30 October 2015

I dreamed about Olivia Partridge last night.  Olivia dropped out of my life about 3 years ago and I haven't been able to contact her since.  In my dream, she called out of the blue and I asked her what was new.  She asked "you mean other than finding new ways to scream in pain?"  That was the end of the dream.  Does it mean anything?  Darned if I know.

I find it hard to believe this is only our 4th day on this trip.  It seems like we've been here at least a month.  I was sleeping so soundly, that Walt had to wake me up before breakfast arrived, since we had an early call for our excursion today.  But I woke up with the view of Monaco spread out before me.

I had been to Monaco before and I remembered the port there, filled with boats of the rich and famous.  There was no room for ships like ours to dock, so we all got into a "tender," the little ship that ferried us into the port. 

(no, that is NOT our ship at the dock...we are way out away from any dock)

Our group was going to Grasse and St. Paul de Vince, both places I had been before and enjoyed.  We got on our bus and headed off.  Char was taking a tour of Nice and Matisse's home, so wasn't with us. It's about an hour and a half to Grasse, the center of perfume making in this region, and the scenery all along was beautiful, as we were driving along cliffs and past beautiful homes.  We started by driving a bit of the Grand Pris route, through the center of Monaco.

I took this picture for Jeri.  Hey, Jer...remember Eze?

Like St. Paul deVince, which we would visit later, Eze is a hill town.  Access only on foot as there are no cars in town.  When our 2010 group went to Eze, Char and I opted to sit down by the bus and enjoy a cold drink and a chat instead.

We stopped at an overlook so folks could take pictures of Nice.  Walt got this shot, which I think is beautiful.

We drove through Nice, which was very nice.  I remembered where we had stayed before and recognized many things.  Nice was not my favorite place on our 2010 tour.  Too rich and too "beachy" for me, I guess, though we did scatter our friend Michele's ashes here.  Michele always wanted to go to France and never made it, so we decided a piece of her could stay here forever.   However, today there was no stopping, just a pass through.  (I have to say that our tour guide today, Caroline, was head an shoulders better than the gal we had yesterday, which made the day a good one.)

We finally came to Grasse, where I assumed we would be touring the Fragonard perfume plant again, which we had toured in 2010, but instead we went to Parfums Galimard, next door, where our guide, Veronica gave a fascinating tour. I learned a lot, though I was distracted often by her eyes,

I don't know that I've ever seen eyelashes like that before!  But she was very informative.  We learned there are some 30 perfumeries in the Grasse area and she showed us how flower petals are harvested and their essence extracted.  She also told us about the "nose." The people who create the scents that we ultimately know as perfume are called "noses."  There are only 200 noses in the world and 60 of them freelance in the Grasse area.  To become a nose you have to study chemistry and botany in college and then complete a long training period, all of which costs thousands of dollars and after all that training, you are given >200 scents to identify by smell and are only permitted to miss two.  If you pass that test, your chance of being employed is very small.  Out of each graduating class, only one ends up being a nose in the perfume business.  Noses are generally between the age 25 and 60, since your sense of smell is not fully developed until your twenties and begins to fade in your 60s (though they still have a guy in his 70s working for them).  Just fascinating stuff.

Anyway, this is a mock up of what a nose's workroom looks like.

That big desk is called an organ because of its resemblance to a church organ, but this is where scents are mixed and tested.  Noses only work 2 hours a day to avoid sensory overload.  I also learned that to "cleanse the palate" between sniffs, they sniff coffee beans.

Afterwards was the expected sales room.  I bought a couple of very cheap things (soaps) and then sat down and waited for the others to finish.

I remember Paul deVince as one of my favorite stops from 2010. 

Of course I was 6 years younger and even though I was in pain most of the time, I was more limber then and didn't walk with a cane.  I'd forgotten that long walk from the parking lot to the town and then the very steep uphill climb of the main street.  I sent Walt along with the group and assured the Viking person babysitting me that I would be fine without her and so it was just Bob and Linda and me, ready to hit the town. I thought I'd be real smart and we'd go along the flatter back street and then cut over at some point, not realizing that there was no cut over, but it was level to the end of the long street and then a turn to the left and there was the main street...just as steep on this end as on the other.  Sigh.

We girded our loins and picked up our canes and started making our way up the hill, stopping often to rest.  One older woman from our group saw me struggling and gave the thumbs up and said "you made it! Good for you!" Then she took our picture at one of our rest stops.

We found Walt at the high point of the hill, where it started down the other side, and we went to a nice outdoor restaurant called Le Teullil (the lime tree) which had delicious food.  I ordered carpaccio, that paper thin raw beef, and she asked me (in French) something about tomatoes. I thought she was asking if I wanted tomatoes with it, so I said yes.  Well, instead of carpaccio, she brought me caprese salad with lots of heirloom tomatoes surrounding a hug ball of buffalo mozarella, kinda crusty on the outside and beautifully liquidy on the inside.  I loved it, but I just had it the night before and would really have preferred the caprese.  Still I managed to eat a lot before giving the rest to Walt.

While we ate, we were serenaded by this fellow, who sometimes wore a red nose as well and played the kazoo.

After lunch we finally got some gelato and we stumbled down the rest of the steep path to a bench under a tree, where we could finish our gelato and watch them play boule (bocce ball).

And then back to the bus for the long ride back to the ship.  When we were on the tender, I managed to get this photo of the Viking Star with the other tender headed for port in Monaco.  I took this on a roughly bouncing sea through a dirty window and I'm surprised it came out at all.

After we all had brief naps, we decided to go to the World Cafe for dinner.  This is a buffet and you serve yourself, so my photos aren't as pretty tonight.  I took a few starter plates (including carpaccio!) and then Linda discovered the other side of the restaurant, which had unlimited crab claws plus huge prawns.  I kept going back for "just a few more," so I decided for dinner just to have crab and shrimp, both of which were delicious, and then finished off with gelato.

It is now nighttime in Monaco

...and the passengers who went ashore to try their luck at the casino in Monte Carlo will be taking their tenders back to the ship and when all are loaded, we will start moving and when we wake up, we will be in Florence, where Walt and I will have 9 hours on our own to explore.

(We are moving! We are moving!)


(showing both a small number of possible dessert choices...and then my gelato
Not shown -- there was also a chocolate fountain)

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