Le Lavandou, May 2003


On the way down to Le Lavandou, we stopped overnight at Vonnas. The Times´ head foodie Jonathan Meades had put me onto Georges Blanc. Actually, once you had found Vonnas, it was difficult to miss him. Here are some panoramas of what I am sure will become the Place Georges Blanc in the future.

The dinner was excellent, although a little let down by the dull Chateauneuf du Pape. Perhaps all the good ones come to the UK.

Le Lavandou

The next day we pushed on to the Med. The weather was fine, so fine that on some days you couldn´t see the sea from the hills above the coast.

I went on a couple of walks up onto and along the hills, while MC stayed by the pool and nursed her blisters. Well, I did tell her to bring her boots, but she was sure her plimsolls would be OK. The first walk (after the introductory one we aborted because of MC´s blisters) was up the Col du Canadel; a mere 267 metres above sea level. You get a decent view of the islands (Porquerolles, Port-Cros and a couple of others I forget), and the bay of Hyères, where the first Free French from Africa landed in August 1944.

Later in the week, I went on a longer walk along part of GR51, from above Aiguebelle to about Les Balcons du Cap Negre. It was very windy, and I lost my hat; luckily, late enough in the walk that I got home without sunstroke. Afterwards we found out that we had "only" covered 15km, but our feet told us it was much further …

Bormes les Mimosas

I had long been curious about Bormes-les-Mimosas, since first hearing about it as General de Gaulle´s summer holiday retreat. I wonder if his choice had anything to do with where the Free French landed – they were supposed to land in the next bay, but they got lost. But I don´t think le Général would have liked St Tropez, anyway.

Bormes had one of those "typical" Provençal markets where the fresh fruit and vegetables are even more expensive than in our Amsterdam greengrocer. But the colours are pretty, and the variety of other products on sale certainly trumps our local delicatessen.

The church has a bust of St Trophyme, whose name is apparently the origin of St Tropez. Doesn´t really look like a party animal, does he?

We also saw an idea of how we want to grow Bougainvillea up one side of whatever house we eventually buy in Italy:

Le Rayol

One of the "finds" of the holiday was the Mediterranean garden at Le Rayol. This house was originally a private villa; but is now a collection of plants that grow – all around the world – in climates similar to that of the Mediterranean.

Many of the plants were new to us – and none were labeled. So unless someone writes to me to let me know which are which, the photos will remain as anonymous as their subjects.



Calistemon – taken from further so we can see the shrub

Central American Section

Weird relation of artichoke (Chile)

The cultivation scheme is very tolerant of naturally occurring wild flowers.

More Central American exotica

Mimosa (I think)

Give up


The GOs

Since we were, all the same (as they say in French), at Club Med, this report calls for a mention of the entertainers. Actually, MC thought the entertainment was better than it had been on any of our previous trips to CM. Well, something needed to be. One GO bore a suspicious resemblance to one of Denis´ old school friends:

Some others looked like Enrico Macias when he was young (according to MC, who is old enough to remember).

Lastly, everyone had a soft spot for Patrick, the bar manager, especially after he got his champagne fountain going:


After a reasonable drive (and lunch at Pézenas, where MC had a dozen oysters as a starter), we finally arrived at Toulouse. It was a bad weekend to arrive. There was a pop concert on the Place du Capitole, where our hotel was. Stade Toulousain were in the process of winning the Heineken cup. It took one-and-a-half hours to get our car into the hotel. It took our taxi three-quarters of an hour not to arrive (I wasn´t going back out in that traffic: ST had by now won the match). We had to go and find the taxi in a street near the square.

Anyway, we had a very good dinner at Les Jardins de l´Opéra. Huguette seemed to to enjoy it too; and only MC could manage one of the petit-fours they offered afterwards. Then we had to go and find a taxi for Huguette, which only took half-an-hour. The next day we had lunch at Franck´s house:

It was Mother's Day, so Franck opened a large bottle of champagne for Huguette.

It was our first chance to meet Franck´s wife, Florence. Not to mention Huguette´s granddaughter and great-granddaughter:

On the way back to the hotel, we ran into another traffic jam. ST were giving a pop concert on the Place du Capitole, and we couldn´t get the car back to the hotel until 9.15pm.


We stayed at an hotel near the Dordogne in Souillac. A four-poster bed, no less. And a final escalope of foie-gras. We visited the old Abbey church where we had gone to Mass more than once with the children in the 80s.

Souillac has an old, covered market hall.

And the tourism office is a converted church:


And so we drove home, stopping on the way to have dinner with Laurence, Isabelle, and Serge:

And it's a whole six weeks until we can leave for Meribel.

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