This year, we figured we’d get back to Europe, and after some haggling with our friends Rob and Christine, we settled on finding a little place in Provence or Cote d’Azur, in the south of France.
Christine found a great place outside Seillans, about an hour west of Nice, and so the trip began. We figured it would also be within a day’s drive of Chamonix, were I planned to run the Mont Blanc Marathon, which was the only one I could find within a reasonable distance of our probable destination. Trouble with that idea was that the Marathon has more than 8,300 feet of climbing, but I figured I’d deal with that later.
We were a little tired when we finally arrived. The house was perfect: off the main roads, featuring a driveway full of rocks (number one request by toddlers), as well as chickens, olive trees, fig trees, a shaded outdoor eating area, a tame magpie named Jackie, a golden retriever named Tess who is the Dirk Nowitzki of relaxation, and minor conveniences like a saltwater pool overlooking the nearby, hanging villages of Seillans and Fayance.
Days were filled with stressful activities such as buying fresh country produce, eating fresh French produce on fresh French bread, and wandering around villages that draw tourists, but not enough of them to become stuffed (at least in June.)
Cybil, we found out, is a little mountain goat, and budding art history geek like daddy. She refused to rest in Seillans until she had explored the tiny medieval streets and climbed all the way to the top of the village, the castle, where we posed for a horribly lit picture, to document our sweat.
There was also the stress of having to stop in shady cafes during these outings to Seillans.
Getting More Medieval
Seillans was great, but there were other perched villages to see. After I took the wheel of the foreign minivan to pilot us for a horrifying, bendy-road, mountain-defying trip during which everyone “made oil,” as the French say (look it up), we ended up in this tiny hilltop village, which had a view all the way out to the sea.
After a while, even the most game of mini medievalists can get a bit cranky and weepy.
So we did a lot of the beach thing, even though the house had a beautiful, saltwater pool, because we wanted to see those famous beach towns, and there was no nude sunbathing at our pool.
We started basic, with the nearby reservoir used by the French electric utility to produce zapjuice for the local population. This reservoir had the additional benefit of being an excellent locale for hookers to work any of the many roadside carve-outs that you can use to park your car to get down to the waterfront, or to, you know, get down get down.
(Please note that due to having a child along, I had to ignore my usual policy of always trying to get pictures of besequined, rural hookers. Also, I committed the photojournalist’s sin of messing with the environment in which I was working. I simply had to throw those floating condoms into the bushes before the babies could get to them.)
After the resevoir warm-up, we figured we were ready for the fancy beaches that draw tourists from around the world, so we headed off, on successive days, to St. Tropez and Cannes. It was my first time hitting the beach with European nudists, and Rob and Christine had purchased me a very brief, red budgie smuggler (not pictured) so I would fit in. I was disappointed to find out that the first naked French woman we saw was not the hickory-hued, sagging, leathery, story-fodder I hoped for, but some boring hot chick with her top off. (Not pictured. Sorry.)
St. Tropez, ferry, touristing, and finally, the water
At Cannes, we reversed the order, and went water first, to tire the kids out, so we could enjoy a nice meal while they slept in their strollers. Worked perfectly. They woke up, ate, and powershopped.