Tour de France 2007


If there was one place I would like to be in yesterday, 29th July, that would be a resounding PARIS!!!

Yesterday was the last day of the Tour de France and I was glued to the télé (‘TV’ in France) watching the colorful cyclists bike their way round and round the Champs d’Elysées and back to the Place de la Concorde at least 8 times! Eight times because they had to tackle the required number of kilometers before a winner is declared. The winner is a 24 year old guy from Madrid, Spain and how composed and good looking he was yesterday, as if he just came out of the shower, a face so impeccable and nary a sign of fatigue!

Anyway, it was not the winner whom my eyes were glued at but rather, the breathtaking bird’s eyeview of Paris! And everytime a historical monument or a famous place is shown on TV, the TV commentator switches into that of a tourist guide informing the televiewers the name and history of such and such a place!

I am always utterly amazed about the beauty of my favorite city, especially that magnificent avenue, the Champs d’Elysées, for me the real symbol of Paris.

This year’s Tour de France started in London 22 days ago, crossing through Belgium then back to France. I haven’t really been following the game religiously but everytime I stumble into it while flipping channels, seeing those beautiful regions of France shot from a helicopter camera never fails to astonish me!

My mother used to talk about our very own Tour of Luzon in the 60s and how she used to get out of the house to watch the colorfully-clad cyclists drove past the avenue near where they used to live.

They should resurrect this friendly competition in the Philippines, not only to encourage sports among our PC/cellphone-obsessed youth of today but also to promote local tourism. The private sector and the Department of Tourism could work hand-in-hand in making this idea into reality and like France, make it a tradition for all generations to come. But no cigarette nor liquor advertising please!!

Some images of Tour de France 2007 from A.S.O./Amaury Sport Organisation:

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Summer has arrived

It’s crazy out here in the south of France, throngs of people wherever you go, traffic is a nightmare and restaurants/cafés taking advantage and raising their prices, like, for a cup of coffee, it’s 3euros! almost everything is expensive so we’d rather stay put in the house and do some D-I-Y’ing and gardening.

Yes, we’re back in the other house where as early as 6am and lasting till late midnight, you can hear the noises coming from holidaymakers having parties, frolicking in their swimming pools…

in our neighbourhood in the Var (half an hour to St Tropez), half of our old neighbours are gone for their summer holidays, replaced by holidaymakers who come from other countries in Europe. It is very common here that someone’s house/apartment/villa is rented to strangers – families, friends – on a weekly basis, a surefire way of making extra money because the south of France is a very popular summer destination. It is cheaper to rent a house for a week than staying in hotels and they can cook their own food, do whatever they want…

Btw, it’s very hot here, going on 40degC…i see my neighbours doing their chores in their swimsuit, and i myself is in swimsuit while typing this

Shopping in Ventimiglia


Without further ado, let me introduce to you my first purchase!!!!
(applause! applause!!!)

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photo from welcometoscana.com

Italians call one of them: la caffettiera
In English: coffeemaker

For all coffee lovers travelling to Italy, this is the perfect buy! i assure you, you won’t even look at Nescafe again after finding out how real coffee tastes like!

I bought a 9-cupper size (8euros) because our old one makes just enough coffee for two!
Boy! do we love it so much that we take it with us wherever we go!
life is not worth living without a cup of Lavazzo in the morning

Gone shopping

I went for a fix of retail therapy today.
I finally came to the conclusion it’s the lack of it that is currently causing these withdrawal symptoms. Hence, being another Friday market day in Ventimiglia, it’s time to go for treatment With the hubby on the other side of the English channel on business and car parked at the airport (yours truly’s car is temporarily indisposed – calendar is fully-booked to afford a trip to the garage  ), the only way to get to my shopping paradise is to take the half-hour journey by train.

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the train as seen from the village’s main roadThe train station is a good ten-minute walk from home and to get there, I have to walk through the village square where, at that moment, is holding our very own little Friday market. I say “little” because it comprises only about three long tables:
– one, displaying organic vegetables and fruits in season. The sellers, an Italian couple, hop from village to village with their homegrown produce, on market days. Ours is held every Friday.
– the other, laden with few catch of trouts and few grams of prawns
– and another table filled with marinated olives, an important produce of the valley.
There are also few pots of flowering plants in one corner, a permanent sight in all village markets, the French being obsessed with their flowers!The market is busy that morning, surrounded by dear old neighbours who see hubby and i, in view of our being eternally away, as permanent tourists in our own home!

We give each other the usual bisous-bisous and the typical “how-long-are-you-going-to-stay-this-time” interrogations and “drop-by-our-house” open invitations. I love my neighbours, no mistake about that, but I had to duck away quickly lest i miss my train and will have to wait for another couple of hours for the next one…

My worse fear happened! While scurrying up the long climb (some 20 degree angle all the way!!) to the station, my dear dear train came speeding right before my eyes!! Oh no!!!

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 I missed my train!

On checking the station’s timetable, the next one to Ventimiglia is not due for another two hours but there is one to come in 2 minutes, but… ooopppss!!!! going to the opposite direction!

That opposite direction ends in Tende, the last French town on the Roya Valley off the Italian border. To give you a geographical idea of the place, Tende is 20 minutes from our village, add another 20 minutes and you arrive at the famous Italian skiing resort of Limone, still travel two hours further and you reach Torino (Turin).

I had to think quick! ….shall i go… shall i go not…. heck! I could do with a scenic ride!

It turned out, it was a splendid decision!

What was usually a normal train plying the Nice – Tende circuit has now gone touristic, without extra cost, giving commentaries in both French and English of the beautiful scenery unfolding before every passenger’s eyes! (i’m telling you, even if you are just going for an errand, by taking this train and listening to the guide’s narration, your imagination will be transported back in time, as far back as the Roman ages!)

Every summer, from 1st june to end of september, the French train circuit from Nice to Tende and vice-versa is transformed into a touristic train route taking the passengers into a spectacular journey of one of the most beautiful railway landscapes in Europe! This railway line , reaching a height of 1000 meters comprises of tunnels and viaducts rising above the canyons overlooking the fast-flowing Roya river, the Roya-Bevera valleys, dotted by medieval hilltop villages, castle ruins, baroque churches, olive trees and a gentle spread of alpine, mediterranean and near tropical vegetation.

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the baroque-style bell tower of the 17th century Church of the Visitation, Fontan

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the old town of Tende                                                             the viaduct of Tende

The train finally reached Tende. as usual, it was a free ride! Yes, this fabulous trip didn’t cost me a centime. there was no controller to prevent that from happening!

Even if I wanted to, nobody sells tickets in our village train station. We have a station building but it’s just that,  a building! It stands as an empty building all year round except in July when it gets transformed into a holiday camp for SNCF (French national train network) employees’ children.

Why there is no ticket counter?
Because it costs more to set it up than it actually earns.
Out of the 200 inhabitants of our village, only two take the train and in both cases, only twice a year. The first trip is in November when they go to their second homes in Nice to spend a warmer winter, and the second trip, in May, when they return to the village to escape the throngs of tourists that crowd Nice in the summer.  Therefore, selling only 4 tickets a year is a joke for SNCF! (of course, this is only a joke, you nitwit!!  )

Even with the presence of a campsite that gets fully booked in the summer, still it doesn’t improve the figures. Holidaymakers drive down here in their motorized caravans or cars so who needs trains.

How then do I buy a ticket?
The only way to buy a ticket is from the controller who inspects and sells tickets at the same time, but then, his prolonged absence makes me suspect that he could be one of the two people who goes to Nice in the winter and back to the village in the summer!

More information on the Train des Merveilles at www.regionpaca.fr