Carolyn's and Tom's Trips to France from 2009 to 2015

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sea Battle of the Flowers in Villefranche

 A bit like an American small-town 4th of July parade, Villefranche holds an annual sea "battle" of traditional fishing boats decked out in flowers (yes, the daffodils are blooming here).  The event comes complete with a marching band, dancing flowers, carnival creatures, kids in costumes, and general joviality. The event this year was held on a particularly chilly day, but the sun was shining and a fine time was had by all. We played hooky from school for a couple of hours this afternoon to watch the festivities.  Some pictures:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Only in France: The Menton Lemon Festival

Menton Lemon Festival 2013

We had a day off today and took the train to Menton, a lovely resort town on the Italian border, to check out the annual Lemon Festival. They create a park full of huge displays made entirely of oranges, lemons, and flowers (as well as parades with floats made of fruit, night-time displays, and other events). The theme this year was Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days and the amazing citrus displays depicted various places in the world visited by Phileas Fogg on his voyage. The fruit are attached to the huge display frames with elastic bands.  This year the displays consumed 120 tons (!) of citrus and a million elastic bands. Click on the thumbnails below to see larger images. Only in France!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Oysters and - gulp! - sea urchins

A beautiful day on the Côte d'Azur! We took the train into Nice (6 minutes from Villefranche), did some shopping at the market, found a fabulous cheese shop and bought some fromage, and then went to lunch at Nice's most famous seafood temple - Cafe de Turin. Looked like a movie set with white tablecloths, tin ceiling, tile floor etc. About the only thing on the menu is shellfish, most of it raw. We had a dozen oysters and decided to be brave and try sea urchins -- also raw. (They are the dark things at the top of the plate in the photo) The oysters were excellent: cold, briny, super fresh. The urchins were okay but I'd probably not order them again. Not much to eat and not much taste.
We're off to Antibes tomorrow for a hike along the sea, lunch, and perhaps a visit to the Picasso museum. Best to avoid Nice since it's Carnival and the town is a zoo.
School is going fine. It's hard to believe we're half over!

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Monday, February 11, 2013

The Truffle Market in Puget-Theniers

Last Saturday, we took a great trip on a little train that goes from Nice into the mountains. Looks more like a tram than a train. But the views are amazing and the mountain valleys beautiful.  Our destination was Puget-Theniers, a little village about an hour's trip above Nice. It was the site of the annual truffle market, complete with a marching band, sellers of wine, cheese, baskets, sausage and -- of course -- truffles.  We were the only tourists within miles. The fresh truffles were for sale at 120 euros for 100 grams, about $160 for 4 ounces.  A walnut-sized truffle costs about $40. A lot, but one truffle goes a long way, and the taste and aroma are amazing! We took one home and had an very special meal of truffled pasta with enough left over for a truffle sauce for our filet on St. Valentin (yes, Hallmark has convinced the French to celebrate Valentine's Day)

The marche

The truffles -- black gold!

The couple we bought our truffle from. They are holding a 300 gram truffle worth almost $500!

Truffle dog demonstration; smaller than a pig!
Is this France, or what?

We got snow, too!

So, all those folks in Maine are complaining about the snow. Well, we got snow, too, right here in Villefranche.
Here's a picture. You need to look carefully to see the snowflakes in front of the orange trees, but they are there. Several profs had to leave early because they were worried about getting home to their homes in the hills. There couldn't have been more than an inch up there. Nothing stayed on the ground here. Context is everything!

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Location:Quai de l'Amiral Ponchardier,Nice,France

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Scenes of Villefranche

Villefranche is a ancient fishing village, now a trendy summer resort. But in the winter, it retains the charm of what it must have looked like 50 years ago. We're staying in the old town and here are some pictures of the streets and alleys in our neighborhood. No cars, for obvious reasons. (You can click on the picture for a larger view).

Friday, February 1, 2013

French Washerwoman

We have a European washing machine in our apartment, but no dryer. Here's how one dries the clothes a la francais: