Aged four and a half my first trip abroad had been camping in Cavalaire. Friends of my parents had long espoused the joys of holidaying under canvas and we were persuaded into joining them. My parents purchased an all-singing, all-dancing tent, piled it into their friends’ trailer and off the six of us went for our first adventure in the south of France. I say six because my younger sister Lynn had arrived the year before.
I remember little of what was probably a long car trip from Calais, well before the advent of the brilliant French motorway system. However, I do remember being traumatised by those shower tray-like toilets. I do have memories of my Auntie Marion expertly cooking a full English on a primus stove, lovely sandy beaches, pine trees and my mother rarely leaving the shelter of the tent awning as she nursed my sister. On our return, my father sold the tent and we never ever went camping again!
Back in 2013 when my late father visited unexpectedly, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and revisit Cavalaire. Of course, over 50 years had passed and pretty much everything had changed but it was still a lovely trip along the coast. I hadn’t booked anywhere for lunch, hoping that we would happen upon somewhere suitable, and we did. I found a lovely 5* boutique hotel with an excellent kitchen bestriding the sea shore. My father and I ate lunch on its terrace, overlooking the sea, and to the sounds of the sea lapping the shoreline, had a magnificent meal.
My ability to find great restaurants has been passed down to me by my father, that and years of rigorous training. Sadly, the gift seems to have passed by my two other sisters. So I was always pleased to find somewhere that delighted my father. Indeed, even now, when we find a great restaurant, my beloved and I look at one another and say:
You know who’d have enjoyed this!
I’d not since returned to that hotel but, having checked before we left for the Var that it was open, I decided that was where we would eat lunch. I didn’t think it necessary to ring and book a table, after all, how busy was it likely to be? Thankfully, as it turns out, I didn’t ring.
We drove to the hotel from our last tasting, parked the car and strode confidently through the hotel and bar to the exterior terrace restaurant where I politely requested a table for two. The head waiter asked for our room number and I replied that we weren’t staying in the hotel. He then explained that because of COVID, only residents were permitted to dine in the hotel.
I wasn’t about to have my luncheon plans thwarted. I explained that I’d eaten there with my late father and had promised to bring my husband to see where I had dined with him. It was an Oscar-winning performance. Conveying deep sadness, as if that had been our last meal together, I even managed to make my eyes water!
No Frenchman was going to resist me and we were swiftly seated at a table for two overlooking the sea. We enjoyed a magnificent and lazy seafood luncheon. It was too hot to be hurried and it was so nice watching everyone enjoying the beach while maintaining social distancing. It can be done.
We then drove home along the coast road which at this time of year is usually clogged with tourist traffic. Today it wasn’t, and it was heavenly!