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Published: September 19th 2011
Well, who forgot to put Uzes in the guidebooks? Someone who wanted to keep it a secret, we think! What a magical place, and we only had one night there. Our next trip will include at least a week's stay. But I'm getting ahead of myself.....
We did really well getting away from Monterosso by 6.30 am, considering we had nearly missed the end of breakfast at 10.30am on a few mornings of our stay! Looking at the long drive ahead, we decided to forgo a side trip to Santa Margherita and aim for Alassio, on the Italian Riviera, for breakfast. Good decision. We found a gorgeous little bakery with fantastic coffee, and became addicted to their little hazelnut meringue biscuits on the drive to Uzes when of course, it was too late to go back for more! Alassio was quite upmarket, but we found a fantastic supermarket where I spied a bottle of Veuve Cliquot at the checkout and splurged - for the princely sum of 24 Euro! A little esky also proved a handy purchase, but finding ice was interesting. When we finally found someone prepared to sell it, the bag read: "50 cubes - enough for
25 aperitifs". Yes, ice by the cube was fairly pricey. However, it was all worth it for ice-cold water and fruit at the ready on our drive. We chose the scenic route out of Alassio and enjoyed beautiful clifftop views, but crossing the border into France was a revelation. Suddenly the roads seemed wider, the drivers more sedate, and the signage clearer.
The down side was that it was time to - groan - buy a French sim card for the i-pad and a French phone. Of course, we arrived at the phone shop (via a circuitous route thanks to having no maps on the i-pad) just in time for the 2-hour lunch break. That, however, gave us an opportunity to sample the magnificent baguettes across the road. It was literally half an hour from Italy, but the food was completely different. Despite loving almost everything about Italy, we never grew to love the bread - usually so dry you needed 3 tablespoons of olive oil for each mouthful. France was going to be a carb-fest of a different nature as we sampled brioche, baguette, croissant and ficelle, and moaned over every bite!
The phone shop experience was
7. A little chilly!
Not even a small desire to plonk......
nowhere near as agonising as it had been in Italy, and we were soon on our way again - with google maps to guide us once more!
Soon we were gliding past yellow fields of canola, stone walls and chateaux on our way to the tiny town of Uzes. We had heard about this town, and one of it's personalities - a foodie named Peta Mathias - from our friends Brad and Jane Whittle while we were planning our trip. As a result of listening to their stories and looking at their photos, we decided to change our itinerary so that we could experience it (and it's magnificent market) for ourselves - even if it was just for one night. No-one we had spoken to in France had ever heard of Uzes, so we weren't expecting it to be quite as historic and STUNNING as it was in the flesh. Photos do not do it justice. The centre of the town was encircled by a small ring road, on which there were some gorgeous shops. Other roads - more like lanes really, radiated from this circle so that all roads led to the ring road and the beautiful cathedral.
It was a bit of an adventure finding "La Maison de la Bourgade", as Le Petit Bourgade (laneway would be a generous term) didn't seem wide enough for our car to drive into. It was getting late in the afternoon, the children were hot and we were all relieved when we finally arrived. Our host, Elisabeth Lallemande, or "Babette", as Peta naughtily told us to call her, met us warmly and guided us into the locked church yard where we parked the car. While the welcome was warm, and our rooms delightful, it seemed we had overstepped some unknown French etiquette when we asked whether the children could have a quick swim before dinner. Elisabeth frowned slightly, surveyed Isabel and Hugo with a critical eye, then said "Well, I suppose..... they look like nice children.......... but please, NO PLONKING!" It took us a while to interpret plonking. Jumping and splashing, it seems.
No fear of that. The children were in the pool all of 10 seconds. While the outside temperature was very warm, the pool temperature felt about 2 degrees, and took their breath away. It had the desired effect though, and they got changed for dinner feeling
17. View above our heads, dinner at Cafe Terroir
We just couldn't believe the colour of the sky - so beautiful in between the branches of the big old trees inside the square.
What a surprise it was walking through a little laneway off the ring road, and finding that it opened out into an enormous square, lined with cafes, and full of magnificent old trees. If you were driving through the town you wouldn't even realise it was there! In contrast to Monterosso, there was no humidity and the evening was pleasantly cool. The square was full of children, and they had fun dancing on a makeshift stage, as well as taking turns to swing off an empty fountain next to it. Hugo couldn't resist, and had to have a go on our way home.
The Whittles had recommended a restaurant we decided to try -Cafe Terroir, and we weren't disappointed. I ate my first fois gras sitting at one of the little tables, sipping a glass of red wine, and watching the sky turn the most magnificent deep blue as the sun went down. It was so gorgeous that we spent much of our meal sitting back in the deck chairs and looking up through the trees. Yes, I'm sure the guide books forgot to mention this place on purpose.
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