Benicio Del Toro at The Cannes Film Festival:

VIDEO BELOW

At this point in my life I guess there’s a fairly good chance I’ll never be famous, rich, content, liked-by-many, sober, smart, handy around the house, well-dressed, desirable, a doctor, the third member of WHAM!, asked to a party for any reason other than to serve drinks and help clean-up, comfortable, or witty.

But hey, who’s perfect?

I feel like now is the right time for me to take a profound step on my journey of personal growth and acknowledge a few negligible imperfections.

Why?

Because I’m competing for my wife’s affections, that’s why, and in order to improve my chances of winning I think I should first recognize one or two minor shortcomings so that I can move forward and become a better man.

With whom am I competing (you may be asking yourself in perfectly irritating proper English)?

Benicio del Toro.

Ever since my wife and I spotted Benicio del Toro (what does that mean anyway, Benicio of the Bull?) at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year I know she’s been thinking about him.

A lot.

She won’t acknowledge it but I know she knows I know.

I can feel it.

Of the Bull feels it too.

I’m certain.

That’s why I’m taking this bullfight public.

Check out the video I took outside the Hotel Martinez in Cannes. Continue reading

Top Gear In The South Of France: The World’s Best Driving Road?

Click here for information on Le Stuff’s French Riviera Mini Cooper Driving Adventure!

To tell you that I know my way around an automobile engine would be like telling you Michael Jackson had all the skills needed to become a champion prize fighter.

In other words, I’d be lying.

My scope of mechanical expertise ends with my crackerjack ability to discern, within seconds mind you, whether the vehicle I’m piloting has a gas or diesel engine.

The point I’m trying to illustrate here is that you don’t have to be a gear head, love cars and driving, or even have a driver’s license, to enjoy what may possibly be the finest television show ever made.

BBC’s Top Gear begins its 15th season this year.

Ostensibly about cars, driving and speed, TG is really about the interaction between the show’s three hosts, Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond.

A few of my favorite episodes? Continue reading

French Dining Etiquette: Both Hands on the Table Mister!

When dining in France I try to remember to keep both hands visible.

This, I’ve been told more than once, is very important.

Sometimes I forget because it’s in direct contrast to the way I’ve eaten my entire life. In the States we’re taught to place the non-dominant hand in our lap unless it’s being used to help with cutting meat, buttering bread, etc.

In France, though, it’s considered impolite and even weird to do this.

I once asked a French friend why and was surprised by her response.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: “Why is it so important to have both hands visible when dining in France?” Continue reading

Le Bar sur Loup: Fete de L’Oranger

Today’s guest post is by the ever-popular anonymous.
You’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that anonymous has a world of experience traveling around the south of France.  He/She has wisely chosen to write about one of the best festivals in the region, the Fete de L’Oranger in Le Bar sur Loup. Enjoy….


Le Bar sur Loup

Le Stuff has carelessly and foolishly revealed the name of one of the few remaining hill towns, as  yet untouched by tourist hands, that hovers still high above the French Riviera.

At first I feared hoards of individuals bearing fanny packs and Flips would, upon receiving this intelligence, launch a destructive invasion leaving tacky detritus in their wake.

However, subscribers to Le Stuff Continue reading

The Corkscrew: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It!

I came across something on-line recently that caught my attention; a Silver Rabbit Six-Piece Wine Tools Kit for $54.95 plus tax.

The kit included:

-Silver Rabbit
-Wine Collar
-Champagne Stopper
-Foil Cutter
-Wax Whacker
-Extra Spiral

Silver Rabbit?  Wine Collar?  Wax Whacker?

Are they serious?

Am I opening a bottle of wine or rehearsing a scene from Pulp Fiction?

Have we really reached the point where we require 6 different tools to open one bottle of wine?  What’s next, the all-inclusive six-in-one shoe lace tying tool?
Or maybe the multi-faceted hand-shaker helper?

Opening a bottle of wine is a simple task requiring Continue reading

L’Hostellerie du Chateau: Le Bar sur Loup, France

I’d like to tell you about a terrific dining experience I had recently at L’Hostellerie du Chateau, a small hotel and restaurant tucked into a fifteenth century castle in the picturesque working class-village of Le Bar sur Loup.

Insider Tip: Don’t go to L’Hostellerie du Chateau if you are “volume challenged”.  I’ve never eaten in a quieter place.

My wife and I arrived at seven on a breezy spring evening and were warmly greeted and shown to our table by an attractive woman I could only assume was the proprietess (I didn’t want to ask, someone might actually have heard me).

We started with Continue reading

Roland Garros: A Guide To The French Open

Today’s guest post by Rick Dominick is all about one of the world’s greatest sporting events, The French Open. Rick attended the tournament in 2007 and gleaned some helpful tips that will make any tennis junkie’s trip to the red clay of Roland Garros easier and more fun.

Go Rick….

Le Stuff’s Definitive Guide to Enjoying the French Open

The 2010 French Open is underway and you, like the rest of us, wish you were there.  And for good reasons; it’s the only major tournament played on clay, the tournament is held in an elegant neighborhood in Paris, and for tennis lovers, the points on “terre battue” are long and hard-fought.  If you are considering making the trip in 2011, here are our suggestions for making it a great adventure.

1) Plan to attend the tournament during the first week of competition.
Week 1 is the best time to see all the top players. The grandstand courts host the premier matches while the grounds courts host everyone else.  You may want to watch Federer or Serena compete on the Phillipe Chartrier or Suzanne Lenglen stadium courts but hardcore tennis lovers will want to scour the grounds courts for their favorite players.  The heavy, red clay makes for long, carefully crafted points and matches. Sit within a couple of feet of the players on the smaller courts and enjoy the fine competition.


Get up close and personal on the grounds courts

2) Book your trip in advance and get tournament tickets through the http://www.rolandgarros.com website.
If you want stadium tickets sign up for tickets in January or February.  You’ll be notified once the lottery for tickets is completed.  Re-seller tickets on the internet and scalped tickets are available closer to tournament time but tend to be expensive.  Grounds tickets can be purchased Continue reading

Gary Coleman Lives on in France

Gary Coleman forever a fixture at Cannes?

Watchu talkin’ about, Willis?

Turns out the diminutive actor, who died today at age 42, has been looming large in one of the great film cities of the world for some time.

You can find this depiction of him near the train station in the heart of Cannes, just steps away from where the film festival takes place every year.


It may be comforting for his fans to know that for years to come, as the Streeps and De Niros and Spielbergs of the world walk to the red carpet, Gary Coleman, with his perpetual smile, will be watching over them all.

Addendum: Le Stuff’s Pronunciation Guide To Vacqueyras

Reader Comment – “That’s great about the “s” but what about the rest of the word?  The “s” was the least of my worries when looking at the jumble of c’s, q’s ue’s, and yr’s.” – Grace

Well, Grace has a point.

In my last post I wrote about how the “s” in “vacqueyras” is not silent.
I neglected, though, to give an adequate explanation of how the entire word is pronounced.  That’s kind of like telling someone “hey, the “g” in “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” is soft” and leaving it at that.

So please forgive me Grace and here, just for you, is the proper way to pronounce “vacqueyras”.

va-(as in va-cuum) * cquey-(as in ke-boom)* ras-(as in Ras-tafarian)

Le Stuff’s Pronunciation Guide To “Vacqueyras”

How many times have you avoided ordering a particular wine at a restaurant because you didn’t know how to correctly pronounce it?  If you’re like me, more times than you care to remember.

With that in mind I’d like to pass along a little pronunciation tidbit I picked up recently in Provence.

I had always assumed that the “s” at the end of Vacqueyras was silent because there’s no vowel after it, and of course, any hayseed with a double PHD in French would know that, right? Continue reading

Monaco’s Hotel de Paris Invaded by Russians?

It seems the Russians have finally invaded – Monaco, that is.

I recently spent a very enjoyable morning in the lobby of the Hotel de Paris in Monaco and let me tell you there may be no better spot on earth for people watching.

The Russians were in full force, the men in ill- fitting designer jeans and sweaters, greeting each other with big smiles, a quick hug and two firm slaps on the back.

The women were gorgeous, mostly demure, and decked out in the finest couture that money can buy.  The weekly allowance for hair, make-up, and clothing alone for just one of these beauties would probably pay my mortgage for a year.

I’d heard so much about the Russians, how rude, loud, and unsophisticated they were, but at least at the Hotel de Paris, I found them very appealing.  They seemed completely unaffected by how others perceived them, they were polite to the wait staff, and there was a gregariousness that seemed pleasantly out of place in the stuffy lobby of this Monaco institution.

So have the Russians really invaded?

If so, it may not be all that bad.


Oppede-Le-Vieux: Le Petit Cafe

I have been attempting to eat my way through the entire country of France for some time now, so it would be perfectly reasonable for me to have a jaded, rather road weary attitude when it comes to French food, n’est pas?

Been there, done that, right?

Not exactly my friends.

After so many years I am still absolutely amazed at the quality of cuisine, service, and wines that can be found in the most unexpected places in this wonderful country.

Is there someone out there championing the cause of the country auberge, the bistrot de pays, the common man’s stomach?

If not, sign me up, I’m your guy.

Why am I on such a foodie high?

Simple.  My wife and I have just dined at Le Petit Cafe in the strangely charming Provencal village of Oppede Le Vieux (that’s Peter Mayle country by the way, and if he hasn’t been here he’s really missing out).

Situated on a charming corner of what appears to be the town’s only drive-able street, Le Petit Cafe is Continue reading

4 Fun Things to do in Nice

Nice is an underrated city.

The fifth largest metropolis in France has a reputation for being noisy, crowded, and a place where retirees shuffle off to live out their final days in sun-kissed obscurity.  Dig a little deeper though, and this bustling town reveals a wonderful depth of character with just the right sprinkling of Franco/Italian seasoning.

Here are 4 fun things to do in Nice, France.

1)The Old Town
Don’t miss it.  Yes, the streets are narrow and charming, and the flower market held on the pedestrian-only cours saleya is a must, but the main reason I look forward to visiting this section of Nice is food.  Around every corner, it seems, there’s another opportunity to indulge in excruciatingly delicious Nicoise cuisine.  Think authentic Italian pizza, socca, Ratatouille, pastries, homemade ice cream, and the list goes on and on and on….

2) Colline du Chateau
There’s actually no chateau (it was destroyed in 1706) on this wooded hill overlooking the city , but Continue reading

Sold: L’Auberge de Tourrettes

It seems one of my favorite spots in the south of France, The Auberge de Tourrettes, has been sold and is now under new management.

The news hit me like a ton of croissants.


Village view from the the back terrace

The Auberge has held the top spot on my “favorites” list for many years.
This small property on the outskirts of the village of Tourrettes sur Loup has housed my wedding guests, organized superb wine tastings, and provided me with countless delicious meals and glasses of wine.

I always looked forward to a quiet dinner on the small terrace with the ever-present aroma of fresh flowers and the sublime view of the Mediterranean across the broad Loup Valley.

Will it ever be the same?

Will the new owners continue to operate with the same attention to detail and service?

I’ll try to let you know soon….

To Catch A Thief: Take 7

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’ s Classic Film

Series Post #9

Following the hectic flower market scene in Nice viewers are treated to a wide shot of John Robie’s luxurious cliff side villa.

But, you may be asking yourself, is that really the villa?

No, its not.


The village of Gourdon

For this particular scene, instead of filming the actual house in St Jeannet, Hitchcock used a wide, long distance shot of Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 6

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’ s Classic Film

Series Post #8

It’s been a while since our favorite former jewel thief, John Robie, was last seen lounging on the beach in Cannes.

Not to worry though, the saga continues….

In Cannes, Robie receives a phone call from his old friend Bertani who has arranged a clandestine meeting at the Nice flower market with London insurance rep. H. H. Hughson.  Hopefully Hughson can provide information that will help lead to the capture of the real thief.

And how will Hughson recognize Robie?

He’ll be flipping a coin, of course.

It’s interesting to note that the flower market scenes were not filmed on the cours saleya, the bustling pedestrian zone in old Nice where the market is still held today.  Instead, in an attempt to avoid the massive crowds, Hitchcock Continue reading

Credit or Debit Card? The Debate Continues….

I’ve written extensively about the advantages and disadvantages of using both credit and debit cards while traveling, but have overlooked one important difference between the two that I’d now like to address.

Simply put, credit card transactions offer consumers better protection from fraud than debit card transactions.

If someone steals your credit card Continue reading

5 Ways to Save Money When Traveling To Europe

These are difficult times for anyone accustomed to traveling across the Atlantic in the good old days when the dollar was as strong as an ox.

European travel now requires serious planning if you want to avoid breaking your bank.

Check-out these 5 tips for saving money.

1) Book an apartment instead of a hotel
If you’re going to be in the same area for at least a week consider renting an apartment.  They’re generally cheaper than hotels and can provide a more enriching travel experience.

2) If you do stay in a hotel, skip their breakfast
14 Euros for a croissant and a cup of coffee?  I don’t think so Francois.
Forego breakfast at your hotel and head out to a local bakery.  You’ll have more fun, save money, and eat better food.

3) Pick the right credit card
Almost all banks charge a fee for Continue reading

Christmas Eve in St Tropez


Brigitte Bardot on the beach in St Tropez

I‘ve only been to St Tropez once and let me tell you my expectations were not high.

It was Christmas Eve day several years ago and my wife and I, with our good friend Yamina, decided to hop in the car and take a leisurely ride.

A little under two hours later we were pulling into St Trop.

I had mixed emotions.

Images of Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson cavorting on a yacht with their drunken entourage were a bit hard to shake, and I didn’t really have any interest Continue reading