While temperatures have dropped like a rock in the last four days here on the French Riviera, it isn't quite cold enough today (3°C) to turn rain into snow.
Snow is expected though for today!
Mostly inland, and not that far up in altitude (200 meters). We have our small plastic sand shovels ready to shuffle the snow. You guessed it, no one is ready for snow by the coast. When it snows here by the coast in southern France, the whole region freezes up for a few hours; cars panic, folks run outside and snap pictures.
"Mystery has its own mysteries, and there are gods above gods. We have ours, they have theirs. That is what's known as infinity." -Jean Cocteau
It takes some effort to reach the Notre-Dame de Jérusalem chapel, also known as the Cocteau Chapel, at the Tour de Mare neighborhood of Fréjus in Southern France. It isn't all that far from the center of the old Fréjus, but the road that leads to it is a hushed secret. In my opinion, it should be sign posted everywhere as a must-see for visitors to Frejus.
Reach it and you enter a different world. Like a dream, it grasps you and pulls you into its own separate reality.
"Art is a marriage of the conscious and the unconscious." -Jean Cocteau
The Chapel sits at the outskirts of the Estérel Mountains. You park outside its gated entrance and walk your way up a pathway through a garden of cork oaks.
At the end of the path, you notice a small octagon-shaped structure propped up on a mounticle, the chapel. Its three heavy iron doors greet you solemnly. Light pierces through the doors' stained glass and runs inside.
"One of the characteristics of the dream is that nothing surprises us in it. With no regret, we agree to live in it with strangers, completely cut off from our habits and friends." - Jean Cocteau
On the the floor, glazed tiles shine in different tones of blue. They're shaped in elongated hexagons and slither their way to the center of the room. They move under your feet like waves on water. The murals surround you in dreamy blues and washed-out yellows. You notice bloody splashes of red across this soft pastel canvas: the Jerusalem cross, the nails in Jesus' hands and feet, the blazons of the Saint-Sepulcher order and the cup of wine all stand out in red.
"Art is not a pastime but a priesthood." -Jean Cocteau
The octagon's insides represent scenes from the Passion of Christ,from the order of the Holy Sepulcher, from the Passion of Christ and from Jesus' resurrection.
Cocteau's chapel not only depicts a world of sensations and of symbols, it embodies it. It's hard for me to convey the feeling of a visit when you plunge into Cocteau's world. The below video offers a vicarious alternative to a real visit.
To find out more:
We have previously written about the Cocteau Chapel. Read more about it here.
Read about the multi-talented artist Jean Cocteau at this site
Jean Cocteau was a very prolific and multi-talented artist. You'll find more of his murals on the French Riviera at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat at Villa Santo Sospir, at Chapelle Saint-Pierre in Villefranche-sur-Mer, in Menton (Le Bastion and Salle des Mariages) and at the Cap d'Ail though that site is not open to visitors. Also at Metz, Milly-la-Forêt and even London at the Eglise Notre-Dame de France, just off Leicester Square.
To know when to go:
From November to April: Tuesday to Sunday 9:30AM to 12:30PM and 2PM to 5PM From May to October: Tuesday to Sunday 9:30AM to 12:30PM and 2PM to 6PM
Closed on Mondays and on Holidays. Current cost 2€ per person.
To find it:
To find the Cocteau chapel at the outskirts of Fréjus, follow the below Google map.
In Cannes on the French Riviera, the Croisette rolls its red carpet every night and not just around the Cannes Festival. It's a carpet of energy-friendly LED lights, over 1,500 of them strung along the seaside Croisette promenade.
They come alive at night, changing to play with the colors of the sun as it sets behind the Mediterranean Sea. It's a symphony in red, blue, purple, yellow. It's a mood. Not overwhelming the scenery but highlighting it. If you visit, pull up a metallic chair and enjoy the show.
Enter the Musée de l'Annonciade in Saint-Tropez at the edge of the town's old port, and you enter a small, intimate two-floored house with white arched walls, high ceilings and a special aura. The museum is a former 16C chapel. In the 1950's, art-lover Georges Grammont transformed the building into a museum and doted the former chapel with 56 paintings from his personal collection.
Today, the little museum houses an impressive collection of paintings by neo-impressionist artists.
Browse around. You admire paintings of the village of St Tropez as it was 100 years ago.
Paul Signac painted it, from his St Tropez house "La Hune" where he invited many of his artist friends. Pierre Bonnard painted it. Albert Marquet painted it. Jean Puy painted it. André Derain painted it. Henri Matisse painted St Tropez too.
Meander around St Tropez through these paintings at the museum and you realize that not much has changed. In the morning and especially in the evening, St Tropez drapes itself in a special natural light, an enhancing glow. Erase the neon around the handful of more obnoxious shops in town, and you find that same glow.
St Tropez, at its heart, remains a magical village. It's a magical village with a magical little museum.
The Museum of l'Annonciade, St Tropez You'll find the museum tucked on the side of the old port at the end of Quai Suffren, at Place Grammont. The museum closes in November and stays otherwisde open from 10AM to Noon and 2PM to 6PM every day except Tuesdays. Phone: 04 94 17 84 10.
Everyone sees Antibes differently. To some, it's all about ancient history with Antibes' Greek origins as Antipolis; to others, it's a parking lot to display over-sized yachts; to others, it's an active and quaint old French Riviera town filled with cafés and colorful open markets. To a few, it's simply home.
Yesterday, while strolling around the old town of Antibes, my son and I each snapped a couple of pictures.