Saturday, March 24, 2012

Flurry, pink flurry

I bought this ornamental plum tree about 5 years ago.   I hired a fellow from the nursery to bring it and dig the hole and place it for me.  It fit into the bed of a small truck easily that day.
  For the last 5 springs, it has had 10 or 12 blossoms and then has gone directly into its burgundy leaves.   I bought it for the stunning leaf color but I didn't realize that it would one day go into full bloom.  I had never bought a tree before when I picked this one.

  But look at this!   It is already scattering its tiny petals all around and with the wind of the last three days comes a flurry and drifts of pink, our own private carnival has arrived.   

And it has grown as tall as the house. ...proud mama me.   

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Restaurant Alberti

With a Groupon ticket , two for the price of one, I went around for lunch with a friend at the new Restaurant Alberti across from GAlerie Lafayette. 

  For years this restaurant was a fixture in Nice known as La Taverne Alsacienne.   I wrote a poem from there last August.  You might remember.

The Alsacienne restaurant was mostly about big mounds of sausages, potatoes and sour-kraut in it's former guise but not any more.  Now there is a traditional menu.  

  Somehow the brasserie decor and the crowded set up of the rooms was acceptable when it was just sausages but the new amateur grey-sponge-painted decor, with red banquettes is hackneyed and lacking in intimacy.    It looks like the owners slapped it together , in fact.   For example,  it was unfortunate to have a large amateur drawing of a very fat nude female over our heads (But I notice it didn't deter us from having a decadent dessert as part of our repast.)

When I arrived first, with my coupon, the waiter took me to a specific table on the upper tier.   The music was too loud and too bouncy at 12h30 when there were only a few tables occupied. 

 When my friend, Gail, arrived we were happy hidden away with our little table, but probably it was not considered a prime table.   The waiter was abrupt and I was disappointed that with my ticket there was only one choice for us :beef. 
 When I challenged this and asked for substitutions, the waiter sent the manager over who convinced me that I had paid for the lesser of the two offerings on Groupon and that was the brasserie lunch.   I was fine with that when I understood it.  It's just that I had eaten beef the day before while exploring a hamburger place new to my neighborhood.  Ah, well, bad timing.

  The three course brasserie lunch (which is a constant on the menu), consists of:

A mesclun salad with parmesan and pine nuts, 
  a tender sliced beef called "émincée de boeuf"  served with a big plate of frites and a good tarragon sauce. 

And with that is a wide choice of desserts.  

This is ordinarily a 25 euro lunch.  Wine is only sold by the glass for 4.50 euros or by the bottle , not by "picket" and that is not included.  We took a glass of rose each and split another glass later. 

As to service, the waiter started to rush us as soon as Gail sat down.  She had barely touched her seat before he had his pad out for the order.  But when we asked for him to wait and take his time between our courses he graciously accepted that and was just fine with the timing after that.  I think probably someone had told him that service was slow and he was trying to compensate or maybe they have come to regret the Groupon coupons.  

There are new traditional dishes like Pied de Porc and an array of meats and fish on the new menu.  I used to take the rabbit but it is not offered on the new menu.    I was surprised to see that most people around us were there for that Alsacienne dish full of sausages, ham etc.  It makes me wonder why the owners made the change to a traditional menu of which there are hundreds in Nice.  

In all we were quite pleased with our Bistro meal.  And the music did get softer and more appropriate. Maybe the sound was absorbed by all the bodies as both rooms did eventually fill up . 

We were offered anything from a big list of desserts.    I ordered the profiteroles which came swathed in whipped cream. 

 It was a mediocre pastry but I tucked in greedily because I will grovel for anything with chocolate sauce, ice cream and/or whipped cream.     Gail took the panna cotta with strawberries which I didn't even ask to taste, so piggy was I for my own plate. 


Would I go back to the Alberti?  I don't think so.   The price was on the high side and the menu and decor were uninspired.  I know where I can go nearby to dining rooms which are refined and pay the same or even less for a more varied menu.

  To be fair, though, the staff  only charged us 7 euros for 3 glasses of wine and finally we were given good service.  

We must have been having a good time because we were the last to leave.  ( French restaurants never chase you out ).   So maybe decor is not everything.    I'll keep my eye on them.  Maybe they just need to work it out.   

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


This is Carol .  I found her working across from the restaurant Comptoir du Marche last week at 5, Rue du Marche in the old town of Nice.   The shop is called gLOVEme and its site is:

Carol , a Canadian , has quite a few great stories to tell,  and I will be back to jaw with her at another time.    The owner of "gLOVE me"  is Italian and all his leather goods are made in Naples.    It is such an enticing shop and the quality and presentation stands out on the street. 

As I was saying, the quality /price is excellent and with the array of  colors , weights and lengths of belts and gloves you can spend some agreeable time just mulling and talking to Carol.

  I was finally seduced by a two tone pair of brown and tan gloves for 46 euros, which are both practical, (lined with silk and the dark brown is inside on the palm) and classy.   They are the softest kid leather and fine for spring here in Nice when we do get some cold days.

 Even though I was heading for the orange gloves to go with a Navy coat, the brown ones perfectly matched the two-toned bag I have been carrying.

Next, I want one of those belts to go with my butter yellow jeans. The price for a fake ostrich belt is 29 euros if I recall correctly.  I couldn't find anything comparable in the rest of Nice.   The red is a tempting  color but since I am a shortie I better get the yellow not to break up the line.

  Oh, yes, I sometimes think about such things.  I once knew a beautiful platinum headed girl in university who dressed head to toe in one color but with accessories of a different hue.  She might wear all powder blue with a simple brown purse and brown heels, for example.  I have never forgotten her unique style after all these years.

 It takes discipline if you are going to be stylish.  I have mixed feelings about when and where I want to follow this discipline,  but I know it when I see it.    And its' always a kick.

  Today I was doing a little experiment to see how many people would smile back at me on the way to the post office.  Out of about 40 people who wouldn't make eye contact, I caught the eye of one lady struggling up the hill with two shopping bags.  She had on a bright red coat and a marvelous scarf that co-ordinated with it .  I gave her a smile and after a tiny hesitation, she beamed right back.  I think it was the red coat that did it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The week in images

Today is my darling husband's birthday and we spent it very quietly making a tomato sauce while sipping champagne and hearing the Merles (blackbirds) and small warblers putting the final touches to their mating calls.

  The kitchen project is progressing slowly,  two more cabinets to do before I tackle the rollers in the drawers.  This week though, I couldn't help digging in the garden, abandoning the paint job inside.

  Jeanne and I took a 2.5 hour bike ride along the trail that parallels the Var on Sunday.  It's a good trail.  You don't see any cars, few people.

 The shared kitty now answers to Mozzi....named for a Maltese lawyer.   The name Theo didn't seem to take.   My husband kept saying "you kitty" which isn't dignified.

 My studio tenants , who came from Brighton to see the end of the Paris/ Nice bike race, enjoyed a perfect week , eating meals outside.

Yes, the sun is treating us to warm and clement days.   The special irises are well on their way, the tulip tree and ornamental plum are in bloom . Spring has definitely sprung.

Friday, March 9, 2012

John Sokol: Artist, Poet

Transilience #2, mineral oil, dish soap, bourbon and ink on Arches 14x17 in., 

Transilience #8, mineral oil, laundry soap, hydrogen peroxide and opaque inks, 14x17 in.

Mnenosyne's Diary,  Coffee and Ink on Bristol.  14x17 in.
Mnemosyne's Diary, 2.4.12, coffee and ink on Bristol, 17 x 14"
Mnemosyne's Diary, 2.4.12, coffee and ink on Bristol, 17 x 14"

Sargasso Spillway,   Alcohol, laundry soap, coffee and Ink on Bristol 14x17 in.

I just made the discovery of an artist from Akron, Ohio who is really right up my alley.... grabbing our attention with an array of familiar liquids to produce his intriguing soups.   Thanks Bruce, my art reporter for sending his name my way.

 I am fascinated by his "drawings".  These latest are called Washing the River Drawings.   He has succeeded with an interesting juxtaposition of traditional inks with household standbys like dish soap, bourbon,  coffee, laundry soap, sumi ink, paprika, mustard, watercolors, soy sauce, brake fluid, tar, windex, gin, vodka, motor oil, shoe polish, shellac, etc..

  Mr. Sokol is an alchemist.   I appreciate all the studio time it takes to come up with these "joyrides".  I have tampered with this kind of work myself and I can only describe it as dedicated "mad" scientific research.  

 Take a look at the rest of this set of 72 paintings.

Here is a link to his site. And you can find him on Facebook.  

I can't stop looking at these.
Mnemosyne's Diary, 2.4.12,ScoffeSarink on Bristol, 17 x 14"Mnemosyne's SArSar
I I 
SDiary, 2.4.12, coffee and ink Sargasso Spillway, 1.17.12, alcohol, laundry soap, coffee and ink on Bristol, 14 x 17S   "on Bristol, 17 x 14"My 

Michael Kiwanuka - Home Again - HD Live at La Cigale, Paris (4 Apr 2011)

Thank you, Fiore for sending me this beautiful melody about longing for home.

Below I have a link to my favorite rendition of this song done with Janice Wong on cello.   I know it will touch a chord with many people. .... a universal song.

Janice is a cellist and New Media student living in Amsterdam. She has performed with Imogen Heap at Melkweg, Amsterdam in 2010 and at TEDx Amsterdam (Stadsschouwburg, Amsterdam) earlier this year. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Advanced Style

  I have a secret.    I love style....

 but not in the sense of following the trends of fashion.

  What I like is when someone makes a statement of their own....especially older people who do it and especially with a mix of old, new, fabricated and vintage style elements.  That's why I am mad about ARi's blog: Advanced

Ari Cohen goes around NYC and photographs men and women over 60 who inspire him with their choice of togs.   Some of them are artists, some are just free spirits; there are those with money, others shop only in second- hand shops.  The result is inspired, or playful, elegant or not.  Mostly a personal statement only has to work for you.

  I especially like the videos as these women and men are UNAFRAID.  BALLSY, FUN LOVING AND COOL.       Here is what Ari says:

Ari Seth Cohen

Ari Seth Cohen
My name is Ari Seth Cohen. I roam the streets of New York looking for the most stylish and creative older folks. Respect your elders and let these ladies and gents teach you a thing or two about living life to the fullest. Advanced Style offers proof from the wise and silver-haired set that personal style advances with age.

  I am always smiling after I look at this blog.... but I am not quite ready to embrace my inner muse completely, like I did in my forties.  Maybe it's a thing you have to work up to as you see who you are as "an older person".    How about you?  Is your personal style advancing with age?????

Stepping Out

I told you that I was going to start the weeklong birthday extravaganza by stepping out with some favorite ladies and gents.   Here are my two French girlfriends from Cagnes sur Mer:  Brigitte and Michele.  

                                                                    Michele and Brigitte

                                         and here is the back room of  Comptoir

       We are here to check out Les Comptoirs du Marche, a new bistrot in the old town, and to catch up on each other's news.

As friends, we go way back in art school, 10 years ago or so, when we took classes together.  I met Michele while studying "Graphism du Color" and Brigitte and I followed another color class for several years.  It turns out the two of them were already friends from Cagnes.

 These women were welcoming to me back then when I could hardly carry on a conversation in French.   But we had a common enemy, the instructor.   We endured two pretty tough teachers together.....  the old ballet master type of teachers.... full of insults.

  We laughed today at how much we missed those teachers taking the time and care to scrutinize our work so carefully.  It made us more diligent and exacting .  We don't miss the insults.

About the restaurant, Comptoir du Marche on rue Marche ....highly recommended.  It is the little sister of Bistrot Antoine on rue de la Prefecture.  The food is just as good as Antoine's and the menu is new.    I think they enjoy a larger kitchen here so perhaps that explains the choices.

 Michele had a good magret du canard.  I had an excellent chunk of fresh tuna , done pink to my liking.  Brigitte tried the dorade slices ( a white fish that we all put high on our list of Mediterranean" poisons"), and we all enjoyed the assorted vegetables:  potatoes, celery, artichokes, and cooked radishes that made up the "assiettes."

For a starter we shared a rocket , pancetta and chèvre pizza, very light. 

 For dessert Brigitte and I splashed out on the pot de creme au chocolate....a rich chocolate pudding with a raspberry coulis on the bottom.   With a kir each and a coffee, the bill came to about 27 euros each, well worth the price.



 STay tuned for more "cool" women that I admire.   I keep meeting new ones.  It's like collecting good wines or always want to come back again to the good ones.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Last Night of Carnival



THe armchair sportsman: couch potato rounds out the subject of sports of this year's carnival.

I don't often get the chance to be around a lot of happy kids but a folk festival like the Nice Carnival is the place to be if you want  to be enveloped by tiny fistfuls of confetti,  have "silly string" stuck in your shoes, a thrumming dance beat in your ear and the sight of  ranks of little kids trying to absorb the overstimulation of exaggerated sound and imagery.  

The magnificent floats or "chars" in the traditional parade are professionally designed these days and have taken all year to achieve.   Somewhere in a big hangar in Nice lots of craftsmen and artists were hard at work for this years sports theme.

  I have avoided the carnival in the past.  I am not really a "crowds" person and mostly it was barricaded to non-paying guests.  Not anymore. There is a whole area for standing and following the floats without paying for a seat.

 In fact it's more fun to move and follow the parade after it leaves Place Massena.

 So having never seen it and having pals beckoning...  my curmudgeonly side crumbled. 

  What was it Mark Twain said:  "Grief takes care of itself but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with."   And yes, with friends, it was fun.

  And now as I write this I hear the fireworks from my living room. they burn the KIng of the Carnival at sea.   The King is gone but we will still be shaking confetti out of our clothes for some time to come.