12 days of Christmas: day 10

This photo is the view from our apartment. I’ve already waxed lyrical about the view which I adore at all times of the day, and at all times of the year. If I’m honest, I probably prefer sunrise and sunset simply because of the range of amazing colours, and the contrast between the sea and sky.

This picture was taken one morning in June which turned out much better than this photo suggests. You could be forgiven for thinking rain was in the offing, but the clouds rolled away and we enjoyed a very warm, sunny day. I love the contrast betwen the angry, stormy sky and the azur of the sea, spotlit by the sun trying, and finally succeeding, to break through.

I liked this photo so much I even made it my Facebook cover picture.

Trip to Cros de Cagnes

One of my favourite markets is held every Tuesday and Thursday at the nearby fishing port of Cros de Cagnes which has narrow streets, colourful fisherman’s houses, bars and restaurants spread around the distinctive yellow Clock Tower, part of the church of Saint Pierre.  The market is arranged up and down its main shopping street, avenue des Oliviers, which also has a number of fantastic shops, including a fromagerie, a quincaillerie (hardware store) and a fishmonger.

The area was first populated by Italian fisherman back in the early 19th century, around 1813, when most of the area was still under Italian rule. The first boat builders settled here around 1860. The marine community adopted Saint-Pierre as their patron saint and built the chapel Saint-Pierre in 1866. Around 1920-30, the fishing port was extremely active with 200 or so fishermen making their living there. The sheltered port was built in 1939 but today hosts only a few remaining fishermen. Cros de Cagnes is home to the oldest coastguard station of the SNSM Alpes-Maritimes.

Unsurprisingly, Cros de Cagnes is home to some excellent fish restaurants such as the family-run Charlot 1er.  Also, there’s our favourite local Italian restaurant Gusto, just a few metres further on. Both restaurants do a mean spaghetti with lobster! There’s also a good seafood restaurant in avenue des Oliviers but it doesn’t benefit from a seafront location like these two. Equally important, the seafront is home to my local bike shop.

And, talking about the seafront, there’s nothing better than a stroll along it whatever the weather!

12 days of Christmas: day 10

My two sisters complain that I never take photographs of people and it’s true. Mine are typically of places. This is a rare photograph featuring my beloved. It was taken back in April while he was recovering from his broken leg. As you can see, he’s still on crutches and standing in front of one of our favourite locations on the Cote d’Azur for brunch. It’s a fabulous hotel on Cap Ferrat, wonderfully managed by the Four Seasons Group. We love going for brunch in early autumn and late spring when it’s warm enough to sit on the terrace and drink in the magnificent views. I’m a big fan of buffets because although there’s plenty I can’t eat, there’s lots that I can. This one has a particularly good seafood buffet where I can fill my boots with oysters and prawns.

12 days of Christmas: day 4

This is one of my favourite views and it’s from the balcony outside our bedroom window. That view is the main reason we bought the apartment. I never tire of it, whatever the weather, whatever the season. I have thousands of pictures of the view, mostly sunrises and sunsets. This was taken just after I got up and it looks as if we’re in for some stormy weather. But, we weren’t. The sun burnt through the clouds and it was a gorgeous early autumnal day. It looks almost black and white but I haven’t used a filter. What you see is what I took!

Postcard from Dubai: Part II

The heavens opened as we drove to Melbourne airport for the first leg of our journey home. The intensity of the storm was such that our flight, coming from Auckland, was diverted to Adelaide and finally set down in Melbourne some five hours late. By this time, having eaten a light meal and read all the magazines, I had fallen asleep in the Emirates lounge. Once on board, I was back in the land of nod about 10 minutes after take off wearing my “do not disturb under any condition”  sticker on my bedcover. I had even skipped my usual glass of bubbly. Swathed in my cashmere wrap, eye patch on and earphones in, I slept for a good eight hours before waking, browsing the updated entertainment on offer, listening to a few new albums and taking a stroll down to the A380 bar – surely one of the best reasons for flying Emirates. On a 14 hour flight, the opportunity to walk around and stretch one’s legs is a godsend.

The time soon passed and as two of the few passengers without a connecting flight, we sailed through customs and collected our luggage. I had taken the precaution of booking two cars for our luggage as the van I’d booked on the outbound flight hadn’t materialised and, after wasting 20 minutes or so we’d been loaded  into two cars. This time the staff insisted they could get all our luggage into one car. They tried and they tried but they couldn’t! Saying I told you so in these circumstances affords me no pleasure whatsoever. My taxi driver, clearly the taxi equivalent of a supermarket trolley with a wonky wheel, went rogue and tried to deliver me to a sister hotel, despite me having given him the correct hotel name and address.

Thankfully, despite arriving ahead of check-in, our room was ready and they gave us an upgrade. Before unpacking, my beloved wanted to check on his stand. So we walked down the road to the Trade Centre after a swift beverage at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Lucky that we did, because he was missing two exhibit cases which I then had to pay for in cash. I have my uses. My reward was lunch at a Syrian restaurant just round the corner from where we were staying. The food is not too dissimilar to Lebanese though the spicing is subtly different.

Monday evening, after setting up and readying the stand, we felt too tired to do anything other than watch a spot of tv. After flicking through the channels, we found one showing the final stage of the Dubai Tour aka The Marcel Kittel Slow. The commentary was in Arabic but who cares, it’s cycling. The sole commentator barely paused for breath during the final 25km. We understood little, apart from the riders’ names and places along the route. He was wildly enthusiastic a la Murray Walker and much amused us with his pronunciation of some of the riders’ names. He was clearly conversant with riders such as Viviani, Nibali and Cavendish but had trouble pronouncing others, such as Cobrelli and Degenkolb. Our favourite however had to be “Jungle Bob” better known to most of us as Bob Jungels. We were also tickled by Eeezal Bernaaard, Mooovistar and Quickastepa.

After a good night’s sleep, we rose early to catch up on work. Disaster! The hotel’s WiFi wasn’t working. Fortunately, it was working two doors down where we went for breakfast. We spent the next three days working. Unbeknown to us, the weather was dry but not overly warm or sunny. My beloved’s distributor took us for a splendid dinner in a Lebanese restaurant and we returned to the Syrian restaurant for dinner on our final evening. I managed to fit in a deep tissue back massage where I was pummeled all over. I feel better now but then I could barely hold back the tears, it was so painful.

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All too soon we were up at the crack of dawn for the last leg of our journey home. The five-hour flight was relaxing, I slept through most of it (again). Just after lunch, we were back home to the cold and rain. ‘Fraid so, not even the Cote d’Azur has been left unscathed by the Arctic conditions in Europe. It was great to be back.

12 Days of Christmas – day 2

Next out of the bag is a photograph of the Promenade des Anglais taken in early March on the last day of the  Paris-Nice race. I’ve chosen it in memory of all those who were injured or lost their lives there in a senseless act of violence on Bastille Day that surely wouldn’t have been countenanced by anyone’s god.

The Promenade des Anglais during Paris-Nice 2016
The Promenade des Anglais during Paris-Nice 2016

The Promenade stretches along the seafront of Nice between the beach and the road and is always bustling, not just with people strolling in the sunshine but also dog-walkers, joggers, cyclists, in-line skaters and sightseers, many of whom pause on bright blue chairs to enjoy the azure sea in the Baie des Anges. The road was financed by the English and the City of Nice in the late 18th century largely to provide work for the unemployed, hence the name.

Plans awry

Our festive period tends to follow a pattern. We entertain friends the week-end before and then spend the entire period cycling plenty of kilometres, to wear off the additional calories, returning to work in the New Year, batteries recharged.

I’m not a fan of Christmases en famille. As children we never had table busting family Christmases. Frankly, not enough relatives. My father was an orphan and while my mother had living relatives, her older sister and mother, whom we saw at least once a week. No need to spend Christmas Day with them though we would see them over the festive period.

Initially, we spent Christmas with friends of my parents but, once they had children of their own, we spent the day chez nous. First as a foursome and then, after the arrival of my youngest sister Jane, a quintet. Occasionally, I recall, we’d have Christmas Day lunch at a hotel or restaurant. But with a Mum who was a fantastic cook and hostess, and a father in the food trade, why would you?

In all our many, many years of marriage, we’ve had a total of eight family Christmases, only one of which was with the outlaw. A few of you may be wondering, somewhat enviously, how I managed this. I cannot claim any real credit. Rather it was all down to my mother-in-law’s lack of ability in the kitchen. Her cooking carries a government health warning. Would you want to spend Christmas with her? No, me neither! Given half a chance my beloved would have spent every Christmas with my family – my mother used to dote on him –  with whom we’ve spent seven Christmases, the last one here in France in 2005.

It was memorable for a number of reasons. We finally persuaded my father that my mother’s forgetfulness and sudden-found shy reticence was the result of Alzheimer’s not a personality change. The newly installed dishwasher in the new kitchen sprang a leak on Christmas Eve and I had to wash up by hand throughout the entire festive season. My parents spent three weeks with us, my sisters and my one brother-in-law only stayed a week but, at the end of those three weeks, I was exhausted from waiting on everyone hand and foot. I still recall my beloved cuddling up to me in bed, the day my parents left, saying: “Haven’t we had a wonderful Christmas and New Year?” My response was unrepeatable!

I have spent a number of Christmases working – one of the perils of being in Finance. But we’ve enjoyed more abroad, skiing in either Austria, Germany or Switzerland or relaxing  in warmer climates such as Spain, Dubai and Arizona.

Since moving to France, in recent years, we’ve settled into a bit of a routine with the bikes. Christmas Eve we indulge in our usual oysters and champagne – very French! Christmas Day we dine at a local restaurant. This year we ate warm, home-made, cinnamon buns for breakfast and enjoyed a ride in the bracing air which gave us a good appetite for lunch, followed by a brisk walk along the sea-front in the sunshine. Pretty much all according to plan.

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Boxing Day, my beloved and I both went down with a gastric-flu type of bug. We were laid low for several days which left us far too weak to cycle or indeed do much of anything. It was only on New Year’s Eve that we once more felt almost back to normal, though we didn’t see in the New Year. New Year’s Day, we enjoyed afternoon tea at a hotel overlooking the sea. It was afternoon tea French style, teeny-weeny pastries with tea, not a scone in sight. We had planned to stay and watch the fireworks but after enjoying the sunshine, felt chilled as soon as the sun set. We hurried back home to a bowl of hot soup.

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We may not have logged the hoped for kilometres but we’ve gotten an early start with the New Year detox and  reorganised a lot of drawers and cupboards. The late Wallis Simpson allegedly said “You can never be too rich, or too thin.” To which I would like to add, “or ever have enough storage space.” I’m going to be busy recycling this coming week, which will leave me with a warm, self-satisfied glow.

Monsoon

Only to be expected, I suppose, after our Indian summer! To be fair, rain was forecast for this week. It started early on Monday evening followed by an epic thunderstorm, or so my beloved claimed. That’s right, it didn’t wake me thus it couldn’t have been that epic. It only started to pour again mid-morning on Tuesday, after I’d dropped my beloved at the airport. His take-off was delayed a couple of hours as the weather closed in. When it rains heavily, my view of the sea is usually shrouded in mist. Visibility was so bad, I could barely see beyond the terrace.

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If you look at weather charts for the Cote d’Azur, it’ll show October as the wettest month of the year,  not this year. That title belongs belonged to January, thanks to three solid days of torrential rain mid-month, until this week. In the space of 36 hours, the coast had up to 300mm of rain or three months’ worth! Some areas fared worse than others but the damage wrought on the beaches and in the hills was truly terrible.

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The clean up operation swung into action on Wednesday, once the rain had stopped and Noah and his Ark had stood down. It continues apace. Today’s fine, the sunshine’s back but only until Sunday, when more of the wet stuff is forecast.  Of course, rain on the coast translates into snow in the Alps. So, it’s not all bad news.

The Domaine has not remained unscathed. The scaffolding at the far end of our block, recently erected for refurbishment and repainting of the façade, remained rock steady in the high winds but no doubt put back the schedule of works which is due to take almost two years to complete. I confess the thought of having workmen peering in my windows for the best part of a year while they paint the back, side and front of our block is rather unsettling. We’re not overlooked by anyone, don’t have so much as a net curtain to preserve our modesty and rarely use the shutters.

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High winds felled a number of trees in the Domaine. Fortunately none fell on parked cars and the gardeners, who love a bit of “Chainsaw Massacre” have been wildly sawing away for the past few days. The fallen trees will be replaced with new, younger ones to preserve the parkland and habitat for all sorts of wildlife. The trees, mostly pine, I suppose will end up on someone’s open fire.

Despite today’s sunshine, care will have to be taken on our rides. The road, particularly the cycle lanes, will be full of small stones and wet sand which often masks the broken glass. It’s a bit of a minefield for tyres. My beloved is absolutely bound to get a puncture. That man gets through more inner tubes in a month than I do in a year, and I cycle so much more than him.

Despite today’s strong sunshine, the mercury has dipped a bit and I’ll be wearing my Roubaix 3/4 bib tights and a long-sleeved shirt. Winter’s truly arrived. There’s not a cloud in the sky, so I won’t need any wet weather gear, at least, not today.

(all photographs courtesy of Nice-Matin newspaper)

 

Ride Postscript: Serious miscalculation on my part, a short-sleeved jersey would’ve sufficed!

 

Slogans

I saw a brilliant slogan on the back of a t-shirt in my Twitter timeline recently it said “You own a car, not the road.” So, so true and I just know I’m going to be quoting that in a variety of languages to various vehicle drivers. The other one I like is “A metre matters”. That’s exhorting drivers to leave plenty of room when overtaking cyclists. Particularly pertinent to those towing caravans or boats. They have a similar campaign in Spain which demands a metre and a half overtaking space.

But as anyone who occasionally reads my blog or who rides themselves knows, the best drivers are those that also cycle.  We need to get more people cycling. Such as the gentleman who blithely blocked the cycle path as he was waiting to exit the petrol station. To make my point, I slammed on my (new) brakes and stopped within a hair’s breadth of his car. Did he retreat? No! I was forced to wait until the road was clear to swing out and overtake the bonnet of his car. I gave him The Look and noted his number plate.

Just ten minutes later, as my riding buddy and I were cycling side by side along the deserted two-lane coastal road, we were rudely tooted at by white van man who yelled at us to get out of the road and onto the cycle path! A cycle path intended for kids and those of a nervous disposition with a 10km/h speed limit. Sadly, the sequencing of the traffic lights didn’t allow  me to advise said driver that he owned a van, not the road. But I was oh so tempted to give chase – next time.

You can just make out the snow caps in the distance
You can just make out the snow caps in the distance

However, it was hard to stay annoyed on such a beautiful day. I thank my lucky stars daily that I’m fortunate enough to live here. No amount of rude white van men will ever change that!

Worrying trend

Last year finding brochures with shoes and garments for the older woman in my letterbox troubled me. This year’s much worse. Indeed, it could hardly have gotten off to a worse start. I receive spam most days with offers of cut price funerals, exhortations to pre-pay for mine and, which I think is even worse,  a tempting funeral comparison website! A sort of permanent www.Hotelscompare.com. I’ve had so many of these emails that I’m beginning to wonder what it is they know that I don’t?

grimreaper

Okay, so the grim reaper can strike at any time. He’s no respecter of age but it’s got me wondering whether these sites have been surreptitiously following me on my recent rides? I only venture this explanation because I’ve recently had a couple of very close scrapes. Mostly perpetrated by motorists who blithely ignore the mantra of “Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre” and head straight to “Manoeuvre”  bypassing the other two steps. To add insult to injury, one of my neighbours in the Domaine perpetrated one of these close encounters. And, yes, I have added their vehicle registration number to my Black List.

The weather has been partly to blame. It has washed lots of sand, stones and rubble into the cycle paths meaning that I occasionally have to venture onto that part of the road which many motorists think only they are entitled to use. Of course, they show me no such compunction when making use of the cycling lanes to overtake or park.

I haven’t ridden outside as much as I would have liked thanks to the rainstorms that seem to have swept most of Europe. Indeed, six weeks into the New Year and I have completed as many kilometres on the home trainer as I have on the road. An almost unheard of situation. My normally cheery disposition takes a bit of a dip without my daily dose of sunshine and cycling. It goes without saying, I am a fair-weather cyclist.

I find that if I have something to mull over you can’t beat a couple of hours on the bike. Inspiration  – and not a vehicle – will likely strike and I return to the office fired up and even more ready for action. It starts when I first awake.

Perfect day for a ride
Perfect day for a ride

I look out the floor to ceiling windows to find out what the weather’s going to hold for me that day. If it looks miserable, I’m far more inclined to roll-over and go back to sleep. If the start looks promising, I leap out of bed, with a spring in my step, and work in the office until I adjudge it warm enough to venture forth.