Julia and I are off to France again – to Nice on the Cotes d’Azur to be exact. We are going for 10 days to celebrate Julia’s 55th birthday on the 15 May. We are flying this time, not driving all the way to the south of France. We have rented a studio apartment and are planning to see as much of Nice as we can … with perhaps a train trip to Mentone as well … and a ‘cunning plan’ to gate crash the Cannes Film Festival which is taking place while we are here.
We get up very early – well very early for us – and load our suitcases into the car. We are still driving around in our old Vauxhall Corsa. It seems relieved that it will not be making the long journey to the south of France this year. It gives a sigh of relief when we load our two suitcases. It is pleased not to be loaded to the gills with camping stuff. Even so, we cannot get both suitcases into the boot of the car. The big case – Julia’s of course, loaded with ‘clothes I really just have to take’ – has to go on the back seat. We can take 40 kilos between us, so my suitcase has to be considerably less in order to accommodate the extra weight of Julia’s case. Reggie Doggie knows something is up. He refuses to leave our side, so we have to shut him in the sitting room while we make our escape. We say goodbye to Olivia, Julia’s mother, and we are off!
The drive to Gatwick is trouble free. Our flight is not until 2.30 p.m. but we want to get there in plenty of time, hence our reason for leaving home early. The other reason for leaving home early is so that we can stop for a ‘full English breakfast’ on the way. Well, it will be a long time before we get the chance to eat another one?! We arrive at the long stay car park in good time, and get the car park bus to the terminal. We check in o.k. and just about make the weight limit with our cases. We are flying Easy Jet again but have pre-booked our seats so that our flight will be hassle free. We get upgraded because they want someone intelligent to sit by the emergency exit doors. This is brilliant because there is great leg room for me. At 6’ 4” I need to be able to stretch my legs out even if the flight is only an hour and a half! The approach to Nice Airport is amazing, flying low over the sea and then swinging in over the city to land in a sea-ward direction. We get a taxi from the airport – blow the expense – and it drops us right at the door of our apartment block.
Sue Ellen, our host, is there to meet us. We are not sure what nationality she is – American, Irish or English. She is married to a French guy, Joel, and has lived in Nice for a number of years. Sue Ellen (now know as ‘Swellin’ to us) is very nice … and the apartment is great. It is on the 6th floor of an old apartment block but has been upgraded to a very high standard and there is a lift! It is only a studio apartment with a sofa bed but has everything we need … and the sofa bed is really top of the range and very comfortable. The apartment has a great balcony with views over the city in one direction and of the Alps in the other. We love it!
After a celebratory glass of wine – courtesy of Swellin – we unpack and then get ready to go out for dinner. Swellin tells us that there is a good restaurant just along from the apartment that serves good food at reasonable prices and that there is a jazz band playing tonight. I have bought a rather snazzy new jacket (from a charity shop in the UK for £8) which really looks the bizz, and I am looking forward to wearing it over a rather snazzy black tee-shirt and black jeans. Julia, as usual, looks gorgeous! The restaurant is packed when we arrive but they manage to find us a nice table for two. No sooner have we sat down than a rather nice young French woman comes over and starts talking to me. She is speaking far too quickly for me to follow what she is saying but seemingly she has recognised me?! I don’t know who she thinks I am, but Julia quickly explains that I am not that person but just someone very ordinary from the UK?! I am conscious that suddenly people are all looking at me? I don’t know who they all think I am but I am not someone famous? Why does this keep happening to me? It is at least the third or fourth time it has happened. Who do I resemble in France? I hope that it is not someone famous from the 70s back in the UK?
We order our meal … and the waiter takes a shine to Julia and comes and sits next to her? I don’t blame him because she is looking stunning! We eventually manage to order our meal … and delicious it is! I try and forget about various people looking at us and we have a great evening. Eventually our waiter comes over and this time sits next to me?! Now I am really getting worried? The jazz music is great, however. It seems that anyone can join in and jam with them if they want to. A saxophonist arrives and joins in. He is really great! Half way through the evening a guy who is the spitting image of Richard Gere walks in … indeed it might well actually be Richard Gere!? He sits at a corner table all on his own. The waiter shows a bevy of French ladies to the same table. They ignore him completely?!