Wednesday, September 30, 2015


The small town of Èze is perched on top of a mountain peak, several miles up from coastal Èze-Bord- de-Mer.  We got there today by taking a bus to Èze-Bord-de-Mer and then switching to a second bus that took us up a narrow twisting road.  When we arrived at Èze Village, we had a little more climbing to do to get to the chief attraction, the chateau.  It was extremely picturesque, but also extremely commercialized.  The chateau has been taken over by hotels, restaurants, galleries, and gift shops.  Sometimes it was difficult to take a photograph that didn't have a sign in it.

We had lunch at Le Troubadour, one of the restaurants in the chateau.  I had stuffed squash flowers, which turned out to be squash flowers with some zucchini still attached, finely chopped onions, carrots, and celery, and several pieces of black truffle in a delicious broth.  I probably would have called it a soup.  Bill had a salad followed by a dish with scallops and mussels in a very good creamy sauce.  That leaf sticking out of his bowl is a celery leaf.

Our choices for returning to Èze-Bord-de-Mer were to take the bus or walk down the Nietzsche Path.  Nietzsche spent some time in this area and hiked extensively in the mountains.  I asked a couple of valet parkers if the Nietzsche Path was difficult and they said it was a very steep descent.  So, we chose the bus.  However, when we got down to the bus stop transfer point, we met a couple, perhaps a little younger than us, from New Zealand who made the walk even though the wife had sprained her ankle yesterday and was wearing sandals.  We were a little disappointed that we hadn't braved it.

Tomorrow we return to Paris.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


I've wanted to see the Matisse Chapel in Vence ever since first reading about it, probably 20 years ago.  And today I saw it.  We had planned to go yesterday, but the bus line to Vence was on strike.  French strikes differ from American strikes in that they can last only a day or two and be very restricted, such as, in this case, to just one bus line.  Anyway, today the strike was over and we hopped on the bus. Vence is a very small town north of Nice, located at the edge of the Alps.  As the crow flies it's very close to Nice, but the narrow winding roads meant that the bus trip took more than an hour.

The chapel has very restricted hours, so first we explored the old town and had lunch.  Just inside the city wall is the fountain which is relatively new, having been there only since the 19th century.

The cathedral in Vence is small, but very attractive.  It was built between the 12th and 15th centuries on the site of a former Roman temple dedicated to Mars.  The stones on each side of the door are remnants from that temple.  There are cherubs over the door and naive wooden statues inside the church.  These statues were made by furniture makers and carpenters rather than wood carvers, and that is why they are considered naive art.  Somehow they managed to survive the destruction of religious images that accompanied the French revolution.

What I liked most about the cathedral was the mosaic by Marc Chagall showing Moses in the bulrushes.  It's located behind the baptismal font.

We had lunch at an Italian restaurant in the old town.  I had fritto misto (mixed fried seafood), which was delicious, in spite of the heads and antennas I was forced to deal with.  Note the tiny whole sardines.

It was served on a slice of wood and included salad and fried zucchini.  Bill had a seafood salad.

The walk to the Matisse Chapel was up a very steep road, but we made it without any cardiac events.    The chapel was simple and beautiful.  The colors Matisse used for the stained glass are blue, green, and yellow.  Unfortunately, photography is prohibited, so my picture is a photograph of a postcard I bought in the gift shop.  It shows the stained glass window behind the altar.  I highly recommend a visit to Vence, and particularly this chapel to anyone who goes to the Côte d'Azur.  This has been the highlight of my trip so far.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Before reading our guidebook yesterday, the only thing I knew about Antibes is that it is located on the French Riviera.  Today, we took the train to get there, and were amazed at the number of boats (including yachts) we saw.  Antibes is the largest yacht marina in the world, with berths for more than 2000 boats.

Like Menton and Nice, Antibes also has an old town, but this one is surrounded by ramparts.  From the ramparts you can look down and see a beautiful sandy beach.  The beach in Nice is very rocky.  You can also see the old buildings typically found in these medieval towns.

For lunch today, I had a pôelée St. Jacques, which I found out was a mixture of fish, chicken, scallops, and vegetables.  I was a little disappointed because I was expecting the protein to be only scallops.  The relatively low price should have been a clue, but I didn't pick up on it.  It came with rice, a small salad, and vegetables in a puff pastry shell.  Bill had grilled sardines.

There were a few confused moments on our walking tour, but not as many as yesterday, and there was much less climbing than yesterday.  All in all, a pleasant day.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Menton - at the Border with Italy

Today we took the hour and a half bus ride from Nice to Menton.  The bus was quite crowded and we had to stand until Monaco when a large group of people got off.  We had a chance to see a long stretch of gorgeous coastline and lots of yachts.  Unfortunately, I made a mistake in calculating when we should get off the bus, which added about a half a mile to our walk into town.  Mention is a very picturesque town on the coast with an Italian flavor.  In fact, I think we heard at least as much Italian spoken as we did French.  Because it was Saturday, the Tourist Office wasn't open so we had to rely on the sketchy map in our guidebook.

We had lunch in a restaurant next to the sea, that had an excellent view.  Unfortunately, the service was the slowest we've experienced in a long time.  But, when the food finally arrived, it was delicious.  Bill had an octopus salad and I had ravioli with cèpes (mushrooms).

From there we attempted to do the walking tour in our guidebook.  But, the streets are extremely narrow, many of them don't have street signs, and the guidebook can be quite vague.  It was very confusing, but we did come across several beautiful views.

When we tried to find the old town, things actually got worse.  Once again the guidebook gave ambiguous directions.  We ended up on an extremely steep climb through very narrow streets.  When we reached an overlook, we had a beautiful view of the Menton harbor.  But there were several things mentioned in the guidebook that we just couldn't find.  It was quite frustrating.  Luckily, we managed to find our way back to the bus stop with minimal difficulty.

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Dinner of Niçoise Specialties and a Trip to the Market

Last night we went to dinner at Le Safari, which specializes in traditional Niçoise food.  We'd been wanting to try pissaladière, and they brought a small plate of it to our table before we had even ordered the meal.  It's a thin bread dough covered with caramelized onions, garlic, olives (of course!) and anchovies, and it's delicious.

For an appetizer I ordered petits farcis, another Niçoise specialty.  It's small vegetables (zucchini, peppers, tomato) stuffed with seasoned breadcrumbs and baked in a wood-fired oven.  It's another delicious food that I would definitely order again.   Bill had the grilled sweet red peppers with olives and garlic that I had ordered a couple of days ago.

For a main dish I ordered aioli, which turned out to be a huge plate of steamed seafood (clams, whelks, a prawn, and cod) along with steamed vegetables and a hard cooked egg.  It's served with a delicious garlicky mayonnaise.  This was the first time I'd eaten whelks, and can't say I'd order them again, but otherwise I loved the seafood, even though the prawn was fully equipped with head, antennae, and eyes.  Bill got a plate of mixed grilled seafood, which also included fried calamari.  We can't remember the name of this dish, but the first three letters are "par."  A Google search this morning isn't helping.   A man sitting nearby had advised us on what to order and he shared some of his rosé with us.   It was a delicious meal and so filling that we didn't even consider stopping for gelato on the way home.

This morning Bill went to the market while I stayed home to do some knitting.  He returned with grapes, figs, two kinds of olives, bread with chestnuts, wild boar sausage, and a pissaladière.   I'm looking forward to a delicious brunch.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Socca and Matisse

Yesterday evening we wanted a snack, so returned to a small shop that we know sold socca.  Socca is a regional specialty.  It's a crepe  made with chickpea flour and typically sprinkled with pepper and eaten with an aperitif.  I thought it was good, but certainly not addictive.

On the walk home we went through the gallery district and saw a couple of very interesting sculptures.  Apparently there are offices in the block above that guy's lip.

This morning we headed up to the Cimiez neighborhood, formerly an area of very fancy hotels, most of which have now been converted to apartment buildings.  We saw the ruins of a Roman arena and caught a glimpse of additional 3rd century Roman ruins behind the Archeology Museum.

The real reason for climbing that long hill to Cimiez was to see the Matisse Museum.  It's in an attractive rose-colored building situated near a large grove of olive trees.  It has a small collection of Matisse paintings, drawings, and cut-outs, primarily from the long period when he lived and worked in Nice.  I liked this museum a lot, but felt that the small size of the collection didn't warrant the 10 euros admission fee.  Photography of the artwork is not allowed, so I can't show pictures of what we saw.

We had seen signs in cafés and snack bars advertising blette sucrée, and were curious about what it is.  Google Translate said it means "sweet chard."  So, after the museum we stopped for a snack and ordered it.  Turns out to be two layers of pastry sandwiching a sweet filling that does actually look like finely chopped chard with pine nuts.  The top is sprinkled with confectioners sugar.  I foolishly snapped only one shot of it and that turned out blurry, so I can't show you.  Like the socca, it was tasty but not addictive.

The final stop in Cimiez was a visit to Matisse's grave.  People had left stones, flowers, and leaves on top of the tomb in tribute.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Chateau and the Old Port

Today's walking tour took us up to the chateau (actually the ruins of a medieval cathedral and some houses).  It started out in Old Town and involved a long climb.  Near the beginning of the climb was Chapelle de la Visitation with its trompe l'oeil facade.  I hate to be skeptical, but it occurred to me that using trompe l'oeil was a method to avoid paying for stone carvers to make statues and glass makers to make stained glass windows.

The Catholic cemetery near the top of the hill was full of over the top sculptures, but a combination of brilliant sun and dark shade made it difficult for me to get good photos.

At the top of the hill we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the Bay of Angels alongside which Nice is situated.

After descending the hill we walked over to the Old Port and had a delicious seafood lunch.  I had my favorite seafood, scallops, in a rather sweet sauce with mashed potatoes.  Bill had prawns flambeed in pastis.  I'm a little taken aback by shrimp that still has antennas and eyes attached, but Bill was happy with it.

On our way back to our own neighborhood, I found a café for cyclists.  They had bike parking space inside the building.

Our shop display of the day was the poppies (for remembrance) at a flower shop on the edge of Old Nice.

Steve - This one's for you.  I miss you already.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Exploring Old Nice

Today's shop window of the day was a pastry shop in between our apartment and Old Nice.  We resisted buying because we didn't want to carry a purchase around all day.

Today was our first full day in Nice, and we returned to the Old Nice section of town following a walking tour in our guide book.  There was a very nice market with booths  that carried dried eggplants and peppers and another booth with marzipan fruits, vegetables, and animals.  Sorry, but I don't seem to be able to get the marzipan picture positioned in this posting.  Of course there were also lots of fruits, vegetables, and flowers available at the market.  At the end of the market street you could see the yellow apartment building from which Matisse did his famous Nice paintings when he lived here.

While we were sitting by a narrow street eating the first course of our lunch, the postman came by on his bicycle.  I chased him down the street and asked to take his photo.

And speaking of lunch, we both had appetizers of goat cheese in a small jar layered with zucchini and strawberries.  We spread it on toasted baguette.  My main course was duck breast with figs and Bill got salmon with chorizo.

We spent a couple of hours exploring the very narrow streets and browsing through the shops and made note of a couple of things that weren't open today that we'd like to return to.  The weather was beautiful.  I think I'm going to like it here.