Sunday, July 22, 2012

July 22 Final Day

So I close our blog with a favorite thing on vacations--food.  We've been in France for 16 nights, but I feel we have had one foot in Italy most of the trip.  It seems there are more Italian restaurants than French restaurants in Nice, perhaps because the border is so near. Sunday nights are not easy for food lovers, as most restaurants are closed for dinner.  But one of Jim's favorites is open every day, so it was a fitting finish.
On our first visit to this establishment, we laughed with the couple next to us about the gargantuan portions, there are non larger anywhere.  Yet the food is indeed delicious. You can see that each platter could serve 2 or 3 easily, yet Jim pointed out we attacked as we were locust and left only a small portion of each dish.
La Favola, Nice

And a final note on our travels to Dallas.  We fly to Heathrow, which estimates an additional 250,000 passengers above their usual will arrive in London tomorrow for the Olympics.  Security at the airport is extremely tight, and we may spend the day standing in line for immigration.  The trip planner who investigates all contingencies didn't see that one coming.  Luckily, the Heathrow to Dallas flight is the next morning.

For years we talked of renting an apartment or house somewhere and spending time making day trips.  One couldn't pick a better place to do so than the Cote d'Azur.  Yes, Nice is a bit noisy, but a perfect base for seeing all these beautiful towns by the sea or in the hills. And the weather--fabulous isn't a big enough word for it.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

July 21: final day trip is to Mougins

Thursday night we went to Hotel Aston around the corner and had drinks and buffet of tapas. Drink and 14 dishes of great food for 13 euros is an unheard bargain, and at a great bar, we made dinner of it.  Nice soft piano music, hardly anyone there, and a view of the city in the setting sun.
Friday we went to Cap Ferrat again for lunch, then met our London friends for our best dinner to date.  It was a lovely, traditional French bistro with delicious food.
We saved one of the best outings for last.  Jim gets a gold star for enduring a long day.  We took the tram to the station, train to Cannes, bus to new Mougins and walked an official 1.1 miles( Jim would argue it was 2, I'm sure) uphill to the old city of Mougins.  Luckily we were passing very upscale French country homes with beautful flowers and great views.  Mougin is written up as a culinary theme park, with an astonishing number of high-class restaurants crammed into the gorgeous medieval center--and no crowds.  The little streets spiral upward, with many artist studios, galleries, and the restaurants.  We stopped at the very first one, and after later reading many more menu boards, feel we did very well.
A beautiful esplanade last year, now it's under huge renovation.  View from top of hotel  Aston

Old Nice from Hotel Aston, bus area is where we take most buses.  Tram runs along the tree lane that crosses.

Fresh artichoke salad--amazing

Bistro d'Antoine

View as we arrived at old Mougins

Half of the wine cellar located in a cave, part of restaurant where we had lunch.
It was a total surprise, since it had a small terrace for tables and I was sent into the cave
to look for the washroom.

Window shopping, the only kind of shopping we've done

Does it get more French than this?  The lavender was almost  bloomed out.

Tile map of Mougins, all streets spiral towards the top

Waiting for the bus to Cannes I looked into this market and saw the best of fruits and vegetables I had seen in the entire trip.  Too late to fill a bag to eat in the apartment.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

July 19 Antibes Maybe my favorite

What a great half day in Antibes!  Depending on the train, it can take 17 to 23 minutes to arrive from Nice.  I think it's the prettiest old town we've visited.  We've seen many yachts on this trip, but spotting one with a helicopter on deck was fantastic.  
Lunch was a great salad with walnuts, rocquefort, olives, tomatoes, greens,and lardons, though we asked that they omit the fried egg on top that was also on the menu.  The owner was as entertaining and charming as the owner of Oliviera in Nice.
The markets are awesome--3 going on in one day.  We saw some of the antique market, and then went to the food one and I go weak at the knees--such lovely foods!  The third looked like household goods, so we avoided it.
Even our English friends commented yesterday that everyone seems to sit outside somewhere to eat and drink all day and night.  It's the same in each beach town.  Last night we took the short bus ride to the port, to an Italian seafood place we've visited before, then we walk along the dock to look into yachts with their lights on, then the walk along the sea for the rest of the walk home.  I hope that when we walk by Old Nice's Palace of Justice there will be salsa dancing on the square again, as there was 2 nights ago.  Fun to stay and watch dancers of all ages.
Funny thing:  we walked on a lane where there were employment offices for yacht crews and companies that supply everything you want stocked on your yacht.  So I thought the want ad posted was fun, was taking a picture, and a nice woman came out and asked if she could help, then asked if I wanted to apply for the job. As we walked on, I pointed out I am a super cleaner, and could spend the month of August onboard.  Jim suggested I stay until I get Medicare.  I still bought him a return train ticket to Nice.

Largest yacht in Antibes port today, can you spot the helicopter?

Previously a Grimaldi Palace, it was lent to Picasso for his studio.  Now it's a great museum

Tapenade, dried tomatoes and tons of olives

View from Picasso Museum towards sculpture

The water is so clear, I can see the rocks from 2 stories above

One of the want ads, I think this is the job I should aspire to get

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

July 17 Vence

A half day excursion to Vence, primarily to see the Matisse Chapel, which we was closed when we were driving around here 20 years ago, but were fired up to see it  after visiting the Matisse museum nearby.  It's simple and beautiful, and no pictures allowed.  It's an hour bus ride up the hills, and on the way back we passed by St. Paul de Vence, but Jim begged me not to stop there as well.
We passed the area of the Renoir museum, but a sign says it's under restoration.  I remember going to this years ago, a house filled with family and visiting artists who were friends of his.  Would have loved to see it again.
Yes, another hilltop town, but with much of its original city wall.  Jim is sitting at the table next to the 2 women.
The city wall can be seen in the background

Vence, taken as we walked to the Matisse Chapel

Lavender, after all we are in southern France

The town of St Paul de Vence, as seen from our bus

Alan and Usha, our English friends from the world cruise, visiting Nice for a few days.

The animated owner of Oliviera, a wonderful and tiny restaurant,with our friend Usha

Oliviera is primarily an olive oil shop, the kitchen is the tiny space where the 2 women are working

The War Memorial carved out of Castle Hill, near Nice's port

Monday, July 16, 2012

July 16 Biot

No bus for us today, a nice train ride instead.  We went to Biot, a tiny hill town just outside Antibes, known for pottery and glass blowing.  The tiny streets remind me of St Paul de Vence, but without large number of tourists.  We found a fantastic place for lunch, overlooking the hills.  Visited the Leger Museum, built on land bought by Leger and filled with art given by his widow.
How I wish the communal oven for bread had been open today.

Biot once lost its entire population to the black plague.

Streets not wide enough for cars reminds me of  St Paul de Vence

Leger museum exterior, side of building

Front of the Leger Museum

A work with no vanishing point, speaks of industrialization and it's effect on man and nature.

These are large terra cota  tiles that have cut out areas to create the relief.  the molds allowed 2 to be produced.  The other is polychromed and is at the famous Colombe d'Or Restaurant in St Paul de Vence.
No bus for us today, a nice train ride instead.  We went to Biot, a tiny hill town just outside Antibes, known for pottery and glass blowing.  The tiny streets remind me of St Paul de Vence, but without large number of tourists.  We found a fantastic place for lunch, overlooking the hills.  Visited the Leger Museum, built on land bought by Leger and filled with art given by his widow.n

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 15 Menton

July 15  Trip to Menton
We took the bus to Menton, conveniently located at our corner.  Even this 1 1/2 hour bus ride was still one euro.  We passed Villefranche-sur-Mer, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Monte Carlo and then Menton, a beautiful ride that hugs the coast.  A funny thing about the 1 euro buses.  It's 1 euro from Nice to Menton, but if you get on while the bus travels through Monaco you must pay another euro because it isn't France nor part of the French bus system!  Maybe it has to do with the history:  Menton and Roquebrune both declared themselves independent of Monaco's jurisdiction in 1860 and Grimaldi agreed to sell the town to France for 4 million francs. 
It's quieter in Menton, but still lots of people at every outdoor restaurant and the beach.  We visited the Musee Jean Cocteau, a strange but extremely talented artist, cinematographer, poet, etc. There is ancient part of the city, full of narrow, climbing streets, and 3 beautiful churches practically a block from each other.  In front of one of them was set up a stage and seating.  There is a tango festival in progress, and I suspect this is where the evening performances occur.
Everyone seemed to be bilingual, as it is extremely close to Italy.  We certainly eat a lot of Italian food on this trip.

Lovely market, could have bought every cheese I saw

Cute waiter with a wonderful head of curly hair

Each of these doorways leads to stairs like the ones below.
That's some climb to make it to your actual living space.

Yes, we climbed up these steps to see the churches

Stage on left and seating in front of the church