Saint Paul de Vence: Miro in his garden


During his years in Paris, artist Joan Miro developed close ties with Marguerite et Aimé Maeght, art supporters, traders and founders of the Fondation Maeght in St Paul de Vence in southern France.

Aimé Maeght helped Miro when the artist arrived in Paris after the tumult of the second World War. Miro remained grateful to the Maeght family for their early trust and helping hand. He donated artwork to the Maeght galeries and dealt almost exclusively with Aimé Maeght in the trade.

As a result of this tight connection, the Maeght fondation's gardens are filled with Miro's playful sculptures, ceramics, and fountains in Miro's "Labyrinth" creation: there you'll find his fundamental egg (1963), the smiling wall lizard, a ceramic wall, sun dials.

But from June 27 to November 8, 2009, Miro does more than adorn the Fondation Maeght's gardens. During the "Miro dans son jardin" expo, Miro shines all over the open art museum in Saint-Paul de Vence. Over 250 of Miro's creations dot the lively museum's gardens and interior spaces from expo rooms to library. Many of Miro creations' now on display have never before been seen by the general public.

If you're on the French Riviera and curious about Miro and his art, don't miss it.

Getting there?

Half a kilometer from St Paul-de-Vence.
By train, the nearest train station is Cagnes sur Mer then bus to Saint Paul.
By bus from Nice: bus number 400 to Vence by Saint Paul.
Highway: from Nice exit number 48, from Cannes exit number 47 Villeneuve Loubet/Cagnes sur Mer then follow the signs to Saint Paul


The Maeght Foundation is open from:
October 1st – June 30th : 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
July 1st – September 30th: 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.

"Miro dans son jardin" takes place until November 8, 2009.

Parlez-vous French Riviera?

MedRelax Quite a few of you are ready to plunge into the French language with the help of a language immersion school on the French Riviera.

And why not? It's fun, it's like a club, it leaves you enough time for sight-seeing, it is a chance to meet other fellow travelers who are deeply curious about other cultures, it opens a window into the best local spots from teachers' insights, and some include nice options for room-and-board.

Institub Above photo by Institut de Français

We've heard a few good things about one French-language program in particular, the Institut de Français in Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera. The school offers a 2 and a 4-week French immersion program. It's intense. No English allowed during class-time, not even during lunch. Yet folks love it. Many come back regularly. The fact that it's set in a beautiful villa in gorgeous perched grounds in Villefranche-sur-Mer has something to do with it. But the school's atmosphere and the students' progress surely also play a big part.

A couple of days ago, the Financial Times published an insider view into this program. Read the piece here.

Sentier du Littoral: Nice to Villefranche

Pausing at Cap Ferrat Sentier du Littoral

Along the French Riviera, the Sentier du Littoral or coastal path winds its way up, down and along creeks, cliffs, sandy beaches, pebbled beaches, Riviera town promenade, villas painted in peachy pastels, even a national park (in Port-Cros - check it out here).

We've written about it almost as much as we've hiked it. If you are in reasonable walking shape, we highly recommend you fit a walk along the Sentier du Littoral on your trip to the Côte d'Azur. This site is full of hiking tips and pics. We also recommend the English-language hiking guide, 26 Gorgeous Hikes on the Western Côte d'Azur.

Until now, if you longed to walk from the Cap de Nice to Villefranche-sur-Mer, the Sentier du Littoral would take you only half way there.

The Sentier du Littoral is gaining new ground. This week, a new section of coastal path opened, completing the connection between the the Pointe des Sans Culottes under the Mont Boron in Cap de Nice, along the Pointe de la Rascasse, Pointe Madame all the way to le Lazaret by the port in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

If you're expecting an easy flat stroll between Cap de Nice and Lazaret in Villefranche, think again. Steps were added along this section, making the new 1.5 km connection a pleasant session of aerobic exercise. Of course, you can stop anywhere along the way and catch your breath and soak in the cliff-side views of the sea.


Where to begin?

For the Cap de Nice to Villefranche hike, begin at the end of Maeterlinck Blvd, east of the Port Lympia of Nice. Parking is sparse here. Reach it by bus (Nice-Menton Ligne 100, or Nice-Villefranche) and hop off at the "Hopital Anglais" stop. See Google map below.

More Riviera Sentier du Littoral?

Plans are in the works to connect the Maëterlink to the Pointe des Sans-Culottes with a safe hiking path by 2011, likely through steps up to the Basse Corniche road.

The dream is to connect the towns of Théoule-sur-Mer in the Var all the way to Menton. There's enough determination among key proponents and the Alpes-Maritimes administration to make it happen. The question is when. Until then, we have plenty of smaller stretches of coastal hiking paths to enjoy...

View Cap de Nice Sentier du Littoral in a larger map

Google StreetViews the French Riviera

StreetViewsNice If you follow a bit of travel technology, you've heard of Google StreetView. It's a hybrid concoction of Google Maps mixed with Google Earth and it shows you photographic renditions of city streets so you see intersections, lights, shops, haggard-looking blurry faced folks (haggard-looking for legal reasons). With your mouse or control, you twist the views into all sorts of angles.

How are these views taken?

Unlike plain old Google Earth, Google StreetView does not use satellite pictures to show an area. It relies on cars (and bikes too!) equipped with multiple cameras to criss-cross the streets of our planet and to beam back their multi-angle photo shots.

What towns of the French Côte d'Azur are currently covered by StreetView?

As you can imagine, it takes time for a camera-equipped Google Mobile to StreetView a whole city. As of May 2009, Marseille, Nice and Toulon have been StreetViewed on the French Mediterranean coast. More will come.

How can I use StreetViews?

Since we're street strollers, we're going to get walking directions for the city of Nice, France. Then we're going to cruise through the streets from Point A to Point B using StreetViews and its pegman icon.  Maps_pegman

Here's what we do:

Go to Google Maps and zoom on the city of  Nice. Click on Get Directions. Type in a Point A starting point (we picked Centre Commercial Nice Etoile, Nice) and Point B (Cat's Whiskers, Nice) destination, in our case, a nifty little English-language bookshop that carries good local titles including our hiking guidebook.


In the drop box, pick Walking. You get the walking directions. Granted, these are simple given the short distance, but no reproaches here.

Next, we drag the little Pegman icon and drop him anyplace we want to visualize the streets.

Google calls its StreetView application and here pops views of the street. What's nifty is the way we can twist and turn the angle on these views, so you move with the views. We see our Cat's Whiskers shop, right next to an excellent Artisan Chocolatier. Very cool.


Of course, you can't smell the chocolates or pate d'amande creations at the chocolate shop. Nor can you experience the warm potpourri aromas of baking bread, roasted chicken, pipe smoke and a tinge of dog pee.

Could Google have a Google StreetSmells project underway? You can't really experience France without it.

Until then, you'll have to visit yourself.

Nice: Velos Bleus Fight Traffic Blues

Velib In July of this year (2009), the Velib rolls into Nice. If you haven't heard, the Velib is a popular albeit controversial self-service bicycle rental system. Sturdy gray Velib bikes abound in Paris. Swipe a subscription card and you can pedal away on a Velib over the cobblestone streets of Paris.

By this summer, you'll find the same kind of rental bikes scattered across automated rental stations in Nice. To reflect Nice's beloved big blue Med, Nice will call its bikes the Velos Bleus. By mid-2010, 175 rental stations are promised for a total of 1,750 Velos Bleus. Bikes will, bien sûr, be painted blue. BikeVeolia

Where will you find the blue bikes?

In a first phase, you'll find the bikes in the most popular areas: in the center of town and in the south-eastern end. Later (estimated November 2009), bikes will cover the western quarters of Magnan to the Plaine du Var. By April 2010, coverage will expand to the north.

How safe is biking in Nice?

We need bike lanes. By 2013, Nice has promised 125 kilometers of bike lanes, an essential ingredient for any effort to encourage safe travel on bikes. Nice currently counts only 29 kms of bike lanes.

How much will rentals cost?

First, you need a subscription. For 2009, a yearly subscription costs 25 €, monthly 10 €, weekly 5 € and daily 1 €. Then the rental cost runs 1 € for the first 30 minutes to 1 hour, with 2 € for each additional hour. The first half-hour of rental is free. A great deal of users are expected use the Velos Bleus for under a half hour for a short trip down to their destination.

Picasso in Antibes

Antibes, Musée Picasso

"Every act of creation is first an act of destruction." - Picasso

In the summer of 2008, the Château Grimaldi in Antibes reopened its doors to the public after a long period of renovation.

Built in the 12C on the site of the ancient Greek town of Antipolis and the site of a  Roman castrum, it was the residence of medieval bishops until it turned to the hands of the Grimaldi family in the 16C. The municipality of Antibes bought the castle in 1925 and made it a museum, the Grimaldi Museum.

 "Give me a museum and I'll fill it."                                   

It's in 1946 that Pablo Picasso settled in the Grimaldi Museum for a couple of months and set off to work. He donated to the museum what he produced while in situ at the castle and some additional works: 23 paintings and 78 ceramics he made in Vallauris in 1948. More donations and purchases trickled in over the years. Today, the museum and its 2 floors brim with Picasso's expressions.

"Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working."              

His art work during that period appears light, airy. The year 1946 was a hopeful, optimistic one for Picasso: World War II was over and Picasso was in a new relationship with young painter Françoise Gilot.

It's in 1946 that Picasso drew his famous goat "La Chèvre" with its rounded belly, droopy eyes and contented look. More famous yet and imprinted with happiness is the larger than life painting "La Joie de Vivre". Painting "Ulysses et les Sirènes" spreads across a wall, in blue and green where the wind and waves dance. 

"It is your work in life that is the ultimate seduction."         

Photos by Michel Sigma show Picasso at work with his muse Françoise at his side. A few lines from Paul Eluard illustrate the photos here and there.

While Picasso fills the museum as its prominent artist, Nicolas de Staël, Anna-Eva Bergman, Hans Hartung, Léger, Magnelli and Max Ernst also inhabit the place with their creations.

"Everything you can imagine is real."                                

I wish I could have snapped pictures of the museum's floor, but my camera was confiscated at the entrance desk: photos are only allowed outside.The museum's floor weaves old stones, bricks, ceramic tiles in earth tones.

Walls are covered in white paint. Tall gray french windows offer views of the Mediterranean Sea.

"All children are artists.                                                    
The problem is how to remain artists once we grow up.

The Picasso Museum is anything but an austere castle; it's an airy summer cottage where Picasso's soul floats across his many creations.

Details on Musée Picasso's opening hours: Musee Picasso Web Site

Antibes Picasso Museum Garden

Nice goes wild: It's Carnival 2009

Le Carnaval de Nice 2009

It's back again, wild, irreverent, fun, and all over the Place Masséna, the Promenade des Anglais, the Jardin Albert 1er in the French Riviera city of Nice.


The Nice Carnival 2009: 

runs from Friday, February 13 to Sunday, March 1.


For 2009, Le Carnaval de Nice turns to children. One thousand Niçois kids circle around his majesty the King of the Mascarades. New for 2009, the Queen also makes her appearance at the Nice Carnival.

Expect some 20 themed chars to show off their bright colors along the prom, 180 «grosses têtes» or big heads to bop over the streets. Some half of these giant-sized heads are made with paper derivatives in papier-maché.

Flowers will fly overhead during the flower battles or batailles de fleurs (Wednesdays and Saturdays). 

And all along, music mixed with laughter and drums.

For details on the full program of the Nice Carnaval, click here to download the 14 PDF pages on the festivities. Or visit the official Nice Carnaval Web Site. This site includes a version in Engligh.

Interested in viewing a slide show and explanation of last year's Nice Carnival?
Take a look at our blog on Amazon. Scroll down to the blog entry entitled "Nice Carnival"

Menton's Lemon Festival

Lemon Menton has lemons, and a yearly lemon festival called the Fête du Citron with lemon floats that rise up to 10 meters in the sky, light and sound shows that brighten he town's Jardin Biovès gardens, but also world music such as Mariachis for a Fiesta Mexicana, a Japanese marching band, Pradun Brass Band & Dancers and others.

This year (2009) marks the 76th Fête du Citron at Menton, and it will brighten up the town from Friday February 13 to Wednesday, March 4, 2009.

On Thursdays, February 16 and 25 the Corsos of lemons, oranges squeeze around the Jardin Biovès, Fridays (February 13, 20, 27) the night comes alive with light shows around the yellow theme, Saturdays its evening concerts.

But the festival is also a chance to discover or re-discover the magical and exotic botanical gardens that dot this bright city:

  • During the festival, each Tuesday and Friday at 3PM, the Serre de la Madone runs guided visits
  • On Tuesdays at 3PM, it's the Villa Maria Serena
  • Mondays and Fridays at 10AM, Fontana Rosa
  • Mondays at 3PM, Val Rahmeh

If you're going:


  • Reserve your spot in advance for the guided visits (5 to 8 euros per person) as well as for better spots for viewing the parades. They cost between 5 and 8 euros per person. Call the Menton Tourism Office to reserve at or click HERE for online reservations.
  • Take public transportation to get there; leave either early or late and expect lots of company especially if the weather cooperates.

Port Lympia, Nice

NiceLympiaNice's Port Lympia never rose to its 18C ambitions of rivaling great commercial ports such as those of Genoa or of Marseilles.

I'm thankful for that.

The Lympia marina, also called Bassin Lympia, remains smallish and pleasant, with its glowing rows
of red and gold painted façades in neo-classical Italian style. Just behind this little rectangle of a port, Lou Casteu or the Castle Hill broods over the port's line of up yachts and its few ferry boats and looks over bay and city. Nice views from up there.

To reach the top of Castle Hill from Lympia, walk to Rue de Forresta and Montée Montfort. You'll encounter plenty of lovely cobblestone steps this way. A more leg-friendly option exists to head up to the castle: an elevator from the tour Bellanda on the other side.

A notable restaurant right on Quai Lunel also enhance Port Lympia:

La Zucca Magica (4, Quai Papacino), a vegetarian Italian restaurant with lots of love and personality. You eat the menu which has been set for the day, and generously at that. It's hard to say what the menu may be: it changes daily. What doesn't change is quantity. The cook is anything but stingy (4-course meal here). Lasagna is a favorite, but you're likely to discover a new creative version of it, with generous amounts of melted cheese. Lunch is around 25 € with full fare. Dinner runs a bit higher, as usual.

There's also a good Indian restaurant right close to Zucca Magica, but I can't remember the name right now...

Shades Return to Nice

Nice At The Prom, December 2008
Sunny days are back, after a couple of windy drenched weeks in the Var and in the Alpes-Maritimes of southern France. Bikes, roller blades and joggers once again ran up and down Nice's Promenade des Anglais (above pic). Shades were spotted on faces all over town.