I visited the Riviera a lot in the sixties and seventies on family holidays. It’s attraction to me as opposed to other tourist coastlines was that each resort had its own charm and personality. Nice was the hub and starting point with its airport. One thing that had changed was the size of this airport, the third largest in France. As I arrived I expected to see Polly and Grania but of them there was no sign. They were waiting patiently in another terminal. We finally liaised.
Michel is a splendid host but I suggested we were left to our own devices yesterday meeting up later for dinner and the France v England match I knew he wanted to watch.
We began our morning in the flower market in the Cours Saleya. I like the way that the French are resistant to the large supermarkets. In fact I only saw mini markets like Spar. In the market we bumped into Nadim, the proprietor of Oliveira, where we ate the previous night buying olives who greeted us warmly. After this I stretched my legs on the Promeneade des Anglais. It’s a wide pavement with palm trees one side the sea the other. We were blessed by a warm day, 16 degrees. Polly and Grania went for more testing run of 10 miles whilst I took a more leisurely stroll to the port of Nice. Every so often there was a replica of a painting of the sea by, for instance, Raoul Dufy. Over the years great painters like Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso and Henro Marisse have been attracted by the region’s clear light and rich colours.
We had lunch on the beach. I encountered impertinence and incompetence from the patron who gave away our reserved table. Eventually it was reclaimed but I’ve noted a certain casualness over reservations. It was sublime to be sitting by a sparkling sea enjoying a well cooked meal of carpaccio and loupe (sea bass). Inevitably one compares this to the colder climate back home.
In the evening I invited Michel to Bistrot d’Antoine one of the best known restaurants in the old quarter. It’s quite small with compact tables which spread out onto the pavement.
This time I had fish carpaccio and magret of duck. It was traditional brasserie fare so I was surprised to see on the desert diplomatic pudding which my late mother, a fine cook, would prepare.
Many of her best dishes like this or floating island you never see nowadays. Diplomatic pudding is a sort of bread and butter pudding served with a raspberry coulis.
Afterwards we settled in the Irish pub in front of a huge screen to watch the rugby. We were joined by a father and son who were pretty critical of French rugby and gave their country little chance. I am no expert but I thought the French started with some pep. The son observed that the English had far more pace and variety behind the scrum. He was right as England eased into control. It ended at 11 pm, local time, late for me, but the old quarter was getting into gear with young people flocking into the bars and clubs. In a comparable British City you would see drunkeness and the odd fight but the behaviour was less aggressive. Behind the Brexit campaign is the notion that the UK is superior to the rest of Europe but over the years the mainland continent has had to put up with some appalling hooliganism and even as recently as Cheltenham professional footballers were urinating publicly. We had several rounds of beers with our new friends, discussed rugby knowledgeably but the marriage of “lagering up” and watching sport did not seem to exist.