6:17 pm - Wed, Apr 24, 2013

The Templar, the nobles and the scold

The hosts in Biot had a thrill-of-a-lifetime waiting for their guests from Tacoma.

They invited us to join them in Biot et Les Templiers’ torchlight parade through the ancient streets – in costume.


Marie Hervieu and Pascale Nicole of the city’s communications and cultural departments hustled us into a room full of costumes. There were lords and ladies, assorted kings and queens, knights - Templar and otherwise – merchants, and a few lowly laborers.


Agnes Jensen had to be a Knight Templar.

“When I was a teenager, I saw a psychic, being worried by my Mom’s health: ‘She will live a long time…’  She did. She turned 93 this week in Paris. The psychic also told me that I had been a Knight Templar in a former life… Somehow, it did stay with me all these years. I got linked to Biot through Huguette, and a little later got a kick to learn the historic connection with the Templars. The American delegation was asked to come in April for the Festival des Templiers and to choose a costume. For once, I had no hesitation with choices! Et voila!

Carol Baarsma wasn’t looking to the past, but to a dress that fit. She found one, in blue – a color she likes. It was long enough, zipped up, and afforded enough freedom for her to keep snapping the photos that made her the delegation’s unofficial photographer.

Ben Cobb used the same criterion: His Templar’s tunic was long enough.


And then there was the scold.

I wanted to be a leper. After 40 years as a journalist, I have a lot of experience with people avoiding me like, well, the  plague.

That gig was taken, so I went serfing in a peasant’s outfit and built a bitter back story around it:


The Templars gave themselves to God and the people of Biot. The choice fulfilled them.

The lords and their ladies won the lottery of birth, and relaxed into a life of relative ease.

But my angry farm wife drew a life of endless toil. She may have been young and pretty once, but what did that get her? Kids, that’s what. Kids and a lout of a husband. She was weary of sowing, growing, reaping and grinding before she trudged to the community oven. And then her children, instead of growing up to help with the labor, died. They drowned in the Bragne, fell under a wagon, succumbed to infected gashes, and died of colds. Her heart twisted at the sight of other people ‘s children, still alive and laughing.

“Mechant!” she yelled at the children, whatever they were doing. “Naughty!”

She had nothing left but the milking, churning, washing, cooking, spinning, cleaning. But no matter how much lavender she kept in her dark house, she could not get rid of the fleas.

Bitter and mean, her spite would land her in the stocks this year.

The Plague would put her in the ground the next.

1:34 pm - Tue, Apr 23, 2013

La Cuisine Sur Verre

Quand Antoine Pierini m’a dit qu’on aura une surprise avec le verre et la cuisine, je n’ai jamais imaginé quelque chose comme ça. Naturellement, j’ai pensé que Antoine et les autres verriers allaient fabriquer les pièces de verre en forme de la cuisine. Évidemment, ce n’était pas le cas, pantoute ! M. Michaël Fulci, un cuisiner bien doué et le Chef chez le restaurant Les Terraillers à Biot, nous a préparé quelques morceaux délicieux sur verre chaud à la verrerie Pierini. Antoine, son père Robert, Sarah, et les autres verriers ont fourni le verre chaud, et M. Fulci, avec l’aide de quelques gamins mignons, nous a préparé le bœuf, l’agneau, les huîtres, et les coquilles Saint Jacques en utilisant le verre chaud comme four. C’était étonnant à voir ! J’ai jamais mangé la cuisine comme ça, et c’était un repas magnifique et très, très unique. Parmi le chaleur du verre et aussi le chaleur de l’amitié avec nos amis de Biot, c’était bien sûr un après-midi incroyable et inoubliable.


1:16 pm

Hot in Biot. Or not.

The posters went up, and the questions came in.

"Who is that guy?"

"Will he be at the festival?"

"Can I meet him?"

"Take him home?"

"Spend the rest of my life with him?"

There are hot red lipstick kisses all over his face in the oversized poster in Biot’s tourism office.

There is disappointment in the hearts of the young women of Biot. OK, also the older women, and some of the men.

The Poster Templar is not from Biot. He did not attend the festival, and may not even know anything about it.

He is clip art.

And photoshopped.

Biot’s communications director Marie Hervieu and her crew picked his sweaty, earnest face out of a portfolio of models who’d been paid to pose for photos any advertiser could buy.

Marie does not know his name, his nation, or what he was doing to work up that sweat.

She does know where he got the sword, the chain mail armor and the doublet bearing the Templars’ red cross: PhotoShop.

"We made him," she said of the knight. "He’s fake."

But if the real guy ever has the urge to visit a walled Medieval town on the Riviera, there are more than a few people who would like to take him to lunch. Or home.

3:43 pm - Mon, Apr 22, 2013

Decking the town for Les Templiers


Authentic to its Medieval frame as it remains, Biot is a sophisticated 21st Century town.

To suit its role in Biot at Les Templiers, it needed a touch of makeup, a couple of trucks full of accessorizing.

Merchants draped burlap, and kept more in store, in case it was needed. The city provided bales of straw, convenient for sitting, hiding pesky modern signage - and keeping firefighters alert during two torchlight parades.

It also needed to transform its sports field into a jousting arena, and stake out parking lots below the original town walls.

It draped garlands from balcony to balcony over the Place des Arcades and other squares.

3:30 pm

Les Blanc Chevaliers de Biot


The route to the Holy Land was a dangerous road for pilgrims in 1118. To make it safer, Hugues de Payns organized a peace-keeping force, “Les Pauvres Chevaliers du Christ.”

These Poor Knights of Christ patrolled the routes from Europe to Jerusalem, where they found favor with King Baudoin II, who gave them command of the Temple of Solomon, and a new name: The Knights of the Temple.

The Templars dressed in white tunics bearing red crosses, and operated out of barracks that grew into a network of  3,000 commanderies in France by 1300.

The Knights Templar lived much as monks did – poor, chaste and prayerful. Unlike monks, they carried, and used, arms to keep the peace in the region.

Over time, the Templars were given lands on which they managed trade, agriculture and urban growth.

In Biot, that meant building headquarters on the site of an old castle in 1233. They kept watch from a tower, held prisoners in a dungeon, kept livestock and planted gardens, vineyards and orchards. They and other Templiers in other commanderies, did it very well, so well that lay and religious leaders coveted their property, and schemed to seize it. By 1308, assorted dukes and kings had the Templiers arrested, then, working with the pope, disbanded.

6:47 pm - Fri, Apr 19, 2013

Sophia Country Club’s Innertube of Bliss

Even the country club in Sophia Antipolis is high-teach.

Sophia Country Club has become a magnet for elite athletes looking to sports technology to help them improve their game. They swim. They play tennis. They spend time in the cryosauna, physiotherm infra-red sauna, endermospa amd huber motion lab , and come out feeling younger, fitter and smoother.

We thought we had come for dinner.

Instead, before a wine tasting and a magnificent meal, we had an hour of massage, herbal tea and the magic of the Waff.

The Waff is the Inntertube of Bliss. You take off your shoes, lie down on the big cushion, shut your eyes, put on headsets and forget all your troubles. We don’t know what the new-age tape said, and we could not recall a melody. What we recall is drifting so far away from cares and responsibilities that we occasionally made little kicks, just like sleeping puppies.

6:24 pm

Talking glass at the golf course


Biot’s boosters wanted to make sure we did not think their town is a one-trick village, or even a five-trick village.

They showed us history, fine food, technology, education and arts, and then sports.

Local glass masters Antoine Pierini, Raphael Farinelli and  Nicolas Laty met Ben Cobb and Sarah Gilbert over lunch at La Bastide du Roy, the clubhouse restaurant at Golf de Biot.

The course, along the River Bragne, has a spectacular view of the walled city. It also has an American legend in its history. It was, and remains, the Kennedy family’s favorite course in France. They played there when they were in the region. And when they had a wedding, they invited the owner.


4:33 pm

Pierini celebrates the Mediterranean with glass

When the owners of Les Pecheurs set out to brand their restaurant, spa and hotel, they thought of Antoine Pierini.

His glass defines the entrance, all the views from the deck, the interior, even the tabletops.

Light, sea shapes, color, a sense of joy. Pierini brings it all.

3:34 pm

Smoking Kills. Littering irritates.

The French, who are famous for stylish smoking, require every pack to tell what it will do to the user.

The town of Biot is impressive in its tidiness. Street sweepers - size small, so they can fit on the narrow road - make rounds at 5 a.m.  This was the only piece of litter I saw on the ground, even during the festival.image

"Taken the morning after the opening of the fete des Templars," Gwen Porter wrote of this picture of an individual hand-sweeping the streets. Check out his broom, so like the ones used when the Templars kept order in the the town.


2:22 pm

Now we’re cooking with glass

Glass master Antoine Pierini and chef Mickael Fulci merged food and glass into the hottest stunt of the delegation’s visit.

Robert and Antoine Pierini’s hot shop and gallery stand by the Fulci family’s Michelin-star restaurant, Terraillers. That got them thinking about how they could merge their two arts.

For the delegates’ visit, that brought Fulci to the outdoor hot shop with baskets of oysters, scallops, cucumbers, cauliflower, lemons, oil and spices.

“They will be cooking on hot glass,” said Renee Daguise, a member of Club Americain de Biot. “Nobody has seen that anywhere. Everything will be cooked just like that, at 1200 degrees.”

See it they did when Antoine, Ben Cobb and Sarah Gilbert swabbed globs of molten glass onto tubes, carried them to a metal-topped table and rolled them flat.

Fulci took oysters in the shell from a basket, pressed them into the hot glass and stood back as they hissed, sizzled and opened. He garnished them with a mignonette of cucumber, basil, grated cauliflower and lime, and students at the nearby Montessori school passed them out to guests.

The artists tossed the cooled glass and refreshed the table with a new molten batch for scallops.

As the shells opened, Fulci flipped the meat, which had a striped sear, to cook on the other side.

By the time Fulci had cooked the next courses, lamb and beef sliced thin and marinated, the crowd increased.

“I think they are smelling the meat,” said his father and Terraillers founder, Pierre Fulci. “It is a barbecue party.”

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