A month before Cannes

A month before Cannes

  We came to the city of Cannes in April, a month before movie stars took flight to grace the yearly Cannes Film Festival. Cannes is nice, but overrated. Just because the rich and famous come here, so some phony critic glorifies and romanticizes the area and spreads the word. As expected of tourists, we walked along the famous Promenade de la Croisette, the waterfront avenue with palm trees. This avenue inspired painters from the past. There’s a museum in the old town – Musée de la Castre – which show some paintings of how Promenade de la Croisette looked like in the past. Tranquil. Not many boats, not many houses. But paved. I liked that image of the avenue better than the modern one. It’s too touristy nowadays. WIth lots of restaurants, cafés and boutiques. The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès was open because of a fashion exhibit, so we went inside. There were even live mannequins – models showing the gowns. I liked the gowns showed, I just wish there were more gowns… It was interesting to see the old town, Le Suquet, which goes up a hill. From here we had a good view of La Croisette and the houses. There’s a fortified tower here, a chapel and a museum, Musée de la Castre. What I remember from this day trip: the seafood that I love and the macrons that are too sweet for our taste. They’re colorful sugar...
Saw super yachts in Antibes

Saw super yachts in Antibes

We were curious to see how big are super yachts, so we took the train from Nice and hopped off at Antibes, where Port Vauban is located. It is the largest marina in Europe. The yachts here are huge! Two-three stories high. Hubby explained that the biggest yachts in Europe are docked here. Port Vauban is the only harbour in Europe that can accommodate yachts over 100 meters. I remember riding a private yacht with a captain called Harry in Muscat. I was going to write about about a sheik’s yacht. It had a living room, a kitchen, bedrooms, a little jacuzzi on the sundeck. Its sole purpose was to transport the sheik and his guests to Europe. But that yacht is not as big as the yachts here in Port Vauban.  I’ve read that many Russian billionaires have their yachts here. And some of these billionaires even give their super yachts to business partners and friends. Sort of reminds me of this rich Swedish guy who gave his friend a trip to outer space as a 40th birthday present… We later went inside the walled town of Antibes. It’s actually known for its lively night life, but we didn’t want to let our six-year old daughter see a lot of people drinking beer and partying, so we were happy enough to eat a restaurant. We missed the Picasso museum – the first museum dedicated to Picasso. He was said to have stayed here for half a year. But we were lucky to get to see the antique and art fair, which is one of the largest shows of its kind...
Eze and the unforgettable toilet

Eze and the unforgettable toilet

Walt Disney and I have one thing in common: we both love Eze in France. I fell in love with it at first glance, the moment I held my chin high to spot the medieval town that’s perched on a hilltop. Eze, also called Eagle’s nest because of its location, has a magnificent view of the sea. Jardin d’Ezé As I stood in the garden, Jardin d’ Eze, I imagined ancient times when Phoenicians crossed the Mediterranean Sea, found Eze, and built a temple for Isis. There is an ankh, an Egyptian cross, in the church as a proof of the Phoenician visit. While I romanticized about Eze, my six-year old loved zigzagging through the garden filled with cacti and succulents. Hubby took pictures by the thousands. Met Luc Villard There are many boutiques with handmade products and art. So we visited some, found our favorites, and bought some items. The painters we met, Barbara Blanche and Luc Villard, were very accommodating. And we liked their paintings, especially Luc’s abstracts. Somehow I regret that I did not buy a wide-brimmed Italian hat, but you see, my rule is that I only buy stuffs made from the country that I visit. Unforgettable toilet experience Then came the need to visit the restroom. We needed coins, but we didn’t have any. The gentleman ahead of me in the short queue offered a coin, and I accepted it. But then when he came out of the toilet and it was my turn, I felt that I could get in the toilet anyway and left his coin back to him. That was mistake. I...
The scent of Grasse

The scent of Grasse

Grasse, the world’s perfume capital. I just had to see it because of the film “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” (2006), which is based on a novel, whose setting is Grasse. It is one of the last train stations from Nice. And we had to take a bus to reach the hilltop city. Some tourists tried walking all the way up, but later on we saw them climbing the bus halfway to the top. I like Grasse more than Cannes. It has more character, though in a dark, mysterious and foreboding way. Or perhaps my image of the town is strongly influenced by “Perfume”-anti-hero Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. I can almost imagine 14th century Grasse: dirty, smelly due to its leather tanning factories. They specialized on treating animal skins to produce leather. But oh it was a smelly business. And the leather that was created did not impress the nobility. So a perfumer, Galimard, introduced perfumed gloves to Catherine de Medici (the Italian nobility who became Queen of France) and she loved it. Thus, a trend was born. Perfumed gloves, perfumed leather, oh the lovely scent of perfume that overpowered stink. Perfume was developed in the 18th century – and some old perfumeries from this time still exist in Grasse today, such as Galimard (which we did not visit) and Fragonard (which we visited). But why in the world did Grasse become the world’s perfume capital – when perfume can be traced back 5000 years ago? According to wiki, Grasse has the rare scents of jasmine and lavender among others. (Now I understand why tiny bags filled with lavender are sold as souvenirs in Grasse...
Nice the Beautiful

Nice the Beautiful

Nice is the second most popular French city after Paris. Nice is also called Nice la belle, which means Nice the Beautiful. A deserving name for a beautiful city. These were the places we’ve been at in Nice: 1. Castle Hill  2. Promenade du Paillon 3. Promenade de Anglais and of course relaxing at the beach. 4. The Old Town 5. Place Massena 6. Place Garibladi 7. Port of Nice 8- Cours Saleya 9. Good friday mass in French at St Martin Church 10. National Theatre 11. Shopping district and Nicetoile. Regarding food, we ate a lot of crépe to have a taste of French. I wanted to eat snails, escargot, which I ate a lot of in Paris, but it wasn’t available in the restaurants we visited. Then I read that every city or regions has its speciality. The French Riviera has seafood as speciality, not escargot. So I started ordering seafood – and they were heavenly! We roamed the city for two complete days, then for the rest of the Easter Week, we went to nearby cities such as Antibes, Cannes, Ezze and Grasse in France as well as Monte Carlo in Monaco. But every evening, we came back to our hotel in Nice. When we were in Nice, got introduced to bags by Barbara Rihl. They are really nice with illustrations, for the traveling  modern...
Beggars created seaside walkway

Beggars created seaside walkway

Nice in France became popular in the 18th century when upper class Englishmen came to the place to avoid winter. It became a place of relaxation and climate therapy. While we were sitting by the beach restaurant sipping our cocktail drinks at Opera Place and our six-year old playing with the pebbles, I could almost imagine the pale upper class Englishmen sitting in the same place where I was, enjoying the sun. Even renowned artists came to the place for inspiration. Soon even beggars came, driven by harsh winters, to Nice’s more agreeable climate. It was probably problematic for the snobbish. Then some rich and influential English dude started talking about letting the beggars be useful and let them create a walkway. After all, the beach with its huge pebbles were hard to walk on. His friends agreed and the word passed to different ears until the project was born. Yes, the beggars built with their hands Nice’s main seaside walkway, Promenades des Anglais, translated “Walkway of the English” It makes me wonder, since European cities like Berlin and Stockholm have now an influx of beggars from poorer European countries – can giving beggars useful work still be possible in this modern time? Let them make wondrous things, such as walkways that people, even in future generations, will appreciate?  ...
Missed the castle on Castle Hill

Missed the castle on Castle Hill

On our second day in Nice, France, we decided to see Castle Hill, popular for its view of the beachside city. We started out early morning, taking the tram from Place Massena to the Old Town Area. Then we walked all the way up the hill. Yup, and my six-year old daughter didn’t complain one bit. Once in a while we would take a break from the ascent to enjoy the view of the city. Atop the hill we took photos, then ate crepe lunch al fresco at a simple (but quite expensive) restaurant. Luckily, there was also a huge play ground on the hill, so my daughter had playtime as a reward. While she and other kids were busy climbing and playing, there came a group of grown-ups training and started sharing the play area with them. The kids were surprised with the adult invasion. Going back down, we walked past a waterfall, and an old cemetery that was actually worth seeing. As we reached the foot of the hill, we were puzzled. Did we see the castle on Castle Hill? How in the world could we have missed a huge castle?! It turned out, there was not much castle left, but a ruin. And that we missed. Well, never mind, we had fun taking it easy and just enjoying the view of Promenade des Anglais, and the port of...
Enjoyed Promenade du Paillon

Enjoyed Promenade du Paillon

We went to the coastline French Riviera on Easter week 2014. The Riviera is popular – the place boasts of 300 days of sunshine per year! Our base was in Nice, France. A city that was once Italian. We loved it, the atmosphere, the parks and the sea. The moment we arrived at the airport, I noticed that tourists flashed signature belts, accessories and clothes (and probably shoes, but I didn’t bother scrutinizing). We took it easy on the first day. We stayed at Hotel Boreal, which is less than a minute away from the shopping mall Nice Etoile on Avenue Jean Médecin. We had to entertain our six-year old daughter, so right after a crépe dinner we were searching like mad for playgrounds. Lucky us, we happened to discover Promenade du Paillon – a park that was inaugurated in October 2013 and took ten years to build! But it is a lovely park! Children loved playing in the “water mirror” and its fountains, the “foggy area” and the wooden playgrounds. We parents sat on the grass and just enjoyed tha laid back atmosphere. From what I heard, the area used to be a river bed that was covered up and transformed into this modern park. (For an interesting background, check this link to a blog: The French Riviera Blog by Kevin Hin.) Later I left hubby and my daughter to sneak away and check out some high-end shops, which were near Place Massena. My favorite shop though was Louis Vuitton. Not because it’s the king of bags. But because the guy who assisted me, Vincent I think was his name,...
Oui, Paris!

Oui, Paris!

Flirtatious men, mime artists, outdoor restaurants as people-observation decks, dog poop on the streets and the music of Edith Piaf in the air. Oui, that’s Paris for me!   I was in Paris, the world’s fashion hub,  summer 2005. Going there without a kid was a practical thing, because there were long queues everywhere, especially the tourist sites! Some people gave up and left the  lines, having no patience to wait and stand for around an hour just to get inside Louvre, or Eiffel or Notre Dame. I made sure that my stomach was not empty when I stood in the waiting line. I also had a bottle of water and fan with me, because it was hot. And I didn’t mind crouching on the ground to give my legs some rest. I was there for  a week and these were what I experienced: 1. Notre Dame Cathedral. I wanted to see this because of Victor Hugo’s book “The hunchback of Notre Dame”. The author described this gothic church in detail. So I wanted to Quasimodo’s world and see Esmeralda’s sanctuary. The stained glass windows here are worth mentioning. 2.  Sacré-Couer (pronunciation: sacre kur). This romantic catholic church is perched nicely in the highest point in the city, Montmartre. So it has a nice view of the city below. 3. Eiffel Tower. This is the icon of Paris, so of course it’s a must as a tourist. I waited in line for around an hour to get inside! My feet hurt! But the view from here was stunning. 4. Louvre Museum. This museum doesn’t have just one queue. It has several long lines!...
Remembering Versailles

Remembering Versailles

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s wedding was set in Italy last weekend. But the rehearsal dinner was done in Versailles, I’ve heard (not that I care!). It’s a nice place to rehearse. I remember my visit in Versailles 2006. The palace and its grounds were so huge, it felt like a giant’s palace. Huge lawns courtyards and labirynth gardens. I saw the place in time for watching the film Marie Antoinette with Kirsten Dunst. We took a tour, when there was this young lady with signature clothes and american twang loudly complained haughtily: – How can this palace be so fantastic when it has nothing but old dusty things?...
Candid Cannes

Candid Cannes

  One day in Cannes, France. Hopes were high. But once again, we were not so impressed. I’d prefer Eze and Grasse over Cannes. But then again, Cannes is known for being the host of the Cannes Film Festival. Movie stars from all over the world grace the event, so of course Cannes becomes a topic and a tourist spot. The Film Festival Palace where Cannes is held reminds me somehow of the Cultural Center in Manila, Philippines. When we were there, there was a red carpet outside the building leading to the entrance, but of course, there were no movie stars. We came in April, the festival was in May. People were taking shots of themselves standing on the red carpet, in front of the building, so I decided not to take the same shot. Besides, it was rather a boring shot. If I were to stand on that red carpet, I would be in a long gown – movie star or not. There was a fashion exhibit inside. Now that was interesting. Wish there more gowns on exhibit though. And then we took a walk on the landmark Promenade de la Croisette and we wondered – what in the world was the fuzz all about? We’ve seen better boulevards that never become famous, and here is Promenade de la Croisette boring us. So we walked further into the Old Town, Le Suquet, which we appreciated. We also went inside an 18th-century mansion, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Provence, which houses artifacts from prehistoric to present. I would’ve loved to see the Fort of St Marguerite, now called the Musée de la Mer (Museum...
Chic ala French Riviera

Chic ala French Riviera

The French Riviera is the place where there are many bearers of french sigtunature bags, most especially Louis Vuitton. People wear a lot of light-colored clothes with soft, flowing material and sailor-inspired styles:  sailor collars, stripes and combination of blue-white-red. It’s a glamorous place, especially in Monte Carlo, Monaco. Ladies strut around with expensive jewelry, belts and bags with names like Hermés, LV, Lacosté, YSL, Chanel. I strutted around with my practical black leather bag from Åhlens (ha!) and a cloth bag with Parisian street illustrations which I bought in Sigtuna. At least my shades were Burberry, thanks to my sister who gave it to me as a gift. And diamonds on white gold, donated by my mom. While in the French Riviera, I bought a hat from the Old Town in Nice, a polka-dotted umbrella from Monte Carlo, toiletry kit from master perfumer Fragonard (my gift to my cousin), a Zara-work bag (which I am planning to give to my youngest sis), vintage leopard hat ala Audrey Hepburn from an antique fair in ritzy Antibes, and a vintage fox shawl (I’m a cineaste and I’ve seen such in several 1930’s film, that was why I bought it. Note: I respect animals so I only buy vintage or faux fur). Important to mention though that I believe that one can look glamorous even without ultra-expensive clothes ad accessories. It’s the bearing that counts. Even a simple garb can look fabulous, and a priceless label can look trashy.  That’s how I think CHIC....