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Newsletter November 2014

We left Henley armed with detailed notes prepared by Alvi and made good time to the airport.  Unfortunately our flight was delayed by an hour.  The weather on our arrival in Nice was overcast, but this was to be the only day when the sun did not shine brightly.  In fact the weather was to get warmer every day of our stay.

En route to the hotel we stopped at La Domaine des Colettes in Cagnes sur Mer, the house where Renoir spent his last 12 years.  Within the house there are 10 Renoir paintings and inside the studio there are the easel, paints and wheelchairs used by the painter.  Renoir suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and painted with difficulty so the paintbrush had to be secured by bandages to his hands.

After the visit we went straight to our hotel at St Raphael, set within a private estate with a golf course.  The sight of the greens and fairways may have made any golfers in our group wish they had time to play.  Dinner was preceded by a welcome cocktail in the foyer.

Day 2
We made our way with our driver Didier to Cap Ferrat to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild where we used audio guides that gave us full details of the villa, its contents as well as its eccentric owner Beatrice.  In her bedroom were chairs for her pet mongoose and poodles and she even arranged a poodle wedding with guests and their pets required to wear full morning dress.  The collection of furniture, drawings, tapestries and china mostly date from the Louis XV and XVI periods.  Beatrice liked to dress in 18th Century costumes of which there were examples.  the gardens together with the views over the coast were stunning.  whilst we were there the fountains played to Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

We drove the short distance to Villefranche where the old citadel overlooks the fishing harbour and marina.  The bay is considered to be the most beautiful on the Mediterranean coast.  After lunch we drove to Vence to see the Rosay Chapel which Matisse considered to be his masterpiece.  Sadly when it was consecrated in 1951 he was too ill to attend.  Matisse had been asked in 1947by his former nurse who was now a num to build a chapel with a stained glass window.  the window is named the Tree of Life and shows yellow cactus flowers against tapering blue ovals.  The nuns found the Way of the Cross mural, which is a series of numbered drawings with blank faces, apart from the image of Christ's face on St Veronica's handkerchief, troubling

but in time grew to appreciate what Matisse had achieved.  This chapel in its simplicity left an indelible impression.

Our final visit of the day was to the Fondation Maeght at St Paul de Vence.  The collection of contemporary art was founded by Aimé and Marguerite Maeght following the death of their youngest son in 1953.  The building was designed by a Catalan architect José Luis Sert, a pupil of Corbusier and friend of Joan Miro.  The permanent collection has around 6000 pieces by every major artist of the past century, with Chagall's mosaic Les Amoureux and Miro's Solar bird incorporated into the building fabric.

Day 3