<> Nice 2004 <>

Last modified: Sunday, 14 August, 2016

Note: these entries were originally entered on my Palm Pilot while we were away on our travels. That's why the MacJournal dates are all today (4th April) and is my excuse for any remaining typos: my Graffiti is often a little slap-dash!

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Date: Sunday, 4 April, 2004
Time: 1:10:35 pm
Topic: Tuesday, 16th March

• We took a taxi to Stansted, then an EasyJet flight to Nice.

• To our surprise, we were hailed by Aptin, a graduate student at Oriental Studies, as we were leaving the plane! It turns out his parents live in Nice.

• This was our first time landing at Terminal 2 so had to call les oncles to find out we needed to get a shuttle bus to Terminal 1.

• Once at Terminal 1, things looked familiar so we knew where to get the #23 SUNbus to Nice. I had no luck getting a ticket de quatorze voyages however.

• The #23 gradually filled up as we got into the centre of Nice and we had to work at extricating our luggage in time to ge off at the Gambetta France stop.

• If we thought the #23 was busy, it was nothing compared to the #7 that we got next. It was jam-packed with locals and we had a hard time struggling onto the bus with our luggage and working our way up to the middle exit.

• Eventually we reached the Cyranos stop and could make our escape. Perry was watching out for us on the balcony of the Cessole apartment and was joined by Jean as we manoeuvred our bags down to the crossing.

• As ever, we were welcomed with the greatest of warmth and immediately fortified with cocktails. We handed over our gifts of balsamic vinegar (Jean) and limoncello (Perry) then relaxed for an hour to get our breaths back.

• Dinner had been arranged at La Fetiche a lovely local restaurant further up the Boulevard de Cessole. We strolled up there to arrive at 7pm, at which time we were the first diners of the evening.

• We've eaten at La Fetiche several times, both with les oncles and a deux, and we've always enjoyed the food tremendously. Tonight was no exception: I had tagliatelle Fetiche and Lisa had a steak. Jean had lamb chops and Perry had fillet of sole. Perry ordered a Côtes de Provence red wine and we had coffee and Limoncello to finish the meal.

• We ambled slowly back down the street and Jean & Perry called a cab from the apartment Once they'd left for Foresta, we unpacked all our stuff, made up the bed and settled down for a long night's sleep.

Date: Sunday, 4 April, 2004
Time: 1:11:31 pm
Topic: Wednesday, 17th March

• One way and another, we stayed in bed until gone 3pm!

• Our first act was to make a shopping trip to the local Casino supermarket to stock up on basics such as eggs, vegetables, potatoes, pasta, olives, water, olive oil and butter.

• After a salad with hard-boiled eggs and olives we went down to catch a bus with the idea of calling in on les Oncles at Foresta.

• A bus went sailing by down the hill as we were half-way between the apartment and the bus stop! After a few minutes waiting we called up Foresta to cancel our date; it was getting too near their dinner hour. Next we went in search of a 7-day bus pass that (according to the SUNbus publicity) could be bought from the presse up the street. Well, I managed to secure a couple of six-trip tickets but was told one could only buy the n-day passes at the SUNbus shop in the city centre.

• I've had an ongoing struggle to get sensible bus tickets in Nice. We use the bus every day to get into and back from the city centre. The bus drivers never seem to have the 14-trip tickets they're supposed to carry, and now it seems as though the publicised points de vente of the multi-day passes don't actually sell them. One begins to wonder if even the two SUNbus shops will sell what their company claims they do or if the whole thing is a total fiction. Sigh!

• Anyway, be that as it may, we did manage to get a couple of 6-trip tickets and just caught a #7 bus as we left the presse.

• Once the bus reached the Promenade des Anglais, we hopped off and walked gently along the sea-front, dodging the runners with their CD-Walkmans and the roller bladers, as far as the Jardin Albert 1er when we headed in towards Vieux Nice.

• After a beer in the Cours Saleya, we window-shopped through the old town, Eventually emerging at the Place Garibaldi. At the Grand Cafe de Turin we bought some prawns for dinner and Lisa got some "popcorn shrimp". These latter are tiny grey shrimp that one eats whole as a snack, spitting out the heads rather in the same way as sunflower seeds are eaten. Ugh!

• We picked up a #7 bus home from Place Garibaldi and got home around 8pm. Dinner was tagliatelle with garlic and prawns, accompanied by sautéed courgette and onion and a salad of leaves and chopped tomatoes. Delicious. We drank a well-chilled bottle of Côtes de Provence rosé: a particular favourite of Lisa's.

• We had a reasonably early night as we knew we had to get up rather earlier the following day, on account of having a noon lunch date chez les oncles.

Date: Sunday, 4 April, 2004
Time: 1:12:28 pm
Topic: Thursday, 18th March

• I rose at 9am today to make coffee and butter some bread for breakfast. We got out just after 11am to catch a #4 bus to take us down towards the port.

• We descended at the Defly stop and walked down, past the Acropolis convention centre, to the port and thence to Foresta.

• Just as we walked past the Zucca Magica restaurant, the noon-time cannon-shot sounded from the chateau above. Lisa was taken completely by surprise and nearly jumped out of her skin. A passing local man smiled and said simply "C'est midi" and an older woman let loose a volley of rapid-fire French to explain what the explosion was. Later, Perry told us that the tradition started in the nineteenth century when a commander of the troops stationed at the fort on the hill had a cannon fired every noon to warn his wife, down in the town, that his dinner needed to be ready by the time he got down from the hill. Quite why the tradition has been upheld ever since remains, as far as we know, a mystery!

• Perry was out getting some last minute shopping when we arrived, so Jean made us welcome and took our coats. As usual, he had looked out a special item of genealogical interest for Lisa; in this case it was a photograph of Lisa's Grandmother & Grandpa, taken some time in the 1970s.

• Perry soon arrived and served drinks all round. We all talked for a while until lunch was ready to serve. Jean had begun cooking the main dish the day before. In honour of the previous day (St Patrick's day) he served us Irish Stew according to a recipe by Francophile American chef Julia Childs. The lamb was delightfully tender and delicious and the stew incorporated many colourful and tasty vegetables.

• After coffee we went down to the second floor to see the new studio that les oncles are renting to use as a library.and laundry. It's still pretty bare but we could appreciate the view and the fact that now Perry won't have to schlep over to Cessole to do the laundry.

• Back on the top floor the wine and talk continued to flow for a few more hours. We showed off the re-vamped Limoncello web site that we designed and which went live just before we came away to Nice.

• Soon after 7pm we took our reluctant leave, promising to return in two days' time. On our way to the bus stop in Place Garibaldi we called in at Monoprix for Lisa to get some food shopping.

• The #7 bus got us home around 8.30pm. Lisa read for a while while I dozed, until it became apparent that we weren't going to want another meal after such a good lunch. We turned in pretty early hoping for an early start again tomorrow.

Date: Sunday, 4 April, 2004
Time: 1:13:09 pm
Topic: Friday, 19th March

• We did indeed rise reasonably early again today and, after the usual round of coffees, Lisa made us a breakfast of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon to fortify us for a big shopping day in Vieux Nice.

• A #4 bus took us down to the Place Massena where, at the SUNbus shop, I finally managed to buy two 5-day passes to last us the rest of our trip. Complications continued to attend the process as my Sainsbury's Bank Visa card was refused, in spite of having been used successfully at least twice already, and I had to fall back on my Mastercard.

• Anyway, the bus passes finally taken care of we dived into the Old Town and started shopping. At one of the first places we came to, Lisa bought me a new waistcoat and we went on to amass:

- two cushions for our dining room chairs
- two new tablecloths (one round, one rectangular)
- a hanging shopping list holder
- a scraper for making garlic puree (these were everywhere and seem to be a new addition to the tourist gift range since last year)
- two colourful short-sleeved cotton tops for Lisa
- a wooden box for holding coarse ground salt
- a Peugeot salt grinder to match the pepper grinder we bought last year
- a brass strip with hooks and wall fittings for hanging pots and pans (there are two of these on the kitchen wall at Cessole)
- two olive oil bottle stoppers with pouring spouts and spare cork fittings for the same
- three different provençale herb and spice mixtures (for grilled meats, for pizza & pasta and for paella)
- some Nicoise olives
- a bar of patchouli scented soap
- three glazed pottery numerals to make up a house number for 207 Ross Street
- a ceramic pot to hang on the kitchen wall and hold cooking utensils
- four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a... no, only joking!

• By the time we'd completed this haul we were in some need of sustenance! We had a couple of beers and a snack at a bar in the Cours Saleya; the same one as we visited on Wednesday. Lisa had a ratatouille galette and I had my favourite french snack: Croque Madame.

• Seeing a lady go past and then return a few minutes later with a baguette reminded us that we needed bread for this evening. On leaving the bar, therefore, we called in at the boulangerie just up the street to get a fresh baguette: our very last purchase of the day!

• We threaded our way one more time through the streets of Vieux Nice, where the shops were shutting and the eating places opening up, to Place Garibaldi and the #7 bus home.

• Back at the apartment we inspected our loot over an aperitif and then set to cooking. We had a small chicken, like a poussin, called a coquelotte which we rubbed with olive oil, black pepper and herbes de Provence then roasted in the oven for 45 minutes. To go with this we had boiled red potatoes, half of the baguette, a green salad with onions and olives and some ratatouille.

• For the ratatouille I fried a chopped onion in a tablespoon of olive oil for a minute or two and then added a chopped over-ripe fresh tomato. When the onion wa soft I added two cloves of garlic, pureed on our new scraper, and a can of chopped tomatoes. I stirred these ingredients together and then added some freshly ground black pepper and two or three pinches of herbes de Provence which were stirred into the mixture. When the herbes began to give out their aroma, I added a sliced courgette and, after a few minutes to let the courgette start to soften, two-thirds of a red bell pepper, sliced length ways. All was stirred together and the gas turned way down so that the sauce was barely bubbling, then I covered the pot and let the ratatouille simmer for half an hour. You'll notice that I used no salt in the cooking: the local vegetables in Nice have such intense flavours that no enhancement is needed and the cooking method ensures that none of the flavour goes to waste.

• The assembled plates of a half coquelette, small red potatoes (boiled and served in their skins), bright red ratatouille and slices of fresh baguette looked almost as good as the food tasted!

• We enjoyed a bottle of Bordeaux Supérior, donated by les oncles, with the meal. All in all, a veritable feast of flavour, even by our high standards!

• Dinner over, we loaded up and started running the somewhat balky dishwasher and retired to bed: tired but very pleased with our day.

Date: Sunday, 4 April, 2004
Time: 1:14:49 pm
Topic: Saturday, 20th March

• With another noon date chez les oncles, we made efforts to get up and out on time after a simple breakfast of coffee, juice and the rest of last night's baguette buttered. I dressed in my new waistcoat and Lisa wore her posh skirt and black top.

• We rode the #4 bus to the Acropolis and walked via the port, arriving at Foresta about 20 minutes late. Our hosts were gracious about our tardiness and greeted us with accustomed warmth.

• Over aperitifs we talked about this, that and the other (i.e. the antics of baby Bush) until Uncle Jean announced that the first course was ready. This was coquilles St. Jacques served on scallop shells: delicious!

• No less delicious was the main course of quiche lorraine. This had a fabulously light custard and perfectly crisp crust. The secret of the crust, it seems, was to line the baking dish with greaseproof paper and then prick the base of the quiche to encourage even cooking of the crust. The paper prevents the filling from escaping through the holes in the base.

• Perry contributed a desert of fresh pineapple chunks, steeped in unspecified "alcohol", which rounded off the meal perfectly. Coffee was served, of course, and then the talk and the wine flowed in equal measure until it was time for us to head for the penultimate bus of the evening.

• We descended at our usual stop, Cyranos, but then walked back down the hill to Lisa's favourite greengrocer to stock up on some bits and pieces. We walked back up the hill to the apartment and made plans for a visit to a museum tomorrow.

Date: Sunday, 4 April, 2004
Time: 1:16:04 pm
Topic: Sunday, 21st March

• Today was election day in Nice but for us more significant was the fact that it was the third Sunday in the month. As Jean & Perry had explained to us yesterday, this meant that admission to museums in the city was free today. This was sufficient spur to encourage us to follow up their suggestion of a visit to the Musée des Beaux Arts.

• We took the #7 bus down to the Promenade des Anglais and walked along in glorious sunshine, the best of the trip so far. When we turned the corner into the street leading to the museum and the sun was immediately shaded by the buildings, we decided not to waste the best of the sunshine but to take brunch in the sun and go to the museum afterwards.

• I fancied lunch on the beach but so did everybody else in Nice so the answer when we enquired was "complet, tout complet!". Lisa's preference was a brasserie on the Promenade and we found a likely looking place, where we could sit on the pavement in the sun, without too much difficulty.

• Lisa had a salad of fruits de mer and I had salmon in a creamy lemon sauce. I was more impressed by my fish than Lisa was by her salad but at least the sun was good. We had Perrier (Lisa), Badoit (me) and a 50cl pichet of rosé with the meal. Coffee to follow of course.

• Having refreshed the inner man and woman and enjoyed some sun, we made our way to the Musee des Beaux Arts. This is quite a small museum with paintings and a smattering of sculpture from the 15th to 20th centuries. The collection is rather haphazard but interesting nonetheless. Amongst loan items from the Louvre and Musée d'Orsay, there's quite a bit by local artist Jules Chéret, a small number of fascinating canvases by Raoul Dufy, plus some very interesting works by Marie Bashkirtseffand her rival Louise Breslau. When we were there, the museum was host to a temporary exhibition of pianos, charting the development of the instrument in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

• Once we'd looked all over the museum we headed back to the beach for an hour or so in what remained of the sun.

• As the sun sank lower in the sky we walked along the Promenade des Anglais (in the company of thousands of others). We crossed over into the Cours Saleya and visited the hat shop next to the Atmosphère restaurant. Here Lisa bought two new buffs to add to her collection and also bought me a Stetson hat that she could tell I was keen on.

• We checked out a few of the restaurants in the Cours on our way to have a couple of beers in the usual place. At 7.30 we returned to the Pêcherie Saleya to have dinner. It was far too cold to sit outside and we were seated in the upstairs dining room.

• After aperitifs of Kir (Lisa) and pastis (me), Lisa started with a fish soup and I had a half-dozen escargots.For the main course Lisa had a pavé de beouf grille while I had rascass with tarragon. We enjoyed a bottle of Bonnard (?) a.c. rouge. My choices seemed more to my liking than Lisa's were to hers but the decor and ambience of the upstairs room was beyond fault. For dessert, Lisa played safe with the traditional 3-boules glacé and I plumped for the tarte du jour which today (may be every day) was tarte aux pommes. The apple tart was superb and the ice cream didn't disappoint. We had a coffee each to finish.

• From the restaurant, we headed out to the taxi rank on the western edge of the the Jardin Albert 1er where we were lucky to find exactly one taxi free. We arrived back at the apartment without incident, and headed for bed soon after.

Date: Sunday, 4 April, 2004
Time: 1:17:35 pm
Topic: Monday, 22nd March

• We gradually surfaced around midday today.and made our way, by #7 bus to the Promenade des Anglais. We found a brasserie where Lisa could finally get her moules frites and sit in the warm sunshine (the best of the trip). I had a rabbit leg in a creamy herbed sauce, and we shared a mixed salad. As yesterday our boissons were Perrier for Lisa, Badoit for me and a 50cl pichet of rosé to share. Brunch was rounded off by coffee.

• We crossed the Promenade and spent an hour on the beach. It was windy but the sun was bright and the sea looked and sounded very calming. Lisa wrote a letter to Lalita, Steve dozed.

• All good things must come to an end, though, so we stirred ourselves and walked along the Promenade to the Old Town. In the Cours Saleya we found a bric-a-brac market just closing up so we spent a while browsing through the stalls.

• It being Monday, the two shops in Vieux Nice that Lisa especially wanted to visit were both closed which was a big disappointment. We did, however, manage to get a dozen oysters at the Grand Café du Turin.

• We took a #10 bus from Place Garibaldi to the bottom of Avenue Jean Medcin to visit Galleries Lafayettes. We had a look around the ground and first floors and got a few bits and pieces in the basement food hall.

• Shopping over, we got a #4 bus back to Cessole. We relaxed over a couple of martinis then began packing. In the end we did almost all of the packing and then set about preparing dinner.

• I attempted to recreate Friday's ratatouille, with moderate success, and we had a toulouse sausage between us with the rest of the red potatoes, boiled whole. As a starter we shared the dozen oysters we'd bought earlier in the afternoon. Tonight's wine was a red Côteaux d'Aix en Provence.

• Dinner over there wasn't much left to do. Our impending departure was already looming over us like a dark cloud. Lisa cleaned Uncle Jean's copper saucepans, as she has always done before we leave. Then we unfolded the bed and (I at least) got an early night.

Date: Sunday, 4 April, 2004
Time: 1:19:40 pm
Topic: Tuesday, 23rd March

• To our amazement, there was a hailstorm early this morning; not something we'd seen in Nice before! The children in the school across the road made just as much noise as ever: they crowded under cover rather than running amok in the playground and screamed just as loudly as usual!

• Unusually, Lisa was up and about before me this morning, so she made the coffee and cooked cheese omelets for breakfast, with reheated ratatouille from last night.

• We cleared away and ran the dishwasher, stripped the bed and put the linen in the washing machine, showered and dressed and packed our toiletries away then took the garbage down to the communal dustbins on our way out. We walked up to the bank to get money for the taxi fare to the airport and then over to Casino for some last minute shopping.

• Packing and tidying up complete, we sat down to await the arrival of Jean and Perry to say farewell. They arrived bearing a gift of olives for Lisa: Perry had been down to the shop in Vieux Nice that we'd found closed yesterday on a mission of mercy!

• After a couple of drinks it was time to get the Taxi to the airport. The departure area in Terminal 2 was a lot nicer than the squalid place we'd been used to waiting in at Terminal 1.

• EasyJet flight to Stansted, then a taxi home. Greeted by the usual pile of mail (mostly junk) and a very cold house. We turned the heating on and went out to dinner at the Kohinoor restaurant on Mill Road. We'd never been there before. For most of the time we were the only customers which wasn't too good, but the food was excellent and, for once, served in reasonable amounts.

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