Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


This is the final post of our BLOG for our Provence trip. This morning, I took our trusty coffee grinder out and ground up the coffee we purchased from the little Torrefacteur Vieux-Nice shop, Cafes Indien, just a few steps down the Rue Droite from our apartment in Nice. After all the effort to locate a grinder in Nice, this morning was sort of anti-climatic.

In spite of flight attendant strikes, volcanic ash eruptions and rail strikes, we made it home on time. Leaving the sunny Mediterranean for rainy Washington was not easy, but necessary to provide for future travel opportunities.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ville Vieux

Today, the weather is wonderful, the storm is over, the sun is out and all is right with the world (except for Thailand and a few other problem spots around the world). This morning we walked into the old town to visit the market, it is such a wonderful place, full of aromas, beautiful flowers, produce, cheeses, spices and baked goods. We purchased some local olive oil, flavored spices and salt to bring back with us. People are on the beach, strolling the promenade, skating, riding bicycles and the Japanese tourists are photographing everything. We are doing our best to try every wine from Provence but failing miserably, just too many options! Tomorrow, on the spur of the moment, we decided to visit the Frejus Faire, a fair that has been going on for over 400 hundred years, provided there are no rail worker strikes we should have a wonderful day in an ancient town about one hour from here by train.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Last night we were awakened by the wind blowing against the windows, and the waves crashing on the beach. There are two very large French doors (what else?)with side windows that are the full height and width of our apartment, so there is quite a nice view outside to the promenade and beach. But with a strong wind there is a bit of rattling, outside these windows a full metal door can be operated to protect the windows in the event of a very strong wind, so we debated if we should close this metal shutter or hope for the best. Being too lazy to get up, we opted for hoping the windows would not blow in and cover us with shattered glass shards, possibly lethal. The winds have abated through the morning to about 20 mph from somewhere about 40-50 mph last night. Since we are not covered with glass shards, I think we made the right decision. The Mediterranean does not have tides, so it is interesting to see the wind whipped breakers hitting the beach. On most days, no matter the weather, there are people on the beach and in the water, not so today. Earlier, we watched a cruise ship preparing to dock, but it cruised off and returned in about one hour after the wind had died down. Although the wind is abating, the surf continues to pound the beach and probably will for the rest of the day. We planned to walk into the old town this morning but will postpone that until later today. If you are interested in seeing where we are, I am attaching a link to the live Nice webcam. http://www.webcamgalore.com/EN/webcam/France/Nice/99.html if you open this site and click on the 'Visit Webcam' then on the box in the upper right hand corner, Plage Sud Ouest, then Grand Format, it will show the area where we are staying. In the live feed on the far left side of the camera, there is a tall building with blue glass panels, continue looking to the left and the last building on the left side is our building, 6 floors, 101 steps up from the ground level.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


This morning we walked along the Promenade Des Anglais to the old town where we stayed the first few weeks. It was a nice stroll in the morning with the temperature perfect, A little wind and just a few folks on the beach. The sky was full of airplane contrails following the opening of European airspace. We have a view of the airport runway from our balcony and the last few days was eerily quiet, but late yesterday, and this morning lots of activity as the planes scrambled to get back into the air.
After being here for some time and becoming adjusted to the French, and their ways (actually becoming quite good at the French language)we have come to the conclusion that two laws regarding pollution that should be passed. The first is to require the French to pick up after their dogs, while walking the streets, it is certainly a good idea to watch where one walks. I think the French as so used to having someone clean the streets that they feel no responsibility to clean up after their dogs, even though there are free bags and disposal stations. The second law would establish a commission to judge and control the freedom to remove certain clothes while one the beach, this of course would be aimed at eliminating visual pollution; sometimes it is better to cover up more to avoid offending the passerby's eyes.
But back to the old city. The market is just wonderful, the flowers fresh produce, fish, dried mushrooms of every variety; spices are inexpensive and very fresh. We purchased fresh, sun dried tomatoes that are stacked high on a table and in a pile instead of little jars, and fresh spices by the kilo scooped up from open containers, we will really miss this part of Nice. The food is fresh, tasty, inexpensive and plentiful, there is so much variety, the bread is baked each morning, fresh cheeses in an incredible variety are also available along with every kind of smelly fish, and crustacean. I missed a great opportunity for a photo a few weeks ago as we walked to the market, a man with snorkel gear was walking up the street with an octopus; we have watched the local fish monger strip the ink from octopus, and every kind of weird fish is also available including the pontine that are a slimy gelatinous mass (a delicacy, of course) along with escagot for sale. Tomorrow we may go back to the market for a few photos, and the walk, of course, about 2 1/2 miles one way. Did I mention that I killed the ants? Almost forgot, but we had a few ants in the apartment so I went to Bricora, the local hardware store and found some ant killer, it worked quite well, no sign of the little critters this morning. I went back to the Bricora this morning looking for a small scale to weigh our luggage, I fear with all the purchases that we will either have to leave all our clothes here or purchase a third suitcase just to get everything home.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My side of the story.....

If you read the below post of Michael's, then you see his love of history were as I look at the more human side of our adventures.

He makes the A8 Autoroute sound so great.......

We were in a car no larger than a large stroller......I was in charge of the 20' x 20' folding map (which is now shredded). As we are driving along at over 80 mph going in and out of traffic, he wants to know 'where are we!' Then we drive through the cities on these tiny roads and he wants to know where to turn! Meanwhile, its my job to tell him where we are, where we need to turn, if a car is entering from the right (they have the right away, priote au droite) if there is a light ahead so he knows whether to stop or not! I packed light for this little road trip but should have left everything at the apt except for wine......did I mention the man learned to drive a 3 speed on a DeSoto (HONESTLY)!!! I use to own a Miata which I'm sure shifts much like this small stroller we were in....I tried (nicely) to explain to him that you gently place the car into gear and that jamming it hard into gear even the right one, does not work......I'm surprised our transmission was still with us!

Then he decided to take a "scenic" drive through Cannes.....all I remember was all the honking when he ran the red light!

I find that French has not been that difficult to learn. Warning, when I return home I may be cheek kissing everyone and saying Bonjour for a few days! I'll try to adjust.

Yes, we have both had our moments being together ALL THE TIME and work sounds nice at times....well maybe once or twice, maybe after I tan a while longer on the veranda overlooking the Meditteranean and watching the boats and sunbathers while Michael prepares lunch....I may feel a bit different about it!

I understand that the volcano erupted again. I guess it's another sign that we may be stuck here for a while even though we have managed the British Airways Strike and the SCNF Train strike (being stuck in Monaco wasn't a bad place to be stuck!)

I have bought so many things here that I will be leaving my clothes for the homeless so I have room for my treasures!


Ash & car Travel

Today, Tuesday, there were hopes the volcanic ash would be less of a danger and air travel would resume, but new eruptions threw a monkey wrench into that plan. We are waiting and hoping the skies will open up and let us come home in one week.
We just returned from a road trip through Provence by rental car. Miss Barbara was a bit concerned about my driving because of the congestion, crazy motorcyclists, and the bizillion cars all over everywhere. All valid concerns! But, we forged ahead and rented the car from the airport which is about 3 miles from our apartment, then took off on the A8 Autoroute which is very similar to the US freeways, except better and also a toll road. Travel on the A8 is easy, the road is nicely maintained, well marked and fast with an average speed of 110 to 130 kmh, or about 68 to 81 mph. We drove from Nice to Avignon in less than 2 hours at a cost of 20 Euros. Our car was a compact diesel Renault which sped along quite nicely and was not so small as some cars on the road. We took a side road thorough the French countryside through Cavillion, into the mountains through Gordes to the Abbaye Senanque. You have probably seen photos of the Abbaye with long rows of lavender in bloom but we were a little early for the lavender, probably a good thing since it would have been mobbed with tourists! Provence is a major perfume producer so there are many farms growing flowers, herbs and spices. Gordes is a village perched on the top of a mountain with houses built into the side of the cliff, quite beautiful. Our next stop was Avignon, and the Palais des Papes, a sort of mini Vatican on the Rhone river, which was a medieval fortress city built by the Popes to escape the wars in Rome built between 1309 and 1377. The old city is still surrounded by walls and the Palais is quite remarkable condition. The popes had imported many of the great painters of the period to decorate the palace, but most of the frescoes and other art works have been lost to time. We found an Etap hotel after surviving driving through the narrow streets. This hotel was fairly new, 54 Euros a night which is on the cheap side, but clean and modern. The amenities were meager and the room was odd in that it had a queen bed with a bunk bed above (the colors were bright pink and gray, odd). Only two towels were provided, no phone and two very small bars of soap. But it was clean! On Sunday morning we drove to Orange, again through the French countryside, lots of vineyards, fruit trees, and small towns. The fields are lush and green, while the grape vines are just starting to sprout. Did I mention that we tried to sample wines from each area we were in?
Orange is a wonderful mid size town with Roman origins dating back to BC. Although mainly known for the Theatre Antique d'Orange, still in use today, the best preserved of the entire Roman empire in Europe. The town is also known for the Orange dynasty where William of Orange and the Dutch Royal family started. Next stop Pont du Gard to see the tallest of all Roman aqueducts, part of an engineering project to bring water 31 miles from Uzes to Nimes, very impressive engineering for 19BC, the large stone blocks fit so perfectly no mortar was required.
This is also the picture used on the 5 euros. Next we drove to Nimes, another ancient Roman city with well preserved arena still used for bull fighting. Nimes is where the blue fabric known as denim is from De Nimes! We had planned to stay in Nimes but the traffic on a Sunday afternoon was very crazy, no place to park, a bizillion tourists all over, so we escaped and headed for Arles. Arles is another ancient Roman town with the obligatory theatre and arena, both still used today. Arles is very close to the Camargue, one of Europe's major wetlands, home to bull, and cattle ranching, and the local cowboys. We spent the night is a nice older hotel with a phone and more than two towels, and a very nice lady who ran the place. As always we took off walking to see the sights, and to purchase more refrigerator magnets. From Arles, we took the local roads to Tarascon, home of the legendary man eater the Tarasque, reputed to be an armadillo with a lions head. At some time St. Martha killed the Tarasque and brought peace to the world. In Tarascon, the fairy tale castle of the good King Rene can be visited (for a fee). One of the feudal castles that dots the Rhone River, built in the 15th century, and surrounded by a moat, is quite impressive. The good King promoted peace, encouraged art and culture. Next stop St Remy-de-Provence, another small town with a Greco-Roman heritage, but mostly known as the asylum where Vincent Van Gogh spent some time after mutilating his ear. You can still walk the paths near the asylum where Van Gogh painted many of his famous pictures, and recognize the landscapes. From St Remy we drove through more of the French countryside towards Aix en Provence and then back to Nice. Feeling very confident about driving, we decided to take the local roads from Cannes along the coast back to Nice. I had always pictured the coast towns such as Cannes, Antibes, Beauliue Sur Mer as picturesque villages dotted along the coast, but the reality is the entire Cote D,Azure is one long inhabited area with lots of people and traffic. A lot of traffic, in small congested roads and motorcyclists riding in between the cars, racing to the next stop light; heaven forbid you should tarry at the stop light, the French love their horns! But, we made it back safe, no scratches on the car, Barbara needed a glass of wine to calm her nerves, but otherwise a great trip. (It was no wonder, Michael ran a red light in Cannes!)Not true, I stopped then carefully proceeded through the light after the honking started.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Yesterday evening we returned from Barcelona, Spain, what a great adventure! Not just because we did not get robbed (Barcelona is reputed to be a great place to lose your money)but because we really enjoyed the City. As usual, we walked about 20 miles from one end to the other and took in the sights. Barcelona is a wonderful, Old World City, full of history dating back thousands of years. Everything from the Romans to Ferdinand & Isabella, Columbus, The Spanish Inquisition, Spanish Civil War, the explosion of art and Moderneisme. In my life, I have seen many structures, great engineering feats such as the Empire State Building, Golden Gate Bridge, the Roman Coliseum, the baths at Caracala, Pompeii, Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, wonderful works of art such as the Mona Lisa, David's Napoleon, the Birth of Venus, by Botticelli, and so forth. But I must say, and it is hard to find words adequate to describe the genius of Antoni Gaudi, truly one of the great geniuses of the 19th century! While Gaudi is best known for his masterpiece, Sagrada Familia, which after 140 years is still under construction, to look at his early works such as la Pederera, or Casa Batillo is to look into a mind so unique, so brilliant, that words fail to properly describe his accomplishments. I have seen many photos of his work, and have felt the results to be cluttered, over designed, complicated and somehow not relevant to art, architecture, or engineering. But after seeing these monuments in person, I can only say the photos are a shabby representation of the real thing. I have posted a couple of photos of La Pederera that Barb took, , considering this was built in the 1800's it is so modern and refreshing. Normal designers use a round stove pipe for a chimney flue, Gaudi designed a chimney pot so unusual that I suspect Darth Vader's helmet is taken from this design. Rather than blather on about his accomplishments, I have attached a link to Wikipedia, but just for fun I suggest you take some time and explore this man's work, if you ever have a chance to visit Barcelona, don't miss his accomplishments.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Adventures in Travel

The trip to La Turbie was eagerly anticipated for the ancient history and breathtaking views from the highest point above Monaco on the A8 Autoroute (original Roman, Julia Augustus road dating from the 1st century BC). While our schedule was fairly relaxed, we did have bus and train schedules to maintain since the bus frequency was somewhat limited from Monaco to La Turbie. Starting off at 0700, we walked the 2 1/2 miles to the train station (with just one minor deviation since we missed Blvd. Gambetta and took a different street), the train was on time but a bit crowded since many people live in Nice and commute to work in Monaco. It is only a 30 minute train ride to Monaco stopping along the way at Villefranche, Cap Ferrat, and a couple of other seaside villages. We arrived in Monaco at 8:45 with plenty of time to catch the Ligne 114 bus at 10:30 from Place D'Armes. I had researched the schedule and location of the bus station which was not too far from the train station, so off we went walking, again. Having been in Monaco before and walked the streets, we were not entirely unfamiliar with the city, but, installation of the security fencing and barricades for the Monte Carlo Formulae 1 race was in full swing, this means half the streets and sidewalks are blocked off so it is difficult to walk from Point A to Point B in any kind of a straight manner. After walking for some time and asking directions, we finally caught a local bus that would take us to Place D'Armes, the local buses are very nice, at each covered bus stop, there are BIDS (Bus Information Displays)graphically showing the location of buses that service each stop, the location on the route of each bus and the time when the bus arrives. From this bus stop we were approximately two blocks from Place D'Armes but just could not get there, so the bus which only runs one direction (just left Place D,Armes) had to make the entire route through the city to get us back to where we would catch the 114 to La Turbie. Needless to say the clock was ticking as we took the bus through the entire city, which was quite an experience in itself, nice views of the harbor, all the great shops, Casino etc. Fortunately, Monaco is not that big and we arrived at Place D'Armes with 10 minutes to spare. Had we missed this bus, the next one did not arrive for three hours. Our next challenge was to find the bus station where the bus would depart, no station was in evidence, just a five-way intersection, with traffic, tunnels, and many city bus lines, again, asking for directions was somewhat helpful. We ascertained that no one knew where the La Turbie bus actually arrived or departed; there are four different bus stops scattered around the intersection, so we checked each stop to look at schedules, bus lines etc. As I mentioned earlier, each bus stop is loaded with useful information, but nothing for La Turbie. One of the shop keepers suggested the bus stop where the Nice bus departed so we walked over and again lots of useful information on the local buses, and a schedule for the bus to Nice, but nothing on La Turbie. Time was slipping away with only one or two minutes left as we scurried around the intersection, we finally decided to stay at the Nice stop and at precisely 10:30 a motor coach arrived with La Turbie-Monaco on the front windshield! The fare is 1 Euro, or about $1.35 each way which is very reasonable for a trip up into the mountains. The ride through the city and up into the mountains was not for the faint of heart, not sure exactly how the bus made the hairpin turns since the road is barely wide enough for two cars let alone a full size bus and the occasional construction vehicles coming down the hill. Many people with little regard for their safety ride bikes up the mountain is some sort of test of strength, or stupidity so they can say they did not get hit by a bus or car! Several times the bus basically took up the entire roadway as it negotiated the tight turns, but we arrived safely and were rewarded with spectacular views of Monaco, the surrounding mountains and coastline.

Lunchtime! The bus ended the journey n the heart of La Turbie, a lovely alpine village. The main street has the usual restaurants, local merchants and an occasional souvenir shop, across from the bus stop is a very nice restaurant La Terrasse, situated on the hillside overlooking the valley and the coastline to Cap Ferrat, where all the rich and famous live. We were a bit early for lunch so the owner suggested we sit on one side of the restaurant used for breakfast, no tablecloths, fairly barren and austere looking. The other side of the restaurant with the view was set up for lunch and the hope of greater income. The owner, Jacques Barraja, asked where we were from, we said Seattle, he said Rick Steves home, and asked if we knew him, we knew of him through his travel shows and books, but not personally. He said he knows him and his partner, is on his Facebook page, etc. So, we get moved over to the nice side of the restaurant with the view and tablecloths, offered free internet and free phone calls to home. Maybe if we knew Steve personally we could have a free lunch? Jacques was very nice, his wife is from Australia and his sister from Washington DC, they live in Nice and commute via the A8 to their restaurant. After lunch we wandered through the village and up to the Le trophee de Auguste monument, this monument which was built in 6BC by Augustus after defeating the Gaulish tribes between 25 and 14BC, is your basic "I kicked your butts" monument built to be visible for miles and reminds every one that we kicked your butts and don't forget it! The Romans were pretty good at building monuments and this one is no exception, originally 164 feet tall with a 20' statue of Augustus on the top, and niches for statues of his generals around the colonnade. At the bottom was inscribed the names of the 44 tribes who were conquered. Some 400 years after construction and demise of the Roman empire, it was partly dismantled and used as a stone quarry. It was partly restored between 1905 -1923 by an American. Did I mention it is Monday and the museums are closed on Monday)oh, well we were able to get very close and saved the 10 Euro fee to get in. So, for the trip back to Monaco, the bus arrived early, oops, lunch break, so we cooled our heals at a local restaurant while waiting for the driver to return. The trip back to Monaco was uneventful, no one run off the road, no crashes, nothing spectacular to report. The bus stopped at the train station, so with this bit of good fortune we walked into the train station to catch the 2:13 PM train back to Nice. We had purchased our return tickets in Nice, so all we needed was a train. Now, after using the train system in Europe, we have become quite experienced at schedules buying tickets, and getting on the right train. I normally carry a local schedule so we know the train schedules, upon arriving at the station and consulting the train information display (TIDS), we noticed the next Nice train did not arrive until 5:13, okay, so it was not the weekend, there should be a train at least every hour and sometimes more frequently. Hmmm, I asked a man at the ticket booth when the next train is scheduled and he confirmed 5:13, something was definitely wrong.... There were a couple of announcements in French, something to do with disruption, and helpful employees were there at the station to answer questions, but no helpful people in sight. The train finally arrived 10 minutes late full of people from prior stops and at least 2000 people in Monaco waiting to get on. It situations like this it is best to forget your manners and consideration for others, just concentrate on pushing and shoving, which we did and got a place in the last car, jammed with people but at least a bit of breathing room, but wait, there is more! As the doors were closing at least 10,000 Spanish students magically appeared trying to get on the train. Approximately half of the 10,000 made it, the others were left stranded as the doors were shut and the train departed. Fortunately with only thirty minutes to Nice and a couple of stops along the way, the oxygen was not depleted and almost all of the passengers arrived safely. According to news reports the French rail workers are on another strike so only 30% of the local trains are running. Another 2 1/2 mile walk home a stop at the grocery store and we were back in the apartment at 7:00 PM just 12 hours after we left. No bad for a three hour tour! I was thinking about canceling the car for the rest of our travels in Provence, but I am thinking the car is a good alternative. $8.00 per gallon for gas but we should at least get to where we are going.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Something Different

This morning, true to the weather forecast, it is cloudy and cool with a bit of wind. The sun is out and although a little windy, it is very comfortable on the veranda, overlooking the promenade and beach. Not much planned today, possibly a visit to the Musee Massena which is close by, then a walk to the Supermarche to pick up a few groceries. Also laundry, having a clothes washer is a benefit, I could have bought just three changes of clothing instead of more items which would have left more room for souvenirs! I have been planning our next trip which is tentatively Greece, but after seeing a travel program here I decided the next adventure will be to Algeria; a two week journey across the desert with camels, eating bread baked on coals, washing our utensils with sand, and no hope of a shower for 14 days. But, we would have to buy alpenstocks for the trek, (always wanted a pair to go with my lederhosen). Barb thinks this is a great idea! She is currently on the chaise lounge soaking up solar radiation whilst I document our travels. Tomorrow, La Turbie!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

On the beach

This morning we moved out of the old town Nice apartment to the studio apartment on the beach. Instead of taking the bus the two plus miles to the new apartment, we dragged our suitcases and other bags full of recent purchases down the promenade in the mid-day sun. I felt much like a homeless person moving all my belongings, and when people started to offer money, I realized I must have looked pretty pathetic. But we made it in just over an hour and hauled everything up 101 stairs to the fifth floor. The building does have a lift but then we are used used to walking up five flights of stairs, so we shunned the lift. The building was constructed in 1955 and is really lovely, true Mediterranean, nicely maintained and a bit larger then the apartment in the old town. The French (what else)double doors open up on a veranda overlooking the promenade and beach, the view is from Cap Ferrat all the way to Antibes, truly spectacular. I did notice a few people on the beach, fisherman, folks sunbathing, riding bicycles and the weather was perfect, not too hot. Barb thinks she is in heaven, but I remind her she can't be in heaven while living with the devil. She is quick to remind me her maiden name comes from living with the devil, or something like that. We also have a nice view of the airport so if we get bored, we can watch the planes take off and land. Tomorrow it is supposed to be a bit windy, so we have nothing planned yet, maybe just sit on the veranda and watch the world go by. Monday we plan to take the train the Monaco then a bus to La Turbie up on the Grand Corniche. Tuesday, off to Barcelona for a couple of days. I could get used to this life!

Friday, April 9, 2010

This is Babara...normally I "allow" Michael to post for us but in this instance, I need to tell you MY perspective....My husband has NEVER sunbathed. Today, we spent nearly 4 hours on the beach and I slept, read, watched people, etc. He on the other hand came back with stories and experiences I did not have.....I did not see the topless women but he is still talking about it (that's better than his search for the perfect coffee grinder!) We are having interesting discussions on whether to retire or not. After being here for 2 weeks and knowing we have 3 more to go, I AM READY.....I find 12 hours of sleep perfect....who wouldn't??? Life is really wonderful and kind of like a fantasy right now except I miss my family and sisters, mom, kids, and gkids....I guess we can't have it all. Michael is making dinner now and I will call my gkids on skype. Hope everyone is happy, well and doing exactly what they want to do!!!

The Beach!

Today is a beautiful day, near 70 degrees, not a cloud in the sky. We spent some time on the beach which started to get crowded about noon, the water temperature is still cool but not too cold to take a dip. Even with the sunblock, I am feeling a bit of redness. Barb said no more talk about the coffee grinder in the blog, but I felt some people might need closure on this issue since it has not been fully resolved. So, after this post, no more about the lack of grinders in Nice. I think the reason for the lack of grinders is most people have an espresso machine that grinds the beans as part of the process so there is no need for a grinder, other folks, fluent in French, can obtain coffee ground to the correct coarseness, so there is no need for the sale of grinders. Enough said. Tomorrow we move to the beach apartment, we are going to miss the old town, everything is so close and convenient; we really know our way around, the vegetable and wine merchants know us, and except for the one aforementioned item we were able to get everything we needed here. The beach apartment is about 1 1/2 miles to the West but in the newer section of town which is more touristy, and a bit more industrial. Hopefully the new place will be quieter. because of the narrow lanes, it is very noisy here with the motorcycles, cars, construction etc. The beach apartment is on the main road, but I think it should be a bit quieter, we shall hear.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Close but no cigar!

Although the weather forecast was for rain, we only had a few drops, so today we took it easy and walked to the main shopping district. Barb is no longer the only woman in Nice without boots! She found a pair of black boots discounted in one of the local boutiques; compared to other boots I have seen, these are not too awful. But then, beauty (fashion) is in the eye of the beholder! We also purchased a real French Chef's knife and a cutting board since the implements in our apartment are somewhat lacking. The search for a coffee grinder continues, we looked thorough all 5 floors of the major shopping center Nicetoile, with several cuisine (kitchen) stores, without any luck. I finally got desperate and purchased a grinder (coarse) designed for spices but still too fine for coffee. Oh, what to do? Our coffee supply is running low except for the whole beans. We also visited the Museum of Natural History and the Palais Lascaris, which is a palatial home not far from our apartment that dates from the
1700's originally belonging to the Lascaris family, which were from the ruling family of Malta. Tomorrow, the beach! Supposed to be 68 degrees!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Success, un moulin cafe!

We found a coffee grinder! After a week of searching, we actually found several grinders in a local herb store that sells salts, peppers, herbs, and grinders for all of these. Unfortunately the grinders are on the expensive side, so the search continues. We took a nice stroll to the Port area, looked at the expensive yachts, and felt sorry for the folks with the big expensive yachts that are devastated when a bigger boat comes into the harbor. My guess is size matters when showing off your yacht. We have walked the rue's (streets) enough to really know our way around this city, the narrow lanes are fun, full of people, restaurants and shops on every corner and 10 paces in between. Today, we took an empty wine bottle to the cave (wine cellar)and had them fill the bottle with the local red table wine, Barb of course took photos of the event. Here I am trying to fit in like a local, speak the language, and out comes the tourist camera; I might as well be wearing lederhosen and march down the rue with two alpenstocks in unison with dozens of like minded people!
Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy so we thought about taking the train and a bus to La Turbie, a small village above Monaco reputed to have fantastic views, but then if it is raining, how can the view be any good? La Turbie is on the grand corniche road that was originally part of the main Roman road, it has a monument built in 6 BC by the Emperor Augustus to celebrate conquering the area. Other that, not much history.
So, with the entire area experiencing light rain, my guess is tomorrow is another shopping day, starting with lousy coffee since we have no grinder. Oh, ma qualite, ce qui font? Barb misses Bob's espresso, out of desperation, we had to walk to the square and get an espresso from Fenocchio's this evening. Bob, could you deliver some espresso until we find a grinder, or any relatives here in Nice? Italian coffee would be nice in Nice.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tight Quarters

On Monday, we left for the train station about 6:00 AM and the street cleaners were still busy cleaning the streets. All of the streets are cleaned each morning using water hoses and brooms, so every morning the streets are clean and free of debris. After the street markets close, the cleaners appear and clean up the mess, so Nice is a very clean city. At this time of year, the pontine are running, pontine are an immature small fish that look like a gelatinous gray mass in a basket. Apparently these are a local delicacy which are spread on small toast and consumed without any cooking. This must be an acquired taste since just the appearance of these for sale in the basket are enough to ruin our appetites.

The streets are very narrow, yet somehow cars and motor scooters are able to get through the streets, but not easily. One has to be constantly aware of speeding vehicles through the narrow lanes. We watched out of our window earlier as an emergency vehicle tried to go though the narrow lane in front of the church, this required four other vehicles to maneuver around backing up, turning into a side lane, until the emergency vehicle was able to get past. Maybe that is why people here are healthy since it would take half an hour for the ambulance to get to a person in need.

Today we went to the market for ingredients to make our main meal. We purchased fresh tomatoes, cheese, pesto, salad greens, sun dried tomatoes, fresh spices, fresh ravioli, pain ciabatta, and of course some wine. For dessert, fresh fraises (strawberries), ementhal cheese and a half bottle of champagne. Cooking here is much fun with all the fresh ingredients, the pastas are fantastic, made fresh each morning. You can choose between local produce or produce imported from other areas. Although everything is expensive here, it is much less expensive to purchase the ingredients instead of eating at restaurants.

Weather here is very pleasant so we walked to the beach which is full of people sunbathing, and the occasional daredevil going into the water. Tomorrow, we will do something, or maybe nothing, we will know tomorrow.

Monday, April 5, 2010


We have to remember that on Monday, most museums are closed, especially on Easter Monday which is a holiday in France. We took the TGV train to Marseilles, a 2 1/2 hour journey along the coast, quite beautiful with the blue Mediterranean waters, sunshine and, in places like Cannes, the luxury homes and yachts. Although forecast for fog, the weather in Marseilles was sunny and warm, but with strong winds; near Fort St Jean as we went around a corner near the harbor, it was almost impossible to walk. Marseilles has a history of occupation that goes back 20,000 years and a very diverse population.
Known for seafood, the harbor area is full of poisson (fish) restaurants, in the midst of this is a German restaurant(Maitre Kanter)serving food that would sink most sailboats. Not sure what was on the menu in French that described German plates such as large hunks of some kind of beef with either big strips of bacon or perhaps half a pork belly, covered with sauerkraut and gravy. Although starving, we decided to look elsewhere. The city is quite beautiful with impressive churches, old forts, wide streets and government buildings. The harbor is quite spectacular with lots of pleasure craft, ferries, and harbor tour boats, plus the fishing fleet. We watched the start of a sail boat race leaving the harbor which was interesting because of the high winds.

With the national holiday, most of the large stores were also closed, so Barb was not able to find the special gift for sister Bev that she richly deserves. (Really enjoyed the email). After returning to Nice on the train, we decided to take the light rail from the station to the old town instead of walking. The light rail is about two years old and very nice, but because of the holiday, it was running at lower frequency, thus we were able to experience the sardine can approach to public transportation. Tuesday will be a beach day in Nice, the weather promises to be very pleasant and Barb is still nursing her injured foot so this will also be a healing day.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Today was a bit quiet in old town Nice. Most of the major stores were closed but the local shops were busy with many tourists. We strolled to the train station to purchase our tickets for the trip to Marseilles tomorrow. We delayed obtaining the rental car until April 16 since it is difficult to find a parking space in old town and quite expensive if you do find a space. There is more parking available at the promenade apartment so that should work out better. Tomorrow it is supposed to be very nice with the temperature in the mid 60's, it will be a nice day for a 2 1/2 hour train ride along the coast. We have become just like the locals hanging our clothes out the window to dry, yesterday one of the items drifted off in the wind and got lodged in one of the neighbors clotheslines, later it fell to the ground and I was able to retrieve it. Not as convenient as throwing everything in the dryer. The hunt for a coffee grinder continues, Barbara suggested we open a store selling coffee grinders with the coffees, what a concept!

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Saturday, April 3 started with a light rain as we walked to the train station for the trip to Menton, the 'most Italian city of the French Riveria'. The train schedule is reduced for the weekend and we had too wait a little longer for our train which ended up being quite crowded, although most of the people got off at Monaco, Monte Carlo. We kept on going to Menton which is very close to the Italian border, thus we lost no money gambling in Monaco. Menton is a lovely seaside town with lots of rich people, and known for the citrus festival in February. It rained lightly off an on during the day, we had a nice lunch inside a restaurant for a change, then walked along the streets and got back on the train for Nice. This is day three of the search for the elusive coffee grinder, for some reason we have not been able to locate a coffee grinder in this area, coffee is sold along with coffee makers, but no grinders; perhaps people expect someone else to grind their coffee.....Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, we expect to hear lots of bells and the weather is supposed to be warmer.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

Today we strolled down the beach, round trip about 10 miles, stopping to have lunch midway. Although it is a bit windy, there are many people on the beach sunbathing, and the younger generation occasionally in the water. We found the mummy woman still on the beach, but in a different location from our last trip. Not sure if she moved, or the municipale workers relocated her. People here like the sun, it is pretty amazing to see so many people in bathing suits on the windy beach (some with only partial bathing suits) in early April when the temperatures are just about 60.
I am still trying to find the right grind of coffee, the coffee in the apartment when we arrived is a very fine grind suitable for espresso, but the coffee maker is a French press which requires a coarse grind; we found a torrefacteur (coffee merchant) and bought a 250 gram bag of coffee doing our best to explain that we wanted a coarse grind, the nice clerk then proceeded to grind the coffee fine. Today, I went back and asked for another bag of coffee, 'morcellement brut, (coarse grind), I got a bag of beans. Now I am looking for a coffee grinder so I can grind it myself.
Today being Good Friday, the local Catholic Church, no not the one next to our apartment, but the bigger church two blocks away staged a procession up the rue Crossetti, complete with lights, loudspeakers and the choir. Quite interesting, but more people were in the local pubs and eateries. Tomorrow we may visit Menton, reputed to have the best climate in the Riviera, and the only place warm enough to grow citrus crops.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bon Jour! I can't describe how blue the sky is here in the cote d'azure! Today we took the train to Biot. It was only about 30 minutes and fairly inexpensive. I was anxious to see the blown glass that they are so highly noted for. Yes, we bought some......beautiful works and it was amazing to see the artists at work. This trip is different in so many ways. For instance, Michael does not have a daily itinerary so we get up in the morning and decide where we want to go and what we want to see. How fun is that! I see a lot of things that I want to buy but can wait, after all we have a lot of time! We are still in the Old Nice area and there is so much to see and do. I am curious what tomorrow (Good Friday) will bring. We hear that it is a day that the statues are covered and no bells ringing but then on Easter Sunday the bells ring and ring and ring... One of the traditions here is that children play pranks and put a cut out of a fish on adults backs.......we actually saw a school group at a museum in Biot and they had done this to their teacher. Weird?? But traditional. Having a wonderful time and the wine is perfect!

Rosas Cooking Class

Yesterday we met Rosa at the market to buy the items for our cooking class. We learned a bit about the local produce and not to buy items from Spain since they are heavily sprayed with pesticides. The spice market was magnificent, every spice imaginable is available in bulk form, because of the low humidity in Nice it is displayed in open boxes, something that you could not do in Seattle. Miz Barbara tied on an apron and proceeded to prepare fresh pissaladiere, a sweet onion tart with anchovies that is a favorite Nicois street food, plus semi-salted cod with pot roasted potatoes and garlic, for desert a lemon souffle. We had a very nice time, Rosa's assistant is from Mexico City, we learned she knows our friends in Aguas Calientes, very small world!
In the afternoon, we hiked up to the cemetery on the hill above Nice, then over to the old citadel, the views of Nice the surrounding hills, the Alps, and of course the beaches are breathtaking. After a nice long walk along the beach, we returned to our apartment five floors up. The city comes alive about 8:00 PM, we strolled the streets and discovered a couple of bars with live music, one place was playing 'These boots are made for walking' by Nancy Sinatra, lots of young people were rocking out to the music, who I am sure were not born when the song first came out in the 70's.
Today we are taking the train to Biot, a local glass and pottery center, the train will get us within 2 1/2 miles, then we walk.