A margarita pizza and two toilette rolls please | Storyteller Travelling Photographer

fall holidays mean 2 glorious weeks off!

School started with a bang - swiftly followed by bruised knees and jolted mornings as we adjusted to sometimes frenetic pace of village life and cobble stone that doesn’t mix so well with scooters. Never the less the first 8 weeks of school, however stalled and halted they may have originally felt rushed us towards our first set of holidays - something we were all looking forward to. I mean…TWO WHOLE WEEKS OFF in the middle of fall. It was the welcome to Switzerland hug and a kiss that we had been waiting for.

everything is so close where do we go?

Knowing that we would be here beyond the summer months, my parents decided to cut all semblance of winter short and high tail it over to Europe in the off season. I mean who wouldn’t? September & October in Switzerland is known to be glorious in all of it’s “fall-ness”. Calgary in September apparently means freak snow storm and get the heck out of dodge. I must admit I was tempted by all the southern Switzerland wine offerings, the multitude of vineyards dappled over every square inch of sun faring hillside (blessed are those who can grow grapes out of random rock ledges and create the best Fendant Wine to be enjoyed beside my favourite meal - melted cheese in a pot…mmmm fondue). Then of course there were the various hikes and walks we could lose ourselves to - sadly that was vetoed by our 7 year old that strategically pointed out that the “fun:scenic” ratio was tipped in our favour and after the last castle venture Big People were up 1 and the Short People Team were down 2 points (there was no ice cream you see) and in fact I owed her one.. Right. Scratch the hike. And then someone mentioned water which logically made us think “mediterranean” and with one hop, skip and click away we rented a car, planned a road trip to the Côte D’Azur and in short order were on our way to St. Tropez for Autumn break!

Côte d’azur

I now understand why Crayola has listed ‘Azur’ as one of its colours. It is ALL that and then some.

I now understand why Crayola has listed ‘Azur’ as one of its colours. It is ALL that and then some.

Southern France is Amazing. Simply put it is everything that people say it is and even more so when the hoards of people aren’t there to detract you from anything you see. Never having been and my Mama Histon having come here as a child for holidays with her family - we had the ultimate tour guide! First up…NICE. This gorgeous seaside town is the 5th most populous cities in France and hosts the 3rd largest airport in the country - one that serves an excellent quiche and has terrible access - we should know, we had to access this frustrating airport so that Tony could get back to Geneva for…well we’ll tell you later! The Promenade des Anglais was NOT named after us English speaking Canadians as Avaia hoped it was - but for the many upper crust English folk who came to the area to forego their grey winters in the 18th century.

T and A on their way to convince the Segway personnel that they are totally 16 yrs old. We are seasoned travellers now - you wanna go somewhere with kids that are happy…scooters and the ability to sniff out ice cream and we are SET! Next up - their negotiating skills.

T and A on their way to convince the Segway personnel that they are totally 16 yrs old. We are seasoned travellers now - you wanna go somewhere with kids that are happy…scooters and the ability to sniff out ice cream and we are SET! Next up - their negotiating skills.

Driving past the gazillion toll roads that had us feeling somewhat like livestock once we finally managed to get into the city and wondering if the last toll booth had in fact swallowed up our credit card completely vanished when we feasted our eyes on the water that appeared before us as we turned onto the main road. The water is simply….breathtakingly sublime.

stone and pebble beach, rocks for skipping, keeping, loving and enjoying. This was everything we could have asked for!

stone and pebble beach, rocks for skipping, keeping, loving and enjoying. This was everything we could have asked for!

Nothing short of amazing the coastal city of Nice was exactly what we had expected and the best part about being there in October…it was warm and there were No. Crowds. Listen, I love a good party as much as the next one, but a gazillion people with kids in tow through the heat of the summer made us realize that being tucked away a little further from the crowds, swimming pool and comfy digs was where it was up.

Next up - our Southern France VILLA!!

Typical blue shutters, the blue of the pool and the lounge chairs - who cared if it had rained 10 minutes before? They are getting wet anyway..!

Typical blue shutters, the blue of the pool and the lounge chairs - who cared if it had rained 10 minutes before? They are getting wet anyway..!

I like to think of myself as a VRBO ninja. We’ve rented with the Airbnb company for over 10years now and have had amazing experiences. Thinking I figured I knew what was going on and how to play the game I did some quick searches, pinged a few boxes, clicked a few links and paid with that handy dandy plastic card that still has us collecting airmiles back home and I figured we were golden. I couldn’t wait for us to arrive, I pictured the wine in the fridge, the fresh cheese and fruit on the table as a welcome gift and the down duvets as our cosy spots for bed and lulled myself to sleep thinking that our first 8 weeks of school were totally worth it for this trip. Southern France - you are so mine!

Imagine my surprise..

I am an optimist. A highly organized, happy go lucky - unless it is clean-up day and look out - love to have people around me, enjoy the outdoors and adventures and can seem to figure my way through most things type of person. Imagine then my not so surprised state when my phone pinged two days before arriving at said villa with an apology from the owner. “leaky roof” was mostly what I got from the text which had my stomach in knots and my dad telling me that it was all good and not to tell my mom. “shouldn’t be a problem” was also somewhere in the text and was likely meant to reassure but I made a mental note to pack rain jackets and wondered if they made down duvets that were water resistant. Never the less, we all packed into our cars on Saturday morning and headed off for our amazing adventure.

Driving over the St. Bernard Pass I was sure I would see the famed drooley St. Bernard Dogs ready to welcome me with their slobbery kisses. Not so apparently - but come back in the summer and we can go hiking with them. Duly noted!

Driving over the St. Bernard Pass I was sure I would see the famed drooley St. Bernard Dogs ready to welcome me with their slobbery kisses. Not so apparently - but come back in the summer and we can go hiking with them. Duly noted!

We were there! selfie time and dad in mid munch.

We were there! selfie time and dad in mid munch.

We arrived in St. Tropez veering into the dark. The humidity, warm and tropical feel instantly made my skin feel 10 years younger and my autostrade stress melt away despite not knowing where the credit card was that we put into I have no idea how many toll booths to get here and did you know that that is a thing here?? But that’s ok…because we were now in Southern France at a Villa and everything was going to be awesome!! We met the caretaker of the villa and in true French style she swished me around the villa, told me in no uncertain terms that nothing worked, buffered my confidence even further when she couldn’t get the gate to the property to open leaving me wondering why it was so important to keep the cars on the property and advising me not to keep the shutters open if we left on an excursion because theft…”Ça sera tellement domage et moi je suis tellement occupé à ce moment” - I am just sooo busy! - had me wondering if this was a thing or her advice to help keep her life as simple as possible by not bothering her with any superfluous issues. Again…duly noted. The pool was the most glorious sight for my girls despite the drains not working and the bottom being full of branches from the major storm. I can tell you now that my worst fears of a hole in the roof was assuaged when “faster than fast French woman” pointed out the teeny tiny area on the ceiling that was to be sorted in the next day due to some very minor water damage. This wasn't so bad after all. You see ….it is all a matter of perspective. ‘Faster than Fast French lady’ was indeed on her way to a local wedding, likely the 15th of the season, her blended family of 6 kiddos created for excitement and I coveted her scarf. The pool debris only made it look more authentic - at least that is what we told ourselves - and hopefully encouraged our kids to stay on the surface thus enabling us to stay poolside and not have to get into the water with them, and the shutters…well the dark was rather soothing at night - nothing like sleeping in what amounts to a cave to make for a goods slumber! Really….the only issue at hand that I could see…1/2 roll of humidity affected toilette paper in a villa with 6 people on a Saturday night when all the stores were closed until Monday……the beginnings of a horror story!

Awkward requests

Tummies rumbling and drivers tired from the 7 hours from Switzerland to our southern France haven and it was time to get dinner sorted. A quick jaunt to the local village and the night life was apparent with a gentle reminder that dinner before 7 is a very gauche type of thing! Settling in like the locals or so we thought - we all ordered Italian pizza despite our French locale - and I made the surreptitious jaunt up to the bar to ask for a “vin de Maison, and “2 rouleaux de papier toilette” imagine my surprise then when she looked at my quizzically. You see dear reader, at this point in our travels I am simply used to being looked at funny, laughed at or simply passed over. This was not such an instance where I could leave empty handed and with a smile on my face and a shared joke about rented villas later - we had two glasses of wine on the house and a bag of toilette rolls to go!

image courtesy internet - Ominous, dark and very very grey…we supposed it was Russian…we were right.

image courtesy internet - Ominous, dark and very very grey…we supposed it was Russian…we were right.

The week basking in the glorious nature of all that is Côte d’Azur had us touring the various towns. St. Tropez, according to Wikipedia; was a military stronghold and fishing village until the beginning of the 20th century. It was the first town on this coast to be liberated during World War II as part of Operation Dragoon. Walking around the port, the smell of money smacks you right in the face with all the incredible yachts and sea faring vessels that are moored so that the rich and famous can indulge in all that we could only dream of. Just off shore we spotted the most menacing of sights - not quite sure what to make of it, the sinister evening, grey clouds and ominous sight once we got over the brick wall has us balking at the most grey, daunting and expensive luxury sailing yacht of the world. With masts as tall as Big Ben in England, a guest to staff ratio of 2:1. 20 guests and 54 staff, the Russian billionaire olligarch had us all feeling the heeby geebies seeing his boat glide seemingly menacingly through the waters. Shhhhrrrriver.

Moving towards some more exciting places we then headed to the famed village of Eve closer to the Italian Border - again it didn’t disappoint. With quaint streets, dotted by artisans and jewelry it was a haven from window shopping.

Never one to pass up a good shopping experience!

Never one to pass up a good shopping experience!

The town of Menton really held our hearts. A cross between the gorgeous Promenade des Anglais of Nice and the quaint of the mountainous village of Eve, we found ourselves settled into the middle of the two in a village that despite it’s likely chaos of the summer visitors embraced us as a family. L’occitane, the typical orange and yellow colours of the buildings of the region and the emphasis on restaurants, dining, great food and unquestionable amazing wine - we did as do the locals and indulged as one should!

Oh yes….We tried to get reservations, but as the sign would suggest…terrible children here…. bwahaha!!

Oh yes….We tried to get reservations, but as the sign would suggest…terrible children here…. bwahaha!!

Ordering from an iPad at a restaurant to musing through cobble streets and finding giant size ice cream cones and the best playgrounds we have seen in a LONG time, Menton had us wanting more and more.

Being situated in a location where everything is so close, it felt nothing short of decadent to head on holiday for our two weeks of fall break having us really appreciate the time spent with family. Getting out of our day to day to experience the feeling of being free, exploring and being together with none of the stresses of school, or getting our lives set up we were able to indulge and just be. Southern France…we will be back!

Outdoor showers with hot water on demand in the rain…HELLO!!!

Outdoor showers with hot water on demand in the rain…HELLO!!!