On the nearest side of the lake was a small hill with what appeared to be a statue on top of it and a church about half way up. We struck off around the lake and up the hill. The saints atop the hill stood arm in arm, one clutching a bible and the other a hammer. There names had been obliterated by time so I was, with my distinctly agnostic background, unable to identify them. On the steep, back side of the hill was an old Frenchman banging away at the rocks with what looked like a geologists hammer. He however did not deign to acknowledge our presence and so was unable to help us with the riddle of the saints.
We descended the hill by an alternate flank and made our way down to the chapel and farm house on one side. The chapel appeared very old and in some state of disrepair although the graves in the tiny adjoining cemetery were well maintained and the dates on the headstones only went as far back as 1864. The adjacent farmhouse was better maintained and obviously in regular although intermittent use. We returned to town and collapsed into bed for the now traditional mid afternoon nap.
In the afternoon while wandering about town we came across a large group of men pursuing the favourite French past-time of 'petanque'. Petanque is like bowls or 'boules.' The participants lob large steel balls in an underarm manner at a little wooden ball. The person that gets their shot the closest is the winner. The rules appear to imply that the loser is thereby impelled to throw his hands in the air, expectorate copiously and make imprecations about the ancestry of the winner's parents.
It soon became obvious from the size and composition of the group that this was more than just your average Sunday afternoon game between locals. After a bit of investigation it turned out that this was the regional finals and competition was running hot between the local lads and the dastardly visitors. We were never quite sure of the final result but the bars that night were still full of triumphant, cavorting Frenchmen.
That evening we ventured out for dinner and went about 20m across the other side of the main square to another local restaurant. The food was excellent and this time accompanied by a decent bottle of Côtes du Rhone AOC red. I had an Italian style pizza, wafer thin with ham, tomato and an large fried egg in the middle. The chef apart from his culinary pursuits also indulged in motorsport as well. The walls of the restaurant featured a couple of photographs of a works rally Citrôen in full flight and in the corner of the room his helmet sat on a pedestal. I wasn't able to determine if he had been driver or navigator but he had certainly seemed to enjoy it. That concluded our trip to Saint Andres Les Alpes and the next morning we arose and boarded the train for Nice, slightly heavier than when we had arrived.
The train trip to Nice was as scenic as the trip out but left us in Nice with nearly eight hours to kill before we were to fly home. Our first thought was to try the Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain (MAMAC) in the middle of Nice. The Musée contains modern 'masterworks' such as Andy Warhol's 'Campbell's Soup Can' and 'Entablature' a shopping trolley wrapped by Christo. Unfortunately we had not taken into account the fact that May the first is as much a holiday for the French as it was for the English. Consequently all the Museums were closed, including the MAMAC.
Instead we detoured out to the Chateau atop the hill at the Eastern end of Nice's vast beach to take some photographs of the town. Walking down into the town from the Chateau we came into the Vieux Nice proper with narrow streets and old buildings. We found a little square opposite the church lined with restaurants and paused for lunch. Here we got some evidence which makes me suspect the French reputation of world class lovers is well deserved. While we sat eating lunch, a man walked past our table obviously intent on celebrating the onset of Spring. He padded past our table, barefoot and dressed in his bath robe clutching in one hand a bottle of wine and in the other a single rose.
After that we spent a few pleasant but pointless hours on the beachfront reading, paddling in the water and taking coffee in a café. We should have booked an earlier flight but managed to kill a few hours in the sunshine so all was not lost.
The trip home was marred by the fact we had ignored the problems of returning to Stanstead airport at midnight on a Bank holiday. None of the trains were running on time and more delays meant we didn't see home before 2am. Stanstead Parkway rail station is not the place to spend forty minutes on Monday night. It was also marred by the fact that Mark ate something severely poisonous on the last day and spent most of his time in the airport and on the plane shuttling between his seat and the bathroom in a desperate attempt to empty his stomach.
Still it was one of the nicest weekends away and I will be returning to the south of France quite soon, for food or the coffee if nothing else. I may even play a game of petanque or two.