Friday, 17 September 2010

The uncoolest way to enter St Paul de Vence..

Last year we had the good fortune to stay in a wonderful villa on the south easterly hillside that rises up to the chic and arty St Paul De Vence near Nice. As the crow flies, the villa was only about 200 metres from where I took the shot of young Mr Cool here on his scooter - but a few hundred feet and a heart attack further down below the town walls. Our villa choice was based on its close proximity to the centre of St Paul and because the holiday brochure stated - " has its own private walking access, just 100ft to the village centre and all its wonderful amenities". Pleasant thoughts of short strolls to the boulangerie in the morning and slightly unsteadier strolls back from wine practice after sundown.

Well, on the first night we took some enthusiastic directions from the villa's elderly owner, and ambled off excitedly into the darkness along our own exclusive & private little trail, that very quickly morphed itself into a steep & treacherously narrow goat path and then fifteen minutes & a pair of grazed knees later, became a final assault for the summit of K2. After what seemed like an eternity of stubborn, pride driven, slipping, gasping, sweating and wheezing up the cliffside, we finally dragged ourselves through a gap in the fortress walls right next to the celebrated Colombe d'Or Hotel, and promptly collapsed in a delirious, oxygen starved, panting heap together.

Five heaving minutes later with the deafening sound of my heartbeat still pounding away in my ear drums, I managed to unplug my mouth from the boules court surface I'd been spread-eagled over and sit up straight. Hair awry, face and chest caked with a goodly marinade of sweat and sand, I glanced over to my wife nearby and was encouraged to see she appeared to have died a few minutes earlier. Not because I don’t cherish her dearly you understand, but because by somehow remaining alive I was 'after all' clearly fitter than she was - and - it would save me all the effort and unpleasantness of performing resuscitation while her mouth was full of all this gritty sandy Boules court surface stuff. But then she groaned from somewhere deep behind her new hairdo and muttered something unprintable about the elderly villa owner and his more likely parentage.

Clearly back from the dead, she too pulled herself up to a sitting position, spitting out pieces of grit. It was about then that we both sensed we were being watched. Slowly turning round, we realised we had the complete focus of about one hundred or so patrons of the popular Cafe de la Place that borders the famous boules court of St Paul, just a couple of feet away. And to make things was laughing.

A smartly attired po-faced waiter walked over and said "You're staying in the nice villa down the cliff there aren’t you". Clearly a rhetorical question - he continued - "Old Bernard does that to everybody who stays there. I suggest for the rest of your 'oliday ere', you take the car. Its only three miles around - takes about ten minutes which is probably half the time it took you to scale the cliff up ere, and you don’t have to go to ospital".

We thanked him kindly, took his advice but didn’t dine there. As we slithered off trying vainly to regain some British dignity and composure, we heard the cafe erupt into laughter.

The meal we eventually had in the only chic looking bistro that would permit us a table - was appalling.

But by then we were laughing so much we didn’t care!

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