Tag Archives: L’Austral

Its nice to see you, to see you 'NICE'!

The sound of waves pummelling the white sand beach of this French coastal town made a lasting impression on my recent visit. The clear water of the Mediterranean is a gorgeous striking turquoise blue colour where the sun strokes its surface and many tourists, sun-seekers and celebrities are drawn to this coast. UK tourists, with the bonus of regular Easy Jet flights from London and regional airports, find it a very tempting spot during the summer months. Nice was historically, Italy, and part of the Savoy region before being sold off to France. The vibe is quite laid back here, as you would expect from a coastal community, though I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the local population display a ‘sunny’ nature.
Castle Hill is a piece of land that juts out between the port and the old town and affords wonderful views of Nice and the Bay of Angels. After a short climb to the top, there is a lovely park plus a small café, El Castillo, but otherwise, only ruins of the medieval citadel which was completely destroyed by Louis XIV of France. If you don’t fancy a walk, there is an elevator that operates between 10:00 – 17:00 taking you down to the Main Boulevard. Be aware that there will be a canon shot at noon every single day. It scared the be-Jesus out of me when it went off!
The street market along the promenade (one street removed from the main strand which runs along the shore) sells beautiful produce from the surrounding countryside. The size of bell peppers and carrots and leeks is truly amazing. Stands are with filled with honey, sun dried tomatoes as well as olives, olive oils and tapenades and fragrant flowers as well. We tried Socca, a delicious moist chick pea flat bread/pizza only made in Nice and kept warm on an oil drum made into an oven. Wandering further into the old walled city we happened upon a lovely fish market, very close to the main cathedral. Here the streets shrink in size though the buildings are several stories high. This is where you will find art galleries, African restaurants and lovely boutiques. A shopper’s dream.
I should mention that if you need to use the toilet, you may do so in a local café but only after buying an espresso or other drink. In a busy premises next to the town square, I was shouted at by a waitress and the bartender when I made my way through to the facilities in the back. I explained that my fried was buying an espresso (true!) but it was to no avail. I had to order a drink myself.
On a previous trip to Nice I had a rental car and drove about 20kms into the mountains to visit the medieval walled town and beauty spot of Saint Paul de Vence. Perched on a high cliff, it is utterly picturesque and affords amazing views of the coastline. This is the place to fulfil your shopping fix and also visit many unique arts and crafts shops and galleries.
A word of warning, On a sun soaked coast like this, when the crowds descend and flock to the shore, it is then very difficult to hail taxis. So keep a local taxi firm number on you.

A Pompeii Visit

On a recent trip in the Mediterranean, I was told by a reputable person that the reason there are no large animals in North Africa, and a good chunk of the Middle East, is because the Romans destroyed so many of them for use in their gladiatorial games that many species never recovered. I remember learning about the great architectural and engineering achievements of the Romans but this little known fact left me astonished and even a bit angry.
Our tour of Pompeii threw the behaviour of the Romans into high relief. Our tour guide, a Napoli woman with a PhD in ancient architecture, repeated over and over again that these people were warriors. They imitated the Greeks and admired their philosophical and artistic achievements, which is why there are two extant amphitheatres in this ‘frozen in time’ city, but their passion was for the gladiatorial games.
Pompeii was discovered in 1748 and completely changed our understanding of history. It was the first time that ancient everyday people and their activities could be studied, analysed and appreciated. We suddenly could find out what food people ate in Pompeii, how slaves were treated, how hygiene and bathing were approached and how the political life of the city was played out.
But what was most significant to me was the lack of everyday objects in Pompeii; those things that bring a place to life and make it breathe. Virtually everything that survived that was beautiful or artistic, sculpture, paintings, jewellery, is now in a museum in another part of Italy. The everyday objects such as crockery and cutlery are in a museum near the archaeological site.
Though we were visiting during October, the weather was fine with gorgeous views of Vesuvius beyond the Forum. And this meant the crowds were out in force, with the Chinese tourists, in particular, eager to take pictures of the plaster cast remains of victims of the 79 A.D.eruption.
Everyone on our trip was keen to see the mosaic picture recreation of a canine with the first ever warning from ancient times bearing the inscription ‘Beware of Dog’. Yes, the Romans were very much like you and me.