Friday, July 22, 2011

Arthurian Legends in Nice?

Last Sunday we set out to put on our hiking boots and start exploring the much revered arriere pays or backcountry, meaning: the hills and mountains North of Nice. A mere half hour by car from our doorstep, we found ourselves at the Col de Chateauneuf, a modest pass at 700 meters altitude. On top of the peak (or bump) right next to it lie the ruins of an old castle that was abandoned in the 18th century.

The site is left relatively unmaintained, and was quite stunning, especially with the backdrop of nearby hills half covered with a mysterious fog... This decor of half-standing walls, bridges and towers covered with ivy and other local wild plants totally evoked the imagery associated with the stories of King Arthur.

We did not find Merlin, unicorns or the killer bunny, but we did find plenty of blackberry bushes that we'll need to get back to once the berries will be ripe (probably in another 2 weeks)!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

24 hours in Tuscany

From Q:
Two weeks ago I went to Tuscany for a concert at the Lucca Summer Festival, featuring legendary Burt Bacharach and Italian star Mario Biondi (part of a song during their rehearsal can be heard here). Lucca's about 3 and a half hours from Nice by car, which is a lot by French but not US standards. Anyway, it's basically next door!
Lucca's a very cute fortified city with many churches and old houses, narrow streets and restaurants. The wall surrounding it is about 2.5 miles long and you can walk, run, or even bike on it! I thought the best thing about Lucca was that it was still mostly Italian, meaning the tourists were a minority, in spite of the popularity of the place. So I'd hear Italian spoken (or yelled) in the streets, at the restaurant, and around me at the concert venue (a stage set up on one of the main town squares).

On the day after the concert, I drove a very scenic high road through the mountains North of the Lucca, the Garfagnana region. A most winding road (C knows too well that these are my favorite) took me from one perched village and its Roman church to another. If you've seen recently the movie entitled The American, it is a very similar kind of scenery. Breathtaking views of old town among very dark green hills, sometimes a lake, or a medieval bridge, and always a very typical food and wine store that I brought treasures from...

So if you get the chance, don't hesitate to come on down here! C and I will be happy to show you around. Any excuse is a good one :-)