Saturday, July 24, 2010

Location: Denial, Nice

So I’ve finally broken the code. The way to travel in Europe, especially France, is to be basically be in denial the whole time. Just think of everything in dollars and just forget about the exchange rate. So a Coke is 4 euro. A coke at a bar in DC is going to be 4 dollars. So it’s the same. Remember, denial, denial, denial.

Which doesn’t completely work in Nice. My last full day in Nice I decided to hit the plage (the beach). The beach runs down the full length of the bay in Nice. It’s not a very deep beach, maybe only 20-30 yards, but it’s all rocks. A mixture of little pebbles and decent size rocks that makes it tricky (not to mention painful) to walk on. I decided to opt for one of the private beach areas. I got a “discount” from my hotel for the Sporting Club de Plage so it was only 17 euros. Plus 5 euro for a towel. But I got a lounge chair, an umbrella, and waiter service. I got settled in, lubed up with my various SPF leveled lotions, and then proceed to just read, tan, and slowly fall asleep. I had the Out magazine with Kylie on the cover and I pretty much read every page of it. In the article about Kylie, the author says something like Kylie is like Glenda the Good Witch of the South. I love that. After an hour or so, I decided for an adult bevage. A mojito. 9 euros. Then I pulled on the little rubber beach shoes I had bought and went into the ocean. The waves weren’t bad, but there is no way to gracefully enter or exit the water while walking on all of the rocks. Just not possible. After I dried out from my swim, I had lunch at the Sporting Club restaurant. Pizza and a couple of glasses of wine. 22 euros. Then it was back to the lounge chair where I finished off the book I had brought with me. It was really good. Then it was time for another adult beverage (9 euros). More tanning, more rolling over, more sweating, more listening to my iPod. Oh, and more people watching.

We are talking about some seriously good people watching. The really pale people, the really red people, and then the really tan people. And the really tan, leathery people. I’m glad I only “lay out” 4-6 days a year. And I always use sun screen. Lots of thong bikinis and banana hammocks. Ugh. But I did see some board shorts and some hotties in square cuts. Overall I have to give the people watching a solid B. Anyways, after a good 6 plus hours on the plage, I headed back to the hotel to cool down, clean up, and then head to dinner. So how much did my day at the beach cost? 62 euro. Which is about $85. See, it’s all about denial.

The tour book recommended the La Petit Maison as a good cheap place to eat where Elton John sometimes comes to eat. So the hotel made reservations for me for 730 PM. At 730PM I’m there, and I’m like the third customer. But where do I get seated? At a table that is basically in the street. Cars would go by and the napkins would ruffle. When there was a back up, I could have passed the grey poupon to the guy in the car next to me without even having to stretch a bit. The zuchinni blossom fritters were outstanding. And the calamari was really good. Dessert was pretty awesome also. So a good meal food wise, just not experience wise. Oh well.

The next day I had a massage at the spa at the hotel. I have mentioned that it’s hot, right? Well, it’s not really a good idea to get a massage when it’s miserably hot. She did a good job, but she used a lot of oil and with it being so hot, it didn’t really seep into my skin. I had to use a towel to “dry” myself. Ugh, pretty disgusting. After that, I went up to my room, finished packing, and then hit the train station to catch my train to Toulon. It’s time to go to work!

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Matisse, Chagall, and the Eagle

So there is a bus stop relatively close to the hotel, so I caught the number 22 bus up to Cimiez which is where the museums are. Cimiez is the high rent district. It's up on a hill over looking Nice and the neighborhood was nice, really nice. It kind of reminded me of how the Phillips Collection is located in Dupont and that there aren't a lot of tourist trappy places nearby. And like the Phillips, the Musee Matisse was in a old home (villa) that had been modified to be a museum.

The musuem was quite good. The major exhibit was on Lydia (some weird slavic name) who was Matisse's muse. She was his assistant, executive secretary, studio manager, etc. And there were all of these paintings, drawings, and pictures of her. Now, there was a Mrs. Matisse (Amelie I believe) but no drawings of her. So I assume that Lydia was also his mistress considering how many nudes he drew. And I wonder what Mrs. Matisse thought of that? I know, I know. It's a French thing. But still. Overall the collection was good, but a lot of nude women. Not really my thing.

After an interminable wait for the bus in the blistering sun (obligatory heat reference #1), I took the bus down to the Chagall museum. It's actually the Musee National Biblique Marc Chagall. So how do you get a national museum named after yourself? You give all of your art to the state. And voila! So I got my ticket and made a beeline to the cafe to get lunch before I did the collection. This not drinking sodas is not fun. I had peach tea which I'm sure have a 1000 grams of sugar. Oh well. So did you notice the extra word in the name of the museum? Biblique? Well originally the collection was made up of biblical paintings. Which is something that I didn't realize Chagall was known for. A Russian Jew, he considered France his home country and after touring the exhibit it's amazing at the number of religious paintings or even religious symbols in his works. Unlike Matisse, Chagall's use of color is extreme, dark blues, deep reds, fiery oranges. It was really quite amazing. And in addition the religious symbols in the paintings, there were also many references or depictions of the plight of the Jews in Russia, France, and Palestine (as it was then known). The whole collection was fascinating.

After that, I headed back to the hotel to hit the roof top pool. The thermometer at the pool said it was 32 degrees. Translation: fricking hot (obligatory heat reference #2). So I just relaxed and let the sweat drip off me. Ugh.

For dinner, the concierge recommended a couple of places in the pedestrian section of downtown. The first was right on the main strip and looked very seafoody. The second was down a small alley to this charming little courtyard with flowering vines covering lattices that provided some shade with candles everywhere. Totally charming. I'm in. And what a good call. For my starter, I had the tartine of something. It was a small slice of bread with chevre cheese spread thick, really thick, on top of it. Toasted. With little slices of figs on top. On top of a bed of arrugla (my new favorite green). With prosciutto on one side, and this delicious piece of bacon on the other. I was in heaven. My main was penne pesto with a creamy parmigiano reggiano sauce with shaved smoked corfu ham. A-Maz-Ing. So, so, so good. With a couple of glasses of the local wine, I was feeling good.

So good that I decided to try to hit the Eagle. So I went back to the hotel, changed, and then took a cab to the Eagle. Where it was foam night. Yes, foam night. Hello, Miami is calling from 1998 and they want their foam night back. A foam party? Really? And how wrong to have a foam party at the Eagle. The Eagle? Needless to say I was dressed incorrectly. And that was fine with me. I had a beer. Then bought a T-shirt and was back at my hotel by midnight. So that was my adventure at the Nice Eagle. Kind of lame, but then again . . . .

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

I'm not complaining!

I'm not.

But it's hot. Africa hot.

I'm eating dinner and the sweat is dripping down my back like it's Niagara Falls. Totally gross.

So maybe I'm complaining a little.

Yes I'm hot, but here I am eating dinner at a cute little outdoor cafe on the Promenade des Anglais on the Cote D'Azur. So I guess I really shouldn't complain.

But I'm so good at it!

The flights to Nice were fine. United upgraded me on the flight to Frankfurt, but two gentleman decided to talk the whole flight and even with ear plugs I could hear every single word. Ugh. Frankfurt Airport is a mess. I definitely prefer Munich. I landed at the Nice/Cote D'Azur airport, took the bus and then a taxi to my hotel.

The Hotel Splendid is not Splendid. It is close to the beach and it has a roof top pool. But the rooms are small and dated and the AC does not work well. Have I mentioned that it's hot? After a tortuous disco nap, I went to check out the roof top pool. It's small, but nice and I hunker down on one of the chaise to get my vitamin D and to read. Since I have my iPad, I only brought one book. Big mistake. Oh well. I laid out for a bit and then got cleaned up. The conceirge recommended a little cafe down the promenade so I walked down to check it out. Even at 730PM, the beach is still hopping and the promenade is packed. The sun is still unmercifully beating down on my so I work up a good sweat walking to the cafe.

My plans to hit the "trendy gay club where the fashion conscious under 35 crowd dance to pumping house music" kind of fell apart. I'm tired. And old. And it doesn't start until 11PM. And I set my alarm so I could get up and go, but I was just exhausted.

This AM I got up and went on a walkabout. And as typical of my walkabouts it turned into a death march. Down the promenade. Then up the hill to the park where there used to be a fort. Then back down the hills, with a couple of wrong turn down dead ends, and into the marina/harbor area. Then back around the point, down the promenade, and back to the hotel. What was supposed to be a hour or so walk turned into a three hour death march. And have I mentioned the unmerciful sun and the heat?

So I've discovered two types of Brits. The drunk and pale Brits, or the drunk and freakishly red Brits. Seriously, these people do not tan. And I guess they haven't caught on to the use of sun screen. Nor are they ever sober.

This afternoon it's museum time. Hopefully it will be cool in the museums. I'm just so tired of sweating.

More later.

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