Thursday doors #65

We’re still in Valbonne’s Old Town as I’m rationning my doors. After all, who knows when I’ll be allowed out to photograph some more? Will it be 11 May or later?

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Trip to Saint Laurent du Var

Our first French holiday home was an apartment directly overlooking the beach at Saint Laurent du Var. Acquired largely due to its proximity to Nice airport, shops (Cap 3000 shopping centre) and restaurants, it was the perfect holiday bolt-hole.

Like many towns the length of the French Riviera, it has a new and an Old Town, the latter is located further up the Var valley built on higher ground and dates back to at least 11th century. It has picturesque winding streets, an 11th century Romanesque-style church and was the last “French” town before crossing the river Var into the Italian, County of Nice. I understand crossing the river was rather precarious and done on the the backs of men called “gueyeurs”, until the construction of a bridge in 1792.

Although the village dates largely from 11th and 12th centuries, it had a period of renewal after a number of disasters that occurred between 12th and 15th centuries which depopulated it. After an appeal, it was repopulated by Italian immigrants from Liguria. You may recall that something similar happened, albeit later, in Valbonne.

The town’s reconstruction took account of the natural elements such as water, wind and sun. The principle of “calandage” (building of side or central trenches), still visible in Rue Raphaël Monso, were used to remove rainwater while streets and squares were built to encourage shade. The new Saint Laurent was built on a grid pattern with streets cutting across each other at right angles forming a rectangle and integrating earlier buildings. The materials used included large smooth stones rolled from the bed of the Var for the walls, street pavements and ramparts and thin red bricks for the archways, door and window frames and doorsteps.

Typical houses from this era (bumpy walls, honey coloured, with pebbles that stand out against the dark cement) are still visible in the Rue des Ramparts and at the western end of the Rue du Var with its lookout tower. The houses were generally built over three floors, a ground floor which comprised the cowshed or cellar, the first floor where the inhabitants lived and the attic which was used as a barn, store or drying room. Due to the narrowness of the streets and the limited number of windows, the houses were very dark inside.

During the centuries that followed, changes largely due to demographics took place: raised houses, attics turned into bedrooms or drying rooms for fruit, doorways were made wider. As a result, these doorways were sometimes transformed and the resulting archways are still visible in some houses in the village.

It was only in 18th century that building took place outside the ramparts, with several mills and sawmills along the side of the river and in the district of Pignatières. But these developments remained limited due to the town’s insecurity relating to its position neighbouring the border.

The first record of the Saint Laurent du Var shield is in the 1866 “The Armorials of  Provencal Communes” by Louis de Bresc. Its coat of arms had a silver grill, with the capital letters L and S in gold on either side of the main lever. This was later embelished  with the military decorations the Croix de Guerre with the Ordre de l’Armée for the contribution made by the population and its resistance prior to Liberation.

The grill represents the martyr Saint Laurent who according to legend was burned alive. The letters L and S stand for Laurentius Sanctus (Saint Laurent). They are accentuated by the proud Provencal motto “Digo li qué vengon” (Tell them to come), which is a sort of bravado related to its former position as a border town. Its logo has now been thoroughly modernised.

The Old Town including Place Adrien Castillon, a charming little square with that 11th century church is well worth a visit. Just beyond the church is the “Hotel de Ville” (town hall), a rather grand building set in pleasantly shaded landscaped gardens. Adjacent to which there is a children’s playground and a number of boules pitches, as well as a theatre.

Now let’s head through its unremarkable town centre to its newer part on the opposite side of the Var river to Nice aiport, alonside the sea, which I understand were formerly fields of artichokes. Saint Laurent du Var sits on the long curve of stony beach on the Bay of Angels that runs right from Nice down to Antibes. There’s plenty watersports, including jetskis, pontoons, paddleboards and pedalos – or you could just rent a deckchair in one of the beach clubs and have a long leisurely lunch at one of the many bars and restaurants overlooking the water.

The stretch of sea beside the Plage des Flots Bleus, between Cap 3000 and the harbour, is a protected marine area with a total ban on fishing. An artificial cove has been created to encourage sealife to the area. In addition, the Var valley is a renowned bird reserve with plovers, sandpipers, grey herons, egrets, flamingos and many more – 264 species have been observed here. There’s a nature path  with information panels to help you identify the birds, but don’t forget your binoculars.

Saint Laurent du Var’s claim to fame is largely because of its enormous Cap 3000 shopping mall, more of which next week.

40 years of Memorable Moments: first French flat

It was only when I started to write about Saint Laurent du Var (coming tomorrow) that I realised I’d never really written about us acquiring our first holiday flat in France. So I thought I’d better remedy that huge oversight pronto. Please bear with me, it’s a bit of a shaggy dog story.

My beloved had organised a training trip to Nice for a large number of UK dentists and dental technicians which took place in Nice University’s newly installed simulation suite. A travel agent had organised the trip and based everyone at the Holiday Inn Resort Hotel in Saint Laurent du Var. However, on checking in, my beloved discovered the hotel was a room short and quite naturally he got bumped to another Holiday Inn nearby. To compensate for their error, the hotel offered my beloved a freebie weekend.

We had recently started taking our god-daughter for a few days away and thought she might enjoy a trip to the French Riviera. Little did we know at the time that this would prove to be one of those defining moments. The hotel very kindly gave us a suite for our long weekend break which was much enjoyed by all. The following year, my god-daughter asked if she could return to France for our annual trip away; so we did. By the time the following year rolled around, my beloved had accepted a transfer to his company’s HQ in Germany, to look after its global sales and marketing activities outside of its home (German) market.

Realising he would be regularly circumnavigating the globe and constantly staying in hotels, my beloved expressed a desire to buy a holiday apartment. I was not wholly on board with this. After all, the only time I ever got waited on hand and foot was in a hotel! We looked at maps and flight schedules and realised Nice would make a perfect location. We returned in late autumn to the hotel we’d previously stayed in with our god-daughter to begin our search.

That first morning, as we walked along the esplanade in Saint Laurent du Var, we realised its proximity to the airport (15 minute walk), abundant bars and restaurants, plus its Cap 3000 shopping mall, meant it was an ideal location for a holiday home. In addition there were a number of apartment blocks with flats directly overlooking the beach.

We popped into the nearest estate agent and asked if they had any flats overlooking the beach for sale. They did have one and an inspection visit was organised immediately. The apartment was a second-floor duplex in a striking (now Heritage listed) 1970s building which afforded splendid sea views. The flat was in mint condition, although somewhat eccentrically decorated. We loved it and made an offer there and then to the amazement of the owner and agent. Our offer was accepted and completion was set for early April (Easter) the following year, a date which suited both parties.

For a couple of years we spent all our holidays in the apartment, meeting up there most weekends and every bank holiday. I would fly over Friday evening from Luton and back again on a very early Monday morning flight, courtesy of Easyjet. My beloved would either fly in from Stuttgart or drive. Though, in any event, he had to leave by lunchtime on Sunday.

Although, I’d resisted the idea of a holiday home at first. I really came to love the lifestyle. So much so that I began to resent having to go back to the UK on Monday morning. We started discussing how we might make the move more permanent. The rest, as they say, is history!

Sunshine’s Macro Monday #38

Yes, it’s yet more photos captured on my iPad mini while on my daily rambles around our private Domaine! Though, instead of spring flowers, weeds and new tree shoots, I’ve gone for tree bark!

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your helpful feedback and kind comments on these posts – most encouraging.

Sunshine’s Macro Monday is a challenge hosted by Irene encouraging us to scrutinise the smallest of details by getting up close and personal and bringing someone or something to life in a photograph. It’s a one day challenge without prompts.  Irene posts a Sunshine’s Macro Monday post each Monday, just after midnight Central Time (US) so don’t forget to use the tag SMM and mention Sunshine’s Macro Monday somewhere on your post, create a pingback or add a link in the comment’s section of her post.

Postcard from Portugal (not): Part II

If things had gone to plan, we would’ve been spending a few days exploring Lisbon while celebrating my beloved husband’s birthday. This is the second time in six months, we’ve not gone to Portugal. In the past few years, we’ve tended to make a habit of going away for his birthday and have twice visited Paris, while last year we were in Palma de Mallorca.

I decided that I would try to make the preceeding weekend special by cooking some of his favourite dishes. Accordingly, I was up with the lark on Saturday morning and ventured outside of my shopping limit to visit the fishmonger. He had plenty of glistening fresh fish just none of that which my beloved’s heart really desired. Nonetheless, I purchased some and returned home. Fresh fish would make a welcome change for us both. Although our local supermarket does sell fish, it’s not of the same quality as our fishmonger.

You might be wondering why I didn’t rustle up some Portugese dishes and, I’ll be honest, it didn’t occur to me. In addition to which I’d asked my beloved what he’d wanted to eat and while I couldn’t deliver the requested dishes which’ll have to wait, he did enjoy what I produced.

I did suggest that he didn’t do any work over the weekend but my entreaties fell on deaf ears as during the lockdown my beloved has been Zooming here, there and everywhere. He’s been giving presentations on all manner of matters dental. Of course, there’s never been a better time to take good care of one’s oral hygiene, goodness knows when it’ll be safe to visit the dentist and hygienist again!

Fortunately the weather was fine over the weekend and we were able to enjoy our daily perambulations around the Domaine and appreciate an apero on the terrace. Sunday morning my beloved rode with his cycle-club buddies from the terrace on Zoom. This could become a regular feature until we’re able to get properly out and about on our bikes.

We did vow that we wouldn’t watch more television during lockdown than we do normally and, by and large, we’ve stuck to this. Of course, with no live sport to watch, there’s been a big gaping hole in our lives. Typically, we’d now be looking forward to the Giro d’Italia and the French MotoGP and praying that my beloved boys in claret and blue had gained enough points to stay in the Premiership. Consequently, we’ve dived into some box sets. But we’ve not been binging, three episodes an evening has been our limit.

Of course, we’ve been much entertained with the ingenious virtual ways people have managed to get together while being apart with pub quizzes, gaming, karaoke nights, racing on Zwift and various athletic challenges. We’ve had no need of these, our own company has (fortunately) sufficed.

This morning my beloved declared that, given the circumstances, he’d had an enjoyable pre-birthday weekend which is probably the best I could’ve hoped for!


Mystery Blogger Awards VII and VIII

I was invited by Rachael’s Novels to take part in the Mystery Blogger Award and I thought, why not? A big shout out to Rachael for the nomination and don’t forget to head over to her site to check out her novels and give her a follow.

Then, a week or two later, I was most kindly nominated by Mrs Holiman over at God’s Love, again please head over to her lovely blog, check it out and give her a follow too.

Three Things about Myself

Blimey, I’ve done so many awards, and particularly after the Vogue Challenge, I must now be an open book. Here goes and apologies in advance for anything I’ve already told you.

I have an excellent memory, much to my beloved’s chagrin, as a kid I always used to win the party game where you had to recall the items on a tray. If I’ve read it, heard or seen it I’ll most likely be able to remember it. I just have to close my eyes and I can see it in my mind’s eye. This ability does not prevent me from having selective memory loss!

My Best Blogs

I don’t know, you tell me. Is it the ones with the most views? In which case it’s my series of blogs about “Things about France that surprised me…..” such as not sending cards, hypochondria, bread, driving, hamburgers

My Nominees

As is my wont, please pick up the baton of the challenge of this award if you feel so inclined!

Rachael’s Questions

Rachael picked a set of questions set by Lydia Potter used for her nominees in her Real Neat Blog Award post, because she thought they were neat, but I’ve already answered these here. So I’ve used the same set she answered.

1. Do you like writing?

Yes, I enjoy writing and rarely suffer from writer’s block.

2. Have you ever written poetry?

No, my younger sister is the family poet laureate. She has an enviable knack for it.

3. Who is your fave author?

There are a number I really like such as Evelyn Waugh, Kazuo Ishiguro, Margaret Attwood and Gabriel García Márquez but I don’t really have a favourite.

4. Poetry or novels?

I prefer reading novels though occasionally enjoy reading poetry.

5. Have you ever written something that you really wish you didn’t?

No, because I’m conscious that anything written down could be viewed by anyone, including an unintended audience.

Mrs Holiman’s Questions

1. What is your favourite bible verse about kindness?

I believe I’ve mentioned my lack of familiarity with the Bible. However, one thing I’ve always tried to abide by is this:-

2. How has your 2020 year been so far?

It started off really well and has now kinda stalled.

3. Who’s a better swimmer batman or superman?

Tricky one!

4. What do you love about blogging?

It’s enjoyable and informative

5. What things you like to watch on youtube? Name 3

I don’t really watch anything on YouTube though I do use clips from it to illustrate some of my blogs.

The Award Rules

  1. Put the award logo on your blog
  2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  3. Mention the creator of the award – Okoto Engima
  4. Answers the five questions you were asked
  5. Tell the readers three things about yourself
  6. Nominate ten to twenty bloggers
  7. Notify the bloggers( tell them you nominated them) by commenting on one of their posts
  8. Ask your nominees five questions with one weird or funny one
  9. Share a link to your best posts

Hope you’re having a great weekend. Sx

The Musette: Aloo Gobi

This hearty cauliflower and potato curry is probably the most common and basic vegetable curry you will find anywhere in India. Originally from the Punjab, it’s a firm favourite across the Indian sub-continent and Pakistan. Cheap, filling and generally vegan, it’s a recipe everyone needs in their curry repertoire. But one of the disadvantages of its universal appeal is that there is no such thing as a universal recipe.Yes, there are as many recipes as there are Indians!

This is my vegan take on Atul Kochhar’s recipe from Simple Indian. I don’t generally make amendments to recipes from Michelin starred chefs, but I’m sure he won’t mind.

Ingredients (enough for 4 hungry cyclists)

  • 4 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 large cauliflower, split into florets
  • 1 small finely chopped onion
  • 2 tsp black onion seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 cardamon pods
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 250ml (1 cup) passata
  • 5 -10 tbsp filtered water
  • 2 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp garam masala


1. Pre-heat oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6 (400°F/350°F fan),   put potatoes and cauliflower florets on a baking tray, spritz with a little vegetable oil and bake in oven until cooked and a little charred round the edges, approx. 40 minutes.

2. After 30 minutes, heat finely chopped onion in 1 tsp vegetable oil in a deep frying pan (skillet) until transluscent. Do not allow it to colour. Then add onion seeds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamon pods and bay leaves. Cook for a minute or two until the spices start to crackle.

3. Add the passata, water, chilli powder, salt and tumeric to the pan stirring well and now add the cauliflower and potato which should be almost but not quite cooked. Gently cook through for 5-10 minutes until you can easily pierce with a fork.

4. Taste sauce to check seasoning, add coriander and garam masala and serve with rice or an Indian flat bread.

5. Or, like me, omit final seasoning, leave to cool, put in the fridge overnight and heat up the following day before adding coriander and garam masala.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. Cut the florets slightly bigger than the potatoes so they cook in roughly the same time as the potatoes, rather than overcooking and disintegrating before the potatoes are done.

2. You can, of course, serve this as a main dish, or as a side. Typically, I’ll serve it with a “wetter” dish such as dhal and either boiled basmati rice or some roti and some hot and spicy pickles.

Sculpture Saturday #5

It’s week five of my participation in this challenge hosted by the Mind over Memory blogger and I’ve chosen a statue from the seafront in Nice, near its Old Town.

Neuf Lignes Obliques is by French artist Bernar Venet, commissioned to mark 150th anniversary of the 1860 annexation of the County of Nice by France. The sculpture comprises nine steel beams, 30 metres long which meet at the top. It sits on the Quai des États-Unis, an extension of the Promenade des Anglais.

  • Share a photo of a sculpture
  • Link to the Mind over Memory’s post for Saturday Sculpture

Go on, give it a go, you know you want to!