15 September, 2011

Nice Journal - Autumn 2011 - 10

Thursday, 15th September, 2011

I did not sleep well the last night. Lisa spent much of the night in the sitting room where she could sleep propped up to ease the coughing which has plagued her for the last day or two. At seven I started pottering around, putting away the bedding and emptying the dishwasher. I made coffee for us both but neither of us felt in the mood to eat anything in the way of breakfast.

We had plenty of time before we had to leave so we were able to finish packing and clearing the place up at a relatively comfortable pace. As she'd promised, Lisa called Perry about an hour before we left. We closed up all the shutters and took out all the trash, loaded up the cool bag with our food for the train and then had nothing left to do but leave.

We walked over to the Gorbella tram stop and rode down to the station with our luggage. We had three pieces each and they were somewhat heavier than when we left England because of the culinary supplies we'd bought to take back with us. We got to the station with over half an hour in hand but eventually our train was given a platform and we struggled down and up the stairs to get over to the right place. The train came in almost at once and we quickly got settled in our seats ready for the seven hour ride to Lille.

Our coach was very sparsely populated as we left Nice to begin trundling along the Mediterranean coast as far as Marsaille. At each stop along the way a few more passengers joined the train. We had smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches for breakfast and soon afterwards Lisa reclined her seat and settled down for a nap.

A big influx of passengers at Toulon left our coach pretty much full and, after Avignon, the train picked up speed for the long run north through France to Marne la Vallée on the outskirts of Paris. We had ham and cheese sandwiches and a couple of pieces of fruit for lunch. There was a mass exodus from the train at Charles de Gaulle airport and only a select few of us continued towards Haut Picardy and Lille.

We arrived at Lille just a few minutes late and made our way up to the waiting room to await the opening of check-in for the Eurostar to London. The train arrived on time and left promptly. The passengers from Paris had already been served dinner so we could not help feeling like late arrivals at a dinner party. After a while I flagged down a purser who then served us a meal with suitably profuse apologies.

The Eurostar was packed and there was quite a stampede on disembarking at St. Pancras but to my dismay King's Cross was even worse: the station was jam packed with people and it was standing room only on the train to Cambridge. It was such a relief to be released from this grim coda to a very pleasant journey from Nice! We got a taxi home, fed the cats and then headed up the street to the Empress to end the evening in congenial surroundings.

14 September, 2011

Nice Journal - Autumn 2011 - 9

Wednesday, 14th September, 2011

In spite of the late night, I woke at seven. I lay quietly with Lisa until about nine before making coffee and taking out the bottles and "emboullages". We talked together about our sense of not having had as much "us" time while here as we would have liked. We determined in future to get up and out earlier so that we would have time to ourselves in the town before meeting up with Perry. We made a quick breakfast and were out around ten thirty.

We got off the tram at the Cathédrale stop and walked down through the main street of the old town, past the familiar shops and the fish market. Once at the Cathedral itself, we zig-zagged back through Vieux Nice to emerge in the Cours Saleya at les Ponchettes. By now the noon-day gun had gone off and the churches rung their agreement as to the hour so we walked directly round Quai Rauba Capeau to Foresta.

After a short chat and some nice cold water, we walked down to Quai Lunel to lunch at the Vesuvio, aka Chez Marinette & Fred. Marinette greeted us all warmly and we were seated at a very nice outside table. We all three consulted the menu but Lisa and Perry both decided to reprise favourite dishes from previous visits: an assiette cannibale (steak tartar and beef carpaccio) for Lisa and lasagne for Perry. I chose the "Joue de Lott" which was monkfish and moules in a creamy sauce flavoured with tarragon and saffron. We ordered a bottle of "Domine de la Croix" a cru classé Côtes de Provence rosé to drink, plus the regulation apple juice for Perry.

My dish was absolutely delicious! We definitely bookended our visit with the two best lunches judged on sheer quality of cooking. Lisa loved hers too and Perry was as satisfied as always with his favourite lasagne. Sitting on the Quai, in the warm sun, in such welcoming surroundings, eating such fine food (and very good wine too!) was heavenly. For dessert, Lisa had ice cream with chantilly cream and so (in the form of a Café Liègeoise) did I, while Perry opted for the "tarte paysanne". Coffee, of course, to finish along with a Limoncello "on the house". Perry graciously allowed me to pick up the bill for the lunch and, at the third attempt to get a card accepted by the machine, so we were able to treat him for once.

Lunch over we walked slowly down to the end of the Quai and then back along Rue de Foresta to Perry's place. There we sat out on the terrace and chatted for a couple of hours while looking out over the port. We ate the water melon that Lisa bought yesterday and Perry produced a half bottle of Champagne to toast Lisa's forthcoming birthday. The last parting is always the hardest but eventually we made our farewells, promising to call tomorrow and, of course, to return in March.

Lisa and I walked along the Quai des Etats-Unis to the Jardin Albert 1er and caught the tram at the Opéra stop. At the Casino on Cessole, we got bread and supplies for tomorrow's train journey. Back in the apartment, we reopened up all of the balcony doors and sat quietly for an hour or two before making a start on the packing. Once we'd made good headway with that, we turned our attention to the task of making the sandwiches for tomorrow. That done, we felt we'd made sufficient preparation for the journey and grazed on a selection of meats, cheeses, olives and tomatoes that we had left over. We felt very relaxed even though very sad that, yet again, we have to tear ourselves away from this place that we love so much.

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13 September, 2011

Nice Journal - Autumn 2011 - 8

Tuesday, 13th September, 2011

Lisa was feeling a little better this morning so, after the usual coffee and breakfast, we got out rather earlier than usual so that we could do some shopping at the Market in the Cours Saleya. We took the tram to the Cathédrale stop and walked through Vieux Nice to the Cours.

Lisa bought plenty of Marsailles soap, herbes de Provence, and paprika from various stalls to take back to the UK and finally a quarter water melon to take to Perry's. Errands complete we treated ourselves to a beer at the Civet de Cours before making our way round to Foresta.

We put the water melon in the fridge and helped ourselves to cold drinks while Perry finished some work on the computer. Our goal for the afternoon was the photographic museum ("Le théâtre de la photographie et de l'image Charles Negre") so we decided to try lunching close by and if unsuccessful close to the museum. We were once again turned away from "G Square" (clearly we do not have the right stuff to be allowed the privilege of access to their tables - fortunately an attitude that is exceedingly rare in Nice) so we took a bus to the Pietonne were we ate at "O'Palermo".

Lisa selected a squid dish, Perry went for the moules (marinières) frîtes and I choose veal escalope à la crème. My veal was delicious and Perry enjoyed his moules but Lisa found her squid overcooked and hence somewhat chewy. I picked a 2010 Bandol rosé and Lisa and I shared a half-bottle of that while Perry stuck with his regular tipple of apple juice. The wine was excellent. For dessert, Perry opted for the tarte tatin with ice cream, Lisa had a Café Liègeoise and I got a panna cotta with strawberry coulis. Coffee, of course, to finish. Apart from Lisa's squid, all was very tasty.

It was just a short walk from the Pietonne across Avenue Jean Médecin to the museum on Boulevard Dubouchage. The current exhibition is entitled "Parcours photographique" and features the work of several photographers capturing different aspects of Nice in a variety of styles. I was especially struck by a series of large, colour prints in a series called "Urbanistique". These showed figures of people juxtaposed in settings at once incongruous and illuminating, such as a pair of depictions of a mountaineering couple posed on ledges high above the railway station, a pianist playing in the middle of the tramway, a skier skiing down the tramway, an angel about to dive into an empty swimming pool, and several more very arresting images of that sort.

We caught a bus back to Place Garibaldi and walked down Ségurane to Foresta. We made plans for the following day (our last before returning home on Thursday) and then collected our shopping but left the melon to share tomorrow. After a beer in the Civet de Garibaldi, we got the tram home and I went up to Monoprix while Lisa called in at Casino on her way back to the apartment.

After a couple of hours or so of chilling, to the accompaniment of some Ron Carter (with and without Jim Hall) on the iPod (the first music we've played on this visit), it was time to have some supper. Lisa prepared a pair of Toulouse sausages fried in onions and each served in a half-baguette slathered with Dijon mustard. These were wonderfully tasty and very satisfying. Thanks to Lisa's Casino expedition, we had a bottle of 2010 Château de l'Aumerade Côtes de Provence rosé to go with supper; very nice indeed!

We stayed up rather later than recently, so it wasn't until 12:30 that we both headed for bed.

12 September, 2011

Nice Journal - Autumn 2011 - 7

Monday, 12th September, 2011

Lisa didn't feel any better this morning so she called Perry to say that we would stay up in Cessole for the day. I made coffee and we walked up to Monoprix via the pharmacy below our apartment where we got a nasal spay for Lisa. We got quite a lot of food for the next couple of days and some olives and mustard to take back to Cambridge. We rested up in the sitting room for a while before having something to eat for lunch at 2pm.

Lisa made us a picnic of reheated roast chicken, bread, cheeses and saucisson which we spread out on the coffee table in the sitting room and ate, mostly with our fingers. We enjoyed a 2010 Coteaux d'Aix en Provence rosé with the lunch.

After a couple of hours sitting with our respective iPads, Lisa (with my assistance) began to prepare dish of eggplant parmagiana which went into the oven to bake for a while. Almost as soon as the apartment was filled with the scent of baked aubergine, it was time to take the dish out and let it cool for a while before serving. The flavour was very intense, with a powerful aubergine taste which I really liked. We had a glass or two each of a 2008 Cahors that we had put by in the cupboard. After two portions each, we were both quite sated with eggplant parmagianna so we called it quits and I cleaned up the kitchen while Lisa snoozed on the couch.

Lisa headed for bed at 10:30 and I followed immediately afterwards.

11 September, 2011

Nice Journal - Autumn 2011 - 6

Sunday, 11th September, 2011

It was very bright this morning and soon very warm. I waited until Lisa was moving about before joining her. I made coffee but she did not want to eat any breakfast. We went up to Monoprix to get some supplies and hoping to be able to get a cold remedy for Lisa but it seems you can't buy such things in supermarkets here the way you can in the UK.

Today being a Sunday, all of the local pharmacies were closed so, once we were on the tram, I called Perry to ask if he knew of one that would be open on a Sunday. He suggested two that might be open in rue Cassini so we rode the tram to Place Garibaldi and went down to the port that way. Both pharmacies were shut but the second at least had a sign in the window listing a few that were open today. We noted that one was back in Avenue Jean Médecin.

Once we got to Foresta, we explained Lisa's plight to Perry and he found some decongestant amongst his supplies of medication from the States. This gave Lisa some immediate relief such that she felt able to go to lunch on the port. By now it was getting quite late but we walked around to the far side and found they had room for us at La Vigna on Quai Deux Emmanuels. We all felt in the mood for fish today: grilled sea bass ("loupe") for Perry, a blanquette of monkfish ("Lott") and salmon filets in a creamy sauce for me, and a mixed seafood grill for Lisa which included salmon, cod, prawns and scallops among others. Lisa and I shared a half-bottle of Côtes de Provence rosé, while Perry had his usual apple juice.

The fish was all extremely good and all three of us were delighted with our meals. The best quality cooking since Le Nautique on Wednesday. For dessert, Perry opted for the chocolate fondant while Lisa and I both chose Café Liegeoise. The desserts and the coffee to finish were well up to scratch so we were very pleased with our whole experience there this afternoon.

We walked slowly back to Foresta by which time it was gone four so, after a short while chatting on the balcony, we retrieved our shopping from Perry's fridge and made our farewells. We stopped for a beer in Place Garibaldi and got a tram from there up to the Jean Médecin stop. We walked further up the street looking for the pharmacy at No. 60. To our great relief, it was indeed open and were able to get some "Actifed" for Lisa's congestion.

We continued up to the Gare Thiers stop where we caught the following tram to Gorbella. This was very full and sweaty and by the time we got in to the apartment we were both drenched in sweat. We did what we could to cool down and Lisa took an Actifed. Then she lay down on the sofa to try to get some sleep and I spent the next hour writing this up to date here.

After a couple of hours, Lisa wanted to eat so I prepared an "assiette de fromage" for each of us with some sliced baguette. We turned in around ten, with Lisa opting to try sleeping in the bedroom, at least to begin with.

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10 September, 2011

Nice Journal - Autumn 2011 - 5

Saturday, 10th September, 2011

Yet another bright, sunny and very warm morning! Following our usual routine, we left at 11:45 and took the tram down as far as Opéra from where we walked through the Cours Saleya and round to Foresta via Quai des Etats-Unis and Quai Rauba Capeau. We talked Perry through changing the battery in his camera and inserting and removing the memory card. Perry proposed that we lunch at the "ex-Bliss" on Quai Rauba Capeau before taking a taxi to the Musée Matisse.

What used to the the Bliss is now known as "Leo's" and looks much more modern and "young". The food was good, though, although I don't think I made the best choice in opting for the risotto with mushrooms and truffles. Lisa had a Salade Niçoise and Perry a tomato and mozzarella salad which they both reported to be very good. Lisa and I had crème brûlée for dessert while Perry went for the tarte tatin. Very nice coffee to finish with.

As planned, Perry called for a taxi which took us up the hill to Cimiez and the Musée Matisse. As we walked over to the villa which houses the museum we passed a quintessential French scene of several games of boules in progress under the trees. The museum itself proved to be a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar exhibits which was well worth seeing. After the museum, we walked past the remains of the Roman arena, over to the nearby cemetery to visit the tomb of Matisse which is located in a peaceful, secluded garden away from the main burial ground.

We waited for a long time at the bus stop by the cemetery. Tour buses came and went and we saw a 1950s American Ford Custom sedan being used as a wedding car but no No. 17 bus came by. After an hour we walked a short way down the street to the next road where there were stops for other services and soon caught a bus into the city centre from there. We all alighted together at Avenue Jean Médecin and we saw Perry onto his bus to the port before walking down to Place Masséna for a beer.

We watched a succession of utterly crammed full trams heading towards the port where there was to be a festival tonight. After a while we walked on into the Cours Saleya and Les Ponchettes followed by pizza at La Storia. Lisa had a Cannibale and I had another very meaty one called a Pinocchio. We shared a bottle of Chianti with the pizzas. Towards the end of the meal, Lisa was talked into buying a wooden elephant figure by a Senegalese street trader; she did at least talk him into letting her have it for €10 rather than the €35 he initially asked for.

We walked back to the Opéra tram stop and were treated to a blast from Verdi's Aida as we passed the opera house. Once back at the apartment, we opened all the windows and balcony doors to help cool the place down a bit. At one point we could see and hear the fireworks from the festival at a the port.

I turned in fairly early and Lisa came to bed a little later but she could not sleep as her cold was feeling much worse when she lay down. Eventually, Lisa took her bedding through into the sitting room so that she could lie propped up on the sofa there. That way she did at least get a few hours' sleep.

09 September, 2011

Nice Journal - Autumn 2011 - 4

Friday, 9th September, 2011

The day of our excursion to Monaco started slowly. By the time we had showered and dressed and had breakfast, it was gone twelve before we set out for Gorbella. We got off the tram at Masséna and quickly found the stop where the No. 100 bus to Menton starts. The bus arrived almost immediately and we paid our €1 each and took a pair of seats towards the rear of the bus. The bus takes about an hour to reach Monaco, driving along the corniche by the sea. It was a comfortable ride and the views were magnificent!

We were unsure at which stop in Monaco we should alight and stayed on the bus all the way up Monte Carlo to the tourist office. There we picked up a street plan of Monaco and got directions for how to get from there to the aquarium by taking the No. 1 or 2 bus back to Monaco Ville. Once there it was not clear where we should go but we quickly worked it out with the help of our newly-acquired street plan.

We were pleased to find that the yellow submarine which we remembered from our previous trip is still on display outside the museum. Lisa bought us a baguette sandwich each for lunch which we ate while sitting in the warm sun. Lunch over, we got our admission tickets and climbed the imposing steps to the entrance to the museum. The aquarium is in the basement and the upper two storeys form the Oceanographic museum but much of the latter is currently occupied by an exhibition celebrating the recent wedding of Prince Albert II. As our main reason for coming was to see the aquarium, we headed downstairs into the gloom.

There is a lot to see in a relatively compact area. A large central shark lagoon is flanked by two wings: one for tropical fish and the other for Mediterranean fish. The temperature difference between the two wings is very marked! We spent a good two hours taking in all of the exhibits. The tropical fish were very exotic and brightly coloured while the Mediterranean species were more muted in colour and often quite familiar, many of them from the fishmonger's slab!

We rested our tired feet sitting on benches watching the shark tank for quite a while before taking a look around the upper floors. These were a curious mixture of displays: huge skeletons of whales hung from the ceiling, old fashioned displays in wooden cases and more modern exhibits. I particularly enjoyed seeing the reconstruction of a nineteenth century oceanographic survey ship's laboratory. We exited via the gift shop where I bought the traditional fridge magnet.

By now it was after six so we walked back down from Le Rocher to the Place des Armes where we should have got off the bus from Nice. We quickly located the return stop and a bus arrived almost immediately. In fact TWO arrived simultaneously. We got on the second bus and found seats, though not together. The ride back was as pleasant as the ride out and seemed to pass even more quickly.

We got off at Place Garibaldi and went to the Civette de Garibaldi for a couple of St. Omer "à la pression". After that we decided to treat ourselves to dinner out at the Grand Café de Turin next door. We found a table for two in the open air on the edge of the Place Garibaldi. Lisa went for variety with a mixed platter of raw and cooked seafood whle I kept things simple with a dozen "No. 1" oysters. We shared a bottle of Sancerrre and passed a very pleasant couple of hours in the warm evening. Lisa found her platter quite a lot to deal with so I had three of her eight oysters. The food was wonderfully fresh and a real pleasure to eat. It was a really magical experience.

After coffee, we strolled back across the Place Garibaldi to catch the tram home. We looked through the photos we'd taken today. Inside an aquarium is a difficult place to take pictures and even Lisa, with her DSLR, struggled to get really good shots of the fish we saw. We played iPad games for a while, then I was the first to turn in.

08 September, 2011

Nice Journal - Autumn 2011 - 3

Thursday, 8th September, 2011

Lisa was the first one up and about this morning and it wasn't until about half past nine that I joined her and put the coffee on. As well as the cooked ham, today we had a lovely block of goat's cheese as part of our breakfast. This went down very well. The morning was bright and sunny from the first and Lisa tried out her new telephoto lens for a while after we'd eaten. We got ourselves out a little earlier this morning and took the tram down to Place Garibaldi. We walked down rue Cassini in the hot sunshine and arrived at Foresta at 12:15.

Perry greeted us and quickly steered us out again because Nicole was busy in the apartment. Nicole has kept house for Perry and Jean for the best part of twenty years now, both at Cessole and Foresta. She is a real treasure and a very pleasant person; she always greets Lisa and I very warmly if we turn up at Foresta while she's there. Perry, though, doesn't like to receive company while Nicole is working so we have got used to being quickly but firmly ushered back out if we arrive while she's there.

We walked up Ségurane to the Place Garibaldi but there was no room for us at the "Square G" restaurant that Perry had hoped would be our lunch venue for the day. Consequently, we walked back down towards the Port to try our luck at "Le Local", an Italian restaurant in rue Rusca which Nicole had recommended. Perry did not seem sure it was a good choice but Lisa and I were game and so we were seated at an outdoor table and checked out the menu. Lisa chose a dish of gnocchi and aubergine as her main course while Perry and I both went for the lasagne with pesto. Before that, however, we agreed to share a platter of cold meat with Lisa as a starter.

There were seven types of Italian charcuterie on the platter including Salami di Napoli, Mortadella, Coppa, a Parma- style cured ham, a sweet sausage, a spicy salami and a cooked ham. A very varied selection but all very good indeed. Our main courses were no less appreciated: Lisa reported that her gnocchi were light and fluffy and that the tomatoes and aubergine in the sauce were delicious. The lasagne was rolled very thin, almost like filo pastry, and very soft without being at all watery. The pesto was pungent and, as did Lisa's dish, included a few whole fresh basil leaves. I felt the food was terrific and very authentic. For dessert, Lisa and I opted for the home-made tiramisu which was served in a small Kilner jar and was wonderfully light with delightfully soft and moist sponge. Perry said that he enjoyed his rum baba too. Coffee to finish was distinctly Italian rather than French. All in all it was a very enjoyable meal: not fine dining like yesterday but good, honest, satisfyingly tasty food that Lisa and I agreed we'd be keen to sample again.

As we had walked to Garibaldi and now almost all the way back to the Port, Perry requested that we take a bus back up to MAMAC: our cultural destination for the afternoon. The current exhibition was unusual in that, rather than focussing on an individual or a small group of artists, it was based around a theme and featured works by a large number of artists unified by the significance of colour in the pieces. Several of the pieces were drawn from the museum's permanent collection and so were familiar to us yet rendered unfamiliar in the altered context. It made for a stimulating and rewarding couple of hours viewing. Out on the terrace, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Assan Smati's sculpture "Dos Santos" was still in place,the two huge wooden pylon figures looking very different in the hot hazy sunshine than they had in the pouring rain back in March.

We walked Perry slowly back to Foresta. He was feeling quite spent. We agreed to meet again the day after tomorrow and that tomorrow would be a good day for Lisa and I to make our excursion to Monaco without him. We showed Perry some recent photos on our iPads, including a few that we'd taken today. Finally we left the poor man alone and, as yesterday, made our way round by the sea-front to the Cours Saleya for a couple of beers, this time at our frequent haunt: les Planchettes. Much heart-to-heart talking ensued without, for once, leading to discord. We strolled through the old town to Place Garibaldi and caught a tram home. No need for Monoprix tonight.

We grazed on a selection of olives, Coppa, carrot sticks with cheese dip, and salty snacks. We cleared most of this away and Lisa retreated to the bedroom with her Kindle while I looked in some old guide books for some information to help deal with the prospect of Monaco on the morrow. By midnight I had done with that and so caught up with my journalling to this point before I too headed for bed.

07 September, 2011

Nice Journal - Autumn 2011 - 2

Wednesday, 7th September, 2011.

There was no school today, so it was unusually quiet at 8:45 when my alarm went off, even though we had left all the windows and balcony doors wide open all night for coolness. As the morning was looking cloudy and cool, I closed up the doors while making coffee for us both.

Breakfast was a simple affair of cream cheese and ham on bread and butter with orange juice. We took our time getting ourselves organised and it was almost noon before we set out for the tram stop over on Gorbella. We rode the tram as far as Place Garibaldi and walked down Ségurane to Foresta. By now the sun had burned off the early morning haze and was quite fiercely bright and delightfully warm.

Perry welcomed us and we passed over our gifts of various quintessentially British biscuits. We chatted for a while and then agreed to go down to Le Nautique on Quai Lunel for lunch. Perry was warmly greeted by the proprietor of the place and we were seated at a table to the rear of the terrace. Lisa and Perry both opted to have the grilled loup (sea bream) while I ordered the risotto St. Jaques (scallops). Lisa and I shared a half of Côtes de Provence rosé. The food was spectacularly good: far better than on our last visit (a year ago - it was closed for refurbishment, read "gutted and rebuilt from the inside out", in March) and back to the excellence of our first visit with Lisa's uncle.

We had desserts (crème caramel for Lisa and I, chocolate fondant for Perry) which were, like the wine, good but not as outstanding as the main dishes. Typically excellent coffee to finish (restaurants in France generally do serve extremely good coffee) with Limoncello "on the house". Although we were so close to the busy Quai, the traffic (apart from the acasional motorcycles) was not disturbing and we enjoyed sitting and talking for a couple of hours out of the direct sun.

Eventually we moved on to make our way gently back up to Foresta where we sorted out Perry's camera battery charger (I'd bought the required adapter with me from England) and continued talking for another hour or more. We made plans for a couple of museum visits but Perry declined to join us on a trip to Monaco to see the aquarium there. Having set a time to meet tomorrow, we made our farewells and walked around Quai Rauba Capeu to the Cours Saleya and had a couple of "Seize" at the Civette de la Cours while sitting in the late afternoon sun and watching the world go by.

We got the tram home from the Cathédrale stop and popped into the Gorbella Monoprix for a few bits and pieces (plus a set of 19cl wine glasses and a bra). We grazed on a selection of snacks, including some fresh prawns which we dipped in cocktail sauce, and I had another beer. Lisa went off for an early night and I turned in some time afterwards.

06 September, 2011

Nice Journal - Autumn 2011 - 1

Tuesday, 6th September, 2011.

Our alarms got us up at 3am so that we would be in time to catch the first train of the day out of Cambridge. Our packing and food for the journey had all been completed the previous day. We managed a smooth exit from the house, one of the least fraught I can remember! We took a taxi to the station and the train down to Tottenham Hale (the first King's Cross train leaves too late to make the connection with the 7:22 Eurostar). From there we took a tube to King's Cross and went straight to the Eurostar terminal in St. Pancras International, checked in and went through the security checks and passport control.

The train to Paris was only about half-full. We ate home-made smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches for breakfast as soon as we were underway. Later we were served croissants and coffee etc. on the train. It was a smooth 2.5hr run through to Gare du Nord then two stops on the RER to Gare de Lyon. There was a short wait for our train to be ready then we had a long hike down the platform to the very front coach of the train.

Unlike the Eurostar, the TGV (which was going on to Ventimiglia, just across the border in Italy) was pretty full. We settled into our comfy seats for the six-hour journey down to Nice. We had brought home-made ham and cheese sandwiches for our lunch and ate these with some fruit and a couple of packs of crisps as we hammered through the French countryside at 300km/hr. Although we had both brought plenty of reading material for the trip, I spent much of the time just watching the scenery fly by outside.

Once we reached Toulon, the speed abated and the frequency of stops increased as we worked our way along the Mediterranean coast. We got to Nice at 5:45pm feeling relaxed and de-stressed by the wonderfully comfortable ride. A short taxi ride up to Cessole and we were done. Nice was very warm and quite humid: a welcome change from the cool, grey weather in the UK and Paris.

Perry had visited the apartment the previous day and left us a begonia pot-plant and a couple of multiple-use tram/bus tickets along with a brief welcome message, and a bottle of rosé in the fridge. How sweet of him! We dumped our luggage and headed straight over to the Monoprix on Gorbella to get something for dinner and breakfast and some beer and snacks. Back home we opened a beer each, turned on the overhead fan, opened up all the doors onto the balconies and got ourselves unpacked. Lisa called Perry to let him know we'd arrived safely and arranged to meet tomorrow.

Dinner was rump steak and a simple salad accompanied by the 2009 Côtes de Rhone rosé "L'emblème du Terroir" that Perry had left us. All very fine indeed!

Dinner over, I loaded the dishwasher and laid out the bedding. I then immediately lay down to sleep. Lisa stayed up for a while in the sitting room and came to bed somewhat later.

05 June, 2011

A Soggy Day in London Town

My alarm went off at its normal working day time of 6am but this was a Sunday! Necessary, though if we were to get out on time. Our destination was a day at Lord's Cricket Ground in London to see the third day of the second test match between England and Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Ticket 2011
Sri Lanka Ticket 2011

We'd prepared our lunch and tea the evening before so it was just a question of loading up two cool bags from the fridge and we were ready to go. A cab to the station was the first leg of the journey into London. Time for a coffee at the station before our train pulled in. It was already clear that the warm sun of the last two days had deserted us and we were in for a cool and cloudy day. We had extra clothing layers in our bags to take care of that so we felt well prepared. The train journey into London passed off pleasantly enough then two short tube legs brought us within walking distance of the ground.

All the way from Cambridge we'd been spotting people clearly headed to the same place and as we walked up St. John's Wood Road we were part of a stream of fellow spectators. There was no hold-up getting into the ground, in spite of the security searches of bags and people, and we made our way round behind the stands in search of the staircase leading up to our seats. We had front-row seats in the upper deck of the Compton Stand and so had a superb, uninterrupted view of the entire pitch.

Day Out at Lord's
View from our seats

Play resumed with Sri Lanka on 231-1 in their first innings in reply to England's 486. Sangakkara and Dilshan were batting and England's bowlers toiled to dislodge them. Only one wicket (that of Sangakkara) fell in the morning session. Even though things weren't going England's way, we were enjoying the atmosphere and the rare chance to see test cricket in the flesh. At lunch Dilshan and Mehela Jayawardene had taken the Sri Lankan total to 344-2.

Day Out at Lord's
Play in progress - morning session

We dove into our cool bags for some grilled chicken and some crudités with blue-cheese dip. There was a ham sandwich each and a selection of cubed cheeses. Quite enough to keep us going for another couple of hours. On the field we were entertained by a traditional Sri Lankan dance and drumming troupe and the usual groups of young school children playing "Quick Cricket".

Day Out at Lord's
Sri Lankan Drummers and Dancers

Day Out at Lord's
Quick Cricket

Play resumed under increasingly cloudy skies and about thirty minutes into the session, Dilshan received a nasty blow on the hand and took some time to resume playing. He was clearly handicapped by his injury and was out soon after for 193 which was a great shame as he thoroughly deserved to get his double century. After another half hour's play the sprinkles of rain that had come and gone all afternoon got heavy enough for the umpires to take the players off with the score at 372-3 and the famous Lord's hover cover to be brought on to cover the wicket.

Day Out at Lord's
Hover cover in position

It didn't seem that there was much prospect of the weather improving significantly and the rest of the covers were gradually brought on too. An early tea was declared. After tea the floodlights were turned on and play did actually resume but a grand total of five balls were bowled, with no addition to the score, before the players were taken off again.

Day Out at Lord's
Play in progress - for just five balls

This time it really did look terminal and we decided to cut our losses. As it turned out it was a smart move as there was indeed no further play that day. We walked back down towards the tube station and called in at the Green Man Inn next to Edgware Road (Bakerloo Line) Tube. There, over a few beers, we watched Rafael Nadal's demolition of Roger Federer in the Men's Singles final of the French Open Tennis Championship. Once that match was over we headed back to Cambridge where we finished off the day with a pizza at home.

Day Out at Lord's
Scoreboard at close of play

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

05 April, 2011

Nice Journal - Spring 2011 - 14

At 7am on Tuesday, 5th April, I made coffee before popping out for some bread. Lisa made sandwiches for the train while I put away the bedding and closed up all the shutters. As always we tried to leave as little as possible for Nicole to clean up after we'd gone. Lisa made a final farewell call to Perry and we were ready to leave. I called for a taxi but after two attempts and two fruitless waits in the call queue we decided to opt for plan B and lug all our stuff over to Gorbella and get the tram down to the station. We'd had taxi trouble getting to the airport in September so Lisa had insisted that we be prepared to get to the station by alternate means.

We left at 9:30 and were pretty heavily laden but we made it to the tram stop OK. To my immense relief, the tram wasn't busy and we got to sit by the door with all our bags for the four stops to "Gare-Thiers". From there it was a short walk to the station and we were soon settled on our seats ready for the off.

Nice - Lille TGV
Nice - Lille TGV
Our seats were on the lower deck of the rearmost coach of the two coupled TGV trains on platform E and, as we left Nice, were two of only five passengers there. We gradually gained more company as we rolled along the Côte d'Azure towards Marseille where the two trains were due to separate. The front train was bound for Brussels whereas our train was due to terminate at Lille Europe from where we would get the Eurostar to London.

The train seemed much newer than the one that had brought us to Nice from Paris two weeks previously. The French TGVs are such wonderful trains! So smooth that there is no discernible transition from being stationary to moving and so quiet that all the passengers talk in whispers!

We had our breakfast of smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches after passing through Cannes. Lisa is dozing in the window seat and I'm now all caught up to date here. It's just passed noon and we are currently flying through beautiful French countryside in glorious sunshine somewhere before Toulon.  Lisa is now reading her Kindle and the lady in the single seat across the aisle from me is playing Scrabble on her iPad so I think I shall go retro and read a paper-based book, Fuchsia Dunlop's "Shark's Fin & Sichuan Pepper", for a while.

* * *

At Marseille there was some delay as the two trains were separated but eventually we departed, reversing out of the platform so that we were now in the leading coach of the train. Lisa declared that now, 1:30, was time for lunch. So we opened up our cold bag and had a few sandwiches each and shared an orange. Now that the TGV is on the high-speed track north of Marsailles, it's racing along at a much faster speed. For Lisa and me it's back to the reading as we approach Avignon!

* * *

I finished the book just before we arrived at Marne-la-Vallée, on the outskirts of Paris, which I visited a couple of times on business back in 1993 when working on the Belgacom project (BNR Europe had a Meridian R&D lab there). After a short leg to Roissy-CDG, we are now on our way to Haute-Picardie: the last stop before we get to Lille. The weather is much cloudier now we are north of the capital; suggestive, perhaps, of what we are returning to in England.

* * *

We arrived at Lille right on time. Check-in for our train to London was not yet open so we waited a while in the waiting room. Finally we got to check in and wait in the featureless waiting room until allowed down onto the platform shortly before the Eurostar arrived from Brussels.

As soon as we were under way we were served a light meal with wine and coffee. It was raining in Lille and there was low white cloud all the way to the coast. By the time we re-emerged in England it was night time. We got into St. Pancras on time and were soon on a train for Cambridge.

And that, dear reader, is all I wrote!

04 April, 2011

Nice Journal - Spring 2011 - 13

Monday, 4th April. Six in the morning is still over an hour before dawn here at this time of year so I came into the lounge and read for an hour before rejoining Lisa in bed for two more hours.

Self Portrait
Self Portrait
At nine, I went out to buy bread and some Ibuprofen for Lisa. On my return, I made coffee and rejoined Lisa in bed once more for a pleasant hour or so's lie-in. I made some more coffee while Lisa prepared a mozzarella and tomato salad (complete with basil pesto which she made using a tea cup and a mustard jar as an improvised mortar and pestle!) for breakfast. Breakfast was delicious! The produce here is so fresh and so bursting with flavour that even the simplest of dishes taste extravagantly good!

After breakfast, I loaded the dishwasher, showered and shaved and got dressed to go shopping with Lisa to the Monoprix. We managed to get everything on our list, including a cold-bag to carry our food for tomorrow's 7.5 hour train journey to Lille.

For lunch we had our third helping of fish soup and all its bits. This was as wonderfully tasty as ever. After lunch we did most of our packing for tomorrow (during which the bookmark we'd bought for Perry in Lincoln came to light in the bottom of Lisa's bag) and then Lisa cut up a bunch of vegetables and a chicken which she seasoned and put in a pot with a can of tomatoes and other good stuff.

We let the whole lot bubble for about forty minutes then Lisa removed the vegetables from the pot and added two cut-up potatoes. After another forty minutes she returned the vegetables to the pot and brought everything back to the boil before turning off the gas and leaving the pot to sit on the stove for another hour or so. While all this was going on we variously read, wrote and played a game of Scrabble. Lisa also called Perry as had been arranged yesterday.

Last Night Dinner
Last Night Dinner - Chicken Casserole
When we were ready to eat, Lisa served out the chicken casserole and I opened another bottle of the excellent white Graves that we'd enjoyed so much earlier in the week. As it's our last meal in Nice this visit, we took some photos. The dish was wonderfully tasty and we ate a surprising amount of what had seemed plenty for four! The wine did not disappoint the second time around either. I mentioned during the meal that we have very often ended a visit here with a chicken dish on the last night.

We cleared away and ran the dishwasher but we did not want the day to end so it was not until very late that we finally settled down for our last night at around three o'clock. What was left of the night was undisturbed but did not feature much in the way of sleep either.

03 April, 2011

Nice Journal - Spring 2011 - 12

Sunday, 3rd April, was yet another sunny morning and I made coffee at 9am. We had a breakfast of bread and cheese with more coffee and were out of the apartment soon after 10:30. Considering it's Sunday, we didn't have long to wait for a tram.

Auto Bleue - electric vehicles for rent
Auto Bleue charging & rental point
As it was so sunny and warm, and our last day down in the centre-ville, I insisted that we get off at Massèna and walk along the promenade. As we made our way from the tram to the sea-front, we ran into an "auto bleue" electric vehicle charging and rental point, the first of these that we'd encountered.

Once we were in Perry's apartment I went with him into his study to disconnect and pack away his old computer. After a while, Lisa joined us and all three of us lugged the old PC into the lift and then into Perry's cave.

Back in the apartment, I helped Perry learn how to load photos from his new camera onto the PC hard drive. And, once he'd grasped that, we walked down to Quai Lunel to end the gustatory part of our visit where we'd begun: at chez Marinette and Fred, otherwise known as Le Vesuvio.

Greeted warmly by Marinette, we were seated at a lovely sunny table on the pavement. Perry and I both decided to have the lasagne today, while Lisa choose the "assiette cannibale" of steak tartare on a bed of beef carpaccio. For wine I picked a Chateau Robine (Côtes de Provence) red that was lovely and full. The lasagne lived up to its billing and Lisa declared that the carpaccio was a fitting addition to the tartare. For dessert, Lisa chose the Café Liègeoise, Perry went for a Tarte au Pommes Paysanne and I had one last Tiramisu. Coffees all round and Limoncello "on the house" completed our last meal together.

We walked back to Foresta and Perry phoned for a taxi to take us to the Musée des Beaux Arts at Les Baumettes. Lisa and I had visited here before on our own but hadn't been with Perry before today's visit.

Spread out over two floors with a huge staircase between the two, the Musée des Beaux Arts is full of sculpture and paintings, many of the latter on a truly grand scale. A very impressive collection that it took a good two hours to look through. I was especially taken with several sculptures by Michel de Tarnowsky, including a striking depiction of Marie Bashkirsteff.

Hotel Elysee Palace
Statue by Sacha Sosno
When we'd completed our tour round the collection we walked down the hill a little way to get a No. 10 bus back to the port. On the way down to the bus stop, Perry pointed out the statue (by local artist Sacha Sosno) embedded in the facade of the Elysee Palace Hotel on the Promenade des Anglais. Apparently there is a matching figure at the other end of the building.

After a final few minutes together at Perry's, we made our goodbyes, promising to call tomorrow evening, and walked back round the sea-front to stop off for another couple of beers at l'Eden on our way back to the tram.

Back home we put our feet up, played a game of Scrabble and decided that we didn't want supper. I took myself off to bed just after 11pm and Lisa followed some time later. At some point in the middle of the night I woke up feeling very uncomfortable so I took the splint out and dozed fitfully until about six.

02 April, 2011

Nice Journal - Spring 2011 - 11

Local School's Vide GrenierSaturday, 2nd April, was the date of the "vide grenier" (literally "attic emptying" or jumble sale) at the school across the road. So the playground was full of trestle tables piled with bric-a-brac and dozens of parents sorting through what was on offer. Unlike a playground full of kids, however, no noise at all reached us from all this activity below!

I made coffee at nine and we got talking. We even had a second cup of coffee each which we took onto the lounge to continue our conversation. As a result we had to make a quick breakfast and an equally quick getaway to be out of the building by 11:30. We got off the tram at Opera and bought Perry a potted Jasmine plant from his favourite gardening store. Then we walked straight through to the sea front and walked all the way round to Foresta in the warm sun on the promenade. We arrived at Perry's at around 12:15.

After some discussion we agreed that we'd eat in Vieux Nice before visiting the Palais Lascaris. So the three of us walked up Segurane to Garibaldi and spent some time looking at the artwork on display there. From there we walked on down through the old town and out onto the Cour Saleya. We waited for more than ten minutes at Bistro Romain but nobody acknowledged us, let alone offered to seat us, so we walked on and out onto the seafront where Lisa and I had been just over an hour before.

We fetched up at Le Bellanda on the Quai des Etats-Unis. We sat outside in hope of sunshine even though the sun was obscured by clouds at the time. We consulted the menu and Perry went for the scallops, Lisa for a stockfish stew and I chose the daube with gnocchi. From the wine list I selected a Bandol Rouge which turned out to be thoroughly excellent and we got through 1.5l of Badoit between us (more than half of it drunk by me!).

All judged the food to be first rate. The daube was dark and rich, unlike the one we make at home, and had two substantial pieces of beef. Very tasty and perfectly accompanied by the floury gnocchi. At dessert time, Perry and I both had the tiramisu (which was pungent and moist the way I like it and had cherries on it and so was the best one this visit since the one at the Vesuvio on our first day more than a week ago now) while Lisa chose a concoction of "white cheese" (seems more like some kind of yoghurt) with fig jam and honey which she really liked but of which she could eat no more than half. Coffee to finish, of course, and Perry allowed us to pick up the bill.

There had been some sun in fits and starts so we didn't rush to finish but at last made our way back into Vieux Nice. Our first port of call was at the Eglise St. Jacques "Le Gesu" in Place Jesus on the Rue Droit where we dutifully looked at the decoration and the painted saints before moving on to the Palais Lascaris.

Salon des SaisonsThe Palais Lascaris is a 17th century town house in the rue Droit in the centre of Vieux Nice. It houses a collection of musical instruments and documents from the archives of the Gaveau, Erard and Pleyel companies famous from the eighteenth to the twentieth for their pianos, harps and reproductions of older instruments. In addition to these collections the painted ceilings, tapestries and art works of the Palais itself are very attractive. The house is on four or more levels (of which the bottom three are open to the public) and a feature of the architecture that struck me wad that, although all of the rooms themselves are fully enclosed the staircase that connects them is open to the elements. I guess in a predominantly warm and dry climate this is not a problem. Anyway, the building and its contents are fascinating and it was well worth a visit.

Foreign Legion Recruiting OfficeAfter the Palais Lascaris, we continued a little further along rue Droit and the turned right to climb a stepped street (possibly the rue de Four) to place St Augustine where we looked around another church full of Saints: Eglise St. Martin - St. Augustine. From there we descended rue Sincaire, past the Foreign Legion recruiting office, down to the familiar environs of rue Catherine Segurane and thence back to Perry's.

Perry had done a lot of walking and stairs this afternoon so it was understandable that he was too tired to be shown anything on the computer as previously mooted. So we agreed to come early tomorrow and do the computer work before lunch. After some discussion, we agreed that the Musée des Beaux Arts would be our final cultural objective of this visit.

After we took our leave of Perry we walked back along the Promenade as far as a bar called l'Eden on the Cité du Port section of the Quai des Etats-Unis. Here we sat on the early evening sun for over an hour while sipping a couple of beers each. It was a nice atmosphere with fewer tourists than in the Cour Saleya and we both found it to be very relaxing.

Eventually it was time to continue our stroll along the front and up to the tram stop at Opera. Once back at Gorbella we both went up to Monoprix to get supplies including steak haché for tonight and a chicken for tomorrow.

Lisa duly made a dinner of the steak haché with the rest of her vegetable gratin and some fresh salad leaves. This was as delicious as it sounds and very satisfying.

I cleared up after the meal and we settled down to bed. I tossed and turned for several hours but finally got to sleep for a while before Lisa's alarm went off at 8:30am.

01 April, 2011

Nice Journal - Spring 2011 - 10

Friday, 1st April, was again a warm sunny morning from first thing. I got up and made coffee and we had breakfast but somehow we didn't get out of the apartment until almost 11:30. We got the tram down as far as Opera and walked through the Cour Saleya and round Quai Rauba Capeu to Foresta. On our way through the Cour Saleya we bought some flowers and strawberries for Perry and some rouille spices for Lisa. Lisa also took quite a lot of photos so it was 12:30 by the time we got to Perry's.

We had not noticed the noon-day gun go off and Perry explained that the gun had been fired at 11am today, making a "poisson d'Avril" of the whole town.

View across the bayPerry proposed that we go over to Villefranche-sur-Mer for lunch so, while we put his flowers in a vase, Perry called for a taxi and we went down to the street to wait for the car. Perry sat up front next to the very talkative driver and the two conversed all the way to Villefranche. We lunched at "Achill's" in the old "Calypso" building right next to the Customs offices on the waterfront. We sat out in the very warm sun and had our lunch.

Perry and Lisa both chose Cannelloni with spinach and cheese on a tomato sauce which they declared to be delicious and both ate all of their very large helpings. I went for the linguine with rabbit in a creamy sauce and did not regret my choice either. At Lisa's behest we did not have wine. For dessert, Perry had his favourite lemon tart, I had a lovely tarte-tatin, and Lisa had lemon and strawberry ice-cream. Coffee all round completed the meal, as ever.

Perry wanted to head back to Nice right after lunch so we took the No. 80 bus from Villefranche. This little bus took a bumpy, twisty route back to Nice, keeping high up the hill away from the sea. Quite unlike the quiet, smooth, sea-side ride of the Renault taxi before lunch. At last we rattled into Nice and changed onto a No. 7 to complete our journey back to the port.

We stayed a little while at Foresta before setting off for Garibaldi. We sat in the sun over a couple of beers and then went over to the Garibaldi Monoprix to shop for dinner before getting the tram home.

Lisa made us a vegetable gratin with canned and fresh tomatoes, aubergine, courgette and onions with fresh Mozarella and grated Grana Padana. This was very richly flavoured and deliciously fresh tasting in spite of being baked for quite some time. Again, Lisa did not want us to have wine with the meal.

I did what little clearing up there was to do after the meal and then settled down for bed. Again I lasted about five hours with the splint before it became too uncomfortable to bear. Tonight, however, I didn't wake Lisa by snoring once I'd taken it out. That was a relief because my teeth felt very sore for several hours after I removed the splint.

31 March, 2011

Nice Journal - Spring 2011 - 9

Thanks to the device, Lisa had a much better night's sleep and awoke on Thursday, 31st March, feeling much refreshed. After I had made coffee as usual, we passed a very pleasant couple of hours in bed before rising soon after ten. Lisa made us cheese omelettes for breakfast.

We were not due to see Perry today, so we had made plans to take an excursion by ourselves to Antibes to see the Picasso museum there. Consequently we took the tram down to Massèna and walked along Av. Félix Faure looking for the bus stop for the Transport Alpes Maritimes (TAM) service 200 that runs between Cannes and Nice. It was very helpful that a 200 bus was waiting at the stop having just got in from Cannes! We boarded and payed our €1 fare and settled down for the ride to Antibes. I had to keep an eye out all the way to keep track of where we were so that we would know when we'd reached Antibes and the correct stop for our destination. We were successful in this and alighted in Av. Aristide Briand just off the Place du General Charles de Gaulle.

Place du General Charles de Gaulle
Lisa was keen to eat immediately so we sat down at the nearest eatery in the Place. This was the Duplex and we ordered a pizza for Lisa and I chose the fish dish of the day (a brace of petit lotte in a moroccan sauce with rice, broccoli and an unannounced langoustine). We had beer rather than wine and Lisa did not want a dessert so we just had a coffee to finish.

Lunch at the Duplex
Lunch at the Duplex
After a visit to the tourist office (also located in the Place de Gaulle) we set off into the old town to go down to the sea and the Musée Picasso in Chateau Grimaldi next to the Cathedral. The main entrance was not open, so we went around to the rear of the building where a makeshift ticket office had been setup.

Chateau Grimaldi
Chateau Grimaldi

On the ground floor of the Chateau a number of works by other artists are displayed. The was a Nikki de Sante Paulle snake and several other paintings and sculptures of varying merit. On the upper two floors, the emphasis turns more thoroughly to Picasso with an extensive collection of photos by Jacqueline Picasso and, from much earlier (in 1946), by Michel Sima together with drawings, sculpture and ceramics by Picasso himself.

Les Marionettes
Les Marionettes by César
There's a lot to see, packed into a fairly small space, including the room that Picasso used as his atelier during the three months he spent working at the Chateau in 1946. It's quite an intense experience to take in so much fascinating work in such a concentrated fashion. Once we'd completed the circuit and doubled back once or twice we spent a while in the bookshop looking at "paint with Picasso" books for kids and the like. Lisa bought some bookmarks and I bought a copy of the museum catalogue in English and an owl fridge magnet (there were several works depicting owls amongst the Picassos as well as some photos of Picasso with owls in the museum's collection).

Fridge Magnet
Owl by Picasso
Back out in the warm, bright sunshine we spent some time on the terrace behind the museum looking at the sculptured housed there and at the view out over the sea and across to Nice. We both took several photographs at this point of the views, the sculpture, the museum building and each other.

Sculpture outside the Musée Picasso

Eventually we managed to drag ourselves away from this magical spot and headed back up the rue de la Republique towards the Place de Gaulle. We stopped of at a brasserie called "Pimms" for a beer while sitting on the sunshine.

Rue de la Republique
Street scene from Brasserie Pimms

As the sun began to go down we made our way the rest of the way up to the Place, via a detour into a very interestingly-stocked stationery store where Lisa bought another fountain pen and a business card wallet in which she aims to house her collection of restaurant cards.

We did not have long to wait at the temporarily relocated bus stop in Blvd. Dugommier before the 200 bus to Nice came along and a crowd of people crammed into it. Lisa managed to secure seats for the two of us and the bus took us back to Nice to arrive around eight o'clock.

We strolled over to the Phnom Penh takeaway on rue de la Prefecture to get some sushi, noodles and crab/prawn rolls. We took these back to Cessole on the tram for dinner with a bottle of Cheverny (Loire) white wine. The sushi was quite reasonable and the rolls tasty but Lisa reported that the noodles were not very good.

Cheverny 2010
Cheverny 2010

By now it was getting late after a fairly full day so we went to bed. I wore my anti-snoring device again but I woke up at 4am feeling very uncomfortable so I took it out and had a slice of bread with Brie. Some time after settling down again, Lisa elbowed me in the ribs again for snoring so I put the device in again until her alarm went off at seven.

30 March, 2011

Nice Journal - Spring 2011 - 8

There were no children at school on Wednesday, 30th, and the day started overcast and dull so we did not get as early a start as we had hoped to make. However we still got to do our usual morning and get out to the tram in time to arrive in the old town around 11am. This gave Lisa an hour to shop for soap, oranges, salt, pepper and Spigol on our way through Cour Saleya and Vieux Nice on our way to Perry's.

We didn't stop for drinks but headed off almost at once to the far side of the port to the Barque Bleu for lunch. 

Plaster Figures
Plaster Figures
As we reached the top of the port we paused briefly to admire two plaster figures high up on an apartment  balcony - a kind of three-dimensional trompe-l'oeil.

The weather was still uncertain so we ate inside. Lisa had a grilled aubergine starter as a main course, Perry had moules Siciliennes (in a sauce with tomatoes) and I had Rigatoni in a gorgonzola and cream sauce. The wine was a Coteaux d'Aix en Provence red, very tasty! For dessert, Lisa had coffee ice-cream (not as tasty as yesterday's, she reported), Perry had a lemon meringue pie with a huge mass of meringue topping and I had yet another tiramisu. After coffee we walked up to the colonnade to take a taxi to the Musée Masena.

Musée Masena is housed in what was the home of the mayor of Nice until Napoleon III decided it would make a good home for some spare paintings he had lying around. The villa has recently been restored and the state rooms on the ground floor are worth seeing in their own right for their beautiful decoration. On the upper floor the emphasis is on the art works and the objects associated with the carnival at Nice.

We spent a good two hours looking at the contents and then, after a brief call at the gift shop for a couple of books, we caught a bus back to Seguranne and walked down to Foresta.

We did not stay long at Perry's but soon took our leave and made our way back to Garibaldi where we had a croque monsieur each at the Civette de Garibaldi brasserie. Lisa had a couple of glasses of rosé and I had a beer. We sat on the pavement in the late evening sun and found the atmosphere very much to our liking. Eventually we headed for the tram home.

At the supermarket yesterday evening I had bought all the makings for a repeat of our Soup de Poissons supper so we did not need to shop tonight and headed straight back to the apartment.

The soup was every bit as tasty as before and just as much fun. Definitely a winner in the bang for your bucks stakes! We opened a bottle of rosé that Perry had given us but it was undistinguished stuff so Lisa did not drink more than a couple of glasses.

After dinner we spent a little time preparing the anti-snoring device with which I'd been issued at Papworth. Lisa went to bed soon after that but I stayed up to write in this journal and finish the wine, which became a lot more tasty as it warmed up. Finally I fitted the device and joined Lisa on bed.

29 March, 2011

Nice Journal - Spring 2011 - 7

A sunny morning greeted us again on Tuesday, 29th. Lisa was feeling under the weather so she only had coffee and juice before we set out at 11:30 for Perry's. I ate the usual breakfast of cold meat and tomato on bread.

The sun was lovely and warm as we strolled over to Gorbella to get the tram. We got seats immediately, which isn't always the case, and had our tickets "controlled" for the first time this visit.

To enjoy the sun some more, we alighted at Opera Vielle Ville and walked through the Cour Saleya and Vieux Nice to Place Garibaldi. We still managed to get to Perry's just a few minutes after twelve.

We all walked up the street together to the Port to get the bus to Pastoreli near where we had lunch at Les Epicurienes in Place Wilson. This was quite a posh place in feel but not actually dreadfully pricy. Lisa & Perry both chose the Marmite des Pecheurs while I opted for a sea bass flambéed in anise. My fish was absolutely delicious and I gather that the Marmite was equally first rate though both Lisa & Perry found it too big a portion to finish. We drank a very nice Sancerre with our meal. For dessert, Lisa had coffee ice-cream, Perry had a cream puff called a petit chou and I had the poached pear. The pear was not brilliant but Lisa was ecstatic about her coffee ice-cream with chocolate-covered coffee beans embedded in it. Coffee all round, as ever, to finish. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable meal outside in the sun on the decking terrace surrounded by olive bushes!

Our reason for lunching in this part of town was to visit the nearby photographic museum "Théâtre de la Photographie et de l'image Charles Nègre" at 27 blvd. Duboucharge which was showing an exhibition of the work of the photographer August Sandler under the title "Portraits, paysages, architecture". The bulk of the work on display consisted of portraits and these were far more interesting and effective than the landscapes and photos of Cologne buildings. Many of the people portrayed seemed archetypes, almost stereotypes, of their profession or social position. We passed a very enjoyable two hours in the half dozen rooms of photographs.

We caught a bus back to the port and took a look around the church of Notre Dame du Port on Quai Cassini before returning to Perry's.

It was getting quite late so we were soon on our way round to the Cour Salaya to have a couple of beers in the sun at Les Planchettes and enjoy the antics of a clown/beggar who got people laughing at his antics shadowing passers by and clowning around so that he was worth the couple of euros each that he begged off of most of the watching crowd.

After two beers we walked over to the Opera tram stop (via a souvenir shop to buy some bits and pieces for friends) and got the tram home. From the tram, Lisa came straight back to Cessole and I popped up to Monoprix for a little top-up shopping. We had a game of Scrabble and a few beers and Lisa made us a couple of toasted cheese sandwiches for supper after which we settled down for a relatively early night.

28 March, 2011

Nice Journal - Spring 2011 - 6

Monday, 28th, our first day to ourselves since we arrived, started every bit as wet and dull as yesterday but by the time we had breakfast at 10:30 it was turning sunny and warm.

After coffee, we spent some time over a special breakfast of smoked salmon, cream cheese, lumpfish caviar, capers and bread with juice.

After breakfast we took the tram down to the Jean Médecin stop and spent a while looking around shops in the Nice Etoile mall, including quite a long time in Habitat and a shop full of jokey but cute items of varying utility.

We lunched at a cafe in rue Biscara called Le Cenac. Lisa had steak tatare and I had a salmon steak. The food was good and we had a nice Beaumes de Venise red with our lunch. For dessert, Lisa stuck to crème brûlée and I selected a café gourmand which is a coffee with several embellishments. We had a regular coffee each to finish and declared ourselves well satisfied.

After lunch we continued up the road to FNAC where we looked at stationery, phone cases and camera cases for quite some time. Lisa came away with a new case for her new compact camera and some disposable fountain pens. I bought a cheap Pentel fountain pen and a Moleskine notebook.

After FNAC we walked on up to the Gare Thiers stop and, after letting one full tram go, got on the next one to come home. I went on to Monoprix while Lisa headed back from the tram.

After a rest and a game of Scrabble Lisa set to to prepare the Label Rouge chicken I'd bought for dinner. We seasoned the chicken and roasted it with a couple of jacket potatoes in foil. Lisa combined leaves from a couple of bags of salad in the spinner to have with a mustard dressing. It took until 10pm before all was ready but it was worth it to sit down to a simple supper of roast chicken and baked potato which tasted delicious. We shared a wonderful bottle of 2007 Fronsac claret which complemented the food perfectly.

Fronsac 2007
Fronsac 2007

27 March, 2011

Nice Journal - Spring 2011 - 5

Sunday, 27th, dawned grey and wet and stayed that way all day. As this was the first day of summer time we had "lost" an hour overnight and I made sure the clock and my watch were adjusted accordingly before making the coffee.

After our usual breakfast we ventured out. Today we wore coats for the first time this visit and Lisa took her umbrella. We got off the tram at the Opera Vielle Ville stop and bought a pelargonium for Perry as we walked through Vieux Nice to Place Garibaldi.

Perry seemed very pleased with the plant and promised us that Nicole would repot it and find it an appropriate place on the terrace. We had made plans yesterday to visit the modern art museum (MAMAC) so we walked over to Avenue Saint Jean Baptiste to lunch at a restaurant called Le Rive Droit. Perry had not eaten there before but it had been recommended to him. The name derives from its location on the right bank of the built-over Paillon.

The place has a very modern decor and a more formal feel than the relaxed places around the port. The food is first rate, though, and it's not an expensive place to eat. Lisa had a breaded veal cutlet Milanaise, Perry chose the grilled loup (sea bass) and I opted for ravioli Niçoise.

My dish was like a delicious beef stew with some ravioli, unlike previous versions I've had which were a bowl of ravioli with a little beef stew poured over like a sauce. It tasted superb! Very richly flavoured, not light and delicate like a daube. The other two indicated that they were equally pleased with their choices. Lisa and I shared a nondescript Cotes de Provence red that was offered as an alternative to the Bandol I'd ordered but which was out of stock.

For dessert, Lisa had a pannacotta, I chose the tiramisu and Perry had the chocolate fondant. We finished with coffee of course. Altogether a very fine meal that cost around €60 for three, plus drinks. Definitely somewhere to return to!

After some difficulty finding the entrance to MAMAC, we looked around those parts of the current temporary exhibition that were still open. Sarah Sze was exhibiting a single installation entitled "The Uncountables". This occupied one whole room and filled it with a collection of everyday objects arranged on shelves. It seemed pointless to me! One room was roped off and, on enquiring, we learned that a visitor had caused the installation by Vincent Ganivet to collapse and so his contribution could no longer be seen!

That left Assan Smati who was exhibiting a number of works in five very different genres. A giant pink centaur and a pair of life-size blue horses were sculpted in resin with polished smooth surfaces in flowing lines. I loved these! There were a number of lead sculptures of various subjects which made a feature of being unworked after breaking the mould: the ragged "flash" and the spigots used to fill the mould with lead were all left in place. I found this aspect bizarre and unexplained but one piece in particular, a life-size figure of a knocked-out boxer, was very memorable. A series of giant human heads, sculpted in White plaster on wood and steel frames, seemed to be studies of the same African man in various moods. Attention-grabbing but not something I felt I'd bother to see again. African figures were again the subject of the several paintings in oil on canvas. OK but nothing special.

Dos Santos
Dos Santo by Assan Smati
Outside on the platform between MAMAC and the National Theatre was my favourite of Smati's pieces: a sculpture in wood of two giant figures called "Dos Santos" which I take to mean "Two Saints". These looked something like a cross between wooden electricity pylons and stylised Japanese armoured warriors but the proportions of the figures and the way they were arranged so that the composition looked different from every angle was very moving. I really felt like I was in the presence of two giant powerful beings of some kind.

We walked Perry back to his apartment where he was feeling a little out of breath from his exertions. We had previously made plans to give him a break from us tomorrow, a day when he will again have a physiotherapy session, so we agreed to meet again on Tuesday and headed directly back. By now the rain was quite heavy so we needed to dry off a bit once we got back.

We didn't feel like cooking tonight so we had some snacks and some olives. We both read for a while (Lisa is reading Kazuo Ishiguro's book "Never Let Me Go" on which the film we recently saw is based, and I have recently started Fuchsia Dunlop's "Shark Fin and Sichuan Pepper") and played Scrabble and then cribbage before Lisa retired to bed. I wrote this journal up to date here before joining Lisa in the bedroom.

26 March, 2011

Nice Journal - Spring 2011 - 4

For the third day in a row, Nice treated us to a bright morning on Saturday, 26th, and we did the usual necessaries to get us down to Perry's just a few minutes after noon. Perry had a few family photos to show us before we walked over to the Cour Saleya for lunch at the Pecherie Saleya. That's quite a walk for Perry but he seemed confident and seemed in good shape when we arrived.

Our meal was chosen, ordered and eaten to the background noise of the flower market being cleared away. That made conversation difficult at times, at least for me. We were offered a glass of Champagne "on the house" as a greeting while we looked through the menu.

Once again, after much deliberation, Perry and I opted for the same dish; in this case, sole meurniere. Lisa bucked the trend by choosing a grilled turbot and I selected a Bandol blanc from the wine list. We all agreed that the fish was excellently prepared and very tasty. Lisa and I had creme brûlée for dessert while Perry went for profiteroles. Coffee to finish as usual.

By the time we got back to his place, Perry was very tired so we didn't stay longer than necessary to make plans for tomorrow. By now the sun had given way to dark clouds and it was much cooler so Lisa and I got the tram home without stopping for a beer. We both went up to the supermarket to shop for supper which we planned would be a pre-prepared soup de poissons.

You might describe tonight's supper as a French ready meal: soup de poisson in a bottle from the chilled cabinet, rouille in a jar, a bag of ready made croutons and a bag of grated emmental cheese. Lisa heated the soup very gently over a very low gas until it was warmed through then I stirred in two table spoons of Creme Fraîche. We ladled some soup into our bowls rubbed our croutons with a peeled garlic clove before spreading with rouille and dropping them into the soup topped with a sprinkling of grated cheese. It tasted remarkably good! We had three bowls each (all there was) using all the croutons and about half of the rouille and cheese. So simple to prepare and very little to clear up afterwards! I imagine we'll try doing that again soon!

25 March, 2011

Nice Journal - Spring 2011 - 3

Friday, 25th started equally sunny and we followed the same morning routine except that we walked around the port to scout out which restaurants were open on the far side. The morning had felt a little cooler than yesterday but down on the port the sun was delightfully warm.

We reported the list of open restaurants to Perry and he chose to be taken to the Marlin which has always been a favourite of us all. Perry was feeling a little frail after his physiotherapy session first thing this morning but he still managed the walk around to the far side of the port very well. At the Marlin we were greeted by a familiar waitress and sat outside in the shade of the awning.

Perry and I both chose the Saint Jacques in a Sauternes sauce while Lisa had a grilled sea bream. I chose a Chateau Roquefueille (Côtes de Provence) blanc which went very well with our dishes. The scallops were amazingly good and the Sauternes sauce very flavourful without overpowering the seafood. Lisa reported that the grilled fish was equally fine. Perry had the last piece of lemon meringue pie for dessert, Lisa chose creme brûlée and I had tiramisu. Coffees and limoncello ("on the house") all round topped off a thoroughly excellent meal which we were pleased to offer Perry as a birthday treat.

By the time we'd returned to Foresta, Perry was feeling tired from the walk around the port and back on top of his physiotherapy session so we did not stay chatting for long but walked up to Place Garibaldi for a beer in the sun before getting the tram home. This time I made sure to pass Lisa the keys before heading up to Monoprix so she was able to head directly back to the apartment.

Among my purchases were a couple of veal escalopes and the makings for a creamy mushroom sauce together with some green beans and a bottle of 2010 Entre deux Mers. This, with some tagliatelle and salad, formed an excellent supper. Lisa pan-fried the veal and made a sauce from the pan juices with onions, garlic, creme fraiche and white vermouth. Lisa was pleased enough with her work to take s few photos!

24 March, 2011

Nice Journal - Spring 2011 - 2

We awoke on Thursday, 24th to glorious sunshine at 9am and the familiar screams of the children in the school across the street. A breakfast of coffee, clementine juice, Bayonne ham, French bread (the sliced, peasant kind not a baguette or similar stick: those have to be bought immediately before eating to be good) and President butter later and we were all set to head out for the tram that takes us into the centre-ville.

We strolled, reveling in the warm sunshine, down to the port (where we heard the daily noon-day cannon firing which always makes Lisa jump even though she knows full well that it's about to happen!) and over to Perry's place on Rue de Foresta. Nicole, Perry's cleaning lady - who we know well and who has worked for him ever since he moved to Nice twenty years ago - was still hard at work, so we retreated out of her way to Perry's study to chat for a while and make our lunch plans. With much hugging, kissing (BOTH cheeks) and shaking of hands, we left Nicole to her duties and made our way down to the port in search of lunch.

We ate, sitting on the waterfront terrace, at Le Vesuvio on Quai Lunel. A regular haunt where Marinette & Fred greet Perry with delight and even recognise Lisa & me. Perry went for the lasagne, a house speciality, Lisa chose the steak tartare and I enjoyed a dish of veal in a cream and mushroom sauce. A nice white Côtes de Provence went very well with the food. For dessert, Perry opted for the apple tart (a genuine French apple tart is a real work of culinary art!) but Lisa and I both went for the cafe liegeouise: a sundae of intensely flavoured coffee ice cream topped with masses of dramatic but insubstantial whipped cream. Coffee and limoncello ("on the house") to finish by which time it was feeling a little cool to be dining al fresco as the sun had gone behind the Chateau hill and we were left in the shade.

We walked Perry back to his place and, after making plans for his birthday meal tomorrow, Lisa and I left for a stroll along the seafront and a beer in the Cour Saleya on our way back to the tram. The tram was packed, as usual at the end of the afternoon, so we were standing all the way back to our stop.

Lisa headed back to our apartment and I walked on up the hill to Monoprix to get a few essentials, including a cocquelete for tonight's dinner.

As I was queuing at the check-out I noticed Lisa waiting at the back of the store. I had rushed off to the shop without leaving her the apartment keys!

As we had had a good lunch we just had a salad with the roasted chicken for supper and felt quite satisfied. We found the bottle of Cotes de Languedoc I'd chosen rather young but still potable.

Lisa took a shower and washed her hair while I cleaned up and filled the dishwasher and then she headed to bed while I stayed up a while to finish the wine and start this journal.

23 March, 2011

Nice Journal - Spring 2011 - 1

Wednesday, 23rd was a very long day by my standards. My alarm got me up at 5am and we left the house at 6:45 to get the 7:15 train from Cambridge to London. By 9:25 we were on our way to Paris on the Eurostar train. We arrived at Gare du Nord within seconds of the timetabled time and took the RER-D two stops to Gare de Lyon. That station is currently a complete mess, thanks to rebuilding works, but we were eventually able to find our way to the TGV for Nice in time to get settled in our seats well before departure.

Said seats were so comfortable (European high-speed trains are wonderful!) that the next five and a half hours passed blissfully. Having been served a second breakfast at our seats on the London-Paris train, we had to get our lunch from the buffet car on the TGV but, this being a French train, the croque monsieur and pasta salad were of very acceptable quality.

The TGV was non-stop as far as Avignon but, once we reached the Riviera coast, there were many stops before we were delivered to Nice, right on time, at 7:30pm. A short taxi ride up to our apartment on Boulevard de Cessole and the journey was complete: longer (12 hours door-to-door) and more expensive than flying but infinitely less stressful. I don't believe we have ever arrived in Nice in such good shape! We dropped our bags, called Perry to let him know we'd arrived safely and immediately headed over to the neighbourhood Monoprix to shop for dinner and breakfast.

Thanks to the mode of travel, we slotted into "living in Nice" even more immediately than usual. We bought three bags of shopping and schlepped them home. We cooked a dinner of sauteed salmon pavee, tagliatelle sprinkled with grana padana, and a mixed leaf salad with a simple vinaigrette that Lisa rustled up on the spot. We enjoyed a very fine bottle of 2009 white Graves with that.

Dinner over, Lisa cleared up after the meal while I tackled the unpacking (a job she loathes!) and all was done by 1:30am.