A Filipina In The French Riviera
by: Vic Perez
Eight hours away by car from the grey tourist traps of bustling Paris, at the Southeast coast of Provence France bordering Northern Italy and the Mediterranean seas lies the glamorous cities and towns of the French Riviera. Think of the popular destination for the royals and celebrities: the famous beaches of Monaco, St Tropez, and the world’s film capital Cannes. Think of a sun-drenched paradise where promenades and strolls in Medieval villages and cosmopolitan shopping centers with leisure eating of divine French food are a way of life. French Riviera, also known as Cote d’Azur, is blessed with 300 days of sunshine and fairy blue seas. Such a desired retreat is a popular haunt for artists and celebrities alike, such as Pablo Picasso, Henry Matisse, American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hollywood celebrities Brad Pitt, Bono Elton John, among others.
For Filipina Lucy Bergqvist, the charming French Riviera is home.
She fondly remembers why she and her husband Hans decided to move to France after living
in Sweden for 40 years and spending summer vacations in Cannes. She enthusiastically narrates:
“It was a new chapter of our life, the thrill of living in France and the CLIMATE."
“Upon retirement, we decided to settle in the South of France, where we have a townhouse in Cannes. This is a place you can enjoy the ski slopes and the seaside on the same day. There are not many places in the world like that. My husband is Swedish and loves nature, gardening, and simple living. So we bought a second property in the city of perfume, Grasse, surrounded by poetic nature. We didn’t intend to, but somehow we couldn’t leave. It is only 20 minutes away from glamorous Cannes. We took the plunge and bought a century-old country home and started to renovate it all by ourselves.”
To start her day, she meditates good thoughts. The best part of her day is being served breakfast in bed by her loving husband Hans, which she considers the best part of the day for both of them. Later on, she puts on her jogging suit, visits the kitchen garden, or what she calls the “ potager,” and feeds their chickens. The “potager” provides them their daily poultry and vegetables.
She talks about her three children Josef, Sebastian, and Jonathan. “I am very fortunate to have three adorable sons I raised as Filipinos in their values and European manners. My son always asks why I emphasize this all the time. I tell them because their mom is a full-blooded Filipino.”
They all live in Sweden, which is only two and a half hours away by plane to the French Riviera, so they always come every month and and whenever they are available.”
When asked about Filipinos on this side of the world, she said it is infrequent that she sees them there. She did host notable Filipino filmmakers like Brillante Mendoza and actress Jacklyn Jose when they were invited to grace the Cannes Film Festival.
She enumerates the best cities and places in French Riviera for the tourist among us: “You can go to the beautiful beach of Théoule-sur-Mer. You can see the entire bay of Cannes and beyond, also the beautiful red rocks of the Esterel Mountains. There are two islands in the middle of the coastline called the Lerin Islands. Île Sainte-Marguerite, the fortress prison in which the legend of the Iron Mask was held in the 17th century, and the Île Saint-Honorat, which has been the home of the Cisterian monks since the 15th century. The old town Suquet where you can eat authentic french cuisine, wander, and stroll among the small boutiques. Also, visit the rustic hilltops of the villages of Mougins, Valbonne, Saint Paul de Vence and Cagnes-sur-Mer, and the medieval site of Eze village. A plethora of history and places where
painters gather to celebrate art as living traditions.
If you want to party all night long like the celebrities do, as well as enjoy the white sand beaches, St. Tropez is the destination for you. Cannes the city of film and have a peep of the rich and famous along the Croisette. The graceful city of Nice known for its beautiful coastline and mesmerizing views will be sure to take your breath away. There is Monte Carlo in Monaco, the billionaires’ playground famous for its casino. Finally Menton, with its lavish gardens, colorful architecture, and its amazing climate making it the Pearl of the Riviera. It is only 5 minutes away from the border of Italy.”
When asked about French food, she raves. “The French people describe food differently; that is why it is considered as the best in the world. Food does not need to show off-it should make the belly sing. The French adore good food and cheese. They love fresh bread and queue for it every day at the bakery or the boulangerie.”
“They love cheese. For them, a meal without cheese is like making love without a kiss.” “And the wine, they always have a story behind it. “ Eating in France is not just about fanciful flavors, but it is rooted in history and tradition. To celebrate special gatherings, especially during Christmas time, there is a particular practice. Being predominantly Catholic, the dinner after church service is laden with much gastronomic
“They start with amuse-bouche, which are tiny appetizers to tease the tongue. Then they have hors d’oeuvre like foie gras and caviar. The main dish is turkey or guinea hens with chestnuts and different potatoes. Then lots of cheese. After the cheese, you get the Bouchée Patisserie and glace—a cake with buttercream and frozen sorbet. The desserts are served after the arrival of the Père Noël or the Santa Claus, which ends with the gift giving.
Living in the French Riviera is a life of charm, luxury, and leisure. As Ms. Bergqvist declares “There are not many places in the world like this, and one feels immense gratitude for living here.” La vie est belle!