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Published: June 22nd 2017
Geo: 43.7034, 7.2662
The travel arrangements by MRT were very good. We were met at Gatwick by Sarah Robertson the tour rep and Alistair Sooke the famous art critic and historian. For the whole trip Sarah made sure we went from A to B without fault or delay and Alistair's talks about all the art works we saw were informative but presented in a delightful and amusing way. On arrival at Nice airport we were whisked away by coach to Mougins a lovely old town perched on a hill. Lots of children in Halloween fancy dress were running around but our task was to see the Musee d'Art Classique de Mougins. There are works by Picasso and Matisse in here but Alistair took great delight in showing us some of the ancient classical pieces. After we were free to roam around the town which has some lovely looking restaurants, to which one day I hope to return. We found a nice little bar and had our first taste of the gorgeous Provencal Rose. Then it was back on the coach to the Hotel La Perouse ( see review). We met in the evening to have a talk by Alistair in the meeting
room( after first collecting the essential glass of rose from the bar) Here he further discussed the rivalry between Matisse and Picasso. Dinner was in the hotel - a gorgeous salmon starter followed by duck breast and then a scrumptious millefeuille cake washed down with lots of wine.
The following day our coach took us to Antibes, where Alistair tried out our microphones. He had not used the device before and when he switched his on and shouted into it everyone in the group leaped 6 feet in the air! Like an eager child he marched off into the distance to see how far he could get and yet we could still hear him - a long way! We went into Chateau Grimaldi a lovely old chateau which was used as a studio by Picasso. It has a lovely terrace overlooking the sea and one can see why the artists were attracted to the light and azure blue of the surroundings. We were then free to stroll around the town, which has some lovely souvenir shops and restaurants. We had lunch and made the mistake of ordering a starter and main as we would do at home. However the portions are
much larger than at home so we had difficulty finishing what was a lovely meal. No problem with the bottle of rose however. It was then off to Vence to see the Chapelle du Rosaire, a Dominican chapel by Matisse. It has some lovely stained glass windows in blue and yellow and odd drawings in black on white tiles. One wall was meant to be the stations of the cross but looked more like odd cartoons. The Virgin and Child was more dramatic. In the evening we met in the hotel to have another talk by Alistair and discuss our feelings about the chapel. After we walked into the old town to Le Grand Balcon restaurant near the opera. A bustling place with plenty atmosphere and very friendly staff. The Avocado and prawn salad was divine followed by beef and then apple gratin and lashings of wine.
Day 3 and we are still raring to go. The coach took us to Musee Matisse in the north of the town where we saw cut outs, sculpture and paintings. Alistair took us round the best pieces. Then the coach set us down in the old town and we had time to walk through
the fabulous flower market and have lunch. Yet again the one course of moules et frites was huge!
The coach left from the hotel and took us up to St Paul De Vence for a trip round the Maeght Foundation. This has many great sculptures in the park and on the terrace around the gallery but the current exhibition of modern art was not to anyone's taste. We walked from the gallery down and then up into the medieval town. It is highly popular with tourists so all the shops, restaurants and galleries reflect that. In the evening we walked all round the harbour to the L'Ane Rouge. This is a seafood restaurant and the food was very nice, ( seafood cannelloni and seabream) but the staff were a bit stiff lipped and poured wine out with an amount that I thought was just a taster not a glass full.
The last morning we loaded our luggage onto the coach and left for Vallauris, an unassuming town which has a sculpture of "Man with Sheep" by Picasso in the main square. Unfortunately there was a large cherry picker lorry right by it where men were hanging Xmas lights in the trees. However
we still got a good view and Alistair spoke about it. Then we went into the Picasso museum which is adjacent to a chapel decorated by Picasso. His response to seeing the one by Matisse and which contains many homages to Matisse especially in the side wall named "Peace". The opposite wall called "War" is a typical reaction by Picasso to all forms of war. In the museum itself there is a lovely collection of Picasso ceramics. As there was nothing else in the town worth seeing, the coach took us to Port St.Laurent where we could choose a restaurant of our liking along the front. We chose L'Atoll where we could sit outside in the sunshine with palm trees waving above and boats lining the port- perfect!
We were lucky that we had 4 days of warmth and sunshine in early November but also a lovely crowd of people, good tours and excellent tuition. Will do it again someday.
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