One from the vaults: Slogans

Yet another of my many posts about cycling and road hazards! This one’s from May 2014 and riding my bike daily is the one thing I’ve really missed during lockdown. Fingers crossed I’ll shortly be able to venture forth.

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.

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!

One from the Vaults: Worrying trend

I’ve decided that once a week I’ll re-post something from my extensive archives. Obviously many of my early posts 2009 – 2012 heavily feature cycling. I’ll try to keep these to a minimum as I know not everyone is a cycling fan. Here’s one from February 2014 and no it doesn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day!

Finding brochures with shoes and garments for the older woman in my letterbox troubled me last year but this year’s much worse. Indeed, it could hardly have gotten off to a worse start. I’ve been receiving 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?

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.

Trip to Antibes: Part I

While I’d fondly imagined our trip to Portugal would provide me with fodder for plenty of New Year posts, I’m having to go local. Luckily, I live in a simply splendid part of the world and there’s never any shortage of lovely spots to visit.

I’m particularly fond of Antibes which is literally just up the road from where I live. It has an excellent Old Town and daily market, plus plenty of interesting shops, including several bookshops. The whole area is property porn heaven and don’t even get me started on the trillions of pounds just bobbing up and down in its harbour.

Antibes - Ladies travel poster

Beaches, Mediterranean climate, crystal clear waters, narrow cobbled streets and history. You can find all this and more in Antibes. It’s also well known for several of its annual festivals, such as Jazz at nearby Juan-les-Pins and the sailing regattas called Voiles d’Antibes. This pretty town is also packed with history, ancient buildings and, like many of the towns around here, it has an interesting provenance going back several millennia to its foundation in 5th century BC by the Greeks, when it became an important trading post.

Initially called ‘Antipolis’, the town became part of the Roman Empire in 2nd century BC which led to significant improvements in infrastructure including the building of roads and aqueducts. After the collapse of the Roman empire, Antibes suffered centuries of unrest and almost constant invasions by various barbarian hoards. It wasn’t until 15th century when Antibes came under French rule that the town settled down.

Around 1850, wealthy nobles became attracted to the natural beauty of Antibes and started building villas and large holiday residences. After the construction of its first luxury hotel in 1870, many of the world’s jet set, elite and rich continued to flock here and still today it remains an international destination for the wealthy.

Pablo Picasso came to the town in 1946 to visit his friend and fellow painter Gerald Murphy. During his six-month stay at Chateau Grimaldi, Picasso painted and drew as well as crafting ceramics and tapestries. When he departed Picasso left a number of his works to the municipality. The castle has since become the Picasso Museum.

Trip to Le Haut de Cagnes

I’ve by no means finished with my posts on Australia but I thought you might appreciate a bit of a change. So I’m heading much closer to home for this post.

It’s right on our doorstep but we’ve not visited Cagnes’ medieval old town, Le Haut-de-Cagnes, for several years. We’d previously dined its main hotel and restaurant Le Cagnard on a number of occasions, sitting out on its restaurant terrace with a painted retractable wooden roof and admiring the splendid views back down to the coast.

The name Cagnes is of Ligurian origin and means inhabited place on a rounded hill. Haut de Cagnes is a rocky outcrop, 91m above sea level, which offered our ancestors a lookout, somewhere easy to defend, near to good agricultural land and water. First occupied by the Celto-Liguries and then by the Gallo-Romans, in 1388 the river Var became the natural border between Provence and Nice, of which the latter was under the control of the Counts of Savoy.

Cagnes, which had about 1,200 to 1,500 inhabitants, became a border town on the Var river. When Provence became part of France in 1483, Cagnes was on the only road leading to France from the Savoy States. From the 16th century, this border zone featured in the cycle of great European wars and was often looted and sacked.

Cagnes enjoyed a glorious period in the reign of Louis XIII, when its castle was transformed by Jean-Henri Grimaldi in 1620 into a sumptuous seigneuriale residence and one of the busiest of the region, whose descendants today reign over the Principality of Monaco. Consequently, there’s a special link between the “Rock” and the town of Cagnes. HRH Prince Albert II of Monaco regularly honours Cagnes-sur-Mer with his presence at major events.

Sadly, the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV saw even more wars and more multiple invasions in the area  – and I don’t mean tourists! At the time of the French Revolution, in 1790, Cagnes still had only 1,388 inhabitants, mostly peasants who cultivated olives, hemp, citrus fruits and vegetables.

Thanks to an influx of artists, at the beginning of 20th century, Cagnes was known as “The Montmartre of the Côte d’Azur”! By that time, Cagnes had grown to around 3,000 inhabitants and, following in Renoir’s footsteps, many other painters and entertainers fell in love with the Mediterranean light and settled in this picturesque village which offers great views and a magnificent panorama of both the sea and the surrounding hills.

Today only around 650 live in this ancient hilltop town which was classified a historical site in 1948 and provides a delightful setting for several museums and and a church (St Pierre) with a beautiful Baroque ceiling. In 1960, the famous cabaret singer, Suzy Solidor (1900-1985) set up her cabaret-restaurant and café (now an antique shop), in one of the houses at the corner of the chateau square. The cabaret is now L’Espace Solidor which houses contemporary jewellery exhibitions. As a consequence, Cagnes sur Mer was awarded the label of “Villes et Metiers d’Art” (town of arts and crafts).

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.

sky1

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.