A Break Before We Start Again
After a strenuous New Year, a very short break in January to just reset the system and prepare oneself for the upcoming stresses and strains of the year. Nice beckoned
Column by Trevor Pickett
It’s the back to school feeling and already there is a prompt “get your head down and get writing the thank you notes” – not to mention one’s New Year Resolutions…! However, mine have not yet taken effect, with Lent far enough away (at the time of writing), I convinced myself that might be a better point to lay off the food and booze; much better than a short sharp dry January shock to the system. I also planned to start with a vain attempt to walk to work. So far, the world is paved with good intentions… I have tried every possible excuse from banking paperwork to laundry to put off the leisurely exercise. Will I ever run a marathon again? I doubt it. I did try yoga last year but the friend who took me in hand was quite the expert contortionist; I resigned after the second lesson feeling demoralised by my lack of inner limbo dancer.
I was invited to Valbonne for New Year. I have now taken to having a time out period post the seasonal stay with friends before re-entry to the real world. With a love of Nice, I booked myself in for 36-hours to clear the head and have some quality ‘me’ time. For me, Nice is like Paris and Athens; a place where I feel very comfortable and can occupy my time and be alone, without feeling lonely and finding lots of things to do – naturally this stay was no different.
On this trip, I eventually made it to Musée d’art moderne et d’art contemporain. It’s an impressive building, the current exhibition was Liz Magor although I’m not sure I engaged with her work. In truth, I was not blown over by it (it was rather Sarah Lukas for my taste). However, the highlight of the visit was seeing the Yves Klein in the museum’s permanent collection and being mesmerised by the powder blue colours – you are left feeling transfixed or hypnotised by the intensity.
After seeing the cut outs at the Tate Modern a few years back, visiting the Matisse museum in Nice allows you to see more of his spectacular work and is set in a beautiful location – definitely worth a visit! If you have a vehicle and are looking for a Matisse fix, there is also The Rosary Chapel, with stunning stain glass windows, it is truly a spectacular sight.
I detoured on the way into Nice via Beaulieu, driving on the Moyenne Corniche, the high road looping down to the sea. The Cap Ferat is impressive and with great views you should always book to be a passenger on the “corniche” to see the spectacular landscapes. The objective of the detour was to see Villa Kerylos. It’s quite an amazing homage to Greek influenced architecture design and decorating. There is the simplicity of the exterior and there is a minimalist arts and crafts feel to the interior design, with almost a lighter hand than Leighton house, but a similar feel though that has a Turkish influence. Kerylos is bright and light, the furniture was remarkable, referencing Egyptian, Roman and of course Greek styles, all the different references moulded into suites of furniture. A lot for the eye to take in, but the detail was incredible. The beams on the ceiling were highly decorated, painted with motifs and highly complicated yet with a simplicity of the design.
Looking to food, in Nice’ Marche de Fleurs, Le Flore restaurant is my preferred lunch in the heart of the market; they do a good steak tartare, it’s buzzy and happening and has a youthful feel. Perfect for soaking up early January sun.
The Place Garibaldi is interesting as most of the architectural detail is Trompe-l’œil. When visiting, I always migrate to Sentimi in the corner of the square away from the road, I am desperate to get their recipe for the sauce that is served with their Tartare Della Nonna, or it will be an expensive main course if I have to fly back for a second tasting… Quite a delicious twist on the traditional which I like, but a change is as good as a break. I did ask for ketchup, and with a twinkle in his eye, the waiter told me to try this Italian tartare (i.e. we don’t serve ketchup with this dish). He was absolutely right, I like his sauce and his manner. After a relaxing lunch it’s time to wander around the old Port. With its antique shops, it is the perfect way to spend an afternoon with regular refreshments in various bars and cafes on the small square like Place du Pin, before meandering around the streets of the old town. As I try and take assorted routes along the windy twisted streets, on my way back to Hotel Albert which is where Old Town meets the new. Just off the Promenade des Anglais on 4 Avenue des Phoceens, the hotel faces a small verdant park area with Palm trees, it makes booking a garden view worthwhile for little extra on the price of the room. It’s a boutique style hotel, very clean, neat and has an underplayed style in the location and a view that I like.