Why this blog?

To understand why this blog was created and where it got its name, start here

Friday, April 30, 2010

La Cabane a Huitres

I think I'm addicted. I returned to Paris on Thursday night and then moved into a new apartment in a different neighborhood on Friday morning just before noon. Formalities aside, I didn't even unpack before deciding that it was lunchtime. Where to go for lunch? Where else?! My favorite oyster place is no longer within walking distance, but it is a direct Metro ride.

When I arrived, all of the tables were occupied. No matter, Francis the owner motioned to a table by the door where one of the regulars was sitting. (It turns out that the majority of the patrons are regulars!) The 96 year-old monsieur was there too . .

When I first sat down in the crowded space, I jostled the table and spilled a few drops of one fellow's red wine. After a little bit of grumbling, things settled down and the oysters started arriving and the wine started flowing. Because it is such a small place, they often leave the bottles of wine on the table and you can serve yourself. This is not the kind of place where they measure every ounce that you consume!

My oysters disappeared quickly:

This could be very habit forming! I've never eaten such fresh oysters at such a good price in such a friendly ambiance. I'm sure I'll go back there next week . . . They are only open from Wednesday to Saturday, lunch and dinner. I suspect I'll see many of the regulars again.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Touring in Glastonbury

I enjoyed my trip to England. It felt quite different to be in a country where people speak English! We saw cathedrals and thatched cottages:

Glastonbury is famous for its Tor and the remains of its Abbey:

As well as its cults of the goddess and the Mists of Avalon. The shops are amazing! You can find all manner of flowing robes suitable for wizards and goddesses, plus crystals and magic wands and dragons and on and on . . . There is a Goddess Temple where you can train to become a priestess of Avalon (http://www.goddesstemple.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=59&Itemid=99) plus ceremonies for the solstice and full moon and Beltane (May Day). Even the outdoor markets offer flowing robes:

On Sunday, Ruth and her friend Steve and I went out for a Sunday lunch of - what else? - Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding!

We stopped at Compton Dundon to pay homage to a 1700 year old yew tree:

After lunch, we visited Bishop's Palace in Wells. Here's the gate to get in:

Here are Steve and Ruth at Bishop's Palace:

We had to park Steve's Toyota outside the gates - unlike those who arrived in Austins and got to park inside the gates:

Steve had to take his car and go back to work in London so Ruth rented a car for us to continue our visits. Can you guess which one is our rental car?

Birthday in Glastonbury

I celebrated my 60th birthday in Glastonbury with my friend Ruth. Can you guess my sign?

We were staying in a cottage in the countryside outside of Glastonbury. Here's how my birthday started out with a lovely breakfast, six candles, and presents!

The Tor in Glastonbury is a good place for contemplation. Here's what it looked like from my bedroom window:

And here's what it looked like from the base:

However, it turned out to be much less imposing and easier to climb than I imagined. Certainly not a 14er! I found myslef laughing and having a good time at the top. 60 is not serious at all!

Of course no birthday would be complete without birthday goodies. Here's my favorite tarte au citron:

Which we enjoyed with tea, sitting in the late afternoon sunshine outside our cottage:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I've been having some wonderful adventures in England, but have had very intermittent internet access so haven't been able to share stories, pictures, etc. This is a quick borrowed moment to let you know that I'll be back on line with lots more details by the weekend.

Thanks for following! Stay tuned . . . .!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Why did I come to La Napoule?

I became aware of the Chateau de La Napoule thanks to my daughter-in-law Rachel who has worked on an architectural study for some updates to the Chateau. Rachel is a friend of the Clews family who are owners of the Chateau and Directors of the La Napoule Art Foundation. Rachel also organized a volunteer work party of friends who came to the chateau in the summer of 2008 to make some decorative improvements in the Villa Marguerite where I'm staying. She earned the respect and appreciation of the Director of the Chateau and thanks to the goodwill created by her efforts, I was welcomed as a guest.

After first seeing photos of the place, I thought "What a wonderful location to host a seminar!" and so I came here to finalize details of a workshop for women contemplating their options for the second half of life. The workshop will be held from September 20-25, 2010 and will employ writing and art exercises as well as outdoor activities designed to facilitate renewal and self discovery. This is not just a vacation or shopping trip! That said, there will be plenty of time for fun, for excursions to the surrounding towns and countryside, delicious French food, and of course time for the beach!

I'll be putting together more details for those who might be intested - so please send me an email at earagon001@gmail.com if you'd like to know more . . .

Leaving La Napoule

What a difference a day makes . . .
Yesterday it was quite warm and I had breakfast on the villa terrace:

. . then watched a group of local school children who came to the Chateau for an art workshop where they modeled clay in the studio of Henry Clews:

Afterwards, I had lunch outdoors at the chateau.

Today I awoke to the sound of wind and rain and pounding surf. A walk along the formerly placid beach was transformed by the wildness of three foot waves crashing on the rocks and releasing the scent of ocean.

But this little boy didn't mind the wind and waves . . .

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chagall, Matisse

I am enjoying my extended visit to the Côte d'Azur. Yesterday I took the train to Nice to visit a couple of museums that I had heard about. I went first to the Chagall museum. Chagall lived in Nice for many years and the museum here houses a wonderful collection of his paintings, sculptures, and stained glass windows. Here is a small sample:

Afterwards, I went to the Matisse museum which is just up the hill about a mile away. You can also see Roman ruins in Nice, and this photo shows the outside of the Matisse museum in the background with the ruins in the foreground.

I'm sure you'll recognize some of the more famous of Matisse's work such as this one:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Île Saint-Honorat

On Sunday the three of us took a boat to the Île Saint-Honorat, a small island about a mile off shore from Cannes. The island has been home to a community of monks since the 5th century. The island is imbued with a very peaceful spirit and our visit to the church coincided with one of the six daily prayer sessions. It was very soothing - even for a non-churchgoer.

There is a XVth century fortified monastery that overlooks the Mediterranean:

And here is the Abbey as seen from the fortified monastery:

The monks spend a lot of time in silence and contemplation, but they also work on the land. The island is planted with two different types of grapes and they produce both a white wine and a red wine that are absolutely delicious.

We brought back a bottle of each and enjoyed it for dinner in the villa. That's Walter and Joan on the right and Emma, who is currently working at the Chateau, on the left.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I'm stuck in La Napoule for a little longer than planned! Of course, it's not such a bad place to be stuck in :-) I was supposed to fly from Nice to Bristol on Tuesday the 20th, but according to EasyJet, the earliest I can get out is Saturday the 24th. Oh well, I guess I'll go to the beach . . .

Saturday, April 17, 2010

La Colombe d'Or

There are only three of us staying in the villa: myself and a couple from Portsmouth, NH by the names of Joan and Walter. We arrived here on the same day and immediately became great friends. Joan and Walter have a rental car and have invited me to join them on some excursions to the surrounding towns. On Saturday we went to St. Paul de Vence, a lovely hillside town made famous by artists such Matisse, Modigliani, Chagall, etc. There is a very well known hotel/restaurant there called "La Colombe d'Or". You usually have to book months in advance to get into the place, so we were astonished when we arrived at lunchtime and were immediately shown to a table on the terrasse with a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside.

La Colombe d'Or has been open since the 1920s and is frequented by French movie stars, millionaires, and honeymooning tourists. The food is excellent, even though the menu has stayed virtually the same for decades. Even more famous than the food is the incredible art collection in the restaurant. In every room there are paintings, sculptures, drawings and notes from Picasso, Matisse, Miro, Modigliani, Braque, Fernand Léger, Chagall etc. This is just one corner of the inside of the restaurant:

There is a Calder sculpture by the pool:

I had the turbot with a creamy, delicate, delicious sauce:

With fresh wild strawberries (fraises des bois) and Chantilly (whipped cream) for dessert:

But the thing we'll remember most from lunch at La Colombe d'Or was the basket of crudités (fresh vegetables). Normally, when you order crudités in France, you expect them to be ready to eat; sliced, with dressings, etc. So you can imagine our surprise when the basket arrived with a whole UNCOOKED artichoke, a whole fennel bulb, a whole green pepper, a whole red onion, endive, a bunch of celery, half a cucumber, a couple of unpeeled hard boiled eggs, lots of radishes, a whole tomato and more. How are you supposed to eat this? I asked, pointing to the artichoke. The server just shrugged his shoulders and said that was the tradition of the restaurant - it's been served that way since the 1920s and they aren't going to change it now! The three of us had a good laugh, and enjoyed our lunch anyway - at least the tomato was delicious!

Friday, April 16, 2010

La Napoule (cont)

What a lovely place to wake up to! Here is the sun coming up over the chateau as seen from my bedroom window.

Here is is a view of the Chateau de La Napoule as seen from the beach. The villa and the chateau are part of the La Napoule Art Foundation. http://www.chateau-lanapoule.com/

There is a small beach nearby. It is April, and a little cool, but that doesn't keep the kids from playing on the beach and in the water.

You and your dogs can also play volleyball on a nearby beach.

But I'm afraid pitbulls and rottweilers are not allowed:

There is plenty of room to park your yacht if you decide to arrive by boat.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

La Napoule

After 5 years of gestation, my dream of hosting a writers workshop for women will come true next week. We will be staying in the Villa Marguerite (below) which occupies the grounds of the Chateau de la Napoule.
Villa Marguerite

The Chateau was acquired in 1918 by a couple of expat Americans, Henry and Marie Clews. The couple spent the next 20 years restoring the chateau which includes elaborate gardens and living spaces as well as studio space for Henry's sculptures. In 1951 Marie Clews created the La Napoule Art Foundation which seeks to nurture and inspire artistic talent. I learned of the Foundation through my daughter in law, Rachel Brand, who is a member of the foundation's Board of Trustees.

Eight of us will meet here April 11-18, 2015 for a week of writing alternating with excursions into the surrounding countryside. Look for more stories here in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cagnes sur mer

From snow covered mountains yesterday to palm trees today. What a change! I am now in Cagnes sur mer on the Cote d'Azur (French Riviera). Travel has been a little difficult in the last few days. There is a train strike going on and the south east of France has been hit particularly hard. A trip to a nearby town down the coast that would normally be very easy has become difficult to plan.

I am currently staying in an unremarkable hotel with a poor internet connection on a busy street in an unremarkable town. However, it was warm and sunny today and I didn't need a coat for a change. I am a couple of blocks from the Mediterranean and enjoyed a walk along the water. The local schools are on spring break here, and the government sponsored sailing school offered low cost sailing classes for the local students this week. Here are the beginners (in the tiny blue and white sunfish) and the intermediate sailors on the larger catamarans:

(Sorry about the quality of the photo - my small camera takes great low light photos but I don't have a great telephoto lens. . . )

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sisteron by day

I lucked out. It rained and snowed all night but finally this morning the sun came out and I visited the town of Sisteron. Its main attraction is a Citadelle which is a fortress that has served as lookout and protection for the town for several hundred years. The chapel on top was heavily damaged by bombings during WWII and has been restored over the last few decades which is why it looks fairly new. Here are a couple of photos:

This is one of the lookouts:

This lookout oversees the river below and an interesting mountain on the other side:

In addition to visiting the local attractions, I've decided I should sample the local culinary specialties. This is the "pieds et paquets" which is the pride of Sisteron. I don't think I'll tell you what it is - some of you might be grossed out - but it was delicious! (I am in training to accompany my son Eric in his travels to China ;-)

I'll be leaving Sisteron soon and taking the bus to Cagnes. I'll check in from there.