Luncheon of the Boating Party, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, is one of my favorite paintings in the whole world, because of the way it stirs in one feelings of beauty and feelings of la joie de vivre. That painting, luckily, is housed near us at the Phillips Collection in Dupont Circle.
In addition, the recent movie Renoir, which we saw last March at the Avalon Theatre, introduced us to the last few years of Renoir’s life, which he spent at his farm in Les Collettes, in Cagnes-sur-Mer on the outskirts of Nice, now a museum.
Visiting the Musee Renoir was a treat, particularly since it just reopened a couple of weeks ago after extensive renovations. I was however disappointed that the annex building was not visitable. The two atelier rooms in the main house were the most interesting for me. From the main house, there are great views of the Mediterranean coast as well as of the hilltop village of Hauts-de-Cagnes. The grounds are just as I imagined them from the movie, and we also enjoyed the dozen or so original Renoir paintings on display.
*Musee National de l’Art Culinaire Auguste Escoffier
The museum is located in Villeneuve-Loubet, in the house where Escoffier was born and where he spent the first 18 years of his life. It feels a little bit like a pilgrimage to visit this temple to the King of Chefs and Chef to the Kings, and it is well worth it.
One gets a good sense of his life and accomplishments. In addition, one gets a good overview of the history of French cooking and where it stands today. I was particularly pleased to see that the l’Auberge de l’Ill in Illhausern, one of our favorite restaurants in the whole world, was well represented in a display honoring today’s top chefs.
The history of the Peach Melba, created by Escoffier to thank the opera singer Nellie Melba, is featured prominently, and we were served a Peach Melba dessert at the end of our tour to enjoy at a table in their little courtyard.
*Rental and use of the electric car sharing service Auto Bleue to drive to Cagnes-sur-Mer, Hauts-de-Cagnes, Villeneuve-Loubet and Antibes. This was my first time driving an electric car, a Peugeot IOn (no big deal), and my first time using a car sharing service (to my knowledge, Nice is the first city to offer an electric car sharing system). At the end of the day, I was wondering why everybody is not using something so convenient and easy to use.
However, to be fair, I did struggle a bit with the GPS system in the car; the less important details are that the screen is too small and the blue direction line is very hard to see, the more important detail is that the verbal directions are given after the turn road has been passed. I was puzzled at the beginning to hear directions like “in 300 meters, turn right on rue Dalpozzo” just as we were passing that street! Nevertheless, in time, we adjusted well to each other and made it safely back.
A great advantage of Auto Bleue is that you return the vehicle to the same parking spot where you took the vehicle, and that spot is saved for you. You can therefore return the car at any time of day or night and be assured of a specific parking space. This is an invaluable feature for day rentals as compared to regular car rental companies.
*Scenic driving tour of the perched village of Hauts-de-Cagnes and unplanned driving tour of the hilltop village of Villeneuve-Loubet. Because the main road to our destination was closed due to construction work, I ended up hopelessly lost, having a hard time figuring out a way to drive out of the hilltop village, and driving aimlessly thru very narrow steep roads (see photo above), even at one time ending up in the village’s very pretty but dead end (yes, pun intended) hill cemetery. When finally the GPS system asked me to make a hairpin turn into what looked like a three foot wide alley headed down as steeply as a ski jump, I just parked the car where it was and we walked down the hill. It was lunchtime and I was sure we would find both a place to eat and someone to help us figure out how to get out of town. Fortunately for all our friends and family who might be interested in our eventual return home, we found both quite easily.
*Delightful lunch at l’Auberge Fleurie in Villeneuve-Loubet. This was the first restaurant we saw on our way down the hill, and it just happened to be located within sight of the Escoffier museum we were trying to reach. In addition, the chef at l’Auberge Fleurie was a graduate of the Escoffier cuisine school. The main dish of the menu of the day was a fricassee de lapin with polenta (fricassee of fresh rabbit with polenta and Nice olives) which turned out to be superbly delicious and flavorful, another local specialty which we will remember fondly.
*Salade Nicoise dinner on the beach at sunset time at the Blue Beach restaurant in front of the Negresco in perfect 75 degree weather.
Stay tuned to BonVoyageurs.com for more Countries of the World as we share our joie de vivre from around the world. Luxury escapes and city breaks to Quebec City, New York, Washington, Buenos Aires. In Europe, places like Paris France, Nice France, Provence and the Cote d’Azur (French Riviera), Tuscany and Florence in Italy, Rome, Napoli and the Amalfi Coast. In Asia, countries like China, India, Nepal and so much more!