Just returned from four days in Nice with the artist. You know times have been rather hard of late learning to accommodate rather debilitating migraines and chronic sinus trouble so I couldn’t think of a better place to be to convalesce than the French Riviera. When I suggested it to the artist, he spent hours booking trains, hotels and travel arrangements for us to be off like robber’s dogs come Friday morning.
I decided to only pack blue and white to cut down the wardrobe options understanding that, like Florence, Nice is a city in the sun and thus beach clothes won’t do on the boulevards. Come Friday morning at 9am I was waiting for Mr Morgan-Owen at the Champagne bar in St Pancras with a plate of Eggs Benedict and a couple of Solpadine to take the edge off.
It is always very telling how two people get along when they travel together. I knew from the first glass of fizz at St Pancras that we were going to be fine. He’d booked First on the Eurostar to Paris then we had to hot foot it across town to get our connecting coastal train from the Gare St Lazare to Nice via all of those magical towns you read about or see in movies such as Marseilles, Cannes, Antibes and St Tropez. I have discovered a love for continental rail travel. French double decker trains are so much nicer than the perfidious British Rail.
I don’t think we stopped laughing for the five hour journey to Nice station. Timothy had thoughtfully packed two bottles of chilled Prosecco in newspaper that were miraculously still cold when we popped them half an hour after we’d pulled out of the Gare de Nord. The views when one gets into central France are breathtaking: the fields of sunflowers that inspired you know who to paint and the bales of hay that fascinated Monet. And when one finally gets a first glimpse of the sea you know you are in Eden.
We pulled into Nice at about 9pm and took a taxi to the Ambassadors hotel, changed and sallied forth to a jazz bar called Bubbles for a couple of glasses of the house then off to dinner in the Old Town where we were bamboozled by the slick waiting staff into paying 200 Euros for a lobster the size of my arm. I don’t mind a bit of inflatable pricing but made no bones to the management that they were guilty of embezzlement and that we would not be returning unless with a gendarme.
But no matter. We then took a walk along the Boulevard des Anglais by the sea and witnessed some very naughty goings on in the sea: skinny dipping and then some. Rather than joining in the fray we decided to hit the casino for an hour before bed. I always suspected I’d rather adore Nice but had no idea it was a place I think I could happily live and write for at least nine months of the year.
Nice is sensational because it is essentially a city fringed with pebble beaches and the most azure blue sea I’ve ever seen. I don’t particularly like sandy beaches. It gets everywhere and some chafing definitely occurs. In Nice, the beach is divided into public areas and private beach clubs lined with blue and white sun loungers and parasols gated on either side. Our choice of beach club – Plage Ruhe – was an instant winner because entry included fluffy white towels, loungers, a parasol and a glass of Kir Royale served by young boys in yachting caps, shirts with epaulettes and shorts. No fool they!
Suffice to say, we very rarely strayed further than Plage Ruhe for the next thirty-six hours and became great friends with the beach boys and waiters who served our lunch every day at 2pm. We discovered that very pale, dry rose wasn’t going to punish me with a migraine so alternated the pink stuff with glasses of Champagne served with a strawberry bobbing in the bubbles. The artist had a sketch pad so kept on making line drawings of me curled up like a Persian cat on my sun lounger with a Marlboro menthol, our paper (Daily Mail) and a glass of something pleasant.
We didn’t even leave the beach until at least 8pm though would occasionally walk along the beach front to look at the architecture and the beach volleyball pitches where we were lucky enough to see the Nice firemen’s team playing with their balls one fine morning. The people of Nice are incredibly fit, supremely glamorous and really rather took to the artist and I because we both speak a smattering of French and always tried to look the part. We probably looked like two chorus boys in No, No, Nanette but honit soit qui mal y pense.
Lots more to tell but no time today. I’m at No 17 for an Anderson & Sheppard day and so look forward to seeing the gang and getting back into the swing of London. Until next time…