Thursday, 29 August 2013

Summer Holidays

This might be my longest blog break ever - and now I've got so much to share I don't know where to start...but since this is essentially a diary I'll start with our summer holiday!
 We spent a couple of weeks in France on the Côte d'Azur. It's a favourite destination - mainly because it's incredibly beautiful and the weather is almost always hot. But also because we can get there easily on a cheap airline, the public transport system is excellent so we don't need to hire a car, and the combination of markets and little supermarkets on every corner mean self catering is not only straightforward - it's a pleasure. 
It's also a wonderful combination of exquisite old towns for me to wander around with my camera - and beaches for the boys.

Our apartment this year was on Boulevard Gambetta - in the Quartier des Musiciens. It's a 10 minute walk from the train station, 20 minutes from the old town and has a good range of patisseries and supermarkets nearby. It also has a famous yellow pizza van...which we frequented more than once!
2 boys appearing to be out in their pj's!!
It was a nice quiet area with some beautiful architecture and the apartment itself was lovely 
(link if interested)
  We spent as much time as we could get away with wandering around Nice...
admiring the architecture 
sampling the ice cream 
  stopping for coffee
visiting the flower market
seeking out crazy Theresa (at chez Theresa) for her infamous socca 
(a massive chickpea pancake) 
marvelling at the views from the top of Castle Hill
 smelling the soaps
a little mooching round the more interesting shops
photographing the beautiful colours
The old town is just gorgeous - although this was the first time we've been in August and it was incredibly busy! Much nicer in October.
 We caught a wedding procession
and watched the merry-go-round go round
Now the boys are older we did more travelling than usual - it usually involved a heated debate about why they didn't need an ipad for the journey before we set off (same reasons as the last time we had the same debate), but we generally managed to combine a mooch round a pretty town with an afternoon on the beach.

Our first trip was to Eze - a place that's been on my list for many years. You can easily get a bus to the old town - perched on a hill and pretty much unchanged since medieval days
It is a BEAUTIFUL place - completely beautiful. But just too many tourists. I know, ironic, but I'd like to go back next time we visit the area - wandering and photographing would be easier.
Being so popular it wasn't the sort of place that was offering up bottled water and ice cream - but we did find a wonderful little deli offering sandwiches at a reasonable cost. It was a tiny place - and they had used every nook and cranny - with cushions on stairs and crochet poufs scattered everywhere.
My photos really don't do Eze justice...
I had, of course, done LOADS of research about the area before we went - and knew you could walk from the hill top village down to Eze sur Mer - the beach. 'Combine the town and the beach' I had read. 'Takes roughly 45 minutes to get down the hill' I quoted. 
The sign at the top should have rung some warning bells...
So, in fashion flip flops and a pair of (beautiful) clogs we set off. I'm not kidding - it was a mountain, And it wasn't a walk, it was a trek.
I can almost read Cleggy's mind from here in this photo...and that trolley (full of beach towels!) he carried the whole way...2 hours
the views were nice...
 there was a fair amount of waiting for the crazy lady in clogs...
Here I think he is thinking 'stop taking bloody photos and HURRY UP'
but some sumptuous villas to lust after...
 and a nice quiet beach at the bottom!!
 We also took a trip to Menton to visit my old friend (from Monsoon days) Kerry who now lives there with her lovely husband Andrew and children Felix and Romey.
 We don't see each other often (funnily enough she doesn't holiday in Manchester!!) but always have plenty to catch up on.
She happened to have her teenage nieces and nephew staying with her at the same time - which was a massive bonus for my older boys in particular. We had only planned to go for a day but after some considerable nagging from all of them went back for another day later in the holiday.
Kerry's house is wonderful and has great views down to the sea. It was seriously hard not to wish I could swap houses with her!!
Just along from Menton is Italy! 
Ventimiglia is the first town over the border and has a famous Friday market.

all dresses 10 euros? how did I not come back with 20?
There were bags, gloves, scarves, wraps, food and drink galore - almost too much to choose from
Italy is so effortlessly cool
Unlike us...we hadn't bought the little red trolley with us so had no swimmers or towels. The boys were so hot they got in the sea in their pants...obviously no photos allowed on here!
  and I went home with this little number...poorly made and will probably run in the wash but TEN EUROS!!
My favourite place of ALL was Villefranche. I have told Cleggy I'm retiring there in a few years time - luckily he agrees.
We didn't have much time to wander - but spent a great afternoon on the beach
Apparently Madonna was on her yacht in the bay - but she didn't bother us!
On a Monday the flower market in Nice becomes an antiques market.
Of course you always see a MILLION things you want when you've got scant luggage allowance!!

glass and lace
glass bottles
creepy dolls
cameras, phones, radios....
I came home with three small things:
We did a little normal shopping too - a couple of thank you gifts to buy and the obligatory french bag!!
and LOTS of window shopping!
 Meanwhile the boys did lots of this
How long until we can go to the beach?
There was LOTS to love. I loved these dresses
 and I thought Cleggy would rock this look:
(he reckoned he could indeed rock it in the côte... but not back in suburban Manchester)
I did (of course) find time to do a little crochet:
a jar for Kerry
and a blanket for a friend's baby
Towards the end of the fortnight we visited Cap d'Ail.
By now I'd all but given up on the old town mooching and just went for the beach! 
(after some extensive research!) I plumped for Mala beach. It was a walk along the coast from the station but well worth it. Amazingly clear water and a lovely feel.
We mostly ate in the apartment (the Teen even cooked us a meal!) but couldn't resist a meal at La Voglia in Nice old town.
The portions are legendary - that lasagne would feed all five of us back home!  
Kenzie LOVES his muscles
...and for once there was no arguing. Our boys have always got on really well, but over the last few months as the Teen has become more hormonal it's been much trickier. 
Big and little are particularly fractious!
We were also really chuffed to find we were in Nice for the Fête de l’Assomption. We couldn't find out much about it beforehand but decided to take a wander down to the sea front at about 9pm. And we were so glad we did - the Promenade des Anglais was pedestrianised, bands playing everywhere and at 10 o'clock fireworks to music from boats lined up in the bay. It was ace. Even the Teen enjoyed it!
we managed to get a patch to sit on on the beach - it was heaving!
Kenzie and I took in a photographic exhibition - it was called 'women, muse and model' and was part of the summer of Matisse. 
It gave us lots to discuss - not least because of the amount of flesh on show!!
 Kenzie's favourite photograph was this one
(I love it too)
Subway Angel by Jean-Baptisete Mondino
and my favourtie was this one called
"Santa Monica, California, 1955" 
but known as 'California Kiss'.
by Elliott Erwitt
Overall it was a holiday to remember - and I still don't think we've had enough of that coastline. 
On the last evening Alfie revealed he had had enough of us by the end of the fortnight (ditto!!)
I love this photo - I caught it when I was out for a run in the read right!!!
No post about France would be complete without some doors:
and a family photograph!
I already miss being all together...and I miss the little red trolley!
But feel blessed to have had such a lovely time! Fee x