Monday, June 24, 2013

La Côte Bleue

It was 2:30pm, my stomach was rumbling and the heat of anger was building between my ears. Remi had an idea in his head and he wasn't going to stop for our picnic until he had made it a reality. I tried to bite back my bitterness at the thought of the near empty beaches we had passed along the way at Sausset-les-Pins and even a rocky crique at Carry-le-Rouet with a direct view on the sea where the dogs would have been welcome too. On we drove beyond beach shacks crowded with laughing diners on their second bottle of rosé and relaxed bronzed beauties languorously rearranging their limbs. 

I crossed my legs for the tenth time, trying to shake the spiders out of my veins and worried as the dogs shuffled with longing in the back. "Ok, ok just this last try. I know what I am looking for exists," Remi insisted and it made me furious. "A bit of land with a view above the sea? All to ourselves? On a Sunday in high season?" I responded silently for the sarcasm was rising fast, I could see that there were no roads for where he wanted to go, we had been turned back at dead ends too many times...And then he found it. 

The unmarked path rose sharply, dissembled into dirt and opened onto an enclosure...

...where two empty picnic tables were waiting, not a person in sight...

...with a view over the sea and...

...Ben! Get out of the photo!...

...the shade of pines to swish with the crash of the waves into a patch of peace.

Immediately, the goods were laid out. Paté, jambon, beurre, cornichons, brie. The simpler our picnics become, the more I enjoy them.

I kicked off my shoes under the table...

...where several beggars slyly surveyed our every move until...

...with a sigh Remi and I laid back on our respective benches, looking up at the flickering sun until sleep claimed us all.

We woke refreshed, not having been disturbed in the least during our sieste. I couldn't help but think of the crowds we had left behind in Arles. And of all the times during our travels when Remi would declare, camera at the ready, "I just need a man to walk across in front of the monument/church/mosque/temple now," and...he would.

But, as glorious as this is, others are more fortunate than we. Several small cabanons are perched at the cliff's summit, including this petit bijou...

...that looked out on to quite a view.

We took the dirt path to its end and clambered up to the top of a winding crest. All of Marseille was waiting to greet us.

It was quite something to behold.

Scrub-like maquis that are surprisingly similar to the land of our nearby Alpilles, did a dip drop directly into the Big Blue.

"Ici, ça s'appelle La Côte Bleue." We were corrected by a fit gentleman who paused to pet the puppers while out for his daily walk through the hills. His smile widened as he added with a wink, "C'est la Riviera pour les pauvres." And yet we certainly didn't feel so poor at the moment, on the contrary, quite rich with the giddy surprise to have found a spot guaranteed to set the dream motors running after eight years of living so close and yet so far.

Perhaps this panoramic stretch had been surpassed by the more scenic calanques further east? Or is it just a carefully guarded secret? 

It was bumpy breaking back into the bustle below.

So I thought of the man striding the hills above us as we turned the car back towards Arles. How he must be breathing in the salt, the wind whipping his cap, no sound but the distant sea between his ears like a cupped shell. I turned over my shoulder and took a grateful glance to the Mediterranean as we turned inland, knowing that when the moment is right, I will be more patient. It will be worth all the time in the world to sail into La Côte Bleu once more...


  1. Heather, I was with you on this little day trip. Ahhh, yes, Remi is always right, isn't he? Let the spirit be your guide, wander around everywhere, leave not a stone unturned, and beautiful surprises will find you. What a wonderful story, my love.

    1. Thank you, dear Marsha. And if memory serves me (as it often doesn't), this is not the first time that you have said that Remi is always right. It kills me to admit it but it is true! ;)

  2. Stunning Heather. How rich you are, indeed. It's rainy here today and I'm wishing I could transport myself into one of your heavenly photos! XO

  3. What a great story...and such gorgeous photos! Thanks for sharing with us!

  4. One thing I love about that coast are the pinedes mixed with the sea air. La cote pour les pauvres? Ha! Much better than the east side IMHO but I do wonder how much longer it will last? I would get a cabanon soon because with that view it might end up costing a small fortune soon!

    1. N, that land is protected! Woot woot! So now building can happen--alas, not even more cabanons. And something tells me those folks that have the few that exist would not sell them for any price...

  5. I know this sort of beauty only through your posts. Is that totally sad!?


    'I know what I am looking for exists'

    Huge fan of this posture.

    1. Is that sad? Why no. For you know of beauty that I have only seen in my mind's eye.

      And it truly is amazing how often that posture works for Remi when he really fixes on something specific.

  6. What did we bring for the dogs at the picnic?

    1. Ah, they were given ham and baguette--a deconstructed sandwich if you wish and a big treat compared to their usual slices of emmenthal. :)

  7. Beautiful views. Thanks for sharing. I will have to look for this spot next time I am in Provence, though our town, Tarascon, is itself an undiscovered secret and misses the crazy tourist traffic of the summer...for now at least...

  8. wow. beautiful, bleu, breezy & private. that lunch looks great. the dogs are adorable.

  9. So beautiful. It looks like a well-kept secret. I love little spots like that, with no one else in sight. They are the best.

  10. Dear Heather, Loved everythig, the photographs, the written words but most of all the puppers on top of your tennis shoes, making sure that you won't leave them behind... wich of course, you would never do. ox, Gina

    1. Thank you Gina. Yep, my boys look out for me. :)

  11. Hi Heather
    The perfect picnic. You forgot to put the attached Google Map so we can all go....hee hee
    This deserves to be kept top secret.

    To a great week

    Helen xx

    1. And the same to you!

      Honestly neither of us are entirely certain that we will be able to find it again!!!

  12. With early morning rain falling outside the window and the promise of another wet, gray day here, you've provided a lovely reminder that somewhere out there a blue sky and picnic table are waiting. . .

  13. I remember that gorgeous view from our trip in April. You were lucky to find such a beautiful spot for your picnic!

  14. belles photos de la cote bleu - surtout par temps de "mistral" - un petit zoom sur la photo 13 (au fond entre deux barres d'immeubles une petite chapelle !)

    1. Mais oui, Henri! Mais quelle petite chapelle...;) Votre ville est magnifique! Et quelle chance d'avoir les paysages pur si proche...pas pareil à Paris...

  15. Oh my. The perfect picnic spot, the perfect company, and can I say I love those paper plates? La côte bleue is the perfect name for this place - such a blue, blue ocean. I bet all that anger and frustration flew off on the wind the moment you arrived.

    1. Oh no Lorrie, I am a redhead! I looked him right in the eye and said, "You got lucky"--even though I know it wasn't true, he made it happen!

  16. Dear Heather,

    What a wonderful, evocative posting. You're very good (and simultaeously discreet,which is unusual these days, to say the least) at registering the moment-by-moment negotiations required by any genuine relationship. Obviously, you're refreshingly aware that this often involves simply keeping your danged mouth shut while your partner/spouse/whatever does something that's important (for whatever obscure reason)to him/her.

    A lot of folks could take a lesson from you.

    Surely I won't be the first person to have told you that Remi is (as we say in America) a keeper.

    Give both of yourselves a deserved treat and go to:

    "Heavenly Day" (written and sung by Patti Griffith)

    Oh heavenly day, all the clouds blew away
    Got no trouble today with anyone
    The smile on your face I live only to see
    It's enough for me, baby, it's enough for me
    Oh, heavenly day, heavenly day, heavenly day

    Tomorrow may rain with sorrow
    Here's a little time we can borrow
    Forget all our troubles in these moments so few
    All we've got right now, the only thing that
    All we really have to do
    Is have ourselves a heavenly day
    Lay here and watch the trees sway
    Oh, can't see no other way, no way, no way
    Heavenly day, heavenly day, heavenly day

    No one at my shoulder bringing me fears
    Got no clouds up above me bringing me tears
    Got nothing to tell you, I've got nothing much to say
    Only I'm glad to be here with you
    On this heavenly, heavenly, heavenly, heavenly
    Heavenly day, all the trouble's gone away
    Oh, for a while anyway, for a while anyway
    Heavenly day, heavenly day, heavenly day


    David Terry

    1. One of my favorites, David, and I'll thank you both for the song and thoughtful comment about relationships. As I write this the song is cooling one of my own red-head moments of anger at my lovely, unsuspecting spouse of nearly 30 years.

  17. How beautiful Heather, it reminds me so much of my childhood on the Costa Brava, same scenery of pines, blue seas and cliffs. Ahhhhh, gorgeous and so refreshing!
    Love your "puppies", sweet things!

  18. Surprises rae memorable especially wonderful surprises.

    "...the shade of pines to swish with the crash of the waves into a patch of peace."-anytime.

  19. Heavenly...Heather..I can feel the wind whipping through my hair and the hot tropical heat drifting across the sea..away from me. I laughed at the early sarcasm..I would do the same. What a wonderful treat for you both..I imagine one you will never forget. Glorious photos...puppers and all. :) xx

  20. I'm a little behind in my reading from June but.... La Cote Bleue is lovely, but those dogs (and especially in the photograph of noble Ben sitting tall) are gorgeoso!! XOXO, Leslie

    P.S. How is the water in that part of Big Blue? (Warm and clean enough?)


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