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Grasse Market Day - Fragonard Perfume Museum and the Alps

Day 13 — July 13, 1996 (Saturday)

Fragonard Perfume Museum

Fragonard Perfume Museum

Woke at six, showered and packed. We were the first ones at breakfast — café au lait today. We bid the kindly nuns farewell and drove down into centre Grasse looking for a bank. We found three in a row and free parking — a great deal. We used the ATM and walked around town a bit. Nothing was open.

Old Town Grasse

Old Town Grasse

We followed signs to Fragonard Perfumerie, my raison d’etre for coming to Grasse. We pulled into the parking lot and parked under a huge plane tree as directed by a gentleman who worked there. We had to wait ten minutes until they opened, and another few minutes for our English-speaking guide who was a very nice young French woman who once lived in England. She guided us through the various stages of perfume making, both historic and present, and then took us into the sales room where I asked her to let me smell every fragrance in the room. I finally chose five and headed for the soap room where we got Monsieur and Madame soaps for Charles and Angie, and a selection of soaps for everyone else — including us. Fragonard has a great gift shop.

Saturday Market in Grasse

Saturday Market in Grasse

Saturday Market at Place aux Aires in Grasse

Saturday Market at Place aux Aires in Grasse

*****

Lac de Serre-Ponçon driving to Jausiers

Lac de Serre-Ponçon driving to Jausiers

That delightful chore over, we headed north to Jausiers . . . . only getting lost once. We drove up and up and up. These really are the Alps! The French like to drive with one wheel over the center line which is somewhat unnerving with no guardrails and a several-thousand foot drop. I was glad Ed was driving.

We stopped north of Digne at a country auberge (The Edelweiss). I had lamb broquettes and Ed the lentils and sausage. We split a crudité to start and a chocolate mousse for dessert. We ate on the terrace with a great view of the Alps. The crudité was the best we’ve had . . . no shredded carrots here! There was a selection of nice crisp fresh vegetables that had been perfectly marinated.

Greater downtown Jausiers across from the church

Greater downtown Jausiers across from the church

Going on north we ran into light rain. We found Barcelonnette (with a Casino Supermarché) and Jausiers which is much larger (though small) than we expected. Checked into our timeshare early and relaxed for a while. I put my new Provençal tablecloth on the table to brighten up the living room. We need some flowers and Ed wants a candle. We even have table and chairs on the balcony looking out over the Alps.

We walked into Jausiers looking for a light dinner — very difficult in France — and couldn’t agree on anything so we drove back to Barcelonnette to the Supermarché to shop. We got bread, cheese, fruit, butter, wine, coffee filters and coffee. At the checkout the lady indicated the fruit had to be weighed, so Ed cheerfully handed the bag to me. I headed back to produce with no idea what I was doing, and fortunately happened upon a French woman in the same state of utter ignorance. Her pre-teenage daughter carefully explained the mysteries of the scale to us. You put the fruit on the scale, push the button corresponding to your fruit, and the machine spits out a ticket with the price. That done, we paid and drove back to our home for the week.

The little balcony of our timeshare. Fun!

The little balcony of our timeshare. Fun!


I moved some furniture around a bit and we tried the television for a while. French TV may be worse than American. There were some American sitcoms dubbed in French. There were ads for movies (both European and American dubbed), but nothing started until 10 P.M. or later. The French stop the world and eat from noon until 2 P.M., and again from 8 until 10 P.M., so it stands to reason that there is nothing interesting on television at those hours since no one is watching anyway — except possibly visiting Americans. We turned it off.

We ate our bread, cheese and wine and Ed figured out how to turn our sofa into a bed. As soon as our heads hit the pillow, I heard three shots and saw a flash through our drawn drapes. Ed, with his earplugs, heard nothing. After a few minutes, I heard more fireworks so went out on the balcony and then to the other side of the building at the bathroom window, but couldn’t see anything. Obviously, early Bastille Day revelers! I went to sleep.

Posted by Beausoleil 12:41 Archived in France Tagged alps 1996 jausiers lac_de_serre-ponçon Comments (3)

Through the Ecrins National Park to Bourg d’Oisans

Day 20 — July 20, 1996 (Saturday)

Driving through the Ecrins National Park

Driving through the Ecrins National Park

Up early to get everything packed, counted and folded according to the “rules.” The lady came promptly at eight o’clock to check us out and charge 10F for electricity for the week. Surprise — got a letter from Steve. That was fun. We got our deposit back and left — no breakfast.

Missed our turn onto D954 and had to turn around. It was a nice drive along the lake, then up into the mountains. We planned to stop at Briançon for sightseeing but somehow missed the turn and ended up on the road we wanted to our campground. Deciding not to tempt Lady Luck; we kept on going. Briançon will wait for another trip. The drive through the Ecrins National Park is nothing short of spectacular. Ecrins National Park web site

*****

Bourg-d’Oisans

Bourg-d’Oisans

Somehow we ended up in a bike race through the Alps. That made driving a real challenge. The Alps here are spectacular — very high, lots of waterfalls, quite a bit of snow and even glaciers. The bikes finally turned onto a different road and we should have made better time, but by now traffic was terrible — Los Angeles at rush hour without the freeways! Where did all these people come from, hidden highways?

Our campground appeared without warning and we missed our turn. Traffic was so bad we couldn’t turn around, so we drove on into Bourg d’Oisans for lunch. After a harrowing trip through town — market day and tourists — we parked the car and started checking menus. Found a Hotel de Milan downtown with an acceptable menu and asked to be seated early on the terrace. They were obliging and we had our choice of seats — the French do NOT eat early. As we looked for seats in the shade, we discovered the terrace overlooked a small stream. We ordered the 70F menu and had a lovely leisurely lunch as trout frolicked in the stream below. I did not feel guilty eating one of their friends.

*****

Small museum in Bourg-d’Oisans

Small museum in Bourg-d’Oisans

About 1:30 when all good Frenchmen are eating and hence off the road, we drove back to our campground to check in. Monsieur was awaiting us and we had a good choice of sites. Putting up the tent, we discovered a pole ring missing — glad it’s not windy! Walked around the campground and discovered there’s no restaurant. Guess it’s Casino Supermarché or nothing. Church in town is at 6:30 P.M. It's getting quite warm so we moved our air mattresses out under a tree for a nap. The campground manager speaks no English but he seems to understand our French . . . or he is a very good actor.

Notes: Europeans have these huge multiroom tents or what we would call RVs with a giant tent of one or more rooms attached. There appears to be a small front section that holds, for want of a better word, a chamber pot which seems to be used only at night, but I’m not sure of this. All Frenchmen appear to travel everywhere with a small table and dining chairs. I don’t know if campgrounds don’t have tables because everyone carries their own, or if everyone carries their own because campgrounds (and roadside rest areas most places) don’t have tables and chairs. I suspect the former because everyone stopped by the road for dinner can’t be a camper. I think Frenchmen are terrified of the idea of being caught someplace and not being properly served their dinner. We saw a few pique-niques being eaten sitting on the ground, but not very many. Most often, even in the wilds of the Mercantour, there was a table, chairs and a proper bottle of wine. [In years since we have noticed picnic tables appearing in many places. It is no longer a problem.]

The large tents are usually equipped with a kitchen, often including a refrigerator, so there are no barbecue grills in the campgrounds. Most actual living and eating does take place outside though. The tents are for sleeping, cooking and rainy days. We actually own a stove and picnic table, but even if we had known we would need them, I have no idea how we could have brought them on the plane.

Later — Drove into town for church and arrived an hour early so we walked around town. Now that market is over, it’s a nice pleasant little town. The church bells started ringing and everyone headed up the hill so we joined them. It’s a strange church — St. Laurent. I guess part of it dates clear back to the Fifth Century, more to the 15th and 19th and at one point there was a fire and in 1976 they decided to restore it. It is an interesting blend of old and new. I liked it. The old tower remains and something resembling grey cement has been used for the walls and pillars. They have a very old choir (the architecture, not the people) surrounding the altar area and an old side altar to the Virgin. There are a few old statues and very beautiful stained glass windows that serve as the Stations of the Cross. Above it all is an insulated flat ceiling that actually looks suspended and is a warm modern orange. The key to the success of the renovation is the Roman vaulting on the sides and the main church. It is done in very warm wood and set off by a ceramic tile floor in warm colors with a woven carpet repeating the colors in the large altar area. To further unify the scheme, an altar echoing the Roman arches is set on a lovely oriental carpet.

We actually followed the missal this week and got the hymns — thanks to a helpful lady beside Ed.

After church we walked downtown and stopped at a sandwich shop for a light supper. The young waiter was very nice and although he spoke no English, we managed to have a bit of humor. After dinner I asked for coffee and a few minutes later noticed our nice young waiter running down the street. He soon returned carrying a cup of coffee for me. He had to go to another restaurant down the street to get it! We left a large tip.

Wandered around town and found people feeding ducks at the river where we ate lunch. Watched for a while and headed back to camp. It’s getting chilly.

Posted by Beausoleil 11:05 Archived in France Tagged alps 1996 bourg_d’oisans ecrins Comments (3)

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