Tuesday 8 March 2016

Nice things

No Clare.
I’d obviously upset Pisa with my last blog title, I woke this morning to the sound of swishing tyres and the distinctive gurgle of a gutter overflowing. It wasn’t sounding good out there. I lay there for a while trying to decide whether Italy had simply had enough of me and it was a gentle way of saying please leave. It tried this trick in Venice too. And I’m still not prepared to acknowledge how awful the Florence affair was.

As it was 6:30am I decided against leaping in to action and instead wrote. Which of course meant the constant tipetty tap of fingers on keys as digits danced around churning out words of pure nonsense. Or what I call a blog.

The plan for the day was simple, wake, eat breakfast write and post postcards back to Norfolk for the littlest offspring, fill the Contrary Clio and finally storm along the autostrada back to France. In the outline plan for this leg of the trip I’d penned in a stop at Grasse simply because I really liked the guesthouse Clare and I stayed in a couple of weeks ago, however as I was looking at places last night I had a hankering for the sea. Which really meant Nice or Cannes, but I’d had my fill of Cannes over many years so wanted somewhere different.

Hence the plan for the later part of the day was to hit Nice and assuming the weather held go for a meander along the Promenade des Anglais in the late afternoon sun. If nothing else I am eternally hopeful.

But first the important part of the day. Breakfast. Hmm. Well it filled a spot. I think the problem here is that I have had some fabulous breakfasts over the last few weeks, though the one in Mas Madilauric in Grasse still wins hands down for sheer somethingness. Obviously ignoring the fabulous home grown breakfasts we prepared when we encamped in the Palazzo Barbini at the end of the first leg. To be fair it was a two star hotel rather than what can only be described as a five star guesthouse. Or a Contrary Palazzo.

After breakfast I settled the bill and we were going to walk in to the old town in search of postcards as I wanted to send another from here, it would be rude not to. However I realised that they were available from the hotel reception, ooh! The lazy mare in me reared her ugly head and I suggested that we don’t go in to town and we could make haste to France and the promise of a walk.

However, she suggested that there would be more choice in town plus she needed to get some cash out. As we left to load the bags into the car the heavens opened. Oh joy, wet feet again. I loaned a brolly to Clarissa as she’d left hers in Croatia - and I’m supposed to be the airhead - and with my hat firms affixed we marched in to town. At one point she did ask whose bright idea this was as we trudged through the onslaught of rain drops and puddles. I didn’t have to answer.

Still, it wasn’t all that bad, I found suitable postcards, wrote them in the warmth and saw some young soldiers with large machine guns I could tell Clare about. We also go to see endless people doing the tourist hand thing again and once more I marvelled at what lack of self awareness is needed to all this to become a viable thing.

I also managed to endlessly avoid buying a brolly - remember mine was on loan by now - by merely smiling and pointing at my hat.

Seriously, I’m British, we understand rain. I *never* travel without a brolly and if I choose not to use one it’s because I feel that I have adequate protection by other means. I think this statement might have been lost on people.

With lots of brolly sellers and hot soldiers avoided we made it back to the Contrary Clio, loaded ourselves up, programmed Tom and went next door to the filling station to refuel the little cherub. It was very expensive. No really, after filling the car twice in Croatia I’d forgotten how expensive fuel could be and it did seem worse in Italy. I might have winced.

With that we were off barrelling along the road through tunnel after tunnel as we scooted to France. A couple of stops were made along the way and it was clear that we needed to get out of Italy, in the first one I got an espresso, fine, at the second Clarissa got a freshly squeezed orange. So not hot chocolate then. Maybe it is better to talk loudly and slowly. At least Monty liked the little cups.

The final run in to France was relatively incident free and all was well until we hit the surface streets of Nice. Oh hell. Give me Florence. It did at least give Clarissa a quick synopsis of how the French like to park or - as we call it in England - abandon their cars. The distance meter on Tom was slowly dribbling down and I was increasingly tense, I was still not ready for this. But nothing happened. Well except for when we eventually landed at the hotel I needed to spend a penny but also I was suffering with the tension shakes. It was not an east drive.

Once checked-in, bags moved, loo visited we pulled on coats and went promenading having previously been a little excited at the view. When I say a little excited I mean massively, I love sea views.

The walk was decidedly uneventful, but this is no bad thing. We passed squillionare yachts parked cheek by jowl with small fishing
boats. We passed the fashionistas and fashion stupid in equal measures. The latter may have been just my reflection in a window. After we’d walked around 3 miles we stopped, sat on a bench and waited for the sun to set.

Trouble was I got bored before the end so we wandered off with minutes to spare. The mission? To find something interesting for dinner. How hard can this be? I insisted that my co-pilot must choose. I’d reasoned that if I’d done the return trip alone I would have gone for a walk and then eaten in the first place that looked vaguely interesting. I’m that simple. But I also didn’t want to railroad somebody in to having something they didn’t want.

After perusing the front and the predictable restaurants we headed inland and found ourselves on Rue Dalpozzo outside Daddies Bistro. How bad could it be?

Where do I start? The welcome was incredibly warm even given that we were at least an hour earlier to eat than the natives. The waitress was loveliness personified and we agreed that as she was learning English we would speak English if she would speak French. She presented the menus in the house style, namely pulling up a pair of chairs and putting the wine chalkboard on one and the food offerings on the other.

This was brilliant.

I settled on no starter but the Filet de boeuf for main. The wonderful waitress suggested my beef be cooked medium-rare rather than my more usual rare. I try not to argue with advice. Stop giggling at the back please.

The beef melted in the mouth. As did the jacket potato. And the peppers and olives added a dimension that merely served to enhance the flavour. Even the pepper sauce was incredibly good. The wine? a 2013 Chateau Ramage la Batisse.

For pudding I went for the profiterolle à la pistache. Oh my. This was quite evilly perfect. The cold pistachio ice cream was hiding inside the profiterole as the latter swam on a lake of chocolate.

I might have eaten the lot.

What made things even more lovely is that a Chihuahua was wandering around the restaurant and was happy to have attention paid. Finally we finished the evening with a couple of lemoncellos, just to be sociable you understand.

As our evening came to an end we bade our goodbyes and I did promise I’d be back, I’m not sure when as it’s been a while since I was last in Nice, but if you want a meal to remember I can thoroughly recommend it without any reservation. In fact if anyone would like to volunteer to whisk me back to Nice for dinner then you know what to do.

We wandered back to the hotel but I realised as it was past 9pm the local Casino would be closed so there was only one thing for it, retiring to the residents bar and a bottle of house red between the two of us as we write our respective blogs.

One thing that is weighing heavily on my my mind is that in three sleeps time I will be back home to a very empty Contrary Towers and I know that I will have to throw myself at something to distract from that hollow feeling. I also know that a week after I return I move house, not immediately though as in true Contrary fashion it’s all a bit complicated and I will be in a process of moving until the 7th of April, joy. I will need distractions.

On the bright side the last night will be in Versailles with an old friend and colleague and that is one night I wouldn’t miss for anything.

Sleep tight, according to something Clarissa read it’s the end of the world *tomorrow.

*Terms and **conditions apply
**You have to be a lunatic to believe this stuff

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