Moving Day #1

So we all have a new beginning today. I have received congratulations from throughout France on Biden’s victory, as if I had anything to do with it. Everyone here is thrilled, as am I.

Is he gone?

After more than a month of packing, today was the first of my moving days. Tarek brought an assistant to move 2 truckloads to my basement storage space in my new building and a third truckload to my temporary lodgings. Which is where I am now.

This apartment is tiny, Maybe 300 square feet including kitchen and bathroom. The shower is so small that I cannot turn around. But I’m not complaining. The good news is that once I move into my permanent place, it will feel spacious at around 500 square feet. Also this place is right around the corner from my new apartment, so easy to check in and pick up my mail.

A word about where I have lived, am living and will live. My previous apartment, where I lived for 3 years, was on rue Alphonse Karr, kind of the Madison Avenue of Nice, filled with expensive clothing shops. My current rental on Boulevard Gambetta is kind of the 72nd and Broadway of Nice. It is across from the tramway and bus stops, lots of supermarkets and commerce for normal people.

My new apartment is in a more residential area. The analogy would be to Riverside Drive in the eighties. So a very different ambience.

Radiator Problem No More

The chauffagiste came this morning and Tarek took out the radiators. So it’s full speed ahead.

On my return from the new apartment, I stopped for a kebab. They also sell French tacos, which look like this.

Ellie is not impressed by French tacos

Even though we are in lockdown, there is plenty of activity. Food shops and takeout places are open, including boulangeries, cheese mongers, etc. Many people jogging along the Promenade. We are supposed to stay within 1 km of our residences but I cheated to go to the new apartment, which is 1.1 km. No one asked me.

Nice in extremis

Today the beach was blue

As you all know, today was an awful day here. First, President Macron announced last night that we would have to suffer through another “confinement” of at least a month. Then, this morning, a terrorist infiltrated the Cathedral here in Nice, killing 3 people and wounding several others. I was at home when it happened, but the sirens were wailing throughout the morning and traffic was prohibited in the town center, which did affect me at second hand.

So my inconveniences are pretty minor in the greater scheme of things. And, in fact, they will probably not affect my renovations too much. Among the sectors of the French economy which have not been shut down are construction. The hardware stores are open and contractors and their workers are allowed to work.

I should mention that my radiator problem, mentioned in an earlier post, was resolved. The chauffagiste (heating specialist) is due to come by next week to turn the heat off so we can take out the radiators. I’m assuming this will still happen.

Today I had an appointment with the kitchen specialist (cuisiniste) who was due to come by the apartment to take measurements. My contractor was unable to join us because he was blockaded due to the shut down of traffic. The cuisiniste, who was coming down from Italy, was delayed for 2 hours. In the end, though, he arrived, spoke to the contractor by phone, and after taking his measurements, went off to manufacture my kitchen over the next 10 weeks.

We are hoping to dispose of all the accumulated material that has been removed from my apartment. The way this is done here is by means of a forklift, which is parked in the street and collects the material from off the balcony. This is necessary because the elevators here are too small to accommodate the mountains of refuse.

Friday, the forklift arrives

I do not yet know whether I will be permitted to move apartments at the end of next week, as I had planned. If not, I will remain in my old apartment until confinement ends.

So much to deal with. I am actually looking forward to confinement as a chance to chill for a while.

The Radiator Problem

The day of closing
Same space, next day
The problem radiator

I have already encountered my first roadblock with the renovations. Tarek has made quick work of disassembling the apartment but in order to fit the kitchen, we must take out the radiator. Unfortunately, heating season has begun, so turning off the central heating means a plumber must be summoned (at my expense, of course). But that is not the problem. The problem is that the condo association has told me I must get permission from the managing agent to have them call the building’s plumber to do the work. And at this time of year, there are no plumbers available as they’re all busy turning on the heat for every building in Nice. Thus far (since Wednesday), I have spoken (in English, as she is from Long Island) to the president of the condo association four times. I have written and had friends check my grammar on three letters to the managing agent. My friend Annie said the trick to getting this done is to be relentless—to simply bother them to such an extent that they will say yes just to make me go away. Which is not something I am good at. How I wish I had Gail’s persistence.

Otherwise, things are moving along. I am busy packing for 2 moves—first to temporary digs while the renovation takes place but at the same time I must move whatever I can to the basement storage of the new apartment. It is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the final image will look like, as if the box it came in had gone missing.

Sorry if this is boring. Several of you had expressed interest in following my adventures in home ownership in France. So this is for you.

Tour de France

Today was the debut of the Tour de France, right here in Nice. I was invited to watch it at a friend’s apartment, with a full-on view of the Promenade. Don’t blink—they go by very fast.

If I were in my new apartment, I would have seen it from there. Everything is going forward. The compromis (pre-sale agreement) is signed and I’m now deep in the details of renovation, including new electric, plumbing and a new kitchen. More to come.

My New Home in Nice

Some of you know that I have been apartment hunting because my current rental is ending in November. (The landlord is selling it.) I had been looking for another rental, but the process is unbelievably complicated because I don’t have french income to show to prospective landlords. I won’t bore you with the details but jump to the reveal—I have bought an apartment! On the Promenade des Anglais, with a 350 foot terrace and a sea view!

The apartment is in a 1939 art deco building and the President of the co-op board is—from New York! (Well, Long Island actually.). It needs a fair amount of work—new kitchen to start—but I will be living most of the time on the terrace, which is almost as big as the inside.

The lobby

So I have become a true Niçoise. I will post as the process unfolds. We are hoping for a closing end of October.

Perfect ending to Burgundy adventure

I’m not leaving til tomorrow but given that it will be Bastille day, I probably won’t be going visiting before my long drive south. I have decided to break up the trip back and have booked a hotel en route. But as it’s the French equivalent of Motel 6 (Ibis), I doubt there will be anything to show.

Today I found the perfect little country restaurant, in the nearby town of Volnay. It exemplifies, I think, what most of us imagine France to be and so rarely is.

The tables were soon filled with French families

And for those of you insisting on food photos, I warn you that it is beige. Poulet de Bresse in à cream sauce with potatoes, 2 glasses of Meursault and a lovely cassis sorbet for dessert.

Beige but delicious

I don’t know when my next trip will be but I will keep you posted. À bientôt.

Glazed Tiles

Glazed, multicolored tiles in a diamond shape are one of the foremost symbols of Burgundian vernacular architecture. The Cistercian monks began manufacturing these distinctive tiles in the 11th century.

The best known and preserved example is found at Les Hospices de Beaune, which I finally got around to visiting today. I also made a trip to the château de Santenay in order to see another example of this style.

Les Hospices de Beaune
No, I didn’t take this picture
Château de Fontenay. Unfortunately the tasting room was closed

From the tourist office: the Hospices de Beaune is one of France’s most prestigious historic monuments. Its flamboyant Gothic architecture, its polychrome roofs and a renowned vineyard make this museum one of Burgundy’s gems. Begun in 1443, it was created for the poor and the sick. Under the hull-shaped arches of the poor room, the sick were welcomed in, and in the kitchen with its huge Gothic chimneys, meals were prepared.

The beds in the room for the poor. Note that masks were mandatory and the number of visitors limited.
Tapestry of Jacob. He looks like he is wearing a mask, but I think it’s a beard.

The Beaune altarpiece by Roger van der Weyden “The Last Judgment”
no, I didn’t take this one either.
My photo (1)
My photo (2)

Meursault

Today was a white wine day. I followed the voie de vignes (the wine route) to Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault. I don’t want to bore you with a disquisition on wine, but I find it fascinating that two towns, no more than 2km apart, using the same grape (Chardonnay) produce such different wines. Of course, even within a single appellation, there are significant differences due to terroir (called “saisons” here in Burgundy) and winemaking choices. The Puligny-Montrachet I had was mineral-y, tasting of calcium and iron. The Meursault was described to me as “buttery”, which is exactly the word. Equally good, equally expensive, totally unlike.

I have been asked to show the landscape, which means taking a picture from the car. It is largely flat (lots of bikers) and wall-to-wall vineyards. Unlike Provence, there is very little color, except for the enamel-tiled roofs that are a Burgundy signature. You will see them again when I finally go to the Hospices de Beaune.

This is City Hall in Meursault, made famous, apparently, in a well-known French film from the 60s called La Grande Vadrouille. The tiles were added in the 1870s to the remains of a rebuilt 12th century fort
The main square in Meursault with its gothic spire.

I’ve also been asked to show pictures of the food, but like the landscape it has little color. Local specialties include jambon persillé (a sort of pâte of ham and parsley—brown), boeuf bourguignon (brown), escargots (brown), frogs legs (brown) and so forth. Much pleasanter to eat than to look at, though I refuse to eat reptiles, so no frogs legs for me.

My lunch menu
The wine list by the bottle

I had 2 glasses, rather than a bottle and never knew that Meursault also comes in red. I was not impressed. You’ll note that the prices are no bargains. I had hoped to find some local, little-known wines at a good price to bring back with me. But the Burgundies served in he restaurants are mostly from top producers and the prices in the caves are no different than in the wine shops in Nice.

Forgive my longer than usual blather. I have not spoken to anyone other than wait staff for the last 4 days and they are not chatty. Usually when I travel with Ellie, people talk to me but that has not been my experience here. Not that I’m complaining. The weather is absolutely perfect for me and for the wine (80s during the day, 60s at night). The wine, the food, the swims, the afternoon naps—it is heaven.