An invitation, out of the blue, to revisit Gassin, near St. Tropez, in the South of France was too good an opportunity to pass up! I had painted this Provençal house after a previous visit, back in 2011 and I’ve always been keen to return:
I took off into the early morning dull, grey skies over London and landed a couple of hours later in a very bright and sunny Nice. By lunchtime I was sitting at Key West, on St Tropez’ famous Pampelonne beach, staring out at the rolling surf of the Cote d’Azur
– wondering all the while what on earth I’d done to be so fortunate!!
Once back at the house, after settling in and a good night’s sleep (despite the army of frogs er… ‘calling for company’…. from an adjoining neighbours swimming pool!) I awoke at first light, threw open my window and gasped at the idyllic peaceful, Provencal scene that stretched before me.
I filled my lungs with the fresh country air, sweetly scented with Mimosa, Rosemary, olive wood smoke and salt from the sea….and, after a breakfast of fresh croissants and strong coffee:
made the ten minute drive, through the vineyards into the colourful port of St Tropez:
The abundance of fresh produce; fruit, flowers cheeses, herbs, salamis and baked goods on display, not to mention the fine linens, scented soaps and brightly glazed pottery, is quite simply breathtaking!
And no one lives quite like the French either! To me, they have their priorities right too: Come 1 o’clock, no matter what, everything stops for lunch. They work to live not live to work! Shops are closed, and for a couple of hours, over a leisurely meal and a glass or two, neighbours and fellow shop keepers meet in a local eatery to sit together, enjoy each other’s company and put the world to rights. The art of conversation, face to face communication, is alive and well in France (and much of the rest of the Mediterranean too, I’m sure) – but it’s something I’m afraid we’ve all but lost, on our own shores…..
Laden with goodies I set off to explore the maze of brightly painted, narrow streets: before stopping for lunch at the famous red-painted ‘Sennequier’ cafe on the port. Facing the impressive line up of luxury yachts, I joined in the national leisurely pastime of people-watching and sipping endless cups of cafe – all to the gentle strains of a passing busker (who just happened to sound exactly like Charles Aznavour!) and, with her image appearing and her presence felt on virtually every corner, I almost expected the legendary BB to appear at any moment!
Before heading home, I stopped to buy a famous ‘Tarte Tropezienne’ (a delicious sweet custard sponge) for tea:
The current exhibition is of several of Bonnard’s sketches of his muse, Marthe de Meligny:
The following days of the week rolled into one, filled as they were filled with excursions to the nearby medieval hilltop villages such as Ramatuelle, Gassin and Grimaud.
and, at every opportunity, indulging in my favourite pastime of all, rummaging around a local Brocante/ Antiques/Flea market.
There is no doubt that this is an expensive part of the world but the good things in life, the important things; good, simple food, good wine, quality family/ friendship time and plain old fresh air, fresh flowers and sunshine are all relatively inexpensive or free…..and can be appreciated and enjoyed by all…..Yes, the French have definitely got the work/play balance just about right. IMHO anyway……They’re an example to us all….