Villefranche sur Mer France
Villefranche sur Mer is a little piece of heaven tucked quietly away between Nice and Monaco on the French Riviera.
I have been there three times and I will definitely be back. Spring is the perfect time to visit when the weather is perfect and the village is full of very charming and reasonably priced rental flats.
On my most recent visit I was staying in a flat in the historic center of town that was featured on House Hunters International and a couple of locals walking by yelled "Hey Gerry" to my open window thinking Gerry the owner was inside. Needless to say I ducked below the window and pretended not to hear them.
The other great thing about this place is you always leave in better shape than you got there because of all the stairs you climb up and down all day long! Access to the entire South of France right outside your door.
Just make sure you learn how to use the ticket machine at the train station or you may find yourself hiding from the ticket collector with no ticket in the WC. Not that I have ever done that you understand.
Portofino has a very magical feel about it. A bit like Brigadoon. I almost feel like it fades away into the dark at night and reappears in the mist in the morning.
There is a very interesting story about one of Portofino's most famous adopted residents Baroness Jeannie Von Mumm widow of the German Ambassador to Italy. She was the owner of Castello San Giorgio and single handedly saved Portofino by convincing the retreating Wehrmacht Commandant Ernst Reimers not to blow up the simple fishing village as the troops were retreating at the end of WW2.
Six months later Jeannie Von Mumm received a letter from the Commandant from the Allied prison where he was being held saying "I am now glad that I followed your advice and the destruction that in the course of duty I would have had to carry through, I did not. Through this a lot of damage and sorrow to the small place has not been inflicted. I can say to you today, that I had the order to blow up the whole mountain (the peninsula of Portofino). You were my good angel. It could not have changed anything in the order of things, as we now see".
My Saturday in Paris ritual is always the same. Up very early and take the metro to the Vanves flea market with a quick stop at the boulangerie next door for a warm, fresh "pain au chocolate". Then I roam up and down the aisles of the flea market snapping pictures and feigning complete lack of understanding of English as an agitated vendor tells me off for taking pictures without their permission. Most of them are perfectly nice, but once in a while I get a vocal one. I always find some treasure I can't live without from my favorite vendor Vincent.
Then it is back onto the Metro and straight to the Luxembourg Garden. Early, before it gets crowded. Then I wander around the city until I can't take another step and go find lunch. These photos were taken at a little restaurant in the Place Dauphine on the Ile de la Cite.
Les Jardins suspendus de Marqueyssac Vezac France
A Creative Director friend of mine says that I always take pictures of roads and and paths and rivers curving out of the frame. She calls them my "Empty, Lonely".
This empty, lonely place is a garden called Les Jardins suspendus de Marqueyssac in the Dordogne region of France.
I particularily love that the little stone structure at the end of the path is called "The Poets Hut". No idea why, but it definitely adds to the romance.
San Frutuoso, Italy
A simple little inlet on the Ligurian coast with an ancient Abbey and a couple of simple trattoria's. It is accessible only by foot or by boat.
There is a tiny, very humble little inn with only seven rooms. I haven't stayed there yet, but I will.
Santa Margherita, Italy
Forgive me France, but wandering into this port in Santa Margherita, Italy at the end of a long day of travel from Provence it felt like someone had flipped the light switch on.
people milling around, dogs barking, "ciao, ciao", kiss, kiss. I realize none of that is apparent in my pictures, but I assure you it was there.
Right as I walked up I saw a man rowing a bright yellow boat up to the pier and got there just in time to snap this picture of him handing over the days catch. I loved it.
Porte de l"Olivette, France
Years ago my friend Terry and I were driving through Antibes I caught a glimpse of this amazing cove and I immediately screamed for him to stop and let me out! He pulled over long enough for me to snap a few frames and then we had to keep going because there was no shoulder on the road.
A few years later I went back and on this t trip I had a taxi take me there so I could shoot to my hearts content without worrying about getting run over and then enjoy the walk back. The driver told me that the place I wanted to go to was called the Porte de l'Olivette and that no French people lived there because it was much to expensive for them, it was all owned by wealthy Russians.
When I was walking back to town along the road I saw a very well dressed older man that looked a bit like Aristotle Onassis heading towards me and assumed that he would would walk around me on the road to pass by me.
I was wrong. He literally walked straight up to me, standing toe to toe and stared me down until I stepped out of his way and then he kept on walking.
I am pretty sure I just got put in my place by a Russian Oligarch!
Roquebrune sur Mer, France
I have a bit of an unhealthy fascination with the Irish architect Eileen Gray's modern house E1027 located in Roquebrune Sur Mer on the French Riviera.
It has been closed to the public for decades but has been under renovation for the past several years and was about to reopen to visitors shortly after I left France in mid May. Naturally I couldn't let a little thing like it being closed to the public keep me from seeing it while I was there.
So I jumped on the train to Roquebrune, climbed down a very steep stairway to the beach and started walking toward the house on the cliffs a ways away. That is when I was ambushed by this little dog. He was not having it! No American tourists busting into his territory! I got quite an earful from him but then he grudgingly let me continue on my mission to break into the grounds of E1027. But that is another story...
Porto Venere, Italy
Don't get me wrong, the Cinque Terre is stunning, but it is also full of tourists looking for that authentic Italian experience going nose to nose with the next tourist looking for their authentic Italian experience.
Instead why not have an adventure and jump on the little ferry to Porto Venere which is also known as the Gulf of Poets.
This was the home to the English Romantic poets. Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, it even inspired Mary Shelley to write the infamous story Frankenstein. It is also the perfect place to read Jess Walter's novel Beautiful Ruins. You never know what can happen when you get away from the crowds.
When I was little my Dad took my siblings and me to visit the After Glow Vistas cemetery on San Juan Island and scared me to death with spooky stories about the cemetery. I was hooked! Ever since then I have been completely fascinated with cemeteries and church yards.
This cemetery is part of the Monastere de Cimiez in Nice on the French Riviera. This was my second visit to this cemetery after a bit of an adventure getting there from the train station, note to self, next time take a taxi don't walk through the neighborhoods surrounding the train station to get the bus.
But it was worth the effort. The entire area is stunning and filled with beautiful Belle Epoque mansions as well as the Matisse museum where I fell in love with his red and tan striped chair and almost got arrested trying to sneak a picture of it.
Cap Ferrat, France
I was trying to get to Roquebrune sur Mer so I could go see the Eileen Gray E1027 house, but the train I was on that said it stopped there whizzed on by and kept going until it stopped at Menton on the French Italian Border.
So I got back on another than heading back toward Roquebrune and it flew right past that stop again. Being the flexible traveler that I am I gave up and got off at Beaulieu sur Mer and started walking to Cap Ferrat.
I realized immediately that the sun was starting to go down so I turned around and ran back to the train station where there was a driver with a fancy black sedan waiting and told him I needed to get to Cap Ferrat fast! I felt a little bit like I was on the Amazing Race.
As soon as I got there I jumped out of the car and ran down the pier shooting pictures as I went and just as I took the last picture I looked down and realized I was about to step right off the pier!
After all that I went to the bus stop and found a notice in French that there was a one day transit strike and no bus service. So I had to walk back to the train station in Beaulieu sur Mer in the pitch dark. Luckily I picked up another couple stranded by the strike along the way and they knew which way to go or I would probably still be wandering around lost now.
If you love ribbon, and nearly everyone does, you will not want to miss this store.
You may actually plan a trip just to see it. It is actually two stores directly across the street from each other. And the best part is, they have not changed since they first opened in 1890, literally.
3 rue de Choiseul 75002 Paris
Isola di Procida Bay of Naples