The Ingredience Series

 

I’ll soon embark on my fourth trip to France, my second trip to the South of France. I often think I should explore a new country next time I'm able to go to Europe. But whenever I have the money to cross the pond, I always return to France. It feels like home to me, I simply can’t resist it. This time, however, I plan to cross the border to Italy (a brief train or bus ride from Nice, where I’ll be based), just to say I did. I also plan to visit Monte Carlo, gamble a minimal, pre-set amount of money, and order a martini - shaken, not stirred. Just to say I did.

Thoughts of the trip take me back to fond memories of my previous visit to the Côte d’Azur. Today in particular I recall the hiking near the small village in which I rented a charming villa for ten glorious days. On some days, I drove to St.-Tropez (highly recommended off-season, when the crowds are gone), or Aix. Other days, I remained in the village and took advantage of the sweet hiking trails, meandering through vineyards, forests (with warnings about wild boars), occasional  mysterious gated luxury villas, and sweeping vistas of the village and surrounding mountains.  One trail started at one end of the village and brought me back to the opposite end, where I saw a kiddie park and several houses with guard dogs. The dogs quickly calmed down as long as I responded to their fierce barking with a perky “Bonjour.” They eyed me a little suspiciously, then snorted and ran back to their houses. These village dogs were friendlier when seated at cafés with their owners. But who isn’t more jovial when off-duty?

Having completed the hike with daylight to spare, I took another direction out of town and came upon a pretty horse farm, just past Hotel Le Jardin, where I met a handsome white horse and his donkey companion. They were a little wary, but they finally let me pet their noses and snap their picture. I wanted to continue on, but the rain that had been threatening all day finally made good on its promise. By the time I returned to the villa, the rain was pouring, clouds darkening the late-afternoon sky. The rest of the evening was spent inside, cooking dinner, working on some new songs, and watercolor painting from some drawings I’d quickly sketched earlier, reflections of my hiking. Pretty bland stuff, right? Hardly the tales of an adventure traveler or a proponent of the whirlwind guided tour. Simple, quiet, peaceful, not much action to speak of … and I savored every second of it. And I'm ready for more.

 

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