Sunday, April 12, 2009


If you had the choice between spending the Easter weekend in Montpellier and torrential rain, or in Nice and a merely cloudy sky, I would imagine the answer would be, without much hestitation, Nice. Well, me too.

It's strange how Easter weather is often pretty dismal. It was so bad in Montpellier that the footie tournament planned by my youngest's club had to be cancelled.

Meanwhile, yesterday my TWDB and I mooched around Vieux Nice with its narrow lanes and colourful, open shops. I was particularly struck by stands selling different mixes of salt. I love cooking with salt crystals so had a good look at the various types, from Himalayan pink salt to a mixture of salt and seaweed, and one that was black!

Most of the shops cater to the tourists, selling Provençal pottery, cheap clothes, souvenirs, Marseille soap products, and so on. There were some fine-looking butchers too, and appealing restaurants selling socco, a kind of chickpea crèpe. I didn't get to try it, but it's definitely on my To Do list.

We took in the fading splendour of those 17th century buildings in need of a wash and brush up and admired the apartment of the Prefet of les Alpes Maritimes situated on the top floor of the former Prefecture. He doesn't want to leave, apparently, and I can understand why. He has a great view over the market place to the sea, is slap bang in the middle of the old town, and must have a good 200m² of exquisite 19th century real estate to enjoy, plus a huge balcony - so useful for all those official occasions.

It was so pleasant meandering around the streets that we completely lost track of time and had to hurry off to meet some friends for dinner. We ate in Biot which is a tiny medieval hilltop village west of Nice, famous for its glass-making factories. We arrived to find the carparks stuffed full of vehicles and started to wonder if the restaurants would be equally chock-a-block.

Surprisingly, the one we decided to try - Chez Odile - was empty, and remained so for the entire evening. We were the only happy clients. The patronne was a right chatty oldish lady and told us they'd been there for 25 years. Many of her clients are regulars, coming back year after year, and in the summer, it's always a good idea to book. The terrasse tables would be lovely in the summer. I loved the glass lamp that was on our table which had been made at one of the local factories.

The food was freshly made and delicious. I had a crousillant of goat's cheese on salad with a dribble of honey, then rouget fillets, washed down with a very pleasant local rosé wine. We stayed for ages, but didn't get any suggestion that we should hurry up and bugger off. It was most convivial and welcoming.

Today, Easter Day, we had a mooch along the promenade at St Laurent du Var and wandered round the marina admiring the yachts and other boats. The dry dock was full of boats waiting to be cleaned and painted, and one family was sitting on a tiny little boat on stilts having a picnic lunch. Another couple were sipping champagne inside their much bigger, smarter boat watching the news on a large flat screen tv.

Although it seemed that some folk actually lived on their boats, the noise from the airport barely a few hundred metres away would have made it far from peaceful.

We ignored the tempting smells emanating from packed eateries, and came home to the First Lunch eaten outside on my TWDB's newly decked terrasse overlooking the Baie des Anges. Salad of tomatoes, sweet onion, avocado, mozzarella with balsamic vinegar dressing, followed by (leftover from Friday) tagliatelli in an onion, cream and white wine sauce.

It was especially good on this day, on that terrasse, with that view.


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