Last summer we had a sensational time with friends driving around four Greek islands in a three week trip. We especially loved the small villages in Crete and Naxos. Being in sight of water nearly every day we found to be tremendously soothing.
So for our summer 2012 trip we were thinking islands with culture. I researched Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica and Corsica won. I was drawn to what I’d read of the simple life there, the abundant scenic beauty, the distinctive culture (geopolitically they are French, in their souls they are Corsicans), the modest amount of tourism in September and, of course, the food and wines.
After our Burma, Northern Thailand and Southern Laos trip (December 2010) we admitted we were no longer inclined toward three week trips involving long drives on dusty, potholed cow paths in search of this mountaintop ethnic village or that sacred ceremony. This is no disparagement to our great adventures down pot holed roads and up mountainsides; we have relished each and every trip we’ve taken to so many wonderful places in Southeast Asia. But our bodies (ages 74 and 66) and minds were steering us toward new priorities and locales.
So the itinerary took shape: a few days in Nice before flying (fifty minutes) to Corsica, a week driving around central and northern Corsica and then a ferry to Italy. From the ferry landing in Livorno we’d drive north and east visiting several Italian Rivieras. We’d end up back in Nice and fly back to Los Angeles from there. In retrospect, three full weeks in Corsica would have been even better, enough time to visit most of the island.
(I promised myself I would get out some report within a month of our return, I’ve come close.)
Our British Air flight took us from LAX to Heathrow and on to Nice. We had comfortable seats that made into comfortable beds. I wanted to be seated upstairs but would have had to nab the seats ten months ahead and pay $50 per person for the perk of choosing seat months in advance. Fortunately the ones they automatically asigned us were fine.
As many may know, flying in and out of Heathrow is a pricy proposition, so much so that there are petitions going around in London to review the exorbitant fuel charges. For our routing LAX- Heathrow- Nice and return, the fuel charges were over $1200. However, I’d be labeled mal eleve to claim outrage when the Business Class tickets were procured with frequent flyer miles, which in turn came free when signing up for a BA Visa card. Thank you Bob (RHKKMK) for spotting that great deal.
Arrival at Nice’s International Airport was hassle free. The bags were unloaded promptly and we grabbed a bus to the Messina stop, the closet to our hotel. We had heard and read so many stories of bad experiences with cab drivers and ugly disputes over charges that we wanted to avoid that kind of welcome. Although those who know us would not think us folks who take buses, many “mature” tourists, some well heeled, with more luggage than us, were our seat mates.
I had wanted to stay again at the Hotel La Perouse but their rooms were twice the price they were eleven years ago, when I stayed there for a week. So we stayed next door at Hotel Suisse. The hotel (like La Perouse) offered all the room amenities we needed and our balcony had an expansive view all the way along the Bay of Angels. The hotel is set into the base of Chateau Hill, at the edge of the Old Town and a ten minute walk to the port.
After settling in we took a pleasant evening stroll through the old town to Oliviera (8 rue du Collet) where we had pre-booked dinner. The charming eatery is on a narrow street with outdoor seating from many cafes spilling into the alleys, pedestrians left to wend their way through the “aisle”. The owner of Olviera was a cheerful and welcoming host. Can’t recall what I ate but the warm air and outdoor gaiety made me forget about jet lag.
We slept in on our first morning and by 10:30 am, we were more than ready for croissants and espresso on Cours Salaya, the main thoroughfare of the old town. This day and the next meld into each other so who’s to say what we did when. Mainly, we did in Nice what we like to do most, walk, eat, people watch, window shop, eat and walk.
One of the hotel attendant’s gave us a recommendation for lunch down by the port, a fifteeen minute walk from Hotel Suisse. Le Local was a real find. Its on a side street just beyond the church that faces the port t 4 rue Rusca. The wait staff are friendly and the crowd very local. Within half hour of taking seats at an outside table, the locals poured in and every table, inside and out, was occupied. Our appetizers and platters (one seafood, one charcuterie) were so fresh and tasty we pledged to return for another meal but it didn’t happen.
Time to stretch our legs and walk (female code for shop). Some years ago I discovered a shop in Auxerre that had stylist clothing that fit me perfectly. I learned that its actually a chain, with branches throughout France. So Fred and I headed over to the Armand Thiery main store. I’d brought a very small extra carry on piece in case I hit pay dirt....and I did. We’ll leave my new fall fashions in the hotel’s storage until we return there for our final night of the trip. Each evening I enjoyed sitting and reading on our balcony, taking in the beauty of the changing light toward sunset.
The title of today is: being on vacation means never caring what day it is, except.... Before heading out for our last day we gave the hotel staffer our flight details so she could learn if the departure time was still as indicated. When we returned from the Chagal Museum in the afternoon, we got the news that the flight had left on time. But without us. Being in vacation mode we really lost track of the days. She bought us new tickets for Ajaccio for the following morning. It is really remarkable how two seniors with 19 years of post bachelorette education can lose their heads once they hit France.
Since we both neglected to look closely at the beautifully laid out itinerary I’d prepared, finger pointing was out of the question and brief self censure ensued. After Isimmered down (contacted car rental and hotel on Corsica), it was c’est la vie. Although this tiny (?) oversight on our parts cut short one day in Corsica, we really enjoyed having three full days to hang out in Nice.
While, we were busy missing our flight, we took a bus up to the Cimiez neighborhood to visit the Marc Chagall museum. It is really a gem. We toured it slowly and thoroughly awash in his vibrancy. In a small auditorium, there was a continuous showing of interview excerpts with Chagall. He comes across as such a spirited man, grateful for every day.
Our last evening we’d booked (so we thought) a special restaurant, Luc Salsedo. The walk was much further than it appeared on the map and then actually finding the place was a further challenge. Having reached our goal, I was ready for a great meal. Oops, our hotel had made the reservation for two nights earlier. C’est dommage, not one available table all evening. The hostess was very apologetic and helpful. She was able to get us a table at Le Tire Bouchon in the old town, 19, rue de la Perfecture. Very fine food and and appealing outdoor ambience.
Next morning the cab got us to the airport in twenty minutes; Sunday traffic was light. The hotel had arranged it and the cost was 30e. While unloading luggage at the airport, the driver demanded 55e from Fred. He demurred; we paid the 30e we had agreed to and went to check in amid the grumbles from the cabbie.
September Days in Nice, Corsica & the Italian Rivieras
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