Day 6: From Alsace to the South of France - 13 May
Saying goodbye to La Haute Grange: Chattingover our last breakfast with Margaret and Philippe at La Haute Grange, we realized that we were going to miss their company, hospitality, and tranquil atmosphere of their very special B&B. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what you want your guests to come away feeling after staying with you for a few days? It’s the sense that they’ve taken a little bit of your essence and warmth with them as they continue on their journey.
Exceptional operators like Margaret and Philippe from La Haute Grange understand that running a B&B is not just about providing guests with a comfortable bed, shower and toilet for the night and breakfast in the morning. It’s all about the little touches and attention to detail in the home decor that make it not just a pleasure to look at but say “You’re welcome here and you’re special.” It’s the personal interest that they take in their guests as people. It’s the special touches at breakfast time: the handmade granola, the smell of warm bread wafting up to the stairs first thing in the morning, great coffee, the freshly made scones and plethora of gourmet delicacies to choose from like the ‘saucissons’, hams, cheeses, jams, croissants and breads. It’s making sure that their guests make the best of their stay in their region by advising them of the places that they must not miss, what to avoid altogether, and the best places to eat. It’s about welcoming guests as clients and have them leave as friends. This is what differentiates the exceptional Bed and Breakfasts from the mediocre.
La Haute Grange, La Chaude Cote, Freland (Alsace, FRANCE) www.lahautegrange.fr
After an hour’s drive from our B&B in Freland to Strasbourg’s International Airport (Enzheim), we caught an Air France flight from Strasbourg to Nice, via Lyon. In Nice by 4 pm, we negotiated our rental car at Hertz. Swapping the large station wagon that they had appointed us for a medium sized Renault sedan, this proved to be a wise move in retrospect because of the space restrictions in parking spaces in the South. From the airport, we made our way to Saint-Paul de Vence.
One thing that we hadn’t factored in when driving towards Saint-Paul de Vence were the road tolls. Panic seized us as we approached our first one and saw that they were all automated. Pulling up next to one ATM, Peter scrambled for his Visa card and tried inserting the card every which way. No chance. The machine kept spitting the darned thing out, saying that it was ‘invalid’. The ATM didn’t like Australian Visas, apparently. “Vic, I haven’t got ant coins!”, Peter said, his voice escalating exponentially by the second. I hadn’t any in my bag either. What to do? There was a line up of cars behind us, tooting their horns in exasperation at these silly tourists in the beige rental car. In the meantime, Peter was swearing at the machine and ready to thrown Euro bills at it. I tried to remind Peter whilst swallowing my own hysteria that the machine didn’t have a hope in hell of understanding him, neither did it want to accept any Euro bills. In a spark of inspiration, something made me dig my hands into my pockets. Miracle or miracles, there was a single Euro coin in my right hand pocket. Must have been the change from the baggage trolley in the airport. I fished it out and found that it was enough to cover the toll, which was 0.60 Euros. Whew. Crisis averted!
Villa Saint Maxime: We heaved a sigh of relief when we pulled into the driveway of the very lovely Villa St Maxime. Villa St Maxime sits elegantly beneath the ancient ramparts of Saint-Paul, overlooking the heart of Cote d’Azur down to the sea. Surrounded by lush and manicured gardens, this space and light filled villa boasts an exceptional swimming pool and an expansive terrace area with a commanding view of the French Riviera. Villa St Maxime was perfectly located for us. A short drive from Cannes, Monaco and Italy, it’s also well away from the madness of Nice and a short stroll up the road to the breathtakingly beautiful fortified village of Saint-Paul, with all its quaint restaurants and boutiques. This was going to be our home for the next 6 days and we couldn’t wait to get settled.
After meeting gracious proprietor John, who kindly insisted on helping Peter carry one of our suitcases up two flights of stairs and nearly suffering a coronary in the process, we indulged in a refreshing shower and fresh change of clothes before relaxing on the terrace for an evening aperitif with John. The evening drinks with John and Ann would become a daily ritual that Peter and I looked forward to before heading out for dinner each night. Swapping life stories and experiences with delightful people that you meet along the way is one of the best parts about travel, isn't it.
Tired from the day’s transit, John had recommended a cosy local restaurant that we could walk to called Le Vieux Moulin. Sharing a salad of artichoke, rocket and parmesan for our starters, Peter and I enjoyed the risotto scampi with coriander for the main meal. After the huge servings and heaviness of Alsacien cuisine, our meal at Le Vieux Moulin felt lighter on our stomachs and somehow more alive, every mouthful like Ambrosia. (Le Viex Moulin, Route de Vence, Saint-Paul. www.levieuxmoulinsaintpaul.fr)
Villa St Maxime, 390 Route de la Colle, Saint-Paul de Vence. www.villa-st-maxime.com
Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 13th May, 2012 | Trackbacks Categories: France Tags:
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