Sunday, 19 July 2009

Spectacular mountain scenery and sea views, but not much garden!

Well, I did try and visit gardens today, but have to say that not all went to plan! My husband and I set off this morning, filled with optimism and a determined aim to visit more gardens on my list. We had a lovely day out and saw some delightful sights; but sadly, these did not include gardens because we were shouted at in the first ... and failed to find the second one!

The sky was blue (above) and we also understood why this area is called the Cote d'Azur (see the colour of the ocean below). But our endeavours were considerably hampered by the fact that the French don't really believe in signposts; and my satellite navigation system doesn't seem to be able to cope with the hairpin bends that are part of life in the mountains here; so combine that with the tourist traffic at this time of year; the
French view that if it's medieval, you can put it on the tourist map and charge what you like for food, souvenirs and parking, and you've got an interesting culture gap!

First stop today was the medieval village - with its castle - at Gourdon. We'd read in the tourist guides that the castle has an impressive garden and we wanted to combine this with another botanical delight at Grasse. But the best laid plans of mice and men sometimes end in disaster!

The village of Gourdon is stunning (even if parking is difficult - no vehicular access to the old town and it is quite a steep uphill hike!) and the views from the top are spectacular. Be warned though ... you'll find your quota of tourist trappings here, ranging from imitation jewellery to overpriced paintings, tacky fridge magnets and other gaudy souvenirs.

The castle looks magical from the outside and your sense of anticipation is considerably heightened by limited opening hours. Visits to the garden are even more severely restricted with tours in July and August only. But sadly, there is a catch because the castle at Gourdon is definitely lacking in garden! It would be better to say that it has some fine topiary, a medicinal herb garden in the making and some spectacular views! All this can be seen from the castle and if it's a hot day, you can access the gardens from inside, so there's no point in waiting to do a "garden" tour. Just visit the castle and enjoy the views from within! It's the same price and you won't get shouted at, as we did, for lagging behind and taking photographs (not that it mattered because my husband doesn't speak French and my command of the language doesn't stretch to answering back!).

Somewhat chastened by this experience, we decided to carry on to the Villa Noailles in nearby Grasse, because one garden visit certainly doesn't count as "galloping"! But it was not our day and despite trying to find this villa for well over an hour; which involved reversing, turning, asking pedestrians, repeatedly reprogramming the Sat-Nav and looking hard for signs, we never did find it.

Tomorrow we are going to visit the gardens of Menton and Monte Carlo, so let's hope we have better luck - if I'm to believe what they say in the Michelin Guide, we won't be disappointed.



11 comments:

  1. The place is spectacular. This is one place that I would like to visit ;-) Happy Monday!

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  2. Poor you! The Villa Noailles is well worth a visit, a bit brutal for mytaste, but still..... I was taken there by a French friend who drove. I think that's the trick to finding it;-)

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  3. Well I guess some days are garden days and other days are strictly for castles! Magnificent views.

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  4. What incredible views. I'd love to visit! -Jackie

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  5. Lovely place..., and definitely an interesting approach to visits.., hoping from one garden to another.

    The sky is very blue,
    ~ bangchik

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  6. Your pictures look great! And you did get to Grasse. Do they still have massive fields of lavender there? Val

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  7. Wow! I am completely envious of this vacation you are on. Even the Village of Gourdon is a show stopper. What a spectacular place!

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  8. Lovely pictures. I've been reading "1001 Gardens You Must Visit Before You Die" and finding it interesting that many gardens include fewer plants than I expect. I guess garden is a very broad term!

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  9. Beautiful blog and wonderful writing.

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  10. Tiggerlot~~ It looks like you had beautiful weather for the event. The views look fabulous and I suppose the terrain is not exactly garden friendly. I look forward to your next destination.

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  11. I'd love to get together for a chat, have a lovely cup of tea, and trade stories on garden visits that went wrong/ south/ fill-in-the-blank!

    Re: VW's comment on 1001 Gardens, I'm one of many contributors to the book. I just returned from Portland and dropped by the Ira Keller Fountain. It's listed as a park, but the fountain is the focus. It's really quite stunning, if not a garden. Cheers! Alice

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