Friday, 28 October 2011

Some downtime in Villefranche, France

If you find yourself in Villefranche sur mer on the Cote d Azur madly studying the French language  (as suggested in my previous post) here are a few of my favourite spots to rest your weary self during your down time.

Head to Plage de Passable's private beach (here)

You can walk here from Villefranche in around 45  minutes, heading onto the peninsula of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.

I cannot advise you as to the quality of the food here having only tasted their pizza for lunch,  but I can say that at night in particular the romantic setting alone should make it more than worthwhile, the twinkling lights of Villefranche from the quiet sandy / pebbly beach cove is definitely enticing. (If you don't have your own car, taxis are available between the beach and Villefranche, buses also run during the day and early evening).

On your way to the beach and just before you arrive you will come across a sign pointing out the magnificent Villa and gardens of Ephrussi de Rothschild   (here), do not walk past this beautiful and fascinating peak into the life of the aristocracy during the early 20th Century. You will most certainly be hard pressed to find any gardens more gorgeous than these in the world.  I have visited many times, and never tire of it, the views from the private suites of the Villa are so dreamy and romantic its hard not to float off into some sort of reverie, pure magic.

Paloma Beach

One more beach on the Peninsuala that I love is Paloma, (maybe not in high season on a Sunday) as I found out on my last visit, having been squeezed in like a sardine between a VERY 'happy' birthday boy and his friends and family and a very vocal and boisterous italian family! Once again I can only attest to the pizza,  but I have heard good things about Paloma's food. The beach area itself is lovely and well protected and the setting, well once, yes, south of France gorgeous! Paloma beach website here

Paloma is a little further away from Villefranche than Plage de Passable but take the route passing through St Jean-Cap-Ferrat the town, and its probably only a 10 to 15 minute walk on from there.

Millie xx

All images © Millie Brown
©copyright Millie Brown

Friday, 14 October 2011

Loving and living in Florence

My favourite busker, I pay...he blows a kiss!

For many reasons I never imagined loving any other city in the world as much as I love Paris....Florence was my happy surprise.  Two very different cities, however I feel as passionate about one as I do about the other, and for quite different reasons.

The Adelaide magazine, Adelaide Matters, recently asked me to put pen to paper and write 10 things I love to do in Florence. The only problem I had with that was keeping it down to 10.

I would like to share just a few of the experiences mentioned on that list as well as some of my first black and white photos of Florence taken while I was at photography school.  I developed and printed these images in the school darkroom and it became my 'home' and my obsession.  If I was not traveling somewhere or walking the streets of Florence that is where I was to be found, day and night, and I loved it.

Santa Croce
One of my favourite areas of Florence is Santa Croce.  Start in Piazza Santa Croce and visit the Franciscan Basilica, this church is the burial place for Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli, among other illustrious Florentines. It is also home to some of the most famous late Medieval and Renaissance art in Florence, including frescoes by Giotto, and Donatello’s crucifix.
While you are in the church, take the time to visit the monastery and the Scuola del Cuoio (The Leather school).  Even if you are not in the market for exquisite hand made leather products it is  pure pleasure to wander the the old monastic cells and witness the artisans  at work.

Cibrèo Caffé and Trattoria
While you don’t have to go far in Florence for a good coffee, take a few minutes of your time to make your way to Cibrèo Caffé (two steps from the wonderful Sant’ Ambrogio food market). Here you will enjoy a warm atmosphere and delicious Italian pastries and coffee with the Florentines. 
A further two steps away is Cibrèo Trattoria. Fabio Picchi, the chef and owner is himself a Florentine institution and is the man behind the Cibrèo Caffé,Trattoria and Ristorante. For excellent food at half the price of the Cibrèo Restaurant go to the Trattoria.  It can get crowded and you may be sitting on a communal table, but it only adds to the whole experience. Arrive early, they don’t take bookings at the Trattoria.

San Niccolò
Cross over the Arno river to the (Oltrarno) and the area of San Niccolò.  Make your way towards Via di San Niccolò and  the old gate of San Miniato.  This area is the heart of San Niccolò and is a corner of Florence that is both vibrant and relaxed. 
While here, take a coffee or a panini at caffé Il Rifrullo followed by a to die for gelato.   Another favourite place to eat in this area is Enoteca Fuori Porta, which is situated just past the old gate and city wall as you make your way up Via del Monte alle Croci to Piazza Michelangelo.  This is a must do walk, you won’t regret the climb, the view as you walk up and from the Piazza is worth the effort, I promise. 

The Bardini gardens have only been open to the public for a few years and are the less  crowded alternative to the better known Boboli gardens. I advise entering from Via dei  Bardi #1 red, in San Niccolò (the entrance ticket includes a visit to the Boboli gardens). The gardens are situated on a slope overlooking the city,  and if you sit and sip a wine in the loggia you will enjoy yet another superb vista of Florence. 

View over Florence from the gorgeous Bardini gardens

Exit the Boboli gardens at the Pitti Palace,and then head over to the wine bar directly opposite, Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina, sit on the terrace looking onto the Palace, ask the boys to recommend something from their excellent wine list and order the homemade Ravioli, it quite literally melts in your mouth!! 
Brancacci Chapel
If you are an art lover, you must not miss a visit to the Brancacci Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine. Here you will get to marvel at one of the most famous pieces of Renaissance art in the world, the frescoes depicting the life of St Peter painted by masters, Masolino and Masaccio.

There is so much to do, see and experience in Florence, it is impossible to put it all in a simple list, I hope to be able to share more notes from one of my favourite cities in the world again, I have so many!

Have a great weekend  Millie x

All photos are copyrighted, please do not download :-)
©copyright Millie Brown 2011

Friday, 7 October 2011

Sarah's Key; A dark piece of French history

Sarah's Key

I am taking the time to go back in history to the 16th July, 1942 in Paris, France,  a very dark day in the history of the world and in particular France.

Tonight I am going to watch 'Sarah's Key' or 'Elle s'appelait Sarah'.  The film is based on the book by Tatiana de Rosnay, and was one of the most disturbing and emotional books I have read in quite some time.  

La rafle du Vél d' of the darkest days in the Nazi occupation of France and one that the French government kept quiet about for a very long time.

However, in July 1995 the then President Jacques Chirac recognized officially the role that the French played in the killing of thousands of innocent French citizens.

In the early hours of the morning on this day in July, four hundred and fifty French police rounded up around thirteen thousand Jewish women, children, and men (four and a half thousand of them were children), and sent them to an almost certain death (23 survived).

They were imprisoned in the Vél d'Hiv stadium in central Paris until such time as they were sent to camps outside of Paris (which previously existed for German prisoners of war), and from there they were put onto a direct train for Auschwitz.

Not to be ignored are the number of French who showed extreme bravery in terrifying times to help save a further 10, 000 Jewish men, women and children from the round up. 

I highly recommend this book as a reminder of the personal and human tragedy that is born from bigotry, ignorance and hatred.

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