And another rendezvous with my dear friend Corinne!
Just thinking about our trip to Saint Tropez sends me into hysterics. It was by far one of the most action packed and highly entertaining few days that I have had in a long time. Julz and I spent the majority of the time in fits of laughter. If you remember my friend Corinne that I met while I was in Udaipur (India), she had kindly offered for me to come and stay with her in her lovely home in Saint Tropez while I was passing through the South of France. With an offer like that, how could I refuse?
Saying that Corinne is a character is an understatement. There are no words to describe this fun loving and generous woman. She is so full of life and such a young spirit (and probably one of the funniest people that I have ever met). She is the life of any party, a phenomenal cook (Julz and I have both said that we regretted not having a cooking class with her while we stayed) and a very warm person. Her English is much better than my French, but there still is/was some communication misunderstandings. She has the best outlook on life and her response to just about everything, said in a very husky (she's a big time smoker) French voice is "Of course! Why not?! Obligatory!" (also said in a very exclaimed manner). It is absolutely hilarious, and this quickly became Julz and I's motto (and Jacko's too) for the rest of the trip anytime anyone made any kind of comment about, well, anything!
On Corinne's advice, we took the bus from St. Raphael to Saint Tropez. Corinne informed us that she would pick us up from the bus station, which seemed like a relatively straight forward task, but in reality, it was not nearly as seamless as it probably could have been. The perils of neither of us being fluent in the others' language! It all began with the bus, as we were instrusted to get off before the main St. Tropez station but weren't exactly sure which station to get off at as we could hardly hear what the driver was saying over the audio guide. After several "false alarm" bell rings (I thought the bus driver was going to kick me off the bus), we finally found the "right" stop, which appeared to be in a shelter in the middle of nowhere. It was off of a main road, so we certainly weren't worried about our safety, but there was not a parked car in sight. Hmmmm, so where was Corinne? Fortunately, I had spied a Maccas about 800m before we found our stop. I was desperately needing to pee so thought it would be a good excuse to run to Maccas, use the facilities, and then hijack the free wee-fee to get back in touch with Corinne to see if we were in the right spot. I left Julz at the bus stop and instructed her that if a tall French woman with short black hair who is very expressive shows up, it is probably Corinne and to let her know that I will be right back. Once I finally arrived at Maccas, I was able to get on the wee-fee and get in touch with Corinne. It seemed that both of us had slightly different ideas of where we were supposed to be. The poor thing had been driving around to every bus stop she knew of trying to find us for the past twenty minutes! Of course I had no idea where we were, all I was able to manage to tell her was that I was currently at a McDonalds. Luckily for us, she knew where we probably were and was able to pull up to the right Maccas. After a very theatrical French greeting with lots of cheek kisses and hugs (and Corinne exclaiming lots of things in French - no idea what she said!), we were out of Maccas and on the hunt to pick up Julz who was patiently waiting for us at the bus stop.
Corinne lives near St. Tropez, in a town about 10kms away in the hills that surround an area called Cavalaire. The sceneary was gorgeous and very different from what we had previously seen in the South of France. It is far more country and remote compared to the likes of Cannes, Monaco and Nice. I certainly preferred it (I am after all a country girl at heart).
As soon as we arrived in her lovely home, the amazing host that she is, began whipping up quite the luncheon for us. As I mentioned earlier, perhaps it cannot be emphasized enough, Corinne is a phenomenal cook! We had delicious lamb chops, green beans and bread followed by a lemon tart for dessert on her patio overlooking the Cavalaire bay. At that moment, I knew that I surely was not going to go hungry for the next few days (and will certainly be very hard for me to leave!). It was almost impossible not to go for a second helping of anything!
Following our late lunch, we ventured into the town and began our sight seeing adventures with wine tasting at La Madrague. Provence in France is famous for its rose wine and it is absolutely delcioius! Not like any rose I have had before, very pale in colour but ridiculously (and dangerously) easy to drink. Corinne bought us a box for our stay (hmmm...overstatement slightly for two nights?!) and then we went to go visit her work, which was a stunning hotel that overlooked one of the bays (Hotel Soleious). It was absolutely beautiful and is surprisingly only open three months of the year. As you can imagine, they clean up big time during those three months! The views were spectacular.
We then spent the early evening walking around Cavalaire, which is a very small village. We had a drink at Les Rhumerie and returned to her house for dinner. Corinne made the most incredible spaghetti bolognaise I have ever eaten in my life. Julz and I both had multiple servings and were bursting at the end of it! But well worth the pain.
The following morning, we had a very lazy start with a lovely breakfast on the terrace. I really could get used to this view. We feasted on bread and local Provencal jams which were accompanied by bowls of coffee (I finally got up the nerve to try it)! As I mentioned in my Paris post, I have never seen anything like it but it is apparently very common in France. As an avid coffee drinker (well, a once coffee addict that is now back off the wagon since being in Europe), I was quite pleased as it was delicious and a lot of fun to drink out of a bowl. I felt like I was breaking all of the rules in dining etiquette. What a rebel!
Following breakfast, we drove into St Tropez village and met her friend Patrick for a drink. Patrick, a Saint Tropez native who is one of Corinne's oldest friends, was the epitome of everything that I thought a middle aged French man would be. He was well dressed, very charming, witty, and sat with us very nonchalantly smoking his cigar as we chatted. His English was decent, but it wasn't too long before the foursome had paired off to speaking their native tongues (sometimes you just get tired of thinking of "other ways" to say something). Between Patrick's cigar and Corinne's cigarettes, Julz and I could not looked less French sitting in that cafe as we patiently sipped our beers (and discretely gasped for fresh air).
St. Tropez is a lovely quaint village, and as you can imagine, full of all the high end shops! Great for some fabulous window shopping. There is a population of 4,000 people, and between June and August, it grows ten fold! I could not imagine what that would be like and quite frankly, I don't think I would enjoy it. Apparently the traffic is horrendous and can take over an hour to travel 400 metres on the sole road that leads to Saint Tropez. Brutal. The harbour is full of enormous mega yachts and it is most definitely a place to be seen and rub shoulders with the mega rich and famous. Clearly the rich and famous don't have to worry about the traffic, they can always fly their helicopters on their mega yachts!
Following our jaunt in the village, we headed out to where all of that action was - the beach! We spent the afternoon at Bagatelle renting a mat for 25E for three hours. Amazing people watching! The prices of drinks were obscene, as you can imagine, but it was well worth the experience!
That evening Corinne invited one of her friends, Nelly, a young girl from Lyon who recently moved to Cavalaire and stayed at her place for a few months upon arrival, for dinner. Nelly is an increidbly talented architect and it was so lovely to speak to her about her work and see some of the projects that she has created! In true French fashion, we again had a lovely homecooked meal of ratatouille, roasted chicken, green salad, rice and bread. INCREDIBLE!
The evening happened to "get away from us" slightly. It began with some very nice champagne, followed by mowing through quite a few bottles of rose (we were technically responsible for finishing the case in three days! Not sure what Corinne was thinking? We got nowhere near it!). Before we knew it, Corinne had begun a dance party in her living room. She had music blaring and we were all rocking out to a variety of music, some old, some new, and some very French. It was probably one of the most random and funniest nights that I have had since I have started travelling. Corinne, a nondrinker, sure knows how to get a party started! We danced for hours and somewhere along the lines, she was teaching the three of us the Charleston. As I basically have two left feet, I was pretty useless, but it was fun flapping around giving it a bash. Moments like this, when Corinne had more energy than probably the three of us combined brought so much colour to how I imagined her in her youth. She had told us countless stories of her escapades as a young woman, and she certainly sounded like a force to be reckoned with. Someone that I definitely would have liked to have partied with!
Once the lounge room disco had closed down (it was going for an impressive solid few hours), Corinne was off to bed but encouraged us to go out with Nelly in Cavalaire. It was a school night, well technically not for us, so what did we care! We ventured out on the town to the only pub that seemed to have any life in it. Coincidentally, Nelly met some boys that were from Lyon and they had some friends in common. Friends of friends soon became friends of ours and we spent the next few hours solidly glued to the dance floor boogying away to a very eclectic line up of music. Such an unexpected but brilliant night! Julz and I finally stumbled in at about 3.30am and as you can imagine, were very tired the next day.
In true Corinne fashion, once we had woken up, she could not mask her surprise that we had even come home. She said that if that was her when she would young, she probably would have ended up partying until the sun came up on a boat somewhere in the Mediterranean. And that she was fully prepared to drive around trying to find us the next morning for our bus to Avignon. What a character. And this is why I love Corinne - what a wild woman!
We chowed down on a quick breakfast and then Corinne took us to the bus stop. I will forever be grateful to Corinne for her generous hospitality (and to introducing us to her lovely friends). She truly spoiled us rotten during our visit. I just hope one day (Julz and I were pleading with her) that she comes back to Australia (she is very well travelled - my hero in that respect) so that perhaps some of you can meet her. She is fabulous.
Hope this finds you well, wherever you are in the world.
The breathtaking view of Cavalaire Bay from Corinne's home. Being up in the countryside like this was like being in your own sanctuary. So relaxing and so peaceful. I could have sat on her terrace all day and just stared out at the view.
Wine tasting at La Madrague! I have never been an avid rose drinker, I will have the occasional glass during the summer when it is very hot, but the rose from Provence is like nothing I have ever tasted before! It is so unbelievably easy to drink! Perhaps a little too easy...
The girls out front of La Madrague!
Cavalaire Bay. It was very blowy! Great kiteboarding conditions though.
The mega yachts of St. Tropez and as ridiculous as it sounds, they are a dime a dozen! Unbelievable!
Teeny tiny St. Tropez village.
Corinne & I.
View of the St. Tropez area from a lookout point Corinne brought us to.
One of the main squares in St. Tropez. Lots of petanque is played here!
The House of Dior. You can come here for drinks or to eat at the restaurant. It looked amazing! We just felt a tad underdressed to go there so swiftly moved on.
The marina at St. Tropez. May is still considered a slow time in this area. I would hate to see it in August! Must be an absolute zoo.
The beach itself did not impress me at all, but what did impress me was the restaurants and bars that lined the beach. Surprisingly, Nikki Beach, which is famous for its beachside party atmosphere, isn't really on the beach like I had imagined (a good 300m away!). We opted for Bagatelle, which was on the beach and offered some great entertainment! Prices for a lounger is extortionate but was worth the splurge as we got hours of entertainment people watching while we slowly sipped on our 20 Euro wines (ouch!). Corinne made friends with our server so we got exceptional service all afternoon long. Getting in with the locals is the way to go! And she knew how to work it...
The ladies on the loungers. I wanted to take some photos of the other directions of the loungers but there were some topless bathers so didn't feel it was appropriate. It was quite the set up though! We had a DJ going all afternoon, there were swimsuit models parading around in a fashion show and there were some big dogs that were partying like they were in their early 20s! Fantastic atmosphere...and it was only the early afternoon!
Corinne & I with our drinks.
The dance party. Started by the non-drinker! This depicts how fun she is. Quite an embarrassing story on my part, when I was trying to tell Julz about Corinne, I was really emphasising how much fun we had out at dinner one night in India (we went through quite a few drinks and were laughing all night long). So when the question came as to what we should get as a thank you gift, the answer was simple. Booze. We both automatically defaulted to a really nice bottle of champagne (French people love champagne!). So you can imagine my surprise (and horror) when we proudly presented her the bottle of champagne, which she graciously accepted and then when we offered to pour her a glass, she told us she didn't drink! "WHAT?! You weren't drinking in Udaipur? I thought you were drinking vodka?" Clearly not. She has never touched a drink. Julz just laughed, but later, once she had gotten to know Corinne, she told me that she didn't blame me for just assuming she was drunk! That's just Corinne. So full of life.