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.