Sunday 12 October 2014


In the event, I spent less time on the Promenade des Anglais - magnificent though it is, the ceaseless adjacent motor traffic is irksome - than up above the Old Town on the peaceful Colline du Chateau, where every prospect - of bay, town, port and inland hills - pleases. Densely wooded with pines, cypress, holm oak, palms and Arbutus, this magnificent outcrop was in the 19th century made into one of those brilliantly designed semi-wild parks at which the French excel (it's much like the one in Nimes, though on a grander scale). They even diverted water from a nearby canal to create a spectacular waterfall (above).
 Some 400 steps (I lost count) lead from the town to the plateau that is the site of the long-gone castle (thoroughly destroyed by Louis XIV) - or, for the daunted, there's an Ascenseur almost to the summit. It's a free and ticketless service, but, in the approved French manner, still employs two people to sit behind glass in a kiosk and look forbidding. Those who make the climb on foot are rewarded with ever wider, more dramatic views of sea, sky and land at every vantage point on the way up (and, at the summit, a couple of restorative cafes and a souvenir shop). Winding paths and flights of stairs offer an endless variety of ways down and around - and an equally inexhaustible range of breathtaking views.
 In warm October sun, all of this - with the song of birds, the scents and the abundance of flowering Oleander, Morning Glory, Bougainvillea, Plumbago, Solanum and Hibiscus - was a daily feast for the senses and the soul. And there were butterflies! Red Admirals everywhere, gliding down from the trees to bask on sun-splashed paths, Speckled Woods almost as abundant (home away from home!), tiny blues and arguses darting busily about among the lower-growing flowers with larger Long-Tailed Blues. In town, just outside the hotel, I spotted a splendid Brimstone-like Cleopatra (Citron de Provence, the French call it), and, back on the castle hill, a pair of Scarce Swallowtails enjoying a lively aerial chase. All this and swifts too - swifts, martins and swallows, still flying. This was a glorious extension to summer's lease.
 And, reader, I swam - in the sea. It was wonderful.

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