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Posts tagged ‘Riviera’

Marseille to Marbella, Part V: Cassis

As soon as we stepped out of the train station at Cassis, the little port town a few kilometres East of Marseille, I declared that I was in love. The smell of heated pines, coupled with the accompaniment of persistently chirping cicadas was confirmation that we had entered a kind of Mediterranean paradise. That conclusion was further fortified as we made our way closer to the coast, and found plunging into a slightly opaque dazzlingly turquoise sea steeply cast mountains rippling with shades of terracotta and violet. But best of all was the harbour itself, a kind of St Tropez in miniature, with splendidly multi-coloured houses in every shade of pastel lining the waterfront, while before them, a veritable collective of fishing boats and yachts added luxury to the scene.

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Living in Mallorca for close on 3 years means that this kind of glittering seaside scene is no stranger to me. Yet there is something about a port in the French Riviera that exudes a kind of innate elegance which is somewhat less tangible elsewhere in the Med. Maybe it’s the old men gathered drinking pernod and exchanging gossip in the tree-lined squares which neighbour the harbour. Or perhaps it’s the perfume of Marseille soap and lavender which manages to pervade and harmonise with the delicate scent emanating from the sea. Or maybe it is the cafes and bistros, whose location affords them the very freshest of seafood and extravagant shell fish, and of course the very best in chilled Provencal rose. I’m not sure I can truly put my finger on what it is that singles out these Riviera havens, but I know that Cassis is as insuperably handsome as it gets.

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A few minutes was all we needed to located the best table alongside the waterside, a large plate of gigantic grilled prawns and several glasses of rose so cold that ice clung to the side of the gently perspiring wine glass. Somewhat heady on all that peach-coloured elixir, we wafted around the port like fallen bourganvilla petals dancing in a light summer’s breeze, utterly caught up in the aesthetic delights of the place. That momentum pushed us towards the emerald sea, and there in water frothed up by a robust Mediterranean current, we plunged into the ambient waters from where Cassis appeared all the more stunning.

Compared with the urban cacophony of Marseille, Cassis proved the ultimate Riviera balm; a true treasure of the French Mediterranean whose soft palette and pervasive elegance ensnared our senses and charmed our imagination, long after the Riviera train scooped us back into the smoggy fold of Marseille.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Marseille to Marbella, Part I: Downtown City

Marseille is one of those cities that’s got a bit of a reputation. Like Naples and Palermo, (and even Barcelona before its Olympics regeneration), Marseille is characterised by an idyllic location which has been both its enemy and its friend. For with popularity has also come rapid growth, and the result is an uncontrolled urban sprawl where street crime has taken the place of riviera recreation, and the high temperatures have combined with a generalised lethargy to improve what are often grave social divides and ever evident crime and economic issues. Yet for all that, Marseille is a city with an undeniable arresting quality; which is so historically wealthy and with so vibrant and diverse a population that you cannot help but be mesmerised.

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Such is Marseille, France’s second city, and in many respects like Paris by the sea, except that in Marseille the social divide is perhaps even more visible. Here, Haussmann mansions have been given a graffiti facelift, and where the Seine would cut through Paris with all its luxuriant wateriness, in Marseille the sea, and all its accompanying ship building industrial heritage and fishing paraphernalia, predominates all.

This first look at our summer trip from Marseille down to Marbella takes the Daily Norm back a few weeks, to the sunny days of August when temperatures were at an all time high. Our arrival, on the Eurostar train from London into Marseille’s Gare St Charles, was one greeted by temperatures close to the 40s. Yet this was no blue-shuttered port or seaside retreat in which to enjoy the summer weather at ease. Marseille hit us with the full impact of its teeming urban sprawl which literally shimmered in the heat as the fumes of traffic and food and generalised humanity combined with fresh sea breezes and an awful lot of sunshine.

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From streets crammed with shops and markets, and bustling with faces from across the world, to the city’s true heart, the Vieux Port, where people milled to watch boats stride in and out of the harbour, it wasn’t hard to get to know Marseille: a city which wears its heart on its sleeve and is emotionally, viscerally real.

Marseille may be the capital of the French Riviera but St Tropez it is not. Rather, this thriving metropolis combines elements from across France and its ancient empire: it is a true world city with an evidently international demographic. What it lacks in luxury, it makes up for in spirit. And as you can see from this first raft of photos, it is a city of a not insignificant aesthetic appeal.

Bienvenue à Marseille!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

2015: My year in photos (Part 2 – Beyond Paradise)

Living in Mallorca, there can be no doubt that we are utterly spoilt, for all around us, from the city of Palma to the beaches and mountains beyond, we cannot help but discover unhampered beauty wherever we go. And yet while we could quite easily have indulged ourselves for a year’s worth of admiration of the island, the travel obligations of work, a long planned weekend to Paris, and the most life changing of events – our wedding – took us further afield, to enjoy the incredible beauty of the world beyond Mallorca.

And so, in this second of my two photographic reviews back over the year of 2015, I feature just a few of my favourite shots of the incredible surroundings beyond the Balearics. For 2015 was significant not just for its being our first year in Mallorca, but also for the opportunity it gave us to finally tie the knot after almost 6 years of engagement. The honeymoon which followed made for the most unique of holidays, with a stay in the famous Riviera paradise of La Colombe d’Or in St-Paul de Vence rivalled only by a short but sweet spell in bustling Barcelona, and an acquaintance with the chic seaside spots of Cannes and Antibes.

The ultimate Paris shot

The best day of my life

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Leger mural at La Colombe d'Or

Big Wheel, Paris

Calder ripples

Summer sunset, Provence

But it did not end there, for months before our wedding, a trip to the world’s primary city of love enabled us a further reconnaissance with our most adored Paris, while post-marriage and still revealing in the new blushes of marital bliss, we were able to rest on the beaches of Marbella, indulge in the new cultural hotspot of Malaga, and drop into Madrid, onto Ibiza and back home again for the most magical of Mallorcan Christmases.

It’s been a magical year. Thank goodness I can relive it all in photos. Until the next… Happy New Year!!!

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.    

The Honeymoon Chronicles, Part VI: Cagnes-sur-Mer

Sadly our stay at La Colombe d’Or could not last forever, and for our last remaining two days on the French Riviera, we packed up our things and moved a 20 minute ride or so towards the coast to the unique little old town of Cagnes-sur-Mer. As the name suggests, it’s a town which is well appointed alongside the sea, and also handily close to Nice airport. Split more or less into three parts, it has a coastal town, and upper main town, and an ancient little old town atop a hill (le Haut-de-Cagnes). We had no interest in the first two parts of the triptych, these having been very much ravished by the overdevelopment which in my opinion has cast a horrible shadow over the French Riviera. But the old town, which could never be easily redeveloped such is the character of its ancient steep streets crammed into ramparts hanging on precariously to the edge of a rising highland, was certainly worth further exploration. And luckily it was also where our hotel was situated.

The cemetery of Cagnes-sur-Mer

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We entered Le Haut via a beautiful cemetery, also clustered steeply up hill in rising tiers of decorative stones, crosses and angels. We knew that there was something familiar about it, and were excited to discover that this was the very same graveyard used for scenes of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. Having then explored the site, and had our fill reenacting said scenes from this, one of our favourite films, we headed steeply up hill to the old town.

Le Haut-de-Cagnes

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Le Haut-de-Cagnes is a uniquely medieval other-worldly kind of place whose streets appeared even narrower and steeper than those we had enjoyed in Vence and St-Paul. Somewhat shedding the Riviera vivacity of pastel colours, the houses here were altogether more sombre, with stones and beiges dominating with an innately historical result. At times it felt like we were in the world of King Arthur, not least when we got to centre of town, whose huge square castle can be seen for miles around. However lighter relief could also be found in the main Place Grimaldi, which offered beautiful views Northwards to the stunning mountain range which dominates the region.

Rosy views as the sun went down

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However all in all, this historical richness was somewhat spoilt by the inevitable creep of modernity and development, not in the old town itself, but by the views looking south, west and east. For the French Riviera is nowadays far from the wild paradise which tempted the likes of Auguste Renoir to move south to the Riviera, and in fact to the town of Cagnes where he later lived. Today, it is a sprawling metropolis of busy roads, hotels, and villas crammed one upon another. This did not feel like a coast of luxury, but rather one of the busiest tourist destinations I have experienced outside of London. Sadly, the golden years of the world’s greatest artists discovering a ripe Riviera seem to be long past. But at least we have their paintings, to look upon that lost paradise once more.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 

The Honeymoon Chronicles, Part II: Calder’s Pool

On Wednesday I told you all about the earthly paradise that is La Colombe d’Or, and yesterday I shared my first artwork inspired by this epicentre of the arts. And yet I would do La Colombe an injustice if I stopped there. For combine my relentless enthusiasm for all things Mediterranean, with my love of art, and my complete obsession with the effect of light on water, and ripples, and you will be unsurprised that during our stay at that little Provençal Inn, I fell head over heels in love with the swimming pool which languishes at the centre of the hotel.

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Surrounded on three sides by the old stone residences which make up the charming accommodation of La Colombe, and on the other with a spectacular view of the rolling hills around St-Paul de Vence, the swimming pool benefits from lush planting, cypress trees clipped into perfectly curvaceous almost anthropomorphic forms, ancient ceramic pots overflowing with palms and flowers, and quaint wooden loungers each fitted with a distinctive apricot cushion for the ultimate in comfort.

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But above all of the charms of this magical pool is the original art which surrounds it. On the one side, a dark contemplative piece by contemporary geometric artist Sean Scully sounds all wrong on paper, but the dark colours perfectly complement the zing of orange of the sun loungers lined up against it. Opposite, the bird mosaic by Georges Braque fits perfectly harmoniously with the lush vegetation surrounding it, peeking out from behind the cypress trees as though wary of the tourists taking their places alongside the pool. And best of all – that stunning Alexander Calder mobile, whose fast metal arms swing slowly and silently in the still Riviera air, and whose base stands majestically on the water’s edge.
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All combined like the colours mixed on an artist’s palette in ripples moving across the delicate green waters whose depths were punctuated with light manifested in every shade of cerulean blue and forest green. I became fascinated, dazzled by the interplay of colour on the water, and took so many photos that a post dedicated to this phenomenon of La Colombe d’Or was a must.

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.