Writing about web page http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/rosalindhook/gallery/sausses_february_2006/
Mmm… what a perfect holiday. 4 days of fresh air, clean water that didn't make my hair manky (since obviously that is the most important thing – priorities, priorities), stunning mountain scenery, excellent food, and being outdoors in the sunshine and cool (read freezing, at least in the shade) mountain air.
Anna, Leonie, Laurence and I stayed in the pink house pictured in the bottom left corner of the photo on the right, cunningly named "la maison blanche" in a bizarre attempt to confuse hapless tourists who make it that far up the Vars valley (Alpes Maritimes / Alpes de Haute-Provence).
I am fast developing les fesses de fer, not to mention les cuisses "de la mort"tm, as a result of morning runs up and down various big montagnes around Sausses, not to mention our hike to Castellet-les-Sausses where we were almost benighted thanks to an evil boil-ridden local farmer who had put up an "Accès Interdit" sign across the one track leading back to Sausses.
On our first day we explored the medieval village of Entrevaux, where we were mistaken for French language students at Nice University by the restaurant owner (flattering both because we can still pass for students, and because our French must have sounded reasonably plausible). I tried the local speciality "secca de boeuf", which consisted of wafer-thin slices of delicious dried beef served with lemon juice, olive oil and puy lentils. Given I don't normally eat red meat, I was surprised at how bluddy amazing it tasted.
On Sunday we got swept up in a local lemon festival in Menton (a.k.a. Chin), involving various citrus sculptures and other lemon-related activity. Unfortunately we never actually experienced any of this since lemon-lovers far and wide had pilgramaged to the Côte d'Azur to converge upon Menton in a frenzy of pressées, pulp and peel. There was literally nowhere to park within a 6 mile radius of the town, so we popped across into Italy for a pizza.
As we explored the old town of Ventimiglia, we encountered a Divine Sign from the skies, seven freaky felines, and a chain of 21 furry caterpillars wending their way along the pathway. And we were told by a car parking attendant not to leave our dog in the car in the midday heat (would have made sense… except we didn't have a dog, we weren't parked in his carpark anyway, and there was actually quite a chilly nip in the air). All in all Ventimiglia was a bit surreal, not to mention difficult to escape from. Pizza was excellent though.
Besides these day trips, most of our time was spent preparing and eating some very delicious food (e.g. Leonie and Laurence's goats cheese and mushroom risotto), walking /running /scrambling up mountains in an attempt to burn off the vast quantity of pains au chocolat consumed (it was a losing battle, the pastries were always going to win…) and simply breathing BREATHABLE AIR.
Much as I like the pace of life in London, indeed need the buzz of city life to prevent myself dissolving into tears and lethargy and boredom, at the same time I love open spaces and running/hiking and just being in a place that nature has so obviously shaped, a place where you can't help but respect its power. If nothing else a place free from the jaded office workers and the filthy air and – most importantly – the twatting northern line.
Right now I am very happy to be living in London, but at the same time I need to make sure that I take time to eat properly, to exercise, to read, relax and just spend time being, whatever that means.
Not to mention escaping to small french villages and remote mountain locations given every available opportunity.