Day 720: Cap Ferrat

With a mild Mediterranean climate, bright sunshine and an azure sea, Nice is one of France’s most popular tourist destinations.  Laetitia began the day’s tour in this city on the Cote d’Azur that inspired artists Matisse and Chagall.  Their itinerary included the Musee des Beaux-Arts, the Musee Marc Chagall, and the Musee Matisse.  Afterwards they did a walkabout that included views of the cruise ships in the harbor and the topless beaches.

A few miles down the coast near Bileau-sur-Mer is Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.  After Monico, the small peninsula has the most expensive real estate in the world.  British Actor, David Niven, who was in over 100 films from the 1930s to the 1980s, once lived there.  Part of the coast walk is named after him.  This dapper ladies’ man, who starred in Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther films and many others, was one of Laetitia’s grandmother’s favorite actors.  Laetitia dedicated the day’s limerick to him.

That suave ladies’ man, David Niven
Oft’ played a Don Juan whose high livin’
And sexual prowess
Would lead to success
Of the kind for which some folks are shriven.

Day 719: Arles

One of the best known residents of Arles was not French but Dutch.  Vincent van Gogh lived in this city in southern France (Provence) in1888 and 1889.  During his Arles period, he abandoned the dark style that characterized his Holland paintings for the bright post-Impressionist style for which he is best known.  Laetitia’s tour included the sanitarium where Van Gogh stayed for a short time.  While there he painted its garden.  They also visited the eating establishment that served as the model for his Cafe Terrace at Night.  He created more than 300 paintings during his short sojourn in Provence.
Arles was an important city in Roman times and Laetitia’s tour focused on ruins from that period.  The tour included the Arles Amphitheater, the Roman Theater and the baths built by Emperor Constantine I.

Romances between participants on Laetitia’s tours are common.  Some of them flourish and others wither in the bud.  One of the latter variety occurred when a tour member named George made what he thought were clever remarks about van Gogh’s painting style to a young woman whom he hoped to woo.  She was an ardent fan of the painter and was not amused.  It was the source of the Limerick of the day.

George erred when he happened to scoff
At the paintings of Vincent van Gogh
And his off hand remark
Made his chances grow dark
With a girl that he wanted to boff.

Day 718: Avignon

The day’s destination was Avignon, France, but Laetitia decided to take her group for a hike first through the Provence countryside.  Her major purpose was to give them the experience of walking through the sunny hills viewing occasional fields of lavender, in fresh morning air scented with wild rosemary.

During schism in the Catholic Church from 1309 to 1423, Avignon, rather than Rome, was its headquarters.  Laetitia arranged a tour of the papal palace with a local guide and afterwards led her group on a tour of the town center still surrounded by its Medieval ramparts.  During their walkabout, a group of uniformed school children followed their teacher toward the Rhone River and the “bridge to nowhere.”  They were singing, “Sur le pont, d’Avignon, On y danse, on y danse …” (On the bridge at Avignon, We are dancing, we are dancing).  The twelfth century, twenty-two arch bridge once spanned the river, but floods washed out its foundations over the centuries and only four arches remain.  The group visited the papal summer palace, the Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  Afterwards, they went to a tasting featuring the famous wines of that appellation, made from hand-picked Grenache grapes, grown in local vineyards. Back in town, Laetitia had a conversation with an old Frenchman who winked ad talked about the exceptional properties of the local wine.  She distilled what he said into a limerick.

I plied her with Chateauneuf-du-Pape
She said to me, “Please, just a drop.”
But she liked it so well
That the evening went well
For she found that she just couldn’t stop.

Day 717: La Rochelle

Many who have never been to continental Europe know La Rochelle, the picturesque port city in Western France on the Bay of Biscay.  The twin towers guarding its inner harbor are the centerpiece of one of the most painted and photographed scenes in France.  The city was a Knights Templar stronghold until the order was suppressed in 1307.  According to legend, the Templar fleet set sail from La Rochelle on the night before the order’s leaders were arrested and thereafter engaged in piracy against the Vatican’s ships.  The skull and bones symbol of the joyeux roger (jolly roger) flag is allegedly based on Templar symbol.  La Rochelle was also a stronghold of Protestant Huguenots and was the scene of religious wars with Catholic France during the seventeenth century.

Laetitia and her group visited the St. Louis Cathedral and the Orbigny-Bernon Museum and then dined at one of La Rochelle’s outdoor seafood restaurants.  Laetitia gave her group some time off in the afternoon.  Most of her group went shopping but an Iowa farm boy named Robb cruised the local bars looking for women.  He thought he had found the girl of his dreams but it didn’t end well.

Rob met a girl in La Rochelle
And thought all was going quite well
‘Til the glamorous honey
Asked him for some money
And he found he was just clientele.