Ferry to Bastia

Last night Marie called to say I shouldn’t worry, that the ferry to Corsica probably wouldn’t be affected by the general strike today. Since I had no idea there was going to be a general strike, of course I was worried. Watching the French news, I discovered that it was a spotty strike–some flights, some trains were affected. Most interesting, the cafeteria workers went out and students were advised to bring their own “pique-nique”. 

We picked up a car this morning and got to the ferry 2 hours ahead of sailing, as advised. We were screened twice by some sorts of officials and then told to wait, along with all the other car passengers. Who shut off their motors, locked up and took off. Huh? I finally asked a taciturn Corsican (not an official–there were none around) what was going on and he said we should come back in an hour. So we left the car and went for a coffee. 

The ferry itself was kind of fun. We had a cabin (obligatory with a dog) and could take a nap. We had brought our own pique-nique on board and enjoyed pate, cheese, baguettes, fruit and wine.   

  

Not MIA

Sorry for lack of communication. Cathy arrived yesterday and we are leaving tomorrow on the ferry to Corsica. I don’t know what my connectivity will be like there–but it is, after all, part of France. I hope to post again in a day or two. 

Irish hospitality

It’s wrong to stereotype, but I have found that the Irish are among the most hospitable people in the world (the closest contender–Italians). This was proven to me in the last 24 hours by two very different but equally exceptional invitations. 

Last night I was invited to dinner at the new apartment of Samara and Tarek. So new, in fact, that the kitchen sink had only been installed that afternoon. Nevertheless, there was ample wine, a lovely (and for once, relatively healthy) dinner of baked chicken and vegetables. A lot of laughs, good conversation and my first Uber ride home. Fortunate, because I would not have found my way in my condition. 

Today it was Noel, my new acquaintance, who invited me to join him and 4 other guests for Easter supper. Equally copious amounts of wine were served, but not consumed by me. I did gorge on a moist turkey breast, roasted potatoes, mushrooms and carrots. At which point I was ready for my afternoon sieste. But no, next came the cheese platter, followed by apple tart and my favorite– Tropezienne. This is a dessert cake (named after St. Tropez)  of a kind of sponge cake, oozing with vanilla cream. You can only find it in the South of France and I could not resist. But I am in a kind of food coma after this feast, and so is Ellie, who was fed tidbits by everyone at the table. 

Below is the spectacular view from Noel’s terrace.  

 

More Great Meals enjoyed by Ellie

Another shoutout to my neighbors Alden and Sarah for another great restaurant recommendation. My Canadian friend, Heather and I (and, of course, Ellie) went to Olive et Artichaut (artichoke) for lunch. Started with an arugula salad with housemade burrata and coppa. As is evident, the Italian influence in Nice is quite strong. I had magret de canard and Heather had roast veal. Both outstanding. The duck came with an artichoke confit and the veal on the bone. So Ellie gets to enjoy it again tomorrow. The wine was a half bottle of Chinon, quite nice but I forgot the name. 

Dessert was a raspberry and strawberry tart with the best berry sorbet I’ve ever tasted. Intensely fruity, it was, the waiter told us, infused with basil and mint. 

More meals ahead, heaven help me. Invited to dinner tonight chez Samara and Tarek. Tomorrow lunch and dinner out as well. If I survive all these meals, it will be nothing but lettuce and tomatoes for a week. 

Another Nice lunch

Today I reciprocated the hospitality of my friends Yolaine and Jean by taking them out to lunch. (Far preferable than trying to create a special meal in a strange kitchen). My neighbors in New York had recommended a small restaurant nearby. I found that it is run by a three-star chef who used to be at the Negresco (the grande dame of Nice hotels). It is a tiny place–maybe 8 tables. They do not have a phone and they don’t take credit cards. I stopped by on Tuesday to make a reservation for 1 pm and was told I could have 1:15. When we got there, I saw why they were so precise–every nook and cranny was occupied. At precisely 1:15, a table for 3 left and we were admitted. 

The food was simple but very tasty. Yolaine and I split a salad of arugula, olives, and housemade ricotta. Jean had stuffed sardines. For my main, I had daube de boeuf (a rich wine sauce with braised beef and vegetables), accompanied by panisse, fried chickpea fritters. Yolaine had oxtail with polenta and Jean had tripe.  Ellie had scraps, plus we took home the oxtails for later. 

While very convivial (we chatted with the couple at the next table, which was about 1 inch away) we were feeling a little cramped so left to have coffee at a beachside cafe. Altogether a very Nice experience. (I promise to stop making puns on Nice).  

thats the chef in the rear

Thoughts on travel

Staying in one place for a long time is not really travel. It is integrating into the local culture. The vendors at the market greet me as a regular, and I am on first name terms with my wine store proprietors. I now have a full set of service providers–my vet, my manicurist, even my masseuse. Ok, fortunately, I do not have my dentiste or my medecin, but I could find them easily enough if I need to. I have my regular routines, Ellie even has her particular spots in the Esplanade Pompidou across the street. I know how to take the bus and the tram. I know the difference between a cafe noisette and an americain (more water in the latter). In other words, I am becoming Nicoise. 
Yesterday, I went for a massage by a Roumanian lady referred to me by Marie’s friend, Lacra. The day before I spoke to a class of English learners about Donald Trump. Just as an aside, the anti-Obama propagandists have done a world-wide job. The students all believed that Obama is a muslim!

Tonight I am hosting a birthday celebration for Marie, who has certainly been the source of my integration into local life. But my calendar is full with other friends: my friends from Antibes are coming for lunch tomorrow. Friday I am meeting with my Italian friend, Elisabetta. Sunday I am double-booked: lunch with Christine (a woman I met at a cafe who is in love with Ellie, ever my social director). Then Easter dinner at the home of my Irish friend Noel. My social calendar in New York pales in comparison. 

I am not really eager to leave Nice, but I am ready. If the goal of travel is to learn and grow (is it? It is certainly one of my goals), then I have probably sucked up as much newness as I can from life in Nice. But I have also learned that I can have an alternative life, if I want. Now I just need to figure out if I want the familiar or the new.  

 

On the beach

The last few days have been sunny, with temps in the 60s. Both yesterday and today, Ellie and I went to the beach. It’s a wide beach, but entirely rocky. I had to carry Ellie as she couldn’t trek her way across the uneven rocks. The beach itself is public, but at each intersection there is a beachside cafe, where one can have lunch, a drink or rent a beach lounger. Yesterday, we had a crepe, today a kir peche (peach flavored kir). Spoke to Gail while sitting at the cafe (shout out happy birthday) and she asked how far the apartment is from the beach. About the distance from my apartment in New York to 5th avenue. Below is a photo of the beach from my window.  

 

A Nice Lunch

Yesterday was rainy and cold, so I spent much of the day under the covers. Today is sunny and in the 60s so I took Ellie out to lunch. We wandered the narrow streets of the old town until we found a place that appealed.  

   
The meal was simple, tasty and typically Nicoise. A plate of olives and pissaladiere with a glass of rose, beignets of vegetables and a pizza.