Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Killer views from Jean-Francois' terrace in Sanaray sur Mer right on the Mediterranean

More of those spectacular views from JF's balcony in Sanaray Sur Mer

The speed train from Paris to Toulon, where we will pick up a rental car, is very fast. We are in a comfortable first class car. It’s also something called a Zen car, which means you must be relatively quiet. I had never heard of a Zen car before. John and I are sitting next to each other with J-F on the aisle seat opposite me. We are conversing easily and certainly not noisily when all of the sudden we are confronted by a young French woman who rudely berates us for talking and demands that we be quiet. I was stunned. Of course, I’ve known that France can produce some prickly personalities who have no trouble being rude, especially to American tourists. This woman’s behavior was completely inappropriate to the point being nuts. Both John and J-F stared at me with silent pleas not to make a scene. I’m not very good at responding to rudeness and truthfully I wanted to tell her where to stick her bad behavior. She probably won’t say anything more (we’re only about an hour and a half out of Paris), but if she decides to say anything, I will put her in her place. I’m typing this in a very fast and noisy manner. I do hope it upsets her.

Otherwise, the ride is smooth and very, very fast—more than 200 miles per hour.  Barreling through the rich farmlands of the Bourgogne, I’m struck by the fastidiousness of each property with their clusters of old stone houses and the hill sides trimmed and neat as a pin. J-F tells me these are very rich farmlands of dairy farmers and wine growers. It goes on for miles and miles. Unlike, say the train ride from Barcelona to Madrid, which is not interesting at all with it’s vast and unkempt parcels of land viewable on either side, every farm has a pride and they work very hard at making everything look as pristine as possible. It's very impressive. Once the train arrived in Toulon, we arrived in Sanaray about 30 minutes later. Dropping our bags, we went straight to lunch at a local bistro set right on the beach. John ordered a bottle of local Bandol produced Rose. The color of the wine was gorgeous--a beautiful apricot with a touch of gold shooting through the glass. We all ordered the Bistro salad, which was a huge square platter of mesclun greens, cubes of goat cheese, chicken, roasted potatoes, and blistered cherry tomatoes, radishes, two bread triangles of cheese toasted, and slivers of cooked bacon. It was a delicious and filling lunch. 

It's warmer here by 30 degrees than in Paris. After lunch, we did a quick tour of the town, which is charming, full of small shops, narrow streets with colorful apartment houses above the first floor retail. I'll get my camera on this scene tomorrow as we are going to a big local outdoor market.

Dinner last night was at L'Endroit, an enchanting casual restaurant that does a very big business in pizza. Owned by a gay couple from Paris, the restaurant has been packing them in for about seven years, after a very bumpy first year. Located off the main thoroughfare, the restaurant occupies a lively corner spot that gets a lot of foot traffic. Inside, the generously sized space features white washed walls, simple paper covered tables, and a head waiter who is charming, funny and welcoming all at once. He reminded me a bit of a young Alban from La Cage aux Folles. He and J-F engaged in a lively conversation as we were settled at our table. The restaurant was nearly full when we arrived just after 8:00 PM in this quiet off-season.  In other restaurants in Sanaray, the waiter has brought a small plate of crackers with their own house-made tapenade. Tonight the olives were green and very mild, which didn't disguise the anchovies and garlic included with a tough of lemon zest and olive oil. The menu is mostly Italian or Mediterranean Italian. J-F and John ordered a breaded thick slice of chevre which was served on a square of toast with a cup of arugula and shaved parmesan. I thought it a miss and dug into my own large bowl of arugula, shaved parmesan, oil and vinegar. The arugula was spicy, tender and a nice respite from some of the heaviness of meals eaten thus far. But that didn't last long as I had ordered pizza--a quatre saisons with artichokes hearts (fresh!), oil-cured olives, mushrooms, and prosciutto. The restaurant has its own pizza oven with a full-time pizza maker who prepared each pie within eye view. Typically, the crust is a thin an cracker-crisp, charred on the edges and could easily serve two. Mine arrived with a bottle of pepper-infused olive oil. The crust remained crisp as I slowly plowed my way through it--it couldn't be finished. But it was delicious. the charred edges adding some smoke to the flavors of the fresh ingredients. The was excellent pizza. J-F and John both ordered veal Milanese, which looked a bit overcooked and came with a thin slice of of prosciutto over it. Other diners looked happy with their pasta and the couple next to us ordered an inviting anti-pasta plate of fresh artichokes, asparagus, chunks of parmesan, arugula, roasted red peppers and other vegetables. We drank a Bandol rose. As we walked back to the car, I noticed every other restaurant in the area had been shuttered. L'Endroit is that happy combination of a restaurant that does its job well, greets and treats its customers as though they are family, and makes every effort to put good food front and center.

J-F complained about the "snotty" waiter who took care of us at L'Aprenti on Sunday. I thought he was more "correct" rather than warm and fuzzy. J-F, a life-long Parisian who has returned often, said the waiters of Paris restaurants are not the cold and imperious terrors of old who thinks Americans are Philistines (some are). Like my last visit to Paris twenty years ago, I've encountered shop personnel, waiters and others who are invested in making sure you find what you're looking for and dine as pleasantly as possible. 

J-F purchased his perfect one-bedroom condo in Sanaray about fifteen years ago. He often visits during his frequent trips to France for his job with the administration of the French-American school network. The apartment is at the very tip of Provence on the Cote d'Zur. Here are some photos of the apartment. 

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