October 2001by Anne Marie, Deirdre, and Ellie
We spent the next three nights in St. Jean Cap Ferrat at the beautiful hotel, La Voile d'Or. We were stunned when we arrived. White-gloved bellmen stood waiting for our arrival. How refreshing it was to be taken in like royalty and treated like friends! The hotel is on the 'Cap', and it has beautiful views of the ocean and marina. The rooms were spacious and very comfortable. A lovely warm yellow was the décor of the lobby and lobby bar, and there were huge vases of lilies everywhere. That night we enjoyed a lavish dinner at the hotel's restaurant. The food was wonderful, but the real beauty of the meal was the service. Our entrees arrived under sterling silver domes, and three waiters removed each one simultaneously. Our table afforded a spectacular view of "Le Port de St. Jean”, and it was all very dramatic. As we sipped pink champagne, we took great delight in each of us having our own waiter!
Before departing for St. Tropez we made a visit to the hotel Royal Riviera. A Grace Leo hotel, the Royal Riviera is a recently renovated palace on the Côte d’Azur. The hotel décor is an eclectic mix of ancient Greek and 21st century chic. A rarity on the Côte d’Azur, the Royal Riviera has a private sandy beach. Simply put, the Royal Riviera is a gorgeous hotel.
We were off for St. Tropez. Our planned route took us along the coast road, passing through Nice, Antibes, Cannes, St. Raphael and St. Maxime. We stopped in Cannes to have lunch at the renowned Carlton Inter-Continental, a hotel at the top end of hotels in a city where just about everything is top end. The rich and famous had not yet begun to arrive for the mid-May International Film Festival.
After four days on the coast, we shifted gears, drove on to Provence and checked into our very own villa. Villa Fontvieille allowed the three of us relaxation in a way that only a private vacation villa can. The villa came provisioned for our arrival night with roast chicken from the local boucherie.
The subtle hues of Provence sit in stark contrast to the vivid colors of the coast. Life seems a little more blurred around the edges, and the primary tones along the sea are softened by the many greens abundant in the countryside. May 1 was Labor Day, and as is custom in France, people were handing out Lilies of the Valley. It is a sign of good luck to receive a lily on May 1. The rich scent of the flowers filled the air. We stopped at the hotel Abbaye-de-la-Sainte-Croix, near Salon de Provence for lunch.
St. Rémy has a fabulous market, and that day was market day. We sought out just about every product that can be made of lavender - soaps, sachet, and intoxicating perfumes. If it had been produced with lavender, you could find it here. Beautiful Provencal colored fabrics were going to make gifts for everyone back home. Our mouths watered from the array of local produce, cheeses, breads, and olives. After St. Rémy we took the short drive to the village of Paradou and poked around the exquisite French soap shops. One day we went to Clinique St. Paul outside of St. Rémy. Clinique St. Paul is the asylum where Vincent Van Gogh admitted himself the year before he took his own life. There is a Van Gogh museum at the asylum with posters of his works, but no originals. There is a beautiful garden where we were able to walk around and look at the subjects that Van Gogh painted. You can see where he stood and painted certain trees. Still a facility for the mentally ill, the only residents are women. There is a consignment shop located here where you can purchase art painted by the patients. Two of us bought paintings.
Our last stop was Avignon. Avignon is a major center for art and culture. The central core of Avignon lies within its 14th century walls, nearly three miles long. We wished we had more time to explore the miles of streets lined with quaint cafes and tempting shops. However, we had plenty of villas yet to inspect.
Despite a beautiful day there, we couldn't help but think there was so much more we wanted to see here and all over Provence! Deirdre would like to return to Avignon; Ellie would like to visit the Roman Ruins in Glanun. Anne-Marie would love to explore the vineyards and take more time to sit in a café to watch the world go by. We all agree on one thing: we can't wait to go back, again!
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