Note: This entry is labelled as being my December 12th entry and covers Monday the 10th through Wednesday the 12th. (Uh, I mean, of course, Lundi, Mardi and Mercredi.) It was emailed from France to my Notify list on December 13th and posted to my website upon my return home.
The road from Nice to La Gaude is a twisting and winding mountain road. To get there I drive along La Promendade des Anglais (three to five lanes each way, palm trees on the center divider, multistory hotels and apartment buildings and offices on one side and beaches and the Mediterranean on the other), which turns into a highway as it passes the airport, cross the Var river, and take the first exit, to St. Laurent du Var... this takes me through narrow, city streets lined with shops and restaurants and offices -- and parked cars -- fairly heavy morning traffic with lots of motorcycles and motorbikes darting in and out plus pedestrians crossing, delivery trucks making stops, etc.... after a mile or so of city streets I end up leaving town steeply uphill on the mountain road, with S curves and switchbacks and hairpin turns... steep drop off on the right... along parts of it there are houses clinging to the hillside on the right, roofs and perhaps a top floor window peeking above the edge of the cliff, a driveway diving steeply down... along other parts the dropoff is steeper, a true cliff, sometimes with a drop off that appears to be hundreds of feet (let me assure, I did not take too much attention off the road, but I remember from my previous visit when I was a passenger on these trips)... this road makes its way along the hillside, so that on the left there are steep hills going up, sometimes with extraordinarily steep driveways... At one point construction blocks the left lane, a traffic light controls alternate uphill and downhill traffic in the remaining lane... the construction, I have been told, is where a house collapsed and fell down the hill in a landslide brought on by heavy rains earlier this year (sounds a bit like some of those areas in California where houses are built on steep hillsides and are brought down by landslides).
So this is an interesting drive... perhaps twenty or so kilometers from the hotel... and some of the views could be spectacular (especially on the drive down the mountain where there are vistas along the valley of the Var towards Nice and the Mediterranean) but I can't afford to take my eyes off the road... This road would fit right into a James Bond film, with Bond driving some exotic sports car, racing the villain down the mountain. Just past the entrance to the IBM site is a small shopping plaza -- a beauty parlor, a bakery, a small supermarket (super-marche) -- and I like to pick up a couple of pastries from the bakery to serve as breakfast. The hotel has coffee available in the lobby starting at six a.m. On Tuesday I went for a run along La Promenade des Anglais before dawn, so I got back to the hotel just in time to find the coffee ready.
On Sunday night we ate in the hotel, but on Monday night I drove along La Promenade des Anglais a couple of miles past our hotel, down to an area where a number of streets have been pedestrianized -- blocked off from cars and trucks -- and there are many restaurants and shops in this zone pietonne . When I was here in springtime I enjoyed eating at their outdoor tables (in fact, only ate dinner inside one night during that week) -- the weather is a bit too cool for that, at least for my comfort, although there were people enjoying these outside tables every night this week, most people chose to eat indoors. Also, this is sort of off-season for tourists so the streets are not quite as crowded as the are in warmer months. So I did manage to remember where to go and on Monday and Tuesday nights Sully and I ate in this area. On Wednesday night Sully just wanted to work out at the hotel and then catch a jazz performance at the hotel lounge so I went out to dinner on my own. I wandered about -- guess it would be fairly accurate to call it a "downtown" type area -- enjoying wandering around the pedestrian streets. There was a huge carnival set up in a park area along Rue du Verdun -- (well, a map says Avenue du Verdon but a street sign said Rue du Verdon) that included a huge Ferris wheel... most of Nice has lots of lighted Christmas decorations but this carnival area had incredible lighted displays, some of them with an annimation effect (and the words "Ville de Noel" in lights above the center of the carnival attractions)... The last time I was here I fell in love with the pizzas served in this area... so I had pizza on Monday... and Tuesday... yes, and Wednesday as well... a different kind each night. Very tasty.... they are not as greasy as many American pizzas are... and have thinner, crisper crusts... and are eaten with knife and fork, not sliced and eaten by hand the way we do in the U.S.... Nice has a very Italian feel to it and probably half of the restaurants serve Italian style food... which makes sense when you consider that the Var River was the French border until Napoleonic times.
I still need to get better adjusted to local time... of course I frequently have difficulty getting a good night's sleep when I am travelling anyway... I've been exhausted and going to sleep early... asleep by ten o'clock but then I seem to wake up around two-thirty in the morning and have trouble getting back to sleep... I'd like to go to sleep between ten and eleven and get up around five or six... but I'd especially like to be able to sleep soundly and not wake up every hour or so and not to wake up in the middle of the night and be unable to fall back to sleep at all.
I usually drink black coffee -- no cream, no sugar -- although I do enjoy a cappuccino sometimes. There is a coffee vending machine that is our source for coffee for our class... and I have been getting cappuccino from it... working on the theory that it would probably taste better than black coffee from a machine plus the thought that the sugar might help keep me awake and alert during the day... so I've been selecting cappuccino with extra sugar and enjoying it, although still having a cup of black coffee at the hotel in the morning.
Looking ahead to the weekend... Sully is talking about signing up for a five hour tour of the area... I'm not that interested in spending the five hours -- nor the five hundred francs -- and I do want to try to find my way to the Matisse museum... I might also take a drive over to Italy, just because it is that near...