New E-Book

Le Stuff now has a comprehensive e-book detailing every location featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1953 film “To Catch A Thief”.

Follow along with the movie on Google Maps in the comfort of your home or use the book as a de facto travel guide as you drive around the sunny French Riviera!

Included in the book:

-A brief history of the author’s experience in the south of France (including how he met the French actress Brigitte Auber)
-GPS coordinates and addresses (where applicable) of each location featured in the film
-The location of the villa where American author David Dodge wrote his novel “To Catch A Thief”
-The story of how David Dodge came up with the idea for the novel
-The location of Princess Grace’s tragic 1982 car accident
-Recommendations for further reading about “To Catch A Thief”

A brief excerpt:

Let’s begin where it all started, the villa on the outskirts
of Golfe-Juan where David Dodge wrote “To Catch A
Thief.” Here, in a travel article, he describes his first
sight of the villa:

“I can close my eyes now and recover that first
glimpse. The house stood on a hill in Golfe Juan
between Juan-les-Pins and Cannes. We reached it by a
side road which left the main highway skirting the gulf
and wandered up the hillside between mossy old stone
walls covered with climbing rose vines and sodded in
the cracks with Flanders poppies. At the top of the hill
a little gate with a tinkling bell attached to it opened
into a huge jungle of garden full of greenery: corkoaks,
bamboo, palms, birds-of-paradise plants,
camellia shrubs, open grassy places and more
Flanders poppies. A brook starting at the top of the
garden purled along the side of a twisting path which
led down to the house. Just at the front door, where
the camellias bloomed, there was a little level spot
under a pine tree where the brook widened to form a
pond full of water-lilies before it spattered over a small
cliff. The house was built on the edge of the cliff, down
which the path continued to the foot of the garden fifty
yards below. The terrasse, shaded by climbing vines of
wisteria, overlooked the whole sweep of the
Mediterranean from Cap d’Antibes to the Iles de
Lerins, and the front windows of the salon
faced, across about a mile of water, the front
window of the cell in the fortress on the Ile Sainte
Marguerite where The Man in the Iron Mask whiled
away his time two hundred and fifty years ago.”

In September of 2010 writer Jean Buchanan, BBC Radio
4 producer Marya Burgess, and I searched for and
found the villa for the BBC Radio 4 production “In
Search of the Villa Noel Fleuri.” It was abandoned and
in disrepair…

Click the link below to get your e-book!

Coco Chanel Logo

I’d like to pass along a fun fact that I picked up from my good friend Jean Pascal.

JP is French, a wine expert, business owner, motorcycle enthusiast and is married to a beautiful woman from Sweden.  If I have ever had valid reasons to hate somebody, I’ve just listed them, but I can’t, Jean Pascal is a great guy.


He sometimes leads wine tours in Bellet, the old town of Nice, and into the French Riviera back country.  One of his stops, Chateau de Cremat in Bellet, the tiny wine region in the hills behind Nice, is particularly noteworthy for fans of the late fashion designer Coco Chanel.

Why? Continue reading

The Three Best Restaurants In The French Riviera Backcountry

There are few things I find more enjoyable than roaming around the south of France in search of delicious, thoughtfully prepared cuisine. It is a chronic hobby of mine. For the past seventeen years I have traveled the coastline from Theole sur Mer to sunny Menton, from the narrow, pedestrian-only streets of the old town of Nice to the chic, Disney-esque Principality of Monaco, from the glitz of Cannes to the grit of Cagnes, and almost everywhere in-between, in a never-ending quest for good food and wine. Along the way I have devoured bouillabaisse in Antibes, snails in Villefranche, and pizza in just about every place imaginable.

Lately, though, I will admit to being pulled north, away from the coast, more times than not for my culinary explorations.

Drive twenty minutes north from Nice or Cannes and you will find yourself in another world, one far removed from the bustling coast. Perched medieval villages dot the lush, mountainous countryside. Tiny vineyards produce beautifully complex wines, and around almost every bend in the road appears another idyllic spot waiting to be discovered. It is a spectacularly varied and beautiful landscape.

It is also chock full of good food.

My picks for the three best restaurants in the Riviera backcountry are, by most standards, modest establishments. There are no Michelin stars or celebrity chefs on my list. What you will find, though, are warm welcomes, fresh, locally sourced ingredients, and skilled chefs who care deeply about every dish they create.

To enjoy these restaurants you will need a car, a mild sense of adventure, and a little time, but don’t worry, like a fine wine left to breathe, you will be amply rewarded for your patience. Continue reading

Great Drives: The Col de Braus

Recently I took advantage of a beautiful fall day and drove to the col de braus in the eastern backcountry, a spot that has been on my to-drive list for some time.

My route began on the D2204 just outside La Trinite, the industrial suburb north of Nice.

Admittedly, there is not much to see in La Trinite, but patience has its rewards. 

As I cruised into the hills, past the clutter of Cantaron, grunge gave way to green countryside.

Here the road meanders comfortably back and forth, the occasional straightaway appearing at just the right time beneath perfectly aligned rows of plane trees.

In twenty minutes I felt properly tucked away in the backcountry as I dropped down into L’Escarene, a pretty town built in the eleventh century at the confluence of the Redebraus and Paillon streams. The ancient bridge over the Paillon took me northeast toward Touet-de-L’Escarene, roughly 3 kilometers away. 

The road narrowed into a single lane as it cut through the center of Touet-de-L’Escarene, and as I crept along, I could almost touch the crumbling facades of the old houses that line the street.

Up to this point the climb had been mostly gradual, an easy lark on a weekend morning, but now, outside Touet-de-L’Escarene, the mountains rose up steep, jagged and breathtakingly beautiful.

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Soon I entered a series of switchbacks cut into the mountainside above a deep ravine. The sheer drop-off at the edge of the pavement was, at times, vertigo-inducing. The final set of “lacets”, eight hell-raising twists up a steep slope, made a fitting finale for a great drive. Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 15

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

Series Post #17

La Croisette and the cemetery in Cagnes-sur-mer

La Croisette

When we last saw John Robie (Cary Grant) he was struggling for his life in the middle of the night on the grounds of a beautiful villa located next to the Plage Passable in St Jean Cap Ferrat.

In the following scene Frances (Grace Kelly) and her mother (Jessie Royce Landis) walk down a busy street. A crowd has gathered around a newsstand and there is a palpable excitement concerning the latest headline.

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“LE CHAT EST MORT!” (THE CAT IS DEAD!)

The cat, it seems, is indeed dead, but it’s not John Robie, it’s Monsieur Foussard.

This quick scene takes place in Cannes on the wide walkway that runs along the shore between La Croisette and the beach. Continue reading

In Search of David Dodge

In Search of David Dodge

In August of 2010 I received an email from Jean Buchanan, a writer from England who had been commissioned to dramatize the novel “To Catch A Thief” for BBC Radio and to make an accompanying BBC Radio Arts feature about the writing of the book. American author David Dodge penned the thriller in 1950 while living in a rented villa (Villa Noel Fleuri) in the south of France with his wife and young daughter, Kendal. The idea for the story came to him after the luxurious villa next door was robbed by a daring “cat burglar” during a cocktail party. As guests dined on the terrace overlooking the Mediterranean, the thief climbed in at the back of the house and snatched items from the guest bedrooms. Dodge would later remark that after hearing about the brazen robbery, “To Catch A Thief practically wrote itself!”

Jean had stumbled upon my blog during her research for the BBC projects and asked if I could help locate Villa Noel Fleuri. I agreed to assist in any way possible and the search began, aided in no small part by another of Jean’s recruits, Randal S. Brandt in Berkeley, California. Randal is the creator of A David Dodge Companion, an outstanding website devoted to the works of David Dodge .

Several months prior to hearing from Jean I had actually been in touch with Dodge’s daughter (at that time she was still alive and living in Mexico) in an attempt to find the villa used as John Robie’s house in Alfred Hitchcock’s film adaptation of the book. I asked her about the villa she lived in with her father and her only memory was of a long, winding driveway with lots of trees leading up to the house. She thought it had been somewhere near Juan les Pins.  Continue reading

Mr. Dodge, Mr Hitchcock, and the French Riviera

If you’re a To Catch A Thief fan you simply cannot miss Jean Buchanan’s fabulous new book, Mr Dodge, Mr Hitchcock, and the French Riviera: The story behind To Catch a Thief.

This is the definitive narrative on the complete story, from American author David Dodge’s inspiration for his novel (a daring burglary that took place next door to the villa he was renting in the south of France), to the making of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film.

Trust me…settle in, pour yourself a nice glass of claret, and get ready for a wonderful tale full of glamorous movie stars, daring thieves, and just the right amount of mystery.

You won’t regret it!
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An Evening in St Tropez…

A few years ago I had dinner with two female friends in St Tropez.

The restaurant was very stylish, one of those where you sit outside along a charming, pedestrian-only street, sip wine, watch the ultra-chic stroll by, and pretend you belong there.

It was a wonderful evening except for the fact that my friends kept rambling on about how incredibly handsome our waiter was.  I’m not usually the jealous type, but an entire meal spent talking about an attractive waiter is a bit much don’t you think?

Something else bothered me.

He was apparently so good-looking that they were rendered completely oblivious to his abysmal English.  I’m not just lashing out here.  My Italian was better than his English and I don’t speak Italian.  For the girls, though, the carnage discharged from his mouth that night sounded as smooth and silky as just-served foie gras.

“Oh my god, did you see his eyes?”

“An endless sea of blue!”

“I know!  I know!  And it’s so obvious he works out!”

“And his English is sooooo good!”

“I know!  I know!”

During the first course, thankfully, Mr. Marvelous remained pleasantly absent, resting comfortably, I assumed, in a secret mirrored room reserved exclusively for irritating handsome people.

Then, at just the right moment, he swept in on a cloud of pulchritude to collect our plates. Continue reading

La Source Parfumee

PnKJOvLa Source Parfumee is a hidden gem.

Stretched out along the edge of a cliff high above the Gorges du Loup and just down the road from the village of Gourdon, it is a quiet, quirky place. A lush garden seemingly untended and running wild. Thyme, jasmine, lavender, orange trees, genista, and alpine flowers dot the hillside.

No one was there when I visited.

Take a chunk of cheese, a baguette, a bottle of wine, and stay a while…

La Source Parfumee provides the flowers, flavors , and scents for many of the soaps, lotions, and perfumes sold in Gourdon. From Gourdon take a right on the D3 heading east. The garden is a few minutes drive down the road on the right. There is a sign on the left hand side and a small gravel patch for parking. Entrance is free.

The Sunbeam Alpine Roadster, Sex, and Celluloid

To Catch A Thief is a sexy film, though not in the way we view sexuality today.

It is oblique, subtle, suggestive.

There is an allusion to sex that leaves the viewer wanting more.

Grace Kelly, icy cool and devastatingly beautiful, gliding across the room in a perfectly fitted evening gown. Cary Grant, confident, swaggering, and always ready with a clever line.

Even the car driven by Kelly exudes an elegant sexuality.

The powder blue Sunbeam Alpine Roadster is seductive, sophisticated, unattainable…until now.

I recently received an email from Tom Holland, a California man who is parting ways with the ultimate To Catch A Thief souvenir. His Sunbeam Alpine Roadster, an exact replica of the car driven in the movie, is for sale.

It is completely restored and in mint condition. The exterior and interior colors perfectly match the car featured in the film (as do the front and back license plates). The Roadster even has its own agent in Los Angeles and was recently showcased in an InStyle Magazine article featuring Drew Barrymore. Continue reading

Bière à la pression

I love that the United States is smack in the middle of a craft beer revolution.

I’m a firm believer in supporting small businesses, especially ones that get people drunk. The proliferation throughout the country of these independent entrepreneurs can only add fire to a still sluggish economy and I support their efforts wholeheartedly.

There is something, however, that I like a little more than the current American brew-ha-ha.

I like being able to walk into any bar in France and ordering une pression (a draught beer).

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That’s it.

The server will not ask what type of draught you prefer and he/she will not launch into a wild-eyed, protracted monologue about the latest honey brown pale ale porter blah blah blah they just tapped. At times you might be asked if you would prefer a small or large pression but clearly this is an inside joke flitted about occasionally by native French citizens who enjoy teasing non-natives.

Small?

Funny little server.

As a reward for your basic request you will be issued a tall glass of cold, golden, perfectly respectable beer.

Now, readers may take issue with Continue reading

Reflections of a Zen Master

This post was originally written in 2011.

Let me start out by saying I realize I have not returned to the States, wiser and more contemplative, from a three year stint living in a remote Tibetan temple.

I have, however, just returned from an extended trip to France, and as usual, feel somewhat reflective.  Listed below are five things that struck me as I stepped off the plane in Philadelphia after my transatlantic flight.

1) Television news media is crap, and I apologize for the insult to all self-respecting crap. I don’t care if you’re right-wing, left-wing, or chicken-wing, if you’re spending any time at all watching CNN, FOX, MSNBC, etc., then you are wasting valuable time.  It is shocking what passes for news these days.

2) We eat way too much bad food.
One thing you have to give the French is their unwavering devotion to good food.  We in the States, unfortunately, don’t share the same passion, though things do seem to be improving a bit.  It’s no wonder Continue reading

L’Armoise, Champagne, and The New York Times

I received a handful of Emails on Sunday, each with a link to a New York Times article entitled “A French Riviera Gastrocrawl” by Alexander Lobrano.

In the piece Mr. Lobrano reviews four noteworthy restaurants along the Cote D’Azur (two in Nice, one in Cagnes sur Mer, and one in Antibes).

L’Armoise, his choice in old Antibes, has been at the top of my “to-do” list for some time, thanks in no small part to a beautiful blond Norwegian friend, Maren, a wonderful singer who lives in a stunning house in the old town.  She has been raving about L’Armoise and Chef Laurent Parrinello for years and insists that I make it my first stop during my next visit to Antibes.

So I had to smile when I read the last line of Mr. Lobrano’s article:

“Over dessert, we ended up falling into conversation with a beautiful blond Norwegian singer and drinking Champagne well into the night — a classic Riviera coda to the storied coastline’s terrific new cooking.”

The beautiful blond Norwegian singer, it seems, does indeed have good taste in restaurants.

The New York Times agrees.

L’Armoise
2, rue de la Tourraque, Vieil-Antibes
(33-4) 92-94-96-13
Prix-fixe menus 40, 45 and 70 euros
Closed Monday.

Maren’s 5 bedroom home, Casa Mare, is located on a charming, pedestrian-only street in old Antibes.  Available for weekly rentals year-round.  For more information click here

Need more proof that the best driving roads are in the south of France?

French car-manufacturer Citroen recently held a contest so that five lucky folks could preview the new DS5 while spending a luxurious weekend enjoying the sights and sounds of the French Riviera.

Their new video highlights a few spectacular locations featured on Le Stuff’s Mini Cooper Tour.

Think you know the south of France?

Correctly identify (just leave a comment) the locations in the video at 0:01, 0:04, and 0:20, and I’ll be impressed.

I’ll post the correct answers in a few days.

Le Stuff Links

I’ve done my fair share of Internet surfing lately and thought I might let you in on a few of my discoveries.

All of these, of course, are south of France related…. so enjoy.

1) “The 19 Most Complex and Dangerous Roads in the World”
OK, what does this have to do with the south of France?  Well, as any Le Stuff reader should know by now I love driving – so much so that I’ve put together a Mini Cooper Driving Tour featuring the number one road in this article – the awesome col de Turini!

2) I’ve been resourcing Provence & Beyond for years.
Need information on area villages, sports, gastronomy, etc.?
There is not a more comprehensive site covering the south of France on the web.  Check it out and if you’re not impressed, I’ll buy you a beer.

3) Julie Mautner is an American writer who has lived and worked in S.t Remy de Provence since 1999.  Her blog, The Provence Post, is chock full of fun stories, recommendations, and gossip.  Don’t miss her guest post series “The Cocktail Drinkers Guide to Gardening” by good friend James Clay.

4) “How To Make That French Vacation More Affordable”
A good, common sense article by Jerry Lanson over at True/Slant.
I found the link on “The Provence Post”

Le Stuff on The BBC!

Before Alfred Hitchcock could cast Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in his blockbuster film “To Catch A Thief”, American author David Dodge had to write the novel.  His book was inspired by an actual burglary that took place next door to the Villa Noel Fleuri, a house Dodge had rented for his family in the south of France in the early 1950’s.

In September of 2010, bravely fighting my way through the warm sun and delicious food of the Cote D’Azur, I joined writer (and expert detective) Jean Buchanan in her search for the mysterious villa.  Randal Brandt, a Dodge expert with no equal, provided invaluable assistance from his home-base at the Bancroft Library at the University of California Berkeley.

Listen to the program here.

Learn more here.

Like what you see?  Subscribe to Le Stuff here.

The following text is from the BBC Radio 4 website.

The American thriller and travel-writer, David Dodge (1910-1974), is best known for his 1952 novel To Catch A Thief, which Hitchcock turned into an iconic film three years later. Unusually for Hitchcock, half the film was shot on location, and the Riviera is as much a star as Grace Kelly (in her final film – she met Prince Rainier during a publicity shoot and became Princess of Monaco) and Cary Grant (whom Hitchcock tempted out of retirement with this script).

Dodge’s book was inspired by a real incident when he briefly became the number 1 suspect for a daring cat-burglary at 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.

10 Things I’d Like To Do in 2010

Happy New Year everyone.

Here is a list (in no particular order) of 10 things I’d like to do in 2010.

1) Have lunch at Il Vino in Paris
2) Go somewhere with my brother
3) Increase subscriptions to this blog
4) Dramatically simplify my life
5) Take my wife to dinner at Primola in New York
6) Get out of debt
7) Go on a French barge cruise with my mother
8) Ask my cat very politely to please not rip my hand off when I try to pet him
9) Write a comprehensive e-book on travel to the south of France
10) Spend more time with the people I care most about

Do you have a list?  Send it to me in the comments section….

Domaine St Joseph

Domaine St Joseph is a small vineyard comprising roughly 3 hectares of olive trees and well-tended vines.  The grapes from those spoiled little vines produce surprisingly sophisticated wines and aperitifs, and even if they did not, you would have trouble finding fault with this charming place.

Located in a residential area below the main village of Tourrettes sur Loup, Domaine St Joseph is the perfect stopover for those seeking a more intimate wine experience.

Call ahead to schedule a tasting.

Gérard et Julien Bertaina – Proprietors
160 chemin des Vignes 06140 Tourrettes sur Loup
Tel. 04.93.58.81.31

Still No Plans For Ringing In The New Year?

For those of you completely unaffected by the recent recession (surely a very small group) and without any plans for ringing in the new year, I strongly suggest reserving your spot now at L’Abbaye, a converted tenth century abby in the small town of La Colle sur Loup in the south of France.

A comfy double room with dinner for two on New Years Eve (with breakfast the following morning) can be yours for the paltry sum of 390 Euros (details below in French).

And why, Mr. Blog Man (that’s me), should I travel so far to spend an evening at L’Abbaye? Continue reading