Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Travel: Nice- Day One

So! Ruddy hell, I never thought an Icelandic volcano could cause so much trouble! And you know what’s so weird? When we (Me and Nick- the boyfriend) were planning the holiday, my first suggestion was “Let’s go to Iceland!!!”, and then Nick was like “No, that’s too expensive, let’s spend a weekend in Paris” but I was browsing destinations and I found more about Nice and liked the look of it. Very coincidental that Iceland erupts and we end up in Paris anyway!

The entries about my holidays in Nice, I will base around my meals. That’s how I usually plan and remember all my holidays anyway. It’s like, “oh yeah we went to see the Rialto Bridge- of course that was after we had that FABULOUS meal at that quaint fresh ravioli restaurant that was full of Hawaiian waiters for some reason”.

So we had a rather early flight Monday morning, had to get up at 4am! I’m the kinda person that believes waking up any time before six should at some point be made illegal. Bristol airport is just so easy and quick to get through- Heathrow and Gatwick scare me a little and are totally fussy.

Even though we had breakfast at the Airport at 6:30am, Nick still had a beer. I said “what are you doing???” And he said “what? I’m on holiday!” What is it about travelling anywhere that makes you act totally strange. Not in any circumstance would you have a beer that early in the morning, but just because your’e going on a plane you end up having a drink. I had a bacon bap for breakfast, and it wasn’t that bad atall actually.

Arrived in Nice and got the airport bus that ran along the Promenade des Anglais. We got off and had a nice walk along there. Even though it was early in the morning and only spring we were really surprised about how wonderfully sunny it was. It was fairly warm for April, and I get the feeling that it would never get unbearably hot- because you get a really nice breeze from the coast to cool you down. As you can see here, there is really a reason why they call it “The Azure Coast”. Absolutely beautiful.

We walked up to our hotel, only about a 10 minutes (if that) walk from the coast, the “Hotel Gounod”. I had chosen this hotel, as it’s Trip Advisor reviews were rather good, it was a 3 star hotel (which is what we were looking for), very reasonably priced, and to me it looked very stereotypically French. We requested a balcony and we got a lovely one, we were on the top floor and had a nice view of beautiful buildings. This is their website http://www.gounod-nice.com/ , and here I have a picture of our room and me chilling out on our balcony.

Once we had checked in and all that, we started wandering around the town, getting our bearings and keeping a keen eye out for a nice place to eat. The place that we found, menu was in French, we got a nice table in the sun, with the noises of a fountain (and the occasional noisy scooter) in the background. This meal actually happened to be the best meal of the holiday. Now there is something I must tell you about Nice that we discovered fairly early on in the holiday. Everything in Nice- in particular food and drink- is double the price of typical English fare. I never thought I would visit a more expensive place than Venice, but here I stood corrected.

Also something that took me by surprise were the portion sizes here. I expected it to be small, French ‘nouvelle-cuisiney’ kind of portions, but no, they are totally Americanised. As you can see here, we shared a massive starter of deep fried courgette flowers (which was served with a fresh ‘Provencal sauce’- which composed of a flavoursome tomato sauce topped with blended basil or pesto).

They were absolutely gorgeous, heavenly. I love courgette flowers SO much but I don’t know anywhere in this country where you can buy them! I like the way they do them in Greece, stuffed with a herby rice mixture, deep fried and served with tzatziki. I have also seen Jamie Oliver and Valentine Warner make scrummy recipes from them. Haven’t seen them in any shops though- I have received a free packet of courgette seeds (as well as others) from the BBC, and may try growing courgettes from scratch in order to obtain their delicious blossoms.

For main I ordered the rotisserie rabbit with sautéed potatoes and onions, and my boyfriend had Beef Daube- which is basically like Beef boerginoun except a little less winey and using Provencal herbs. In Provence boerginoun and stews like this are usually served with tagliatelli/ paparadelli. Both were delicious. I had never tried rabbit before and my verdict: hate to say it but I thought it tasted exactly like chicken. Maybe thought that the French guys in the kitchen were just like “Eh, she’s English, she wont tell the difference, just send the chicken”. Haha, but silly comments aside I knew it was rabbit because of the way the bones were. Was gorgeous, tasted all nice and barbequed-y, and must’ve had about 30 cloves of garlic in it- however I am particularly fond of this. If ya don’t like garlic then I do not recommend a visit to France.

The restaurant was a few steps away from this cool fountain. I thought I’d show you this cause I think it’s a little funny

In Nice, every day except Mondays there is a massive flower market, which is supposed to be pretty amazing. We visited this place on Monday- where in place of the flower market there is a massive flea market- full of anything and everything you could ever want. My boyfriend bought me a nice pair of sunglasses as a gift for me that I (proudly and successfully) haggled the market vendor for.

After a bit of a wander, we came across this place, just called “The Chateau” if I remember right. Walking up there you can see some fantastic views of the city, as well as some beautiful botanical gardens, a really pretty fountain.

The blossoms were in full tow there, and if you see there behind me on the right- that is the ruins of the 1st First Romanesque Church (11th-12th century).

We then went a-wandering round Old Nice (the old part of the town). Very sort-of Italian, lot’s of winding streets with houses with pillars and those coloured window shutters. Plenty of hidden away, nice looking restaurants round here. FYI if you are like my parents when they go on holiday- around here there were quite a few Indian restaurants. Whenever I’ve been on holiday with mum and dad- whatever country- we always have a massive search for an Indian restaurant. Which often takes ages because curries haven’t caught on in European countries as much as in the U.K. We also saw some amazing open air beautiful spice/dried herbs/ bottles of vinegary oily things shops. Like with big clay bowls piled up with saffron and herbs du Provence and things like that.

It’s really weird, we just walked past this building, with big doors, one of which was open- and there weren’t any signs or anything outside of it- and I said to Nick “Hey- theres something in here!”. Turns out to be something called the “Palais Lascaris”- a 17th century Maltese palace. It’s got loads of old tapestries, statues, paintings and furniture. It also has an apothecary fitted in 1738. When I looked around at the labels of all those draws, some of the labels say “Millipedes” and “Absinth”. Not like Boots is it?

Also here they have THE OLDEST complete trombone in the world, dated 1581.

After that we were all a bit knackered, and decided to have an early night. We got back to the hotel, and a piece of paper had been shuvved under our door, informing us of a ‘meal deal’ the restaurant in their sister restaurant next door (Hotel Splendid- its basically a 4-star-with-a-spa much more expensive place- don’t bother with it, Gounod is nicer) and since we were so tired we didn’t want to wander about for ages looking for somewhere to eat, we went there.

Dissapointed really. Meh. Starter was prosciutto ham salad (Basic) and main dish sounded nice in French, a chicken casserole/stew with saffron rice. It was kinda canteeny gross. Maybe some of you get me, you know when you order paella from somewhere that doesn’t know how to make paella? And the rice is yellow, slightly chewy, and kinda tastes of overcooked peppers. It was like that. And the chicken tasted a bit like a ‘chicken tonight’ situation.

Anyway, so we watched a little french TV (enough until I said to Nick “please stop, my head is melting”) and we went to bed. I had a really nice first day, and we got loads done actually.

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