Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Et je suis à Nice!

Et très fatiguée.

I’m on holiday! So you are treated to a blow-by-blow account (I’ll try to make it interesting). I considered doing this entire post in French, but it would take about three times longer than it needs to take and no one would be able to understand it (including people who speak French, because I’m sure the remnants of my French grammar do not make much sense). So you get it in English :)

I got up this morning at 3.30am, to catch the bus to another bus that would take me to the train that would take me to the bus that would take me to the airport. I packed my sneakers in my little tiny suitcase and wore my awesome pink cowboy boots to save space, and then had to walk very carefully past the sleeping suburban houses (I’d forgotten that the awesome pink cowboy boots, hereafter the APCBs, click satisfyingly on the pavement and would not be suitable for sneaking anywhere). Each interchange was successful and lowered my stress levels, and I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare (i.e. at 6.20am).

After check-in, I experienced security at Luton airport. The security machines were all lined up on one side of a large room that someone had strung with queue guides, back and forth, back and forth. There wasn’t much of a queue, thankfully, but I and all my fellow passengers spent about five minutes walking back and forth, back and forth at a fast pace and dragging our hand luggage behind us. It was surreal, so many people in this one room, walking and walking but never really getting anywhere.

The flight to Nice took nearly two hours, the first hour of which I suffered through with the two small children behind me alternately trying to kill each or attack my seat. Happily they calmed down when we got near the Alps, and I was able to stare uninterrupted at the vista out the window (I scored a window seat! Hurrah!). I’m pretty sure I saw the Toblerone mountain off in the distance, so I took lots of photos of it. Not sure what it’s actually called...

Nice itself is breathtaking. The Alps have become tall hills this far south-west, and they step down to the long swathe of beach and the city itself. The airport is right by the sea at the west end of the main beach, so you get an amazing view of all the buildings on the hills and the sparkling sea as you come in to land.

The bus from the airport (numéro quatre-vingt-dix-neuf) drives into Nice along the Promenade des Anglais, which is lined with old and new hotels and apartments on one side and the Mediterranean on the other. Many of the apartments were shuttered up, and I guess they’re only used some of the year. You get a sense of remembered grandeur, with the paint fading and shutters peeling colour. The buildings have character – you know they’ve seen a lot.
I dropped my bag and coat at the hostel (too warm for a coat – around 15 degrees Celsius and not a cloud to be seen) and went for a wander, finding an ice rink and German market, a giant ferris wheel and lots of interesting statues. They have seats all along the Promenade des Anglais where you can sit in the sun, so I did that with a chicken and gruyere panini. Bliss after London winter, where the sun if you see it is watery and incapable of producing any heat.

I was feeling a bit tired by now, so I took a bus back towards the town, but was attracted by a large tower on the hill. Flights of steps led up to it, so I ignored my fatigue and started out, pausing at every turn to take a picture back across the beach and town and mountains. Helpful information points in French, Italian and English told me that this hill had once been home to a large castle, and bits of it are still visible today along with 19th century romantic reconstructions. The top of the hill (90m above sea level) is now a public park, and there were lots of people walking their dogs and rollerblading and taking pictures of the incredible view.

From up there you can see snow-capped mountains in the distance and all the hills surrounding Nice, east along the coast towards Monaco and down into the town with all its reddish roofs and narrow streets. I tried to order a granita (having heard the word before, but not being able to remember what it actually was) and the kiosk guy stared at me with a funny expression, so I changed my order to coca, and managed to do it all in French. Hurray. After some thought, I’m pretty sure a granita involves shaved ice and is probably only available in summer.

My bus pass from the airport was an unlimited day pass, and I was determined to use it on the trams. On my search for the tramway, I found a little café and ordered a coffee entirely in French (even asking if they had soya milk!), but had to ask for English when the waitress gave me the price. Somehow I’m never very good with numbers...
Translation: 'Chinese Takeaway'
I wasn’t sure if you could take coffee on trams, but I did anyway and received a look from a lady, though that may have been because the ticket machine said something about ticket invalid when I entered my pass. The trams and buses run somewhat on an honesty system – you stick your ticket into the machine, but there’s no one to see if you actually do or not. It was getting dark and I was getting tired, so I didn’t go all the way to the end of the line as I had planned. I’ll save that for tomorrow.
Back at the hostel, I found that the combination lock on my suitcase had magically changed its code, so I spent about ten minutes cycling steadily through the numbers. I’d set it originally for 9-2-0, and was just about to give up hope when it opened at 7-1-2. Who’d have guessed? I don’t think I will be using that lock again...

So now I’m sitting on my top bunk bed with an awesome view out the window, typing diligently away before I go down to the kitchen and make my rice-goat cheese-salad-chorizo dinner. Should be good...

Update: I don't much like goat's cheese. Hmm. The chorizo is good though :)


  1. So if you can make your own dinner, you must have found a supermarche and done a successful shop there too! Or was it a deli? or multiple specialty shops? or...? (what sort of shops are there? lol)

  2. I found un supermarché called Casino and wandered up and down the aisles. Now regretting that I bought enough to have four or five chorizo-rice-rocket dinners... I've given up on the cheese and replaced it with tomatoes. There are also boulangeries and boucheries and things, but easier to just use le supermarché.

  3. Oh the supermarche we went to in Noumea was also called Casino - seemed a strange name for an institution selling foodstuffs instead of making you gamble for them lol.


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