Hotel Grimaldi

The Grimaldi Hotel has re-opened, following its renovation and new management – a sort of German/French family endeavor.  I was graciously given a tour of the hotel’s rooms and the ‘penthouse’ suite, with its panoramic view and terrace – a true “nid d’aigle.”  I recently ate dinner at the restaurant of this hotel, located in the medieval village of Haut-de-Cagnes-sur-Mer. The food was delicious, the ambiance warm and welcoming, and I especially like the classic decor of the restaurant, which fits in well with the overall village look.  Ideally situated on the village’s main square, which has been renovated as well. (Before/during/after photos here), this charming hotel is worth a visit – to stay and/or dine !

(hover mouse over photo for caption)

A “French Kiss” Location

If you remember the movie, French Kiss, starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline, there is a scene where Luc’s brother drives under an archway into a medieval town square, where they get into a fist fight – that square is Place des Arcades in Valbonne, about a 45 minute drive from Nice.


I was having lunch at the Café des Arcades in this square (at the restaurant where they seemed to have sat) and couldn’t help but think about this movie scene.


(filmed in Valbonne)

The meal was delicious, as I lingered over dessert while a summer rain passed through and people watched. Afterwards, I browsed through some local bric-a-brac shops and stopped by the English Book Centre. A great day, topped off with a “French Kiss” moment!

A Jet-Set B&B near Nice

Frank Sinatra, Aristotle and Jackie Onassis, Maria Callas, Princess Grace and Prince Rainier, Jane Mansfield, Maurice Chevalier, Anita Ekberg, Glenn Ford, Charles Aznavour, and Johnny Hallyday – to name just some of the rich and famous that frequented the house that was owned by singer and songwriter, Georges Ulmer and his wife, Betty.   Purchased in 1952 and for more than twenty years, the Ulmers hosted and entertained jet-setters on the large, sunny terrace of their home-cum-restaurant/night club, “Chez Georges Ulmer.”  Betty took care of the restaurant, while George sang and played guitar on the terrace for guests; reportedly Frank Sinatra occasionally sang there too.

After the death of her husband in 1989, Betty decided to sell the house in 2002, and for the past 11 years, thanks to owners Catherine and Patrick Bouvet, this renovated, lovely stone villa has been operating as a successful and charming B&B, named “Les Terrasses du Soleil.”  I recently had the honor to spend time on the terrace with Catherine, re-living the bygone days of this historical place, imagining myself dining and dancing there as well.

The uniqueness of this Chambre d’Hôte/B&B is not only it’s jet-set past, but also the beautiful views from the grand terrace, and the homemade and varied breakfast specialties created by Catherine (yogurt, jams, unique pancakes, just to name a few).  There are two bedrooms and two suites in this three-story hidden treasure, situated near Nice in the medieval village of Haut-de-Cagnes-sur-Mer.  This beautiful B&B is charming and has a warm, welcoming ambiance for year-round accommodation, except when closed from November 1st to December 20th.

“PIGALLE” – Composed in 1946 and sung by Georges Ulmer (video link)

Chambres d'hôtes Les Terrasses du Soleil                                    Photos credit: Terrasses du Soleil website



Petanque – Bacci Ball – Boules: How Square !?

In a nearby village, the “Cercle des Amis” hosted their 33rd Boules Carrées World Championships (results link), a game played with square blocks instead of round, metal balls. Competitors (104 sets of three players) braved the weekend’s high temperatures to participate in this two-day tournament, held in the steep, but shady, streets of this medieval village. Games alternate with throwing up hill and then down hill, until one team reaches a score of 13 points. In either direction, it’s tough to know for sure if the thrown block will end up near the small target block, called the “cochonnet.” (see video below) Everyone seemed to have a great time over the two-day event, cheering for the teams and watching the top-level players’ performance.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In keeping with the festivities, here’s a recipe called, “The Bocce Ball” – a easy to do juice cocktail, you might want to try – the ice cubes could represent the boules carrées 🙂

1 1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz amaretto
orange juice
splash of soda water
orange slice for garnish

Pour the vodka, amaretto and orange juice into a collins glass filled with ice.
Add a splash of soda water and garnish with an orange slice. (Source:

Le Gospel (Gospel Music) – Assomption Day

A nearby village was hosting a free gospel concert, as a fitting end to the Assomption Day celebration festivities (see previous post). There were around 400 people present to listen to the gospel singing and inspirational music. Not sure how many actually understood the English lyrics, but the crowd seemed to enjoy the rhythm of the music. One of the singers was from Martinique, so spoke French to the audience between songs.

Below are some video snippets from the concert.

Fête de la Saint-Roch (Assomption Day)

To celebrate Assomption Day, a nearby village was offering aperitifs and nibbles just in front of the village church, ‘Notre Dame de la Protection.’ There was Provençale live music and some villagers in local costumes, with everyone enjoying the ambiance and festivities.

Medieval Village Festival

I attended one of the four summer series of festivals, held in August in Cagnes-sur-Mer:   the one at the castle/château in Haut-de-Cagnes, hosting various musical troupes and a pyrotechnic concert. What was really interesting was the stage box for the drums, which also served as its storage and transport container, with everything folding inside it, as a all-in-one concept!

The main square in this medieval village was crowded, with interesting people of all ages enjoying the performances, dancing to the instrumental drum beat and “dancing to the beat of their own drum,” as well !

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All that Jazz: Château & Village Tour !

During July and August, there is a free jazz concert every Friday evening at 9pm, held in Haut-de- Cagnes-sur-Mer (about 11 km west of Nice). I attended the first one of the season, and

at 10pm did a lantern-lighted, historical walking tour of the village. There were people in the group from Normandie, Lorraine, Paris, as wll as some locals, with three of the children present designated to carry the lanterns and do a short introductory, verbal presentation at each stopping point; impressive since they had to memorize, on-the-spot, the information that the tour guide had whispered to them.

It was a beautiful, warm, moonlit night; on one of the small medieval streets, we had a distant view of fireworks, taking place at the city’s Hippodrome (horserace track). A booming ending to a great, jazzy evening!