Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day 3

This morning in Nice started out with a soft rain as we walked to the outdoor market to purchase our lunch. Fresh tomatoes, olives, cheese and just out of the oven bread. Sun dried tomatoes can be purchased by the kilo instead of the tiny little bottles found in the US supermarkets, the varied selection of everything is astounding. The market is about three blocks long and includes flowers, fish, meats and every variety of vegetables. After the market, we retreated to the apartment since it started to rain a bit heavier. Later, the rain poured out of the sky in buckets, lightning and thunder continued for about one hour then the sky cleared and we had a beautiful afternoon in sun. We discovered some wonderful shopping along the ancient, narrow lanes of the old city. Part of the experience is just taking in the aromas from the different vendors selling spices, fresh fish, olive oil, hand made soaps, coffees, baked goods, sweets, etc. Everything is fresh and not packaged, you buy exactly what you want and in any quantity. We found the wine merchant we discovered on our last trip, this merchant has been in business for a very long time, you can bring your bottles in and they will fill them with a variety of wines from large casks, or you can purchase anything from a 1918 Medoc for several hundred Euros or just plain table wine for a few Euros. We finished our day at a sidewalk cafe watching people after taking a nice stroll along the beach. This was a good day, tomorrow we have the cooking class. We stumbled across the class by just searching the internet but discovered Rosa is regarded as "The best cooking school in Nice",(Frommers),so tomorrow will be great fun! Oh, and we can't forget the gelato from Fennochio, reputed to be the best ice cream in all of France, it was excellent.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Forgot to mention when we went through security at Heathrow, Barbara was selected for additional screening using the body scanner, I guess they found nothing worthwhile to screen me for....but, she refused to go through the scanner which created a bit if consternation because apparently people do not refuse! They had a couple of discussions with other security people and finally said to go on without the screen or pat down, but warned that the next day (Tuesday) no one could refuse???? So I guess if you want to be a terrorist, Monday would be the best day.
Terminal 5 is a beautiful airport terminal nicely designed with fabulous high end shopping. Prada, Harrods, a caviar bar, sushi bar and three levels of other shops. The terminal is a structural designers dream! As mentioned earlier, we stayed at the airport Renaissance hotel, the gift shop was full of airplane models for sale including an Alaska Airlines 737-800 model. Barbara says she would fly through Heathrow just for the shopping.

We're Here!

We made it to Nice! The flight on Jet2 from London to Nice was okay but from the looks of the old 737-300 we were trapped in, in need a bit of maintenance, I probably would not fly that particular carrier again. British used this carrier to help provide service during the flight attendant strike. The strike continues but the union is in a weak position and may not continue the strike after this weekend. For exercise, I carried the two 50 lb bags with our luggage up five flights (84 steps)to the apartment overlooking old town Nice. We are very close to the beach and just a couple of blocks from the market, wonderful small shops and restaurants are everywhere. Tonight a bottle of local wine, a baguette from the local patisserie, some olives and cheese for dinner. Tomorrow our cooking class with Rosa. (Barb says the bags were only 46 lbs, but with my 15 lb backpack, that is over 100 lbs up the aforementioned steps).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Almost, almost there

We arrived in London this afternoon after a delayed, grueling 10 hour flight in pretzel seats. Honestly, I don't believe the seat designers have ever sat in one of these torture devices; perhaps their ancestors were somehow involved in the Inquisition, where the designs of torture implements were passed down from generation to generation. British Airways provided a hotel and food since our original connecting flight was canceled. The hotel is 100 feet from the runway so there is a nice view of many aircraft landing, and the smell of burning rubber is omnipresent since the touchdown zone is also right in front of the hotel. The food is typically British, I never realized you could actually harm green beans but somehow they managed; the pasta with a cream sauce was almost marginal, I think the cheese had a flour base of some sort.
Tomorrow we take off on short flight to Nice where we are going to meet our host at Fenocchio's, described as the best ice cream in all of France. Hope is in the air!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Almost there

Just a little more than 24 hours before we depart on BA048 to London! British called to confirm our flights last night, so we should be good to go. In a leap of faith, I canceled the Icelandair tickets. We do have to overnight in London since the connecting flight to Nice was canceled, but that will give us some time in London to visit Greenwich, and possibly some time at the British Museum. Tomorrow in Nice, it will be 65 degrees, 67 on Sunday. So just about the time we get there the weather will be very pleasant. Barbara found a local French class held in a bookstore, the best part it is free! With any luck they will serve wine, wait, what am I saying, of course they will serve wine, it is France!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hermes, a little favor sil vous plait

The clock is ticking with just four days left before we are supposed to depart. British Airways and the union are still arguing over who won round one of the strike, round two is scheduled to start the same day we leave. I did read a quote for the union leader urging BA to settle the strike since the passengers are suffering, now, as I recall, the union is responsible for the strike! If they are so concerned about the passengers, then they need to go back to work. While our backup carrier, Icelandair, had some difficulties over the weekend with the volcano erupting, they also have a mechanics strike going on, so maybe we should take a boat to Nice from NY, I think iceberg season is over so maybe that will be a good option. Of course, by the time we get there it would be time to return. Barbara is convinced we will be able to fly BA on the original schedule, but just in case I pulled out some maps on London in case we get stuck there. We still need to visit Greenwich, Temple Church and spend a bit more time in The British museum. Provided the Underground is running again from the airport to central London. sigh

Sunday, March 21, 2010

How do we appease the travel gods

British Airways is on strike, both sides are publishing wildly different statements of the impact on the airline, but it appears BA is getting about 60% of passengers to their destination. We continue to watch the news, and the BA website for the latest. Gordon Brown, and his Labour government are under pressure from the Tories to resolve the dispute, it is worthwhile to note the Labour government gets substantial donations from the flight attendants union, Unite; of course an election is coming soon so lots of political squabbling also happening. We still have our our back-up plan to use Icelandair just in case. Did I mention a volcano is erupting in Iceland which has diverted flights? What else can happen? This morning we are planning to visit our favorite Indian/Pakistani restaurant in Renton, Naan & Curry. Just discovered the restaurant is closed for kitchen upgrades until March 28. So, no Naan & Curry, unless our trip completely falls apart. As I recall, Hermes is the god of travel, but also the god of animal husbandry,(Cattle-herders; Shepherds; Goatherds; Horse & mule breeders; Grazing pastures; Cave shelters; Guard-dogs; Animal predators, and also the god of thievery,(Thieves; Cattle-rustlers; Bandits; Crafty thoughts).
Maybe if we appeal to Hermes, then he will assist us with our travels or at least provide crafty thoughts to find alternative options.....

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Inevitable

Apparently the last ditch efforts to avoid a strike have failed so the cabin crews will commence their strike today at midnight GMT. Not to be outdone, the British rail workers are also planning to strike around the Easter holiday, with any luck we will miss this, unless we are stranded in Heathrow for the next two weeks.....
So, instead of dwelling on this forecast misery, here is some information on our apartment and the local area in Nice. "Built in the 16th and 17th century, the Old Town (known as the Vieille Ville in French) is the most charming and colorful part of Nice. Its ochre, terracotta and pink buildings recall the Italian influence in this city: long ruled by the Kingdom of Savoy (based in Piedmont and Sardinia), Nice has only been part of France since 1860. Four short blocks from the apartment is the legendary food market Cours Saleya. Downstairs is a bakery with a wood-fired oven, at the end of the street is a coffee roaster founded early last century and around the corner from there is the city's best fresh pasta shop. Continue past the pasta shop and you will come to the cheerful local wine merchant. The pedestrian streets around the apartment are filled with restaurants and bars which make this area particularly lively at night. Nice's legendary pebble beaches are a five-minute walk from the apartment, and if you don't feel like swimming you can walk, cycle or rollerblade along the Promenade des Anglais. For trips outside town, the bus station is nearby and the train station is four stops away on the new tram line.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

8 days & Counting

Eight days until our planned departure, and the uncertainty with BA continues. Both the union and management are making dire threats, other unions have offered support, but at this moment it appears British will fly at least some of the routes. My guess at this moment is BA will get us to London but beyond that may involve some delays. From what I have read, all of the air carriers are full so we may be forced to take the train which has an underwater component (Barbara does not like that idea). We could take the ferry from Dover to Calais, which is above the water, and then more trains to Nice. There is a reason we call this an adventure….. Ms. Barbara has a new lightweight suitcase which by all accounts is too small; I have suggested the use of a steamer trunk, but hauling the trunk up five flights of stairs to our quarters in the old monastery would fall upon my shoulders, and my shoulders would be broken; so not a good way to start this vacation. Our apartment in the old town is over 400 hundred years old, and in the middle of the old town close to fabulous markets, wine shops and not far from the beach. It has a kitchen, washing machine, which begs the question of the need for a steamer trunk, and all the modern conveniences, except an elevator, but then that is part of the European vacation/exercise program.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Strike Latest

The weather in Nice is warming up nicely, sunny all next week with the highs close to 60 degrees! 14 days until we depart but the buggers in Unite, the British Airways flight attendants union, has now posted the strike dates; here is the latest from the Guardian Newspaper "Unite has called a series of strikes by up to 12,000 flight attendants, beginning with a three-day walkout on 20 March and then a four-day stoppage from 27 March. Further strike action will take place after 14 April if there is no deal by then, the union added."

"The industrial action has been timed to cause maximum disruption to BA, with the airline facing a struggle to reinstate a normal timetable between strikes"

So, not only may our outbound flight be affected, but the return as well. Purchasing the Icelandair backup tickets is looking more and more like a good idea.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Reykjavik Here We Come

Oh, woe is us, British announced the strike dates today and no surprise, the second part of the strike is planned for the day we depart. Fortunately, British is going to keep as many flights running as possible, not sure what that means but my guess is we will have to wait until the day of the flight to see if we can actually get on the plane and get to our destination. I feel so much better with the ambiguity. But, just in case, I obtained RT tickets on Icelandair from Seattle to Paris with a stopover in Reykjavik that are refundable in the unlikely event British can actually keep the planes flying. So, maybe we can enjoy the rotted shark meat on our layover!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

We need a vacation!

Dateline: Austin Texas. 15 days and counting until we are supposed to depart. British Airways and the flight attendants union continue to bicker, meanwhile, the rail workers are threatening to strike (one of our back-up options)and the people in Greece are really mad because they have no money and the government is going broke. Not that the events in Greece will affect our trip to France, but then anything is possible. Good thing there is no negative news about possible terrorists embedded in British Airways planning suicide missions in the event of a strike. We continue to watch the news and British Airways information with high hopes and low expectations. Just in case, we may purchase back-up tickets on Icelandair which will get us from Seattle to Paris if British implodes. But then of course we might get stuck in Reykjavik on the way to Paris. If we do get stuck in Iceland that would be an opportunity to sample their delicacy made from rotted shark meat, and then visit a geothermal spring which I understand is close to being on a beach in sunny Southern France. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

19 Days & Counting

Today is Sunday, March 7, 19 days until our planned departure, British Airways and the union are still negotiating, apparently with little progress. We are continuing to watch developments with a certain sense of hope the union and British will come to a reasonable agreement, but at the same time looking at other options. So, not much else to report, off to MSP this week to get the project done so I can move on to the rest of the projects to complete before we leave.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Time Marches On

Today in Nice, it rained, I am not sure whom my complaints should be addressed concerning this unacceptable weather behavior, but rest assured I will register my complaints in the French language.... Le temps n'est pas beau à Nice, le rendent chaud! 25 days left before we depart, British is still negotiating with the flight attendants union, Unite; according to the wags in the British press, BA will wimp out and give in to the union. I have been reading a book on Van Gogh, poor tortured soul who did the majority of his work in the last ten years of his young life. We plan to visit both Arles, and Saint Remy where he not only spent time in the asylum, but also produced his most colorful paintings.