Tuesday 30 October 2012

Nice 3 - Finding the Bus to Cannes and All That

10th October

Another lovely sunny day and today and we've got Cannes booked in for the day!  We had our route by bus all planned, get the 100 from the Port to Station S C Bermond where the 200 bus to Cannes leaves from, simple, haha!  First the two 100 buses that arrived at the Porrt stop let people off but not us on, we realised it was a drop off stop, not a pick up. We didn't know exactly where the Station J C Bermond bus stop was but I had looked on a map the previous evening and had a idea.  There was lots of building work in the area but eventually we found the bus stop, but the 200 was not listed as leaving from there. We walked on a little way and found a second Station J C Bermond bus stop! No 200 to Cannes listed there.  We were now getting frazzled, it was hot and we were wondering if we'd ever find the bus to Cannes! 

We walked on and then Debbi shouted, "There's 200 bus!" And sure enough it was, and it turned a corner and disappeared from our view behind building works.  We rush on to the corner and saw a third bus stop called, yes, Station J C Belmond, God know how many there were! And parked there was the 200 to Cannes. With some relief we paid our 1 Euro each and flopped into our seats, it had been one and a half hours since we'd left our apartment!

The trip to Cannes took ninety minutes, and it wasn't as scenic as I thought it might be. I noticed the signs to the Renoir Museum in Cagnes sur Mer and wished there was time to go there, maybe another day. The hill of the old town of Antibes looked lovely as we passed. I'm sure that the coastal areas on this route are lovely, but the bus route is pretty boring compared to the run east of Nice.

La Croisette, Cannes
We were dropped off just opposite the film theatres and close to the casino. We'd made sandwiches and seeing we'd been travelling for three hours now we were ravenous so we found a seat and ate them. We soon noticed opposite us a very drunk man trying to have a pee! What a delightful first sight of Cannes! It took him at least 15 minutes to have the pee and sort himself out, and then he flopped onto a bench. Shortly afterwards a girl came over to him and gave him cans of beer, just what he needed. There were a few down and outs around which surprised me so close to the glitzy places.

We crossed the main road to where there was one of the theatres, there was some event going on as there were lots of red carpets and self-important looking people with swinging laminates round their necks.  We went past the casino and arrived at one end of Promenade de la Croisette. It is the equivalent to the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, a sweeping, horseshoe bay with an endless beach flanked by rows of palm trees. Many of the hotels along La Croisette had very beautiful stucco work on them and looked very expensive.  We walked along for a while enjoying the warmth. We then noticed the fancy designer shops on the other side of the road and decided to window shop.  I'm not into designer stuff but was curious. We peeked into the windows of the Gucci, Fendi, Prada, Bvlgari shops, cringed at the horrendously hideous prices, they all had security guards just inside the doors, no wonder with prices like that!

We then took a road away from that area and wandered there for a while but there wasn't much to see. We saw an ice cream shop with dozens of beautifully displayed choices of flavour. We both tried the violette ice cream and it was delicious, very creamy with just a subtle Parma Violet flavour.

We went back to the main road, which was a dual carriageway, on the shoreline and noticed a man in a mobility scooter driving right up the middle of the road! Brave or foolhardy?

We passed a few men playing games of boules. It looked enjoyable and relaxing with men of all ages playing. 

We were both somewhat disappointed in Cannes, we both expected more from it. Maybe we should have explored further but we didn't have the inclination to do so. We decided to go home to lovely Nice. We caught the rush hour and it took over two hours to get back to Nice on the the bus! 

Welcome to my Yacht!
That night we ate at Le Lunel on the Port. We'd eaten there when we were in Nice three years ago and it was very good. I noticed recent reviews were not so good but we decided to give it a go and we weren't disappointed. I had goat's cheese salad to start and it was huge, more like a main! Then it was chicken forestiere for the main, equally delicious. I was very full after that but couldn't resist the chocolate fondant with ice cream which was perfect, the chocolate oozed out when I took a spoonful, heaven. And it was all washed down with a delicious French red wine. We noticed that most places only sold French wine whereas in the UK you can get wine from all over the world. I suppose they are supporting their own wine producers. Debbi was equally satisfied with her meal too so I'm glad we went back there. Once again it was warm enough to eat outside in comfort.

On our way home we passed by the fancy yachts in the Port, we would have loved to have just looked round inside one but had to make do with having a peep from the quay. It was a relaxing end to what had been a busy, and at times frustrating, day. For me Nice beats Cannes hands down!

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Nice 2 - Eze, Hot Stone Therapy and a Lazy, Hazy Day

8th October

Disaster! The patisserie was closed today (as are quite a few places in Nice on Mondays). We made do with toast and then went to the nearby Ile de Beauté at the head of the Port to catch our bus to Eze-sur-Mer. Apparently Ile de Beauté is a nickname for Corsica, and there is a ferry that leaves from Nice Port for that island.  The 100 bus takes you along the stunning coastline east of Nice as far as Menton beside the border with Italy. The journey only costs 1 Euro no matter where you get off.  The bus sweeps up Mount Boron giving you beautiful views of Nice and the Mediterranean, glistening sky blue on warm and sunny day.  The bus then glides down to Villefranch-sur-Mer, which has one of the deepest natural harbours in the Mediterranean and is a regular port of call for the huge cruise ships, indeed there was one in the bay today. 

We travelled on past the land-locked end of Cap Ferrat into Beaulieu-sur Mer which positively oozes of money with it's marina, casino and fancy hotels.  The mountains and cliffs rise high behind the small town and continue round the bay.  There is a short tunnel through the cliffs and shortly after that we arrived in Eze-sur-Mer set in the stunning location backed by huge cliffs and mountains.

Me on the Beach at Eze-sur-Mer
We were hungry so we first went to a small roadside cafe and went very local and had a Nicoise salad which was delicious. We then crossed the road went under the railway, and down a narrow stepped alley onto the beach. It is a pebble beach but the location is wonderful, there were huge beds of dry seaweed that were soft and bouncy to walk on.  The beach was surprisingly quiet, we found a lovely spot and settled for the afternoon.  Debbi was brave and went into the water, I did a little paddle and was surprised at how cold the water was on this warm and sunny day. The stones on the beach were hot and I lay down and Debbi put some of them on my back, a bit of stone therapy. As the heat spread down into my muscles I could feel the relaxation spreading through them (I've now booked a stone therapy session at my salon!)

After a lovely day that cost us the grand total of two Euros for our bus fare (the trip alone was worth the money) we headed home and had a rest and shower before we went out for our meal.  We ended up at La Barque Bleue at the Port, less than five minutes from our apartment. Again it was very mild and we sat outside. I had a goats cheese tart to start, followed by spaghetti carbonara all of which was very good.

9th October

Debbi Tucking into her Socca
We'd decided to have a lazy, moochy day today to really soak in the atmosphere of Nice. We had a lie-in and then breakfast of fresh palmier and baguette from our patisserie. We wandered up past the Port to Place Garibaldi and went to the Rue Pairoliere in the Old Town to Chez Rene Socca which is one of the most famous places to buy socca a Nicoise dish. Socca is basically a thin chickpea pancake made on a huge griddle about two feet in diameter and then kind of hacked up into pieces that you buy a plate of.  The restaurant was set on two sides of the small street with wooden tables. You went to where the socca was being made to buy it and ordered drinks from the waiters at the table. The socca was only 2.80 Euros for a large portion and it was quite nice, though I enjoyed it more when we got some lemon to squeeze onto it. 

After our lunch we went on further into the maze that is the Old Town, just wandering in and out of shops, we both bought some heavenly smelling violette eau de cologne, bags and garlic graters. We came across the famous Fenocchio ice cream shop and just had to try it! It certainly lived up to it's reputation, I had vanilla and it was one of the best I've had.  

More Cake!
We headed back to Place Garibaldi and found a seat at le Sully, one of the many bar restaurants in the square. We ordered half a litre of red wine. Unfortunately it wasn't good wine, but we forced it down before moving across the square to Le Paradis du Fruit and more  -this time good - wine. It was lovely just relaxing watching the Nice life pass by.  

After consuming a litre of the wine we wandered across to Serain Cappa for a cake and we both had delicious chocolatey ones that went down very well. We then wandered back to the Port with quite a spring to our step lol!

We ate in that night, and had some French lessons care of our Ipod Touch app. We learned a lot of, let's say, unusual French words that I don't think we'll be using much lol!

Our lazy, moochy day had gone very well, we are very good at doing nothing lol, we decided that in the future we will always set aside a day of our holiday for chilling like this!

Saturday 20 October 2012

Nice 1 - All Things French, and Dali and a Horse

The Courtyard of the Apartments
6th October 2012

I love that moment when you step out of an airport in some foreign country and the new sensations hit you. I saw the lush palm trees, felt the gentle caress of warmth of the sun and the smell of the sea and jasmine in the air. We were in Nice!

We got the bus  into the city and it was lovely to see the places we'd first seen three years ago again. We'd first gone to Nice in 2009 to have a holiday as well as seeing U2 perform. We loved the place so much we vowed to go back, and three years later here were were!

The View of the Port from our Balcony

We got off at the Port where our apartment was and trundled our cases down the quay. Near the apartment block, a very tiny woman stopped us, it was Barbara our host. Our lily-white skin must have given us away as Brits lol! She took us through two huge wooden doors and we found ourselves at the foot of some marble steps and at the top we walked into a fabulous cobbled courtyard with ponds in each corner and fountains, very pretty. 

The apartment was wonderful, very clean and had all we needed, even our own showers! And the view from our balcony of the Port was fabulous. Barbara had told us there was a patisserie and little supermarket just out side the back door so we went out and stocked up on food and wine!

We had a relaxing evening eating in and drinking wine, our holiday had started!

7th October

Niki de Saint Phalle
Deb got a baguette and croissants from the patisserie for breakfast, they were delicious, still warm! I love the European (alas not British) tradition of going to a local baker for truly fresh bread and pastries for breakfast, you can't beat it!

On the first and third Sundays of the month municipal museums in Nice have free entry, so we decided to take advantage of that. The nearest place to us was the Musée d'art moderne et d'art contemporain or MAMAC. Neither of us are that into modern art but we went there with open minds. It turned out to be an interesting couple of hours. 


I especially liked the American Pop Art section which had works by Warhol and Lichtenstein amongst others. It is the kind of work that is accessible by anyone which, for me, is what art should be all about. 

 I also like some of the works by Niki de Saint Phalle, especially her "Diaries" which were a very intricate mix of art and words, much of it relating to women's issues. There was also an amazing life-size wedding dress with a long train made entirely out of blue plastic bottles! Unfortunately I can't recall who the artist who created this was.

We then walked the short distance back to Place Garibaldi and went to our favourite patisserie, Serain Cappa, and salivated as we tried to decide what cake to have. They are truly works of art and so many to choose from! I finally chose a Framboisine, a delectable fusion of raspberries and chocolate. Deb got an almond-based cake that I tried, it too was lovely.

We sat under the stately colonade that runs right around the square, in the centre is a large fountain. It's a bustling place, and it was good just to relax and watch life go by. We felt very French eating the lovely cakes and drinking coffee.

Before leaving we bought two Chantilly Meringues to have later at home. We then walked the short distance to our apartment and had a some tea before exploring some more.

We went out of the back door of the complex, turned right and followed the road that ran by the sea.  All along the walk were seats looking out over the Mediterranean Sea, lots of people were doing what we were, promenading, enjoying the sun and fresh air. Soon we came to Coco Beach, which you reach by going down some steps. It's not really a beach, moreso a jumble of large rocks with lots of places to sit.  Again, we just sat and relaxed for a while.

Later we went into the Vieille Ville, Old Town, for our evening meal. The Old Town is a maze of small roads, alleys, flights of steps, shops and restaurants.  The buildings are all very old, often a few stories high and painted in fawns, yellows and terracottas. Wooden shutters on the windows, washing hanging from balconies and poles, you could hear their lives of the local people echoing off the walls, smell their cooking hanging in the warm air, it is very much a living Old Town. 

Some parts are a bit touristy, which we generally steer clear of.  But you can find great restaurants in the quieter alleys. One of these is a little place called Le Barbecue in Rue du Four which we first discovered on our last trip to Nice.  It's set on a few levels on the stepped alley and is cheap, serving excellent food. I had cod fritters to start followed by a delicious steak then ice cream, all washed down with an excellent Portuguese red wine served at the perfect temperature. We were entertained by two Yorkshire terriers that lived close to the restaurant that played and scampered around in an adjoining alley whilst their owners chatted. It was so good to be able to sit outside and eat like this, no way could we have done it back home, in October it would be too cold and probably too wet as well!

We headed home and passed a heavy horse strangely tied up in a corner of an alley. I went to pat it as I have a soft spot for those workhorses of the past, I gave Deb my camera to take a photo. Suddenly I was accosted by Dali, well he looked like Dali. Middle-aged, with a spiky moustache, flamboyantly dressed complete with cravat!  I thought he was going to pose with me for the photo as he grabbed me rather tightly round the waist.  then amongst the French chatter coming from him I recognised the word "Assis" and realised he was trying to lift me onto the horse!  "No way, no way" I said and wriggled out of his grip, I glanced at Debbi who looked horror-struck, she took a quick photo and then I heard her say. "Right, let's go."  I didn't know what was funnier being accosted by Dali or the look on Deb's face!  

We did make it home unscathed and we opened a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne as a late celebration for my birthday. Debbi gave me her present which she'd kept back to bring to Nice - vouchers for my fave restaurant I was so chuffed! - and we quaffed the champers and ate our Chantilly Meringues, what more could you want?  Oh I love France!

Some of the Cakes at Serain Cappa

Monday 15 October 2012

Please U2, Do This!

The article below appeared as part of the "13 Tours We'd Like To See In 2013" article in Rolling Stone. Well all I can say to that is amen!  They are spot on with this, especially the rotation of set lists. U2 shows, though good, are often predictable set-wise with sets only maybe changing several songs a night and these changes are predictable too. U2 have a fantastic back catalogue and could easily rotate sets much, much more to make the shows more unpredictable and exciting and still please the long-time and casual  fans alike.The Big Question is - have U2 themselves got the balls to do this? I'm not sure they have, but I hope they prove me (and many other long-time fans) wrong.

There's no possible way for U2 to top the size and scope of their 2009-2011 stadium tour. It grossed $736,000,000 over 110 shows. That's a record that may never be broken. They shouldn't even try. When their next album hits in 2013, they should go back to arenas instead. It also might be time to drop some war horses from the set lists. Sure, "Where The Streets Have No Name" should be played at every U2 gig until the end of time, but maybe we've heard "Pride (In The Name of Love)," "With or Without You," "New Years Day," "Mysterious Ways" and "One" enough times. They're all great songs, but they've been played to death.

It would be even more exciting if U2 considered actually rotating their set lists from night to night. Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen shows are so thrilling because you never know what's coming next. An act with as deep a back catalog as U2 should at least set aside a few slots per night where they mix it up – maybe bring back early favorites like "Drowning Man" or "The Refugee," or forgotten 1990s tunes like "Acrobat" or "Gone."
At this stage in U2's career, it might be tempting to just keep flogging the same old hits in stadiums for enormous sums of money. They need to resist that temptation at all costs.