A week in Nice to decorate our studio

Sunday 1st April - Friday 6th April 2007

Took advantage of the daughter away on a school ski trip to nip off to Nice for a week by ourselves with decorating rather than romance in mind. The weather can be pretty grotty this time of the year, good for staying in and painting walls. Sunday night arrival, not much we could do, all our ski stuff was lying around left to dry out from our ski trip in February. We intend to have an afternoon skiing so left it in a heap in the corner and made plans for the week, mostly involving DIY.

Thought we'd try a new restaurant tonight and set off for the far side of the post. Had the bad luck to be 30 minutes too early for the Michelin-starred L'Ane Rouge and too hungry to wait so we walked to the end of the port and found a tiny Corsican restaurant called L'Espad'or that was almost full and looked very inviting. All the signs were good, attractive interior, small menu but it turned out to be very disappointing. The service was slow and the waitress difficult to attract. The food when it came was indifferent, unimaginative and meagre. I had the usual Nicoise Salade, I have so many of these, I know what's good or not and husband had a large plate of charcuterie. The photos don't look that bad but believe me, you can find much better. We had to ask for bread which was stale. The wine was bitter. How I wish we had hung on for L'Ane Rouge. There was one young lad there, a waiter who was trying hard and was helpful. It was excruciatingly slow, waiting for the bill after this miserable meal. We will never go there again. Not when there are several rather nice places along that side, the Barque Bleue, La Geolette etc. Not the best start to the week.

Spent much of the next morning at Carrefour, the large hypermarket within the Centre Commercial TNL on boulevard General Louis Delfino. We are lucky, it's just a short walk north from our studio. In spite of its size, it's a easy place to miss as it is all indoors within a mall with no obvious main entrance. Once inside, you have to walk past all the smaller shops, Sephora, McDonald's etc until you come to Carrefour. There is only one entrance and that is a walk past most of the tills. The trolleys are stored up a corridor to the right, hidden away just past the La Brioche Doree sandwich bar. You need a euro to release the trolley. When you enter Carrefour, you might be called over by security who will want to seal up any bags you might be carrying to stop shop lifting. Also, on the way out past the tills, show your empty shopper to the till staff so they can see it is empty. It's normal and OK, don't stress about it, at least you are warned if you are reading this.

You can buy anything from this Carrefour, over the years we have bought a computer, washing machine, TV, bikes, rollerboots, DVDS, clothes, towels, cutlery and of course food and wine. The children's clothes are very good value.

We were able to buy everything we needed to paint the studio plus all the extras, masking tape brush cleaner etc. The paint appears to come in two sizes of tin; too big or too small. We choose a sort of gentle yellow called 'vanille' for the walls and plain white for the ceiling.

The studio has undergone a few changes over the years. On my allaboutnice.com website you can see the changes through the old photographs on my Port Nicea pages. We started off with a double bed for us and a leather sofa bed for the daughter. We decided this took up too much room and eventually sold our bed on anglo-info.com We now have the sofa bed and daughter has a single pine bunk bed up with her desk underneath. We bought this from Fly - a French chain, similar to Ikea.

We never watched the large TV and sold this plus its stand on anglo-info. We all use computers though and when we are all in Nice, we can have three computers on the go simultaneously, one PC and 2 laptops. In 2006 we organised wireless broadband through a fantastic chap we met through anglo-info.com. Please email me for his contact details if you wish to install anything computery or internety in your apartment, I would be very glad to recommend him.

With my daughter getting older, life en famille in one small studio during the holidays can be a bit fraught. In the good old days the daughter would be asleep by 7:30 pm leaving us to spend a quiet evening on the balcony in peace. Now, she goes to bed later and won't settle while we are still awake. I wish we had had the extra 20,000 pounds needed for that extra bedroom when we bought this studio. For the next few years something needed to be done. Just before Christmas December 2006, we spent a week in Nice and husband set about building a partition wall to separate off the daughter's bunk bed, making effectively a tiny bedroom within our studio. We decided to leave the end open and I will make a curtain to pull around the top of the bunk. Hopefully, this will be enough quietness and privacy for us all over the next few years. If this doesn't work, then we will add an end wall and door to the arrangement.

So far, it had worked well, the living space does not feel any smaller, in fact it feels larger as your eye is not drawn to the toys and clutter of the daughter's desk area under her bunk. Husband incorporated a shelf unit by the kitchen and now the kitchen looks like a proper kitchen area, we are thinking of adding a breakfast bar/stools and selling the table and chairs...

We ran out of paint in the end so back to Carrefour. The bathroom is already yellow so we chose some pale peachy coloured paint that was designed for bathrooms and kitchens, not very nice to paint wit, very draggy and sticky and required special cleaning fluids for the brushes. After we had cleared up and binned the brushes and tins, we discovered places requiring touch ups; they will have to wait for the next five years now.

The studio is improved greatly with the new paint. It had become gradually scruffier over the years, now it is all fresh again and we are filled with inspiration and good intentions re tidiness. Husband is working on a plan to hide the wires behind my computer table and I have a couple of posters to bring out for the walls. There is a lot of wasted space in the cupboards in our hall and we have plans to add shelves etc on our next trip out.

When we first bought our studio, we made a trip out to Toulon, there's a big Ikea there and we bought a bright yellow parasol which has done great service over the last few years. This year, we have decided to get awning put in, like many of our neighbours. Because we are east facing, we have sun on our balcony up lunchtime so it will be great for breakfast and lunch. In the evenings, we will still use the awning for some privacy on our balcony during our evening meal. The awning must match the others in our residence. We have ordered one and it will be installed on our next trip to Nice. I think we will be clearing the plants off our balcony, we are not in Nice consistently every month and they are looking very scrubby and unloved. I think some fresh geranuims from the market every summer might be the answer.

The week wasn't all work and no play. We had another meal out at La Grange in rue Bonaparte off Place Garibaldi. A small unassuming restaurant that serves consistently good meals with professional politeness and efficiency. Thought it best to stick to a safe bet after the horror by the Port.

We had a garlicky lunch at Chez Christiane, reviewed here on this blog, another safe bet for a quick lunch - our default restaurant when everywhere else is full or closed. You need to like pasta though.

Managed also, to spend a day away from Nice completely, took the 750 bus up to Isola 200 for an afternoon skiing. Great day out, reviewed here on this blog.

Managed a bit of shopping at my beloved Hermes and husband treated me to an early anniversary present, the most beautiful Bolide I have ever seen. The Bolide is one of Hermes original bags, designed to fit in the new-fangled motorcars in 1923 and was originally called the Bugatti until Bugatti complained and so the name was changed to Bolide which I think is the generic name for a fast sports car. It was the first ever hangbag to have a zip. Carried her home tenderly in the drizzly rain.

On our last day, we walked up past the Port and had lunch at Jounis, it was just too tempting to miss and I recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting Nice, great food, service, location overlooking the sea. I think this has been one of our best meals. Reviewed here on this blog.

Ski from Nice for the afternoon

Wednesday 5th April 2007

Day return by Bus from Nice to Isola 2000

Also visit my ski pages on allaboutNice.com

New for 2009: A few changes this year...the fare is now just 1 euro but your bus place must be booked in advance, the day before you travel, telephone 0805 402 606, the code for France is 00 33 and usually miss off the first 0 of the number. If you intend to return the same day, buy your return ticket from the machine in Isola 2000 before 1pm; to return the following day, buy before 16:30 hours. More information (in French) here.

Wednesday 5th April 2007

According to their website, the snow conditions are perfect in Isola 2000 and as we still hadn't packed away our ski stuff from our week in Meribel, we decided to take a day off decorating the studio and try Isola 2000 again. The ski season closes 22nd April 2007.

Isola 2000 is one of several small ski resorts close to Nice. It's an unbelieveable 5 years since our last trip using the skibus. More information here No ski bus this week; it only operates weekends and during the French school holidays so we had to take the TAM 750 which has a summer and a winter schedule. It costs 8 euros, one way to Isola 2000, so a day return was 16 euros each.

We tried to buy the bus tickets the day before but were told, no, buy them on the day of travel. This was worrying given our experience of ticket queues in France, would we have to allow an extra 2 hours in the morning. The 750 coach leaves the Gare Routiere (Bus Station) at 9:15 so we took a chance with the tickets, had a lie-in and left our studio at 8:45. No queue thank goodness and we had plenty of time, enough for DH to nip across to the Presse shop for a selection of papers.

The 750 for Isola 2000 leaves from quai 7 but you have to keep an eye out, the ticket lady said it could be quai 6 or 7, in fact, it turned out to be quai 9.
this must be the one
Several buses leave about 9:00, some bound for different ski resorts like Auron. We felt a bit daft wearing our ski stuff but Nice in April is cold that time in the morning so at least we were warm. We have backbacks that hold our ski boots (ready to swap for our ski shoes which we wore to travel) These bags and any other stuff, snowboards, skis etc can be put in the hold at the side of the bus, the driver helps you.

The 750 left promptly at 9:15 and stopped in Nice at the train station and the airport before heading north. Isola Village is part of the lignedazur network and it would cost only 1,30 euros to get here. The next 30 minutes of the journey up the mountain to the ski resort of Isola 2000 is an extra 6, 70 euros ie a single ticket to Isola 200 is 8 euros.

Our time of arrival in Isola 200 is 11:50 but the driver made good time and were there by 11:30. On the way up the steep hairpin bends we passed a man jogging uphill, he must have been in his 70s, mind you he wasn't going fast.

In Isola 2000 and unlike the skibus which deposits you in the lower carpark, the 750 takes you almost up to the large indoor complex of shops, restaurants, tourist information centre, ski hire, ski school esf etc. Please click for a plan of Isola 2000.

When you get off the bus, it's not immediately clear which way to go but we guessed correctly and took the lower road and walked into the complex through automatic doors at an entrance called 'La Lombarde'. It's a bit strange, not obvious this is where you get in, but don't worry. You're in the right place if you see the Hotel Chastillon on the far right of the entrance. Once in this bleak place you have to wander along some grim blocks of corridors with the occasional shop en route. Keeping heading on and up stairs as you go...

Eventually, just up the stairs by the loos there is an open area with everything you need, the skipass kiosks (forfaits) a 'Sport 2000' ski hire rental shop and a cheap cafe and snack bar just outside. A further set of steps just past the the Sport 2000 shop and ski pass kiosks leads up to the ESF ski school and the Tourist Information centre.

Additional note December 2007: a second trip to Isola 2000 in December 2007 confirmed the quickest and easiest way - take the upper road which leads you to the main entrance right by the skipass offices etc. See the later post for more details.

Right next door to the cafe is the entrance to the 'Pelevos' gondola bubble lift or telecabine. To get here from the bus stop, it's only a few minutes walk. For the return journey, catch the bus in the same place back on the road by the roundabout.

An afternoon ski pass for an adult is 19,50 euros and there are reductions for children, students and seniors. The afternoon passes are valid from 12:30 and are only sold after 12:20. The timing of the bus means that there is just enough time to hire skis from Sport 2000 just opposite the ski pass kiosks, nip to the loo and have a coffee and a bun on the terrace outside before you are able to buy your pass.

When we ski in Meribel we have used Sport 2000, they are good. The Sport 2000 chap noticed we had snowshoes to carry and kindly offered to stash our bootbags and shoes for the afternoon. This was most helpful and next time I shall bring a small rucksack or bumbag to carry my camera and suncream etc. I forget to check if there were lockers available for this sort of thing.

After you have bought your pass, you have to attach it. After the cutting edge electronic re-chargeable over the Internet passes from Meribel, the passes for Isola are quaint but tricky. You have one chance to get it right. First you feed a thin copper wire through your jacket zip, then you peel off the paper pass from its backing and bend it in half around the metal edges of the wire so that it sticks back on itself. It is extremely sticky and will not come off if you mess it up so concentrate. Off you go to ski.

The Pelevos bubble just outside on your right before the snack bar, takes you up to a couple of easy blues to warm you up, the one on the left is the easiest. After the three valleys and Meribel, it's all abit small and short but the snow was great and it was blissfully empty . The sun tried to shine but lost to a persistent but gentle snow fall most of the day. The odd time the sun broke through, it was glorious. Isola 2000 is not the prettiest of resorts, the 1960s buildings are very bleak but a covering of fresh snow perks it up a bit.

We had a great afternoon and a good ski, nothing too ambitious and even had a leisurely lunch at La Marmotte restaurant just the other side of the Pelevos gondola - great Salade Niçoise there. Allow enough time to return the skis and change back into snow shoes and retrace your steps back to the bus stop. the bus left promptly at 16:30. The papers we bought in the morning were still stashed in our place so that was a bonus.

My Dear Husband was asleep by the first bend. It was a great day out and DH reckoned the cost was about 45 euros each for the bus, ski hire and ski pass. It's a long journey on the coach but the scenery is lovely, I felt it was worth the effort and will definitely come back. Die-hard ski bunnies could get a concentrated 3.5 hours skiing which would pretty much cover most of Isola 2000.

Next time, because you can buy your bus ticket on the same day of travel, we will wait for a sunny day - the piste map pinpoints where you can get a view of the sea, I would like to see this. This was our second trip to Isola 200, our first trip to Isola 2000 was on the skibus rather than the 750 standard coach. The skibus offers better value, it is 30 euros for the pass and return trip, you still need to hire skis. It leaves earlier in the morning, 7:15 and the ski pass is valid as soon as you arrive so you get almost a full days skiing. The skibus also departs later, about 17:00. The main disadvantage is the fact that tickets must be bought in advance and seats reserved on the skibus, so ideally you need to be in Nice to do this before the day you intend to ski. Also, buses are cancelled if not enough people reserve places. It's also very crowded, particularly at weekends. It only runs at weekends and French school holidays so the slopes themselves are busier too. You don't get any lie-in.

I found the 750 bus a very acceptable and civilised alternative to the skibus and the later start suited us. The limited skiing time was fine, there are no queues at the lifts and the short runs means there's no panic about getting back in time. I would quite like to stay overnight. There is an option on the 750 coach to by a return ticket, returning within 48 hours it is a bit more expensive but this way, you would get a full day and a half skiing plus one night in a hotel. Within the main complex there are four hotels ranging from 2*-4*. There are plenty of other hotels and apartments surrounding the complex but it would probably be more efficient time wise to stay in a ski-in, ski-out hotel for such a limited stay. Of course it would be easy to rent a car (it would take about 1.5 hours to drive from Nice but it was rather nice to be chauffeured by bus and to have a glass or two of wine at lunchtime.

Simple lunch in Old Nice, great value

Tuesday 3rd April 2007

Chez Christiane, Old Nice

Chez Christiane is a tiny restaurant on rue Pairoliere in Old Nice, not far from Place Garibaldi and the Gare Routiere (bus station) You tend to miss it as there is a fragrant spice shop opposite which zaps the senses and draws your attention.

We've had several lunches here. It tends to be our default restaurant when our preferred Bar de la Bourse is full and Chez Rene Socca is too busy, it's located about half-way between these two. The concept is very simple. There's one price, 8,60 euros (April 2007) and for this you get a a plate of homemade pasta with a choice of sauce. Sometimes gnocchi or polenta is offered as an alternative to pasta. The pasta is spaghetti or tagliatelle and the sauces are bolognese (more a coating of sauce rather than a dollop of meat) or basilic (pistou) There may be another sauce/pasta combo too.

Included in the price is a generous glass of wine and a single scoop of icecream for pudding, vanilla and sometimes a choice of chocolate. You also get a basket of bread - handy to mop up the sauce. You can have any number of free glasses of water. It's 8,60 euros for everyone, including children even though they don't get the wine, if you don't order a free glass of water, you will have to pay extra for lemonade etc; there's no substituting a soft drink for the wine. If you don't want the icecream, tough, it's still 8,60 euros.

There is an additional menu if you want something different to drink, and coffee is about 2 euros. We've only ever had the menu, no extras. It's good value, the service is fast and the food is consistent and fine for a simple lunch. I always have the homemade pistou sauce with tagliatelle - the garlic in it makes my mouth burn, it's wonderful. Pistou or basilic is a mix of basil, garlic, olive oil. The wine is perfectly drinkable but probably wisely, the red is served cold.The decor is basic and mismatched, dark wood chairs and pale pine tables which irritates me. Don't expect air-conditioning in the summer or heating in the winter. The service is fine, we have only ever seen one chap here, a frenetic waiter, called Christian but he isn't the owner. He has a major panic if the restaurant is full, quite entertaining as he rushes around chuntering to himself. When we first came he only ever rattled off very fast French at us which didn't matter there's not a lot to understand at this restaurant, but this year he has relaxed, more confident in his role and will throw in the odd word of English. He's quick and attentive, you can be in and out as fast as you like but if you are in no hurry, that is fine too.

I don't know why we don't eat here as a first choice, it's consistent, cheap and the pasta fills you up for the rest of the day, can't really fault it. Mind you, you have to enjoy carb-loading although the portions are not overwhelming. Handy choice if you're starving, need to eat quickly and everywhere is full. It's not the sort of place to reserve, just bob in and sit down.

Please see my restaurant page on my website for other recommendations.

One of the best restaurants in Nice and a view of the bay, not to be missed

Friday 6th April 2007

Jouni de La Reserve de Nice

Update August 2009:

Jouni has left La Reserve but fortunately this wonderful restaurant continues to flourish in the experienced hands of Sébastien Mahuet: Article from Nice Matin (French)

Please also see my restaurant recommendations on allaboutNice.com

Lunch at Jouni's today. He has moved from his tiny eponymous restaurant by the Port on rue Lascaris and now head of the restaurant Jouni de La Reserve de Nice, a large white Art Deco building currently being renovated and restored as a Hotel alongside the restaurant. To get here, follow the Port around onto boulevard Franck Pilatte and past the the Club Nautique de Nice. Jouni is Michelin-recommended, may even be starred already.

We had the set menu at 30 euros and it was excellent value, beautifully cooked and presented, a real treat and the views from La Reserve are simply wonderful. The set menu today was roast cod with capers and thyme - Filet de Cabillaud a la grenobloiese, roast potatoes - pomme de terre rotie and baby artichokes with broad beans. An amuse bouche of smooth broccoli soup with croutons started the meal and pudding was tarte aux citrons with sorbet fraise and chocolate sauce. The chocolate sauce is presented in increasing drop size.

The service was friendly and impeccable and there was a relaxed and happy atmosphere. I really recommend this restaurant, it has so much in its favour.

The location gives you a lovely 10 minute stroll around the Port, the views are wonderful from the Cap of Nice all around to the Port, and Castel Hill. from the restaurant, if you can get a window table, you feel as though you are on a cruise ship, the views of the Med are stunning. Today we saw swimmers, boats and the enormous Corsica-Nice Ferry arrive. Oh, and the food is super.

We usually eat on our balcony or go somewhere cheap and cheerful in the Old Town, This was a real treat for us and for the set menu at 30 euros, although more than we usually pay for lunch, it still felt great value. We will definitely go again and hope he doesn't put his prices up. Although the restaurant is recently opened (October 2006) it is already very popular and was full. We were lucky to bag a table on spec but I would make a reservation next time; it will be getting busier towards the summer.

The style was in keeping with the 1920s art deco feel of the building but very contemporary too. Pale cream leather chairs, dark wood tables and bent teak columns and art deco styled mirrors blend well. the floor to ceiling windows offer clear 180 degree views and a narrow wooden terrace outside with glass panelled rails to break the sea breeze would be perfect in the summer for outside dining.

There is a second floor to this restaurant with another outside terrace. from our widow seat, it felt as though we were outside. Some of the windows slide open; go for our table in the far corner - you will get a gentle breeze from the open window. A raised bar with cocktail stools leading out onto the terrace looked most inviting, mine's a glass of champagne.

I thoroughly recommend this restaurant, though perhaps not really for families with young children. We took advantage of the fact our daughter was away skiing with her school. If you didn't fancy the set 30 euro menu, then there was a small choice from the a la carte menu. The pricing was 65 euros for a starter, main and pudding (or cheese) or 90 euros for a 'tasting' menu consisting of 3 starters (called entrees in France) a main course (plat), cheese and a pudding (dessert) Individually, entrees are 28 euros, plats 49 euros and fromages/dessert 15 euros respectively. You can see from these prices that the 30 euro set menu offers the greatest value. The wine list varied from 27 euros a bottle to 6,750 euros, that last bottle perhaps for when Elton toddles down Mont Boron. We pushed the boat out at a respectable 36 euros for a light fragrant rose, St Margeurite. The bill for half a bottle of sparkling Lurisia water, wine at 36 euros, one espresso at 3 euros and 2 'menu de Midi' at 30 euros came to 104 euros.

La Reserve
60 Boulevard Franck Pilatte
06300 Nice
tel 04 97 08 29 98 and 04 97 08 14 80
fax 04 93 14 68 73

More restaurants in Nice

More information about the Port of Nice

My website www.allaboutNice.com