We didn’t get round to posting this on our return from Nice as life has been rather busy. We arrived home safely from Nice and spent Thursday night in Leominster. Friday saw all three of us (including Whiskey) saying goodbye to Jo’s mum and heading home to Ashton after three and a half months away. Then it was straight into preparations for Carol Services, Christingles, Christmas services which left little time for us to stop and catch our breath. Now that it’s New Year’s Eve we’ve finally had chance to finish off this blog! With our best wishes for 2014, here is the last blog from our sabbatical…….. We hope that you’ve enjoyed following our journeys over the last few months – we feel really privileged to have been able to do what we’ve done and are so grateful to those who have made it possible.
Wednesday was a day of shopping for various things we wanted to take home, sitting in the Old Town at one of our regular cafés , having lunch on the terrasse of our apartment, relaxing in the sun with books, wandering down to the promenade to watch the sunset and then returning home though the new park and watching the fountains play.
Last but not least, we stopped at the puppy and kitten shop to watch their newest acquisitions at play or sleeping. In answer to the question in an earlier post about the cost of these, the cheapest are 850euros and some are more than 1000 to buy!
On Thursday, all packed and ready to go we had breakfast at a nearby cafe and set off for the airport and the journey back to Ashton via Bristol and Leominster.
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Tuesday: today we decided to go somewhere we’ve not been before – Sospel in the Alpes-Maritime, about 45 mins to the NW of Nice by train. The journey is quite dramatic, leaving Nice behind and climbing into the mountains on viaducts and through tunnels. On getting off the train we were glad we’d worn warm clothing as their was quite a frost. Sospel is in a valley and out of the sun it was very cold. It’s a medieval town which straddles a river and we explored the town, discovering a beautiful cathedral and an old castle amoing other buildings. We took a walk along the river and then got a bus down to Menton on the coast just on the French side of the border with Italy. This was a very steep descent, with lots of hairpin bends and narrow roads – at times we wondered how the bus would actually navigate the twists and turns! We arived at Menton and caught a train back to Nice along the coast.
PS. Roger was interested in an old tramway which climbed from Menton to Sospel and has put some old photos of this on his blog here
We had originally intended to visit La Rochette sur Var today. But yesterday’s expedition covered that visit. So, we made a snap decision this morning to go to Cap d’Ail and Monaco. As today is the last day of our 15 euro bus passes we travelled to Cap d’Ail without having to pay anything further.
We walked for about 4 km along the coast from the West end of the town of Cap d’Ail which used to be called La Turbie sur Mer. A resort where the rich and famous used to have houses (and you still have to be very rich to live here). Lord Beaverbrook once had a house here. We walked past the gates of what was once Greta Garbo’s house ………
The walk took us to the edge of Monaco where we turned inland for a short while, going past Monaco’s football stadium before finding a place for lunch and then exploring Monaco itself. The prince’s palace and the cathedral were both dramatic!
In the afternoon in the port, alongside some unbelievable yachts we came across the Monaco Christmas market which was extravagently laid out to a Disney cartoon theme. Vin chaud from one of the stalls was lovely.
We’ve enjoyed visiting the Christmas markets and we understand that we’ll have chance to enjoy the experience again when we get back to Ashton-under-Lyne!
To meet the terms of our bus ticket we had to leave Monaco on foot and walk back into Cap d’Ail to get the bus back to Nice.
Sunday: A trip to Levens became a major expedition today! Levens is one of our favourite villages about 25 km north of Nice up in the hills – you can see snow covered mountains from here at this time of the year. There is an attractive square
overlooked by a church and with several cafés where we like sitting to have a coffee and watch the world go by.
Procession in Levens
For the Roman Catholic church, today is a special festival …. the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (a feast celebrating Mary, Mother of Jesus). We went to Levens because we knew there would be a church procession today, and a market. There was a small procession and a small market so we were finished in Levens much earlier than we had anticipated.
We decided to walk to La Roquette Sur Var, another perched medieval village above the Var river to the west of Nice and then on to St. Martin du Var – a road distance of 8 km downhill, made slightly shorter by using some paths . It was a lovely walk along a road through lots of fields of olive trees to La Roquette and then down a fairly steep footpath down to the valley floor.
Looking back towards Levens
View of the Var from la Roquette
Then because the bus was not due for over 80 minutes we decided to follow the bus route and walked a further 3 or 4 km.
We are both now very tired!
We spent the day in Nice. A late breakfast at La Petite Table just over the road from our apartment block which was lovely, was followed by a stroll through one of the local markets and the Old Town. Then we headed out north of the centre of Nice to Cimiez to visit the Monastery there. We had a drink and a cake at a cafe in the local park; and then …
…. a meal in the evening at ’22 Septembre’ a small back-street restaurant in the Old Town with lovely food at very reasonable prices ( http://www.le22septembre.com).
Talking of prices, what do you think it costs to buy a pedigee kitten from the puppy and kitten shop in Nice? (See yesterday’s post.)
Multiple choice … we’ll give you the answer later. Is it: ………………….
A. 50 euros
B. 100 euros
C. 150 euros
D. 250 euros
E. 450 euros
F. 850 euros?
Woke this morning to hear the sad news that Nelson Mandela has died. He truly was an inspirational man and it’s been good to see the news coverage about his life – particularly to be reminded that his long time of imprisonment didn’t embitter him but strenghtened his desire to seek justice for his fellow South Africans. It was a privilege for Jo to spend a placement in South Africa in 1998 while training for ordination and to see first hand the impact that his presidency had made. One of the most enduring memories was attending a Truth and Reconciliation hearing about a massacre in a township south of Jo’burg – the dignity of those telling their stories and of those hearing these stories was humbling. It would be a fitting legacy to Nelson Mandela if we, whether as individuals or as nations, sought reconciliation more readily.
The last few days have been quite busy, in an enjoyable way, so today we’re having a quieter day. We went for a wander around town – here are some of Jo’s favourite places:
1. The kitten and puppy shop! Every town should have one of these shops provided as therapy to improve people’s mental health. Lots of people stop outside these pet shops to watch and they start to smile and talk to one another. If you’re having a bad day, stopping outside a shop like this for a few minutes would make even the most hardened cynic feel better!
2. A beautiful cake shop! The French certainly know how to make beautiful cakes – unfortunately they also know how to make very expensive cakes too!
3. Heaven for seafood lovers! This stall has the most amazing selection of seafood but as Roger isn’t keen on shellfish and as we don’t know how to prepare things like black spiky sea urchins we thought we’d leave them on the stall!
4. For a former structural engineer who designed a lot in reinforced concrete, this church dedicated to Joan of Arc was a good find – it looks stunning, just a shame it wasn’t open so we could see inside.
Thursday: Today we went shopping in the Market in a part of Nice called ‘Liberation’.
We then caught a bus to Eze, another of the perched villages that are so attractive. Eze is on the Moyenne Cornishe about 10km to the East of Nice with lovely views across out over the Mediterranean. We enjoyed wandering around the village before having lunch in a small park area beside the Moyenne Corniche.
We are feeling stiff this evening after walking though the afternoon from Eze to Villefranche-sur-Mer – a good few kilometres!
Although some of the bus drivers were on strike today all of the busses we planned to take arrived! …………………………………………..
We’ve also done some more investigation about the name of the apartment, ‘Avoca’. This all comes from assuming that the owners are Irish, and from a copy of a cook book in the apartment. We’ve discovered that there is a chain of stores in Ireland with the name Avoca. These stores grew out out of Avoca Mills which were a group of handweavers. Each of the stores hass one or two cafes and there are now a series of cookbooks with some wonderful food.
You can find out more about the stores an the history of Avoca here: http://www.avoca.ie/home/explore/our-company/profile. The book in the apartment is “A Year at Avoca: A Cookbook.”
Wednesday: We took the tram to Compte de Falicon and then bus No. 76 to Castagniers where we began our walk on footpaths and back roads as often as possible but inevitably also on the main roads between villages.
Castagniers is one of thirteen villages grouped together by the Communauté d’agglomération de Nice-Côte d’Azur tourist department as the Route des Villages Perchés (Route of Perched Villages). The others are: Aspremont, Coaraze, Colomars, Duranus, Èze, Falicon, La Gaude, La Roquette, Levens, Saint-Blaise, Saint-Jeannet and Tourrette-Levens. We’ve visited most of these over the years that we’ve been coming to Nice but Castagniers was one that we had not visited before. It is a tiny perched village overlooking the valley of the River Var and formed a good starting point for our walk.
We set off up hill by side roads and two different footpaths to reach the D14 road and then we followed that into Aspremont, where the market and a local shop provided the food we needed for our picnic lunch. We spent a gentle hour or so in Aspremont village wandering around the old part of the village on its narrow streets before having lunch in the municipal park.
After lunch we tried to follow the GR 51 footpath to Colomars. In places we found it, at other times we folowed the D414 road. The whole walk was done under full sun and the scenery was dramatic! Colomars is famous for its olives and olive oil. The olives are being harvested at the moment – large nets are spread out under the trees and left for the olives to fall onto.
At Colomars we caught the No. 62 bus back into Nice. We sat and read for a little while on the Promenade des Anglais, then it was back to the apartment where we enjoyed a bit more sun on the balcony – by about four, though, the sun gets hidden by the buildings and then its quite cool.
Tuesday: Last year we visited the small village of Luceram north of Nice and saw that each December they hold a Circuit des Crèches – a quick look in our phrasebook reminded us that the word ‘crèche’ isn’t just the place that you take your children to but a nativity scene. We found out that the villagers create lots (over 400) of nativities and put them around the village. As we don’t normally take a holiday in December we would normally miss this and so this year, Luceram was top of our list of places to visit. It didn’t disappoint! The narrow streets of this medieval village were home to natvity scenes of all sizes – from life size to tiny little ones. Some where in the caves under houses and were elaborate scenes of the Holy Family and village folk dressed in Provencale local dress, others were nestled in plant pots or tucked on windowsills or post boxes. Truly amazing!!
In the evening we went out for a walk and enjoyed some mulled wine in the Christmas Village in the centre of the city.
We arrived in Nice late on Sunday evening, just a it was getting dark. After unpacking, we went out to have a look round. As it was a Sunday evening it was very busy! The Christmas markets had just opened and they were packed.
When were were last in Nice there was a lot of refurbishment going on just outside the old city. There are now some lovely gardens running the length of the river on the site of what used to be some ugly 1970s buildings which had been built over the river. Those buildings have gone but the underlying structure remains and gardens have been laid out over the river.
By the way, the pictures with today’s blog are not our own!
We saw the gardens at night time. This is a day-time picture!
Today has been spent in Nice doing some shopping and getting familiar with where everything is. We’ve found a lovely place for breakfast just outside the apartment block that we are staying in.
The name given to our apartment is Avoca. We’ve been told that the owners are Irish. The Avoca river is 15 miles long and is formed by the union of the Avonmore and Avonbeg rivers, in Co. Wicklow, on the East side of the Republic of Ireland. It flows SE to the Irish Sea at Arklow. The river is celebrated by Thomas Moore’s poem/song “Meeting of the Waters.”
This is the apartment!
Avoca is also a small town near Arklow, in County Wicklow, situated on the River Avoca. The Avoca area has been associated with its famous copper mines for many years. Thomas Moore’s poem/song is said to have been written under a tree, the stump of which remains by the meeting of the two rivers. Avoca is also famous for its handweaving, with Avoca Handweavers based there. Avoca was once known as Newbridge. It subsequently became known as Ovoca, and then in Victorian times as Avoca. Ptolemy mentions the river Obhoca on his early map of Ireland. The official name of the village is now Avoca in English and Abhóca in Irish. None of the other names are used today. Avoca has been used as a filming location for several films and television series. The BBC series Ballykissangel was filmed there. In 1967, Avoca was one of the locations used in the film Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon, and it was the setting for the comedy film Zonad which had a general Irish release in 2010.