Mary Jane and I have just returned from the adventure of our lives. We spent a month in Europe with our dear friends Margo and Jeff Lestz. The Lestz live in Nice, France as well as Surrey in England. After a significant flight across the Atlantic we finally arrived at Aeoport Nice Cote d’ Azur to soon be greeted by Margo’s wonderful smile. As we departed from a short bus ride to walk the remainder of the distance to their apartment there was Jeff overlooking our arrival from one of the balconies of their beautiful apartment.
Soon after my short recuperative nap of ten hours I was ready for adventure. It is somewhat difficult to categorize the many sites, smells, and tastes that we encountered and so I will highlight a few from each stop on our odyssey.
The Mediterranean sea is unparalleled in its’ breathtaking beauty. All who are near it, are drawn to it with a magnetic pull that is compelling. We observed every one from young lovers getting married to the homeless equally enjoying its’ comforts. We walked along the pebble beaches several times and wondered about the stories the sea could tell. Jeff and I throughly enjoyed reminiscing over old adventures and times gone by and it seemed that instead of over forty years of knowing each other we were magically transported back to the beginnings when we were both teenagers. One evening we had dinner at a lovely restaurant on the beach. I could not help but notice the table next to ours that was full of a jubilant French family who appeared might be enjoying a family reunion. They subsequently ate, took turns swimming, and huddled for family pictures with a freedom and joy that was a refreshing change.
The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild overlooking the Bay of Villefranche was a fascinating study in the lives of the ultra rich. The home of the Baroness de Rothschild has nine gardens and a magnificent fountain thats’ spray was set to music. The house is flamingo colored and illustrates the lives of the wealthy during the Belle Epoque. The Baroness had a very interesting collection of porcelain that included an orchestra of monkeys that was quite unusual. Among her animals, during her life, was a monkey in residence.
Villa Santos Sospir owned by Jean Cocteau’s friend, Francine Weisweiller, located at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, is one of the most unique homes that I have toured. Cocteau often returned to the home from 1950 until his death in 1963. The originality of this home was that Cocteau drew and painted on almost every wall. Jean Cocteau was famous novelist, poet, artist, and filmmaker. It is said that Francine invited Cocteau to the Villa for dinner in 1950 and that he stayed for thirteen years. Cocteau made a short film about his artistic borrowed abode that can be found at: http://youtu.be/PVDI7SBv9RI .
I left the United States without my hat. When I arrived in Nice…in the Mediterranean I quickly noticed how hot my head became and subsequently began searching for a covering. Being a fan of straw hats, I have three of them, I could not help but take note of Margo’s great straw hat and especially its’ high quality straw. The search began for a hat like Margo’s and continued to no avail for three hot days. Finally one morning Mary Jane and I were exploring the quaint diverse shops of Nice when we happen upon a hat store…having nothing but hats. Wa La I leave with a wonderful cloth hat that has no straw in its’ composition. Mary Jane finds a lovely french hat, that I am told makes her look like the literary character Madeline, but she must think about the purchase over lunch. During lunch she decided to look further. So, we begin our quest again and quickly find another hat store. As we peer into the door we notice the same people that were in the first store are now here as well…or as Mary Jane said it must be fate. She now has a new french hat.
One of the most powerful sensory stimuli I received while I in Nice was the location of Margo and Jeff’s apartment. It is not only a minute or so away from the Mediterranean Sea but it is also in the middle of where the action is. It is directly above several restaurants and the continual laughing and talking and life I found refreshing and mentally stimulating. I even enjoyed hearing one of the restaurants below washing their dishes late at night especially after I realized that I need not feel guilty of not helping Margo and Jeff with what I thought was their late night dish washing efforts.
We drove to Grasse, France which is famous for perfume manufacturing. It is known as the perfume capital of the world. We went to the Fragonard perfume factory to observe how their perfume is produced and then to purchase some. During the tour our guide spoke of the rare talent in the perfume industry of being able to distinguish between the thousands of scents used to produce exotic French perfume, this person is known as the Nose. There are very few of these olfactory gifted individuals world wide. The young woman who both performed the tour and sold the perfume was a delight and a truly dedicated perfume professional.
Margo graciously invited us to attend a meeting her and other authors that was conducted by Patricia Sands. The group was diverse with Canadian, French, English, and American guests and extremely warm and collegial with Patricia taking time to speak with each of us and make us welcome. I was impressed with Margo’s establishment as a member of the literary scene in Nice. I left the meeting with a renewed desire to write and self publish after hearing of Patricia’s success in doing so as she told us that one of her books has sold over twenty-six thousand copies.
As the Nice adventure of our trip concluded we prepared for our flight to Venice and excitement and bronchitis. Stay tuned.