A day of rain had been forecast before I left home but you have to hope when you’re only somewhere for 4 nights – somewhere that’s supposed to be sunny in September – that the weather people have got it wrong. Sadly not. It was only a light rain when I emerged from the hotel this morning to seek breakfast but it had clearly been raining heavily in the night. I made my way down to Pain e Cie (which was a Pain Quotidien when I was here in 2006 and is much the same) where I ordered a Nicoise breakfast of freshly squeezed orange juice, croissant and coffee for €7.50. It was good and I liked sitting by the window looking over the Saleya market. It feels like being in the heart of Nice.
Outside the rain was getting heavier again so I made my way back to the hotel for a while. For lunch I ventured westwards rather than in the Old Town direction as I’d read about La Femme Du Fromager and thought it would be a good place for lunch. Weirdly it also turned out to be a lot like a Pain Quotidien but I don’t think there’s a connection.
I decided to order a Salade Nicoise which was on the specials blackboard. Then I was told it was finished. No Salade Nicoise in Nice?? I settled for a Nicoise Tartine instead. A tartine is an open sandwich. This one came with a gorgeous, slightly warm ratatouille on some thin sourdough toast with some tapenade on it. It was delicious and I felt slightly virtuous that it also seemed a healthy option for lunch!
I considered a half hour walk from here to the Musee des Beaux Arts. I rather fancied that a dose of Raoul Dufy and his glorious bright and cheerful paintings of Nice would cheer the dull and damp day up. But the rain was falling more heavily again and since I’d felt a bit coldy in the morning I decided not to push my luck and just retreat to the hotel again.
Late afternoon the rain had stopped and while it was still grey and damp in the air, I ventured out and made my way down to the sea. There’d been a wonderful painting of the Promenade des Anglais during a storm in the Musee Matisse yesterday and I remembered it as I looked out on a slightly tempestuous sea. It was still beautiful though. I love being by the sea and there’s something wonderfully special about the sea at Nice.
Back through the arches into Cours Saleya where in Place Charles Felix you’ll find the grand house where – on the 3rd floor – Matisse rented an apartment from 1921-1938. It was here that many of his famous paintings of looking through windows to the Mediterranean were painted. From here he moved to Cimiez, where the Matisse museum now is.
Well it seems writing this that it was mainly a day of eating and drinking. Well that’s rainy days for you! Bar de la Degustation in rue de la Prefecture has become my regular aperitif haunt of the holiday. It’s a great place looking over Place du Palais. They always give you a plate of little toasts and tapenade with your drink in the early evening and my glass of wine (toast complimentary) was only €4.
Walking up rue Marche to the restaurant I’d booked for dinner is full of tempting shops to go into. This one was particularly good and I bought some herbes de Provence to take home.
I knew the La P’tite Cocotte was ‘tucked away’ but it’s seriously hidden up a narrow alleyway. I got there for 7.00 when they opened. I rang a couple of days ago to book and the guy didn’t take my name; he’d remember it was just one, he told me. Obviously solo dining isn’t as common in Nice as it is in London! There was a moment of alarm when I had to remind him and then he said inside was full, would I sit outside. Oh no! I thought, not another disaster like last night. But he quickly recovered when I said, No, sorry, I want to sit inside. No problem. He shifted a table round a bit and indicated I sit down and turned out to be nicely friendly.
Complimentary toast and tapenade came straight away (yes more for me!). I asked for a glass of red wine. From Provence? he asked. And it turned out to be very good (€6).
I’d read about the lemon and Parmesan ravioli with a creamy sauce so ordered it. It was delicious and I liked the strong but not overpowering lemon.
A chicken supreme with a mushroom sauce and dauphinois potatoes was a fairly classic choice but delicious and excellently cooked. The chicken was beautifully tender. The menu combined the French and Italian heritage of Nice very well.
I’d also read about their chocolate fondant served with pistachio ice cream – in the eponymous cocotte! – so I had to have that too. Especially, I joked to the waiter, because it was one of my family’s favourite desserts so I could make them jealous by sending a photo.
It was gorgeous. The only slight disappointment was the ice cream. It was suspiciously green and there was an almond taste to it. I know from talking to the owners of my local Gelateria Danieli that almonds are often used to bulk out the pistachio. Carlo comes from Sicily where the best pistachios come from (in Bronte) and prides himself on the source of the nuts for his pistachio gelato. And Danieli, one of London’s best gelaterias, supplied ice cream to the queen for her 80th birthday.
It was an excellent meal, a nice intimate setting and very friendly staff. A lovely meal for my final evening. The bill for food, wine and coffee was €42.
It was still early though. I didn’t want to go back to the hotel yet so I cut down to the sea again. Cours Saleya was surprisingly busy for a Sunday evening.
Through an archway and I was on the front again. There’s something about this part at the eastern end – Quai des Etats-Unis – that makes me think of North Africa.
I rounded the steep bend into Quai Rauba Capeu.
And there, again, the view back across Baie des Angers, now in darkness but lots of lights sparkling along it. The day began in dullness and ended in light. Au revoir, beautiful Nice.
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