in southern France.

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  1. At first I thought I could smell those baguettes through the internet here! I can! But then I realize, Paul's got a bread baking in the bread machine! Oh well... I love this little spot you've chosen. And Ed must really love the boats!

  2. A lovely settling-in day for you. Peaceful, unhurried, just doing whatever-comes-next.

  3. And...I crave that almond croissant.

    We bake our own baguettes, focaccia, sourdough, everything. Except for a recent loaf of rye to make the St. Patrick's Day Reuben sandwiches, I can't remember the last time we bought bread.

    We rarely bake sweets, though, and the nearest croissant that looks THAT good is a half-hour away. Oh yum.

    It is admirable that people there are out walking and biking even on a chilly dark day. I pass by the trails here on a spring day that is retreating into winter - in my CAR :) and no one is out. How did it happen that we lost our outdoor exercise ethic? Even I spent my whole childhood outdoors on my bike or skates, and later walking around in a cluster of teenage girls, but I don't see that anymore. It was fun! It is a lost pleasure.

    1. Pond skating too... all winter! Great fun when you have a pond just up the street. Do people in France ice skate? Is it cold enough (northern France only, I guess) for that?

    2. Actually they put up ice rinks in the winter in most major cities of France -- though not this far south. But as for frozen ponds and more natural skating environments -- the mountains! Have to head for the mountains in the east! Lots of snow and ice there.

  4. La Napoule seems like a lovely city! And the food! I'm not even hungry and your breakfast had me wishing to join you. Yum!

  5. Perfect beginning and ending...a lovely late breakfast and a sliver of a moon, which I can see tonight out our windows. Glad you are relaxing in this special find.


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