Thursday doors #66

The last batch of my doors from Valbonne’s Old Town as I’ve been rationning them. 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).

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).

Thursday doors #64

We’re back across the border and once again on home territory admiring a selection of doors from Valbonne’s Old Town whose Fete Saint Blaise we visited earlier this year. Like lots of old French towns, it was a veritable treasure trove of beautiful old doors.

 

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 Valbonne

A few weekends ago, we decided to head to the old village of Valbonne, one of the many charming ones on the Côte d’Azur. It’s a village we regularly cycle through, particularly during the winter. Situated in a basin along the Braque River, its name means ‘good valley’ in French.

Valbonne’s old village originally consisted of ten grids, planned by the Abbot of Lerins, following the layout of Roman cities. It has long since expanded, making Valbonne rather different from other villages in the South of France. It’s one of the places I always recommend to visitors.

Its 16th century central square, la Place des Arcades, is now surrounded on all four sides by picturesque arcades – added a century later –  café terraces and little shops. The arcade at the Hotel Les Armoiries is engraved with a date “1628”. It’s a very colourful spot; the wonderful Sardinian red, dark orchre or pale yellow façades of the village houses serve as a wonderful backdrop to the bougainvillea, plumbago and jasmine plants that scramble over old brick walls and arches adding a distinct fragrance to an already charming village.

Purely by chance, we’d chosen to go during one of the village’s many festivals. This one was not only celebrating its 500th anniversary but also that of Saint Blaise (local grapes and products, a sort of mini-EKKA). As we were wandering round, I’d noticed that there were lots of old black and white photographs of folks on the front of many of the older houses. I stopped to chat with some locals who kindly explained their significance.

From 1895 to around 1920, some 30 families left their village of Marti Montopoli in Tuscany, fleeing the tyranny of Fascism, taking around six weeks to travel over 400kms to make their homes in Valbonne. I was fortunate to be talking to one of the descendants of those original families whose photos were adorning the buildings. She also told me all about the local Servan grapes which had been grown near the village since 1995 and which we could sample in the main square.

While I was chatting, my beloved wandered off and, largely thanks to the crowds, I couldn’t see him anywhere. I returned to the central square and was about to ask the mc for the award ceremony for all the wonderful local products if he could put out a call for him, when he reappeared. It was one of those rare occasions when he didn’t have his mobile with him. He’d wandered off to check out restaurants for lunch.

The village has plenty of small local restaurants and individual shops but I was unimpressed with my beloved’s suggestions. We ate lunch at a restaurant of my choosing which was excellent. You’d think that after all those years married to me that he would have gotten better at picking them!

The Fête de la St Blaise (there’s 12th century Eglise Saint Blaise at the base of the village) which was taking place over the entire weekend included trips to visit various local establishments, parades, a blessing, a local Servan wine tasting and cookery demonstrations from a number of notable local chefs. But my beloved, having been fed and watered, was ready to return home. As we walked back to the car, we passed an antiques shop where I had spotted a globe that I thought would please my beloved. It did and it’s now gracing the lounge.

When we returned home, I thought I’d look up the festival’s origins as many of our local villages have similarly named festivals which are held throughout the year. I discovered that Saint Blaise was born in what is now Turkey circa 300 and was apparently the patron saint of those suffering from sore throats! I assume this was because while in captivity, prior to being beheaded for his Christian beliefs, he miraculously cured a boy from fatally choking.

Subsequent legends, notably the apocryphal Acts of St. Blaise, claim that, before Blaise was made bishop, he was a physician possessed of wonderful healing powers. Numerous miracles were attributed to him, including the cure of diseased beasts during his refuge, thus accounting for his also being the patron saint of wild animals. He was venerated and, as his cult spread throughout Christendom from the 8th century, many churches, such as the one in Valbonne were dedicated to him. The French clearly have repurposed him and decided that he’s the patron saint of agricultural shows. I’m sure he doesn’t mind.

The Sky’s the limit

My guests have departed after a very enjoyable few days. The boys arrived Thursday evening in time for a light dinner. It was very windy that evening and I had hoped it might blow away the rain clouds. But no, we awoke to torrential rain. After a hearty breakfast we went to one of the larger bike shops for a browse and then collected my beloved from the airport.

After lunch, the weather cleared, the sun came up and started drying the roads. We walked down to my LBS for a browse and a chat, returning in time for me to prepare dinner.

Me and the boys

Saturday dawned bright and warm so we set off around 10:00am and headed towards Monte Carlo where we stopped for coffee and the boys admired the local attractions (all female). We decided to return via La Turbie which afforded them plenty of photo opportunities while waiting for me to catch up. Thereafter, it was a swift descent past Eze village to Nice and home.

After lunch the boys had a wee cat nap and then fortified themselves with some of my fruit cake. Saturday evening we dined at a local restaurant which has recently changed hands. We were delighted to find that the cuisine had further improved and the new owners were resting neither on their laurels nor on the reputation of the previous owner.  

Today’s pointage was at Valbonne and it took me longer to warm up this morning so that I was soon distanced by the rest of my clubmates on the climb out of Biot. Resigned to riding on my own, I was shortly joined by a rag bag of riders from other clubs and merrily rode with them. They expressed horror on arriving in Valbonne to discover an Antiques Fair on the spot where the pointage is normally held. I was able to direct them to the correct location on the other side of the village.

I arrived just after my club had departed the pointage so I rode back, as is my wont, with riders from another club, cutting a good 20km off the proposed route so that I could return home in time to prepare lunch for the ravening hordes, all three of them. The boys departed after lunch while my beloved went to meet a business contact in Nice. I rewarded myself with a lazy afternoon on the sofa in my fleecy track suit (what else) catching up on the sports news. Both my football teams recorded draws: Spurs 0-0 AVFC and OGCN 1 – 1 Lille. AVFC take a point from one of their closest rivals for 4th place, while OGCN steadies the ship.

First up, my heart was gladdened by the number of wins recorded by the more mature members of the peloton: Rocket Robbie (Katusha) in the Trofeo Palma de Mallorca, Nico Eeckhout (An-Post Sean Kelly) on the final stage of Etoile de Besseges and Ale-jet in GP Costa degli Etruschi. Sky romped home 8 seconds ahead of the rest in the TTT at the Tour of Qatar putting Edvald Boassen Hagan in the leader’s jersey where he’s going to be difficult to dislodge. Quick Step’s Tom Boonen is 20 seconds down after his team finished 5th. Cervelo initially finished second but were penalized when an eagle eyed Chinese judge saw Barbie Barbie Haussler push a colleague. Cervelo claimed he was just steadying him, but the commissars remained unconvinced.

On a more sombre note, I was saddened to read of the untimely death of the maestro of the Italian road racing team whom I was fortunate to meet in Varese. My condolences go to Franco Ballerini’s family and friends.

Farewell holiday season

The sunshine returned yesterday as forecast, although it was very windy. The crews were still clearing up the coastal road, so we decided to head over to Sophia Antipolis and return by way of Valbonne and Biot. Riding the same roads that I suspect the peloton may cover in the forthcoming Tour of the Med, the Saturday stage of which will finish in Biot.

The wind was pretty fierce (British understatement) and at times it felt as if I was cycling in treacle. It was not a day for showing how my “look no hands” was progressing. I therefore had to make regular snot stops (my beloved’s terminology, not mine). Yes, the cold is lingering on.

Today was even colder and a quick check on the temperature this morning sent us scampering back under the bedclothes rather than going on the club ride. Instead we set off at 10:30 and I made it as far as the coffee shop! My beloved rode off while I huddled in the warmth and read the Sunday papers before returning to prepare lunch which was served as soon as my beloved emerged from his post-ride shower. Just the way he likes it.

When it’s cold like this there’s only one thing for it – comfort food! Soups, casseroles and hot toddies are essential to put the warmth back into chilly bodies.

I’ve spent the afternoon curled up on the sofa watching the ski-jumping from Innsbruck, where there’s a paucity of snow. It’s hill 3 of the 4 Hills Tournament, held for the past 50 or so year’s over the New Year to Epiphany period. In year’s past, we’ve watched it in Obersdorf, Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Innsbruck, but have never visited the 4th hill: Bishofshofen, in Salzburgerland.  I have fond memories of huddling in warm clothing, drinking a glass of gluehwein and watching those boys soar off the in-run: rather them than me. 

Today is the last day of my beloved’s vacation and it’s back to the grindstone for both of us tomorrow. The paperwork has been piling up and we’ve a major technological challenge to overcome. Our newish printer/scanner/fax which has never, ever been able to receive faxes threw a wobbly two days ago and now won’t print. Instead, it gobbles up the paper. Also, the paper feeder keeps jamming and it scans only when it feels like it. I think we’ve the printer equivalent of the rogue supermarket trolley. To be fair, the manufacturer is offering us a replacement machine, I just hope we don’t have to wait too long.