The winter that wasn’t

First of all, for regular readers, Alison continues to make a good recovery after her operation. Many  thanks for all your concern and prayers.

Now for several weeks we have been anticipating creating a Winter Special Edition Blog full of pictures of frosted vineyards, snow-capped mountains and the rich and famous huddled together on the beach at St Tropez wearing duvet jackets. Unfortunately, by and large, winter appears to been cancelled and there are already the first distinctly unseasonal blossoms around. Day after day we have had either nothing but brilliant sunshine or brilliant sunshine with patchy clouds.  We haven’t really even had a proper frost. Possibly more worrying has been the fact that, apart from the torrential deluge in October, we haven’t had any rain worth mentioning this winter. Of course we could have a cold February but nevertheless just in case winter is formally declared over in the next few weeks, here is an opportunity for some seasonal pictures.

As we mentioned in a previous blog, the sheep are down from the mountains: these were in a field near Frejus, along with the cattle egrets hitching lifts on their backs. The sheep do not take terribly kindly to this and quite suddenly accelerate away, forcing the birds into flight.

sheep and cattle egrets

We were up at Courmettes to greet some visitors earlier this month and the views never cease to impress. On this one the Cap d’Antibes is to the left and the Esterel mountains are in the distance to the right. Jean-François is pointing towards Corsica. Given that he occasionally slips into Napoleonic mode we get slightly worried when he starts gesturing to the Emperor’s birthplace.

looking at Corsica

Attending Holy Trinity Church in Cannes brings with it many pleasures. One of the less spiritual ones in winter is of occasional views on the road into Cannes which juxtapose sea, palm trees and snowcapped mountains. Mind you, a careful look at these peaks in the Italian Alps will show you that the snow has not extended very far down.

snow, sand and palm trees

In winter the sand on the beaches of the bay of Cannes is scooped up into ramparts against winter storms. But the restaurants stay open. Cannes doesn’t believe in letting anything get in the way of the good life.

Cannes restaurant in winter

As usual in the winter, the vineyards look like nothing more than parallel lines of dead sticks. This is the time however the vineyard owners carefully prune them back.

winter vineyards

Last Saturday Chris went up to the oppidum to help the local team with further cleaning up of the ruins. There are some great views up there and this was one with the morning mists slowly clearing over the Argens valley.

Argens valley

la chasseThe end of January marks the closure of the wild boar hunting season and this is the early-morning gathering of the hunters before heading to the hills. In theory, the orange jackets prevent them from killing each other. As any local coroner will confirm they seem to be remarkably ineffective in this respect but they do at least warn everybody else that it’s a good idea to keep your distance.  Ecologically, the hunting is a remarkably ineffective way of reducing boar numbers, because killing an old boar simply creates opportunities for the next generation to thrive. But, as here in front of our new coffee shop, the hunting does allow bonding amongst French males.

The Cote D’Azur is famous for conspicuous vulgarity and you don’t have to look hard to see ostentatious wealth in customised Lamborghinis and Ferraris, look-at-me sunglasses and yachts the size of a small frigate. Here in the hinterland however, the wealthy are more discreet and prefer to shun public glare rather than seek it. (Given that a number of them are Russian exiles there may be very good reasons for keeping a low profile.) Nevertheless there are a number of distinctly expensive estates and this is evidently one of them.

estate near Tourtour

Here is the hint that winter is coming to an end. There is much shaking of heads at the fact that the mimosa is already in bloom before the end of January. The peaks behind are the spectacular Rocher de Roquebrune, less than thirty minutes from where we live. We need to try and climb them before end June when the fire service closes down access to the range for fear of forest fires. After such a dry winter there is already a suspicion that the fire service is going to have a very busy summer.

early mimosa

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One Response to The winter that wasn’t

  1. Robin Beiers says:

    Always good to read your news. We can say, “The winter and summer that is and was.” We left South Korea on Sunday last (24th). It was -9C and snowing in our city, -14 in Seoul. Monday am we arrived back in Brisbane 26C and it has been rising since. They predict 34C Thursday.
    Count your blessings!!!! Love R & A

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