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7 Day Itinerary – South of France – with a Friend from STL

Français : Plaque commémorative, 16 square de ...

Français : Plaque commémorative, 16 square de l’Avenue-Foch, Paris 16 e . « Marcel Pagnol, de l’Académie française, auteur dramatique, cinéaste, habita cette maison de 1956 à 1974. » (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Français : la maison natale de marcel pagnol (...

Français : la maison natale de marcel pagnol (aubagne) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974) was a French novelis...

Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974) was a French novelist, playwright, and filmmaker. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART –     Greeting Vicki

Itinerary for Vicki ‘s Visit – May 2 – May 9th  2013   – This isn’t for everyone – but I tried to do what she was interested in……….

I’ve never had a friend to visit who wanted to do what I do – sleep late, stroll the markets, come home for a nap,  stroll some more,  pick up dinner,  watch TV (even though you can’t understand it) ,   read a book, study French,  clean the apartment,  eat dinner, take a walk,  go to bed…… (Gee, why is that??)  So, because we’re in FRANCE, and they only have   7 days – WE HAVE the following and it’s sometimes a marvelous marvelous journey………..this was one…..

May 2 – Thursday – Day One Greet my good friend Vicki with fleurs (flowers) big hug and happiness that she arrived safe and sound to France!!

Took the “Navette” (large tour like bus) from MARSEILLE AIRPORT  to the St Charles Gare (Train Station) to buy ticket to Cassis —- Train to Cassis (28 minutes)

David picks us up at the tiny CASSIS Train Station!  (He had to teach that day).

Drive into the Port of Cassis,  Park – Walk to the little beach area and take pictures  –  Take the “Little Cassis Train” around Cassis to see everything in the town and outskirts  –     have lunch at  Le Perroquet  around 4PM –  go to AMORINO – Speciality Italian Icecream – in Cassis

Go to Marti & David’s petit apartment – Vicki showers – get comfy – sit and eat a variety of cheeses/ crackers, fresh pastries,  -watch some American Police series in ENGLISH – which were actually good this time (for us) and  Vicki crashes on couch.  What a gal! First day arriving and she has not only STAYED AWAKE, but absorbs EVERYTHING with delight!

May 3 – Friday – Day Two      Wake around 9:30am  – Get up before Vicki to bring her croissants and get my cranberry medication( in the main village) for my urinary tract infection.   See that there is a beautiful market in Cassis that I cannot wait to tell her about.   Imbibe in lovely croissants for breakfast, coffee, tea, FRESH ORANGE JUICE squeezed by David, – (YES!  He does this for me every morning as the oranges here are incredibly sweet  – as he is) !  🙂  AND now we drive to a little French Provencal NON-TOURISTY TOWN called AUBAGNE, which is the home of 1) Marcel Pagnol (my fav fr. writer & film maker)  2) RAVEL – world famous POTTERY  3) our “Assurance Malade” or SOCIAL SECURITY office where we have had to  visit  MANY TIMES from day 1 in order for me to get my Social Security benefits in France  4) also home of the famous SANTONS that are carved by 200 artisans and each NOEL (Christmas) there are hundreds of little christmas booths set up with lovely wooden carved little figurines that have been depicting French Country Life since the time of the French Revolution (when tons of figures, religious, and other meaningful statues were destroyed SO the  artisans starting making these figurines from that time)     See http://www.marseille-provence.info/places/towns/255-aubagne.html   for more information about SANTONS, PAGNOL, and how AUBAGNE is the ESSENCE of PROVENCE

While Vicki was with us in the “FRENCH Social Security office “  PRAYING, we were able to clear up a “name confusion” on all of our translated documents and get the OKAY for the number, the CARTE VITALE green card that will enable me to get my health care free – just as David has his.  YEAH YEAH _ THANK YOU GOD!!!!!!   🙂  (Thanks Vicki for praying)

Then on this DAY 2 – we also continued over to the RAVEL POTTERY and toured that with the most beautiful creative pieces of Pottery ever, and ofcourse, we bought some!   🙂

We visited the “Petite MONDE de MARCEL PAGNOL” a little hut of ALL the figurines depicting his famous books turned into Cannes Film Festival Winners:  Jean de Florette, Manon of the Spring, My Father’s Glory, My Mother’s Castle.  The entire trilogy of MARIUS, FANNY and CESAR – the first black and white talking films were also depicted in this little petit world of Marcel Pagnol.  They played the music from the movie while you walked around and gave a description of the figurines.  (In french ofcourse) Lovely.

Also on this day we continued on to THE BIGGEST GROCERY STORE EVER….it’s called AUCHUN in France and it’s similar to a COSTCO, only there are no LARGE SIZES of ANYTHING………it’s just full of groceries of all sorts, even an aisle for “Etrangers “- (Foreigner’s items )- like good ‘ole AMERICAN PEANUT BUTTER, ha ha and ofcouse all those Fiesta Taco packages.  There are displays of fresh fish and shell fish that you would not believe.  An entire back of the store for fresh pastries, breads, cakes, cream puffs, whole wheat, white, mixed grain, Croissants, – everything and anything made with flour.

Then there are rows and rows of wines, champagnes that range from a euro all the way up to hundreds of euros, but the cheap stuff is absolutely fine.

There are rows of soups and sauces, tapenades, and caviar.

The butter aisle is just fun to read.  The d’ISNEY Butter is from the same name in France.  It is where WALT DISNEY is from, but he changed his name.  His butter, (or the butter of his motherland,) is absolutely amazing.  It’s a couple euros.  At WHOLE FOODS, in the U.S. it’s quite pricey.  But it’s worth it.

Then there are rows and rows of toiletries, lotions, potions, then clothing, accessories, undergarments, then rows of books, cookbooks, children’s books, novels, you name it. Yes, all in French.  The SOUVENIR area is very nice too.  So is the glassware.  There is a small appliance area, where you can buy fans, air conditioners,to  crockpots.  You can buy washer and dryers  and refrigerators.
There is a GARDEN shop…..we didn’t even get to that.    It goes on forever.    I love AUCHUN. They also deliver your groceries.    After buying a few gifts at Auchun  we drove home to Cassis and had a little rest.   Then we had dinner at Le Perroquet at 9:45pm (they eat very late here in France – starting at 8PM – 7 if you’re lucky.

Came home to apartment.  Slept like a LOG.

This was DAY TWO.

May 4 – Saturday – Day Three 

David has to leave for Paris and Vicki thinks ‘Why not us?”  So we decide to go to PARIS with David.  This is a girl after my own heart.  Although I think I’m getting too old to do such spontaneous travel – but she is so like me and does things spur of the moment.  So, we are up early to check about the train tickets  from Cassis to Paris.  Wash sheets and take them to public place to dry them.  Come back and tell Vicki cost of train tkts to Paris (Last minute – about 70 euros – less than 100 dlrs).    David and I have a  “CARTE SENIOR” PASS for the year so our prices are 50% off – another benefit of being a SENIOR . We come back and tell her the price  and does she want to do this.  Ofcourse she does.  Get sheets out of dryer and try and find David.  (It’s a small port town, and on Saturday the traffic is horrendous, so he had to go around the town several times to come and pick me up.  You can’t just drive up to the laundromat and park.  You have to drop it off and go find parking, or find a parking place very far away – which is not easy.   When we get back to apartment, OUR parking place in front of the house – is GONE, it’s that busy today in Cassis.  But David has a secret place to park, because our proprietor told him about it. ….So –  it’s all good.  We then go back to train station to get our tickets to PARIS.  YEAH.  Come back to apartment and make lunch with fresh baguette we’ve just picked up.  Go to my proprietor’s home and give them the gift I had bought them,for the nice things they have done for me and David –  have an espresso with them and see the lovely view from their incredibly lovely and large maison (home).

Leave for St Charles Gare (Train Station) from Cassis to PARIS.   (I can’t believe I’m doing this.  – and Vicki- REALLY can’t believe she’s going to PARIS!!! )   I tell Vicki how incredible this TGV really is- how fast it is –  how relaxing  – how soft  & comfortable the seats – how BEAUTIFUL the entire countryside is flashing before you at 200 km an hour  – and how many pictures she’ll want to take.   Yes.  It was indeed beautiful.   But Vicki SLEPT the ENTIRE way!!!  That’s okay.  I took the pictures for her.  I’m such a good tour guide.   The TGV is – let me tell you – like a CRADLE, so if you’re the least bit tired, or you are jet lagged – you WILL BE SLEEPING on that train.   It is a xanax, an evening cocktail, a  long ZEN moment, a cradle of perfection all rolled into one.    TRY IT.

We arrive at Gare de Lyon, that famous train station with Le Train Bleu.

http://www.le-train-bleu.com/uk/index.php   – check the link out on this fabulous belle époque historic restaurant!

We go into CDG airport to get our hotel.   It was only for David.  I told the clerk we had “une petit problem” – that there was not just ONE of us, there were 3 of us.  She did some “searching” on her computer.    It was only an extra 20 euros!!!  The room was 2 rooms in one, we had 2 full baths (BATH_TUBS) – we  never get that – and 2 toilets etc and 4 beds.   Pretty amazing, for last minute “surprise!” and 20 euros to boot!!

We go back by TAXI to the center of PARIS so we won’t miss the BATEAU MOUCHE (The River Cruise at night along the Seine. )   We made it.  It was a fabulous cruise, and I’ve done this already about 6 times.   You never tire of it, of the architecture, the river itself (it was really high) and the Pont Alexandre (bridge) – the other bridges, Notre Dame, the Statue of Liberty………Oh wait, come to think of it, she didn’t get to see NOTRE DAME because the river was too high……and the boat couldn’t go under that bridge – so we went further down the river instead.   The sparkling EIFFEL TOWER was magnificent as it always is – and it goes “sparkly” on the hour, every hour until midnight.

You’ve heard  of the Woody Allen movie – “MIDNIGHT IN PARIS”?  Well, that was us, because we were eating dinner at midnight in Chez Francis.   Ofcourse it was a bit of a bait and switch…..the menu outside was one thing and the menu INSIDE, with the TABLECLOTHS was another  (EXPENSVE),  – so when we told them we wanted the other menu – the outdoor one – they moved us to another table near the kitchen withOUT a tablecloth.   The food was great anyway, and this is what you can expect when you’re desperate to eat, and it’s midnight, and there are few choices, AND you’re near the Eiffel Tower.  (The Tablecloth area we were first in –  HAD a FABULOUS VIEW of the EIFFEL TOWER, so I suspect that the extra 3 -10 euros per person might have been worth it to some – as it was so lovely. )   They did not treat us differently in the “back” – and our food was very good, and they were NICE, and that’s always a plus.

At 1am we were heading back to our hotel in the aeroport area of CDG – and took a bath and went to sleep.    A fine sleep.

On the Seine!

On the Seine!

IMG_0098 2 IMG_0103

May 5- Sunday –   Day Four

David gets up super early to catch his fight to the United States.   The breakfast was free.

(This was the IBIS STYLE by CDG)   I got this hotel because of the great price online- plus my Accor loyalty card gives us good prices on-line.  BUT –  if you’re in a hurry – please find a hotel RIGHT at ROISSY STATION- where everyone must come into – and where all shuttles to the hotels (Hundreds in this area) take you for free.   The problem with the shuttles are that some take you around and around, stopping at Terminal 2 etc and it really adds a LOT OF TIME (over 30 minutes) to your already very busy schedule.   If I had known this, I would have book us at the IBIS or NOVOTEL  right at ROISSY STATION where NO shuttle is needed.   I got a great rate and a free breakfast – so that is why, plus it was originally just for David in order for him to get his flight next day.  -When we do this, we never go into Paris.  It’s 30 minutes into Paris and it’s a long RER train ride with a lot of requests for money, or atleast they entertain you, and it’s dirty.   But we’re used to it, – it is what it is.   The Taxi from the hotels in the CDG area are 50 euros to the city.  Not bad if there are a few of you to split the cost.

Then Vicki and I get up  and we go into PARIS again, because our train will leave from the center (Gare de Lyon is in the south eastern part of Paris).   We were let off at the OPEN BUS TOUR near OPERA and that was a bit confusing as you have to change buses for the different colored lines.  Because we did not have ALL day to tour on this bus, just a couple hours, we didn’t get our money’s worth because the bus we had on the “green line” kept stopping and waiting for passengers.  That was very annoying.  But this particular segment was not planned, so we were still ahead of the game, but this is important to know if you do things at last minute.  You need a full day for that PARIS OPEN BUS TOUR.  Believe me.  (Or get the 2 or 3 day pass).   It’s long, and it’s chock full of important historical information.

We get to our Gare de Lyon train station and step into Le Train Bleu and had  the most fabulous 5 course lunch, champagne and caviar and chocolate mouse for dessert.

Okay, maybe not.   But we did take pictures of the outside  of LE TRAIN BLEU.    🙂

Le Train Bleu Restaurant in Gare de Lyon

Le Train Bleu Restaurant in Gare de Lyon

We’re now getting on the TGV heading back to Marseille.  Ofcourse Vicki sleeps the entire way (again), but there’s always MOI, taking pictures.   I got some knitting done too.  It was rainy coming back into Marseille.   Good sleeping, reading, knitting, zoning out train weather.  

We get back to our little apartment and I make a little chicken crêpe with Beurre and Citron sauce, soup and little tarts for dessert.  It’s what I give EVERYBODY that comes here.  So I hope you like chicken!   Hey!  I’ve got just 2 hotplates!    We hit the sack and boy do we sleep well, once again.

May 6 – Monday –  Day Five

This is “shot in the knee day”  – which means I must keep my appointment with my Rheumotologist for the priceless cortisone shot to the knee.   Vicki got to see the French Socialized medicine in the works.   She also said that everyone in the waiting room was talking about my horrible French.  But then, Vicki doesn’t KNOW any french, so maybe they were saying how great I was doing, but I doubt it.   Ha ha ha.  I have to laugh. Ofcourse it’s horrible, but atleast I get my point across and get what I need.

We are now heading from the doctor’s office to Marseille – via my little car – to park and walk over to the port area and get the OPEN BUS TOUR for our tour of Marseille.

Well, it was a complete DUD.    The bus tour driver took our money, but his audio system was kaput.  Therefore, the OPEN BUS TOUR went all around Marseille for an HOUR without anyone hearing ANYTHING of the sights we were seeing.  Yep! No cool south of France music, no audio, no explanation, no dialog,  NADA.  I thought it would improve, but while it was mute, I expounded to everyone up top just a few of the landmarks.   But I wasn’t doing the tour justice.  AND  I was furious.   I went downstairs and talked to the driver.  Yes, he KNEW it was “broken” –  he said it was a computer problem.  I stayed downstairs with one other person and talked to him.  I told him he needed to pull the bus over and explain to all 75 persons that he was sorry – but the audio was out and that they could get their money back.   He did nothing.   He didn’t answer me.  I said, “So where should I go to get my money back?”  He said nothing.  I said “The Tourist Office?”  He shook his head.   So, when the tour was over, several of us traipsed to the Tourist office (far away) and were told we could get our money back, but we had to meet the owner of the tour company back where we had originally started. This is another long walk back.   On the way, my receipt that I was holding on to for dear life, blew away in a sudden “MISTRAL” (great wind) and I am thinking…….”OH FOR GOODNESS SAKES, I’m leading this protest, and I’m going to be the ONLY person that doesn’t get her money back!!!!’  Well, I needn’t have worried.  The others came to my aid, vouched for me, and yes, I did get my money back.   As the other passengers were leaving, they turned and thanked me and I was really touched, and then I said, ‘Oh it’s nothing, it’s what I would have done if you had lost your bag or something at the airline I used to work for…….”    All in a day’s work.  Almost made me miss my old job.

After this – we strolled again by the famous Vieux Port of Marseille, crossed the street and went down the famous shopping street Rue Saint Ferrol.  There are many reasonable shops here and the best shoe selection I’ve ever seen as there are many shoe boutiques.

We then went back to our car on the opposite side of the port, and headed back to Cassis with the sun setting on the famous CAP CANAILLE (the highest cliff overlooking the sea – in all of Europe).   It’s incredibly beautiful, but then, if you read this blog, you’ve already seen these pictures.

We went to Le Perroquet restaurant (again) as it was late, and we unfortunately had to wait very very long (2 hours) because the kitchen closed down for a portion as it was just TOO busy.  They know me here and were extremely apologetic, but again, it is what it is.  We got our food finally, when we threatened to leave.   There are many places to eat in Cassis and some quite pricey, but Le Perroquet is not, thus, it caters to people on a budget I suppose and it’s very busy.  Next time I am going to spend more money for my dinner because we need to venture out a bit more.   I’m sorry we didn’t go to ANGELINA, which is  THE best restaurant in Cassis, but – it’s like 30-40 euros per person (without wine).     We’ve been to it once – on Valentine’s Day.   It’s amazing.  You need to make reservations.

We came home and packed for our trip to MONACO – which was to be on the TGV out of Cassis tomorrow morning.    We collapsed once again.

May 7th – Tuesday – Day Six

Our train to Nice and Monaco left at 6:35am, thus we were up at 5.  Drive half asleep to the train station in Cassis.  We heard the “coqs” do their cock a doodle do-ing it was so early.  The COQ, btw, is THE symbol of France.  Anyway,   It was a quick change of trains at TOULON.   We got on the fast TGV and had a lovely first class area, but it was strange, as there was no dining car, so we had no coffee for a long time .    When we arrived at the train station in Nice we walked to our hotel (another IBIS) and got coffee right away.  It was only 9 in the morning and we had a full day ahead of us.  Our room was all ready, even that early.  (They know me by now)

So, we drop our things in the room and head back to the station and go to Monaco.

Monaco train station is under a mountain and it’s pretty amazing.  We took a bus to the area where the OPEN BUS TOUR was and this one in Monaco is a beautiful bus, open top, but no high steps to climb up, which was really good for my knee, and Vicki’s aching feet.

So, the tour begins, we see a lot, mainly tons of bleachers up as they are getting ready for the huge GRAND PRIX.   We get off at Cafe de Paris by the Casino and have a drink – again, like Ali, Vicki had the freshly squeezed orange juice.  They bring little crispy things and ofcourse olives.    It’s pricey here for drinks,  but you get to people watch as long as you want, and see the luxurious and pricey automobiles drive past with who knows who inside.  It’s very fun to people watch here.   Then we went into the Casino and played a few slots.  It’s amazingly secretive inside.  No photos ofcourse, and they want your entire identification before you go in.  You’re give a special “ticket”.   Well, Vicki won, and I actually won, if you count 15 euros for her and 11 euros for me.  But better than losing.

The Bar in Monte Carlo Casino

The CRYSTAL BARin Monte Carlo Casino

What you see while you sit at Cafe de Paris (a lot)

What you see while you sit at Cafe de Paris (a lot)

Seriously, I don’t see how anyone wins here, unless it’s poker maybe.   We then were starving and went down the street to a little restaurant known as “Tip Top” and it was very good & reasonable.  It’s only a block away from the famous “Cafe de Paris”  .   We met a poker player that was there for the tournament.  He had already lost 10,000 euros.  I can’t even fathom 10,000 euros, let alone LOSING 10,000 euros, but this is what he does for a living.  We wished him luck, and headed back to the OPEN BUS TOUR.    We don’t have a lot of luck with the OPEN BUS TOURS.   This time we are getting ready to get on and the bus leaves us.  Turns out it’s already past 5:30pm and it stops at that time.  Oh for goodness sake!!! We haven’t even seen the palace yet.  SO…….we all hop in a taxi and he takes us up to the palace, and then to the gare where we get our train back to Cassis.   Vicki was not impressed with the palace.  It is not very impressive from the outside, and the tour is very nice inside and not expensive ( 5 or 7 euros) but no one was excited to see inside.  It’s very much like a museum.  They don’t live there  – the Royal Family.

We get back to Nice, do a little shopping, – it’s already late and then head back to the hotel.

May 8th – Wednesday – Day Seven

Nice is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful.   Once you get that walk down to the sea (Or if not wanting to walk, there is a tram not far from the train station and/ or the IBIS hotel) you will see the most beautiful part of the Riviera in Nice.   We walked the promenade and just gazed at the incredible turquoise sea.   People are walking, jogging and biking all along this promenade.  It has been strolled by women in their long dresses and parasols and men in their top hats for a couple hundred years – maybe longer.   But I do know that when people used to go swimming in the sea here,  they had these little houses that they would go into and then with 2 long wooden poles a guy would pull –  get carted out into the sea and dumped in.  So this was the way not to let anyone see you in your swimming costume, which was already down to your knees!    Then when you were ready to stop swimming, you’d wave and they would come back out with your little private “outhouse” looking enclosure and pick you up .
Today we saw a lot of topless bathing on that long beach in Nice.  So  much for covering up, eh?

We then went to the old part of Nice and strolled the countless tiny streets, shopped, had lunch, shopped some more, and then slowly wound our way back to hotel to pick up bags and walk back to train station.

(I think this will be the last time I do this kind of excursion.  It’s pretty exhausting – although it is very very beautiful.)

May 9th – Thursday – Day Eight  – “If it’s Thursday, it must be Marseille to Saint Louis”

Yes.  Sad day.   The last day.   The day of the return.  Well, everyone has to go home sometime.   I almost got on the plane with Vicki cause I miss my kids so much……alas,

it will happen soon.

We drove into the airport, yesterday, day 7 – late at night, after coming back from Nice as we needed to stay in the airport hotel (Ibis again) so Vicki could get her early flight out to Munich and then Munich to Saint Louis.   I know, I know, there is no flight from Munich to Saint Louis….she had to stop in CLT.  They did the “pat down” because Vicki has a new knee and sets off the alarms.   She carries a note with her.   The security is easy and

painless in France and really all over compared to our high anxiety TSA security in the states.  The price we have to pay to be secure.   I suppose.

So, that was our week, that was our glorious week   –  Vicki was a wonderful guest and I was happy to show her my beloved France.   She was the most amazed and awe-struck plus the most picture taking guest that I have ever had.   (Except on the TGV), ha ha ha

I’m now back at home.  And I think I’m going to sleep for a week!!

Atleast I didn’t do what I do when I’m tired  – and the time David’s Uncle was here. He  was so tired from walking he fell into the Oriental Carpet display, and I tripped and fell into a vat of olives at the market.    Yep.  Need one of those NAPS!!!

Cheers

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Linda Wheatley #

    Gosh, I’m not getting anything done this morning because I can’t get away from your blog. The last 7 days’ descriptions were so funny and evocative.

    May 10, 2013
  2. What a great record of what you and Vicki did. I felt I was with you every step of the way and now I feel I need a rest as well.!!

    May 11, 2013
  3. Reblogged this on Letters from Marseille and commented:

    Here it is, what you’ve been waiting for……how to do South of France (and even North) in 7 days…….you won’t want to miss it. I even can’t believe it when I read it. I am NOT young!!!

    May 11, 2013
  4. Amy Sanchez #

    Ok Marti…I’m up-to date on the blog. Very nice. When Dave and I come, let’s go to that wonderful beach, the wonderful grocery store, and take wonderful naps each day. A shoe shop or 2 would be great and some LOCAL art. NO running, running, running. Let’s just get into the local culture and of course drink the wine au francais. Oui..oui xoxo

    May 16, 2013

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