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Secret French Reviera

Secret French Riviera

by Jean-Pierre Cassely

A game of petanque played with square boules, an astonishing aerial well, stained-plastic windows, a marble bench built in memory of the Queen of England's haemophiliac son, the instruments of the Passion of Christ, a cannon that fires cherry stones, a good-luck pig, a mysterious pyramid, a monument to secret agents, an entire village that "moved house", a gas mask for horses, a statue sculpted by Saint Luke, a chapel showing the dead rising from their tombs,a restaurant in an Orient Express railway car, Babar's beach, Tintin's Black Island, and Sleeping Beauty's chateau, a chance to admire the Riviera's first pair of naked breasts, or spend the night sleeping in a tree...

Extracts From The Book
Secret French Reviera: Wine Cellar In a Hidden Grotta Secret French Reviera: A mosque built by Senegalese InfantrymenSecret French Reviera: A Pig's Head with a snout polished by thousands of handsSecret French Reviera: A Luxury Hotel room in a Tree

Wine Cellar In a Hidden Grotto

Secret French Reviera: Wine Cellar In a Hidden Grotta In the depths of the wine cellar that the former notary of Contes, Maître Fossati, had built for himself, a concealed entrance gives access to an amazing grotto. The legal eagle, known as a lover of fine wines, had gathered in his cellar all the tools and implements needed for conditioning and conserving wine: barrels, casks, bottles, all arranged in a superb vinothèque. Right at the back of the cellar, a strange recess in the wall, which you’d hardly notice unless you were particularly looking for it, served as a discreet entrance to his tasting room. With a low ceiling and covered with wallpaper, giving an air both theatrical and artificial, the only furniture was a baroque table and two benches, all in pretty rock-work imitating plant formations. Hard to imagine at what times and with whom Maître Fossati shut himself up here. Perhaps his only companion was one of his precious bottles?

The Museum of Vine and Wine is now located in this series of caves. Rarely open, it displays the collection of specialized implements that the notary had collected.
A mosque built by Senegalese Infantrymen

Secret French Reviera: A mosque built by Senegalese Infantrymen The initiative taken by Indochinese soldiers serving in the French Army in building a pagoda in order to practise their religion was imitated a little later by the Senegalese infantrymen of Muslim faith.

Completed in 1930, it is a copy, slightly reduced in size, of the Missiri mosque in Djenné, a town in the middle valley of the Niger in Mali. The project went ahead thanks to the efforts of Captain Abdel Kader Madenba, who lodged a complaint with his superior, Colonel Lainé: “The Annamites have their temple, the Madagascans their theatre, but we Senegalese have nothing.” The atmosphere of the mosque was even enhanced with African huts and fake, but realistic-looking, termite hills.
A Pig's Head with a snout polished by thousands of hands

Secret French Reviera: A Pig's Head with a snout polished by thousands of handsCallian, a magnificent village typical of Var, forms a spiral pattern around a (private) medieval chateau, rebuilt in the 17th century. One of the edifice’s two towers boasts a clock [horloge] that gives it its name. At the tower’s base, a door with a decorated lintel that may pass unnoticed also boasts a pig’s head. Over time, its snout has become polished from the caresses of thousands of hands, since, as the small sign next to it tells you, this snout supposedly brings good luck ...:

Ô toi qui viens de loin,
Si tu frottes mon groin,
À coup sûr, très grand bien
À jamais sera tien. *

In 1958, Henri Briffaut, who had been the tutor of Baudouin, King of the Belgians, when the latter was a young prince, found himself enchanted by the ruins of château de Callian. He acquired the property and restored it with respect and good taste, winning several awards. A painter, writer and sculptor, Briffaut placed several examples of his own creations
here and there: the imaginary animals standing along the ramparts like somewhat dreamlike
contemporary gargoyles, but also, in front of the little door to the chateau on rue de Lyle, a stone
knight bearing a cross potent, and of course the realistic pig’s head on the door of the
clock tower.
A Luxury Hotel room in a Tree

Secret French Reviera: A Luxury Hotel room in a Tree Near the village of Croix-Valmer, on the Saint-Tropez peninsula, the luxury hotel- restaurant of Château de Valmer is housed in the former country mansion of a 19th-century wine-growing domain. The hotel brochure speaks for itself through a couple of dozen well-chosen photographs. Other than the 42 rooms within the hotel, three residences are available, the Cabanon, the Mas provençal and above all, the superb Cabane perchée.

This last tree house, set in an immense 100-year-old oak, is a little way from the hotel and so lets you take full advantage of the calm countryside and the surrounding vineyard. The made-to-measure cabin follows the shape of the tree, allowing its branches to grow around the terrace. The interior design, comfortably rustic, is equipped with all the features you would expect in a luxury hotel. On the terrace the garden furniture and loungers invite rest, calm and peace.

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