Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Old House

I just got finished plastering the ceiling, and painting my bathroom.   It doesn't look a whole lot better,  just cleaner and neater.   It is still a funky bathroom with strange, red marble tiles. 

If you have a house, you can do-it-yourself  (DIY or" bricolage" in French) or constantly have workmen in your house.  And still, unless you are a perfectionist or have deep pockets , there will just be a lot of quirky things about an old house that you give up on. 

 The fact is that old houses are like old bodies.... most likely they require more maintenance than you are willing or able to give them. 

My sister tells me what the secret is:
 In order to make yourself happy with all the little flaws of your old house, just buy some flowers and forget the rest.  

Good idea, Martha. 

  Go buy some flowers.... or if you are lucky and have a garden, bring some in and put them around the house.  


It is coming to the end of the blood orange season.  Boo!   If you buy this luscious citrus fruit here in France they are probably called Sanguinello, or perhaps Tarocco or Morro.  The first blood oranges came from Sicily and Spain and many found in French stores still do. 

Of course they are grown in other parts of the world now and in fact we had a couple of blood orange trees in our grove in Redlands, California when I was growing up.

There is nothing so powerful as the juice of blood oranges.  The beauty is not just found in the magnificent color but in the perfect blend of acid and sweet flavors.   Each glass of juice is slightly different in color and in acid balance but all are nectars in the godly sense of the word. 

The color in the orange comes from Anthocyanin found in many berries and other red fruits.  And if the taste doesn't tempt you ....look what else I found out....

"Anthocyanin is reported to have many health benefits as it is 
Moreover blood oranges contain high amounts of Vitamin C (up to 130% of recommended daily amount), potassium, Vitamin A, iron, calcium, and even fiber. 
Oranges and their juice can also help prevent the build-up of bad cholesterol as well as lower the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and cataracts."

So if you rush out this week , you may still get 
your "fix" before they are gone for another year. 

Beach Widening

Beach graded ready to receive rocks,  fishermen at 6 am, photo by Mary m Payne

Because of a quite steep nearshore zone in Nice, we lose a lot of our river rocks during the winter  and autumn storms  So one of the interesting activities that goes on at this time of year is called "beach widening".  

Since 1976,  the width of the beach has been documented on the 4.5 kilometer long gravel stretch of beach of Nice.  
The results show that "there has been little significant change over the last 30 years despite massive gravel nourishment" ( the supplementing of river rocks to the beach each spring).    The city brings in  558,000 cubic meters of "galets" or "cailloux" each year to spread over the beach which is otherwise composed of half sand.   In fact, this seems to me the reason we have not lost more beach and has given us our signature stone beaches. 

 Right now you will see the massive trucks bringing in new smooth rocks from the nearby Var River.  

 And huge hydraulic shovels are also rebuilding the several rock jetties or "breakwaters" that are built along the beaches and destroyed each storm season. 

  This year the "breakwaters" are a work of art, built entirely of gigantic stones placed side by side in the way of building a solid wall without cement.  This year especially they are as well engineered as table tops.

 I am impressed and anyone who stops to watch will be.   My friend, David Z. told me that each year he spends some time just watching the work.  And I know from experience that there is always a small, appreciative audience for these tractor   driving geniuses. 

Once in a while I am out there on "the Promenade" (affectionately called "the prom" by locals) for a walk at 6h15 and on the day I took my camera there was a fishing competition going on and the trucks were revving their engines getting ready to enhance the beach. 

 In my photos you can see some of the giant boulders that are going to be placed as part of the jetties and you can see the fishermen having breakfast and tending their lines.

 Nighttime Fishing competition 

Boulders ready to be placed for "breakwaters"


Surprisingly, if you look up Wisteria online on my computer, what I find is a reference in the French language to the plant called "Glycine" in French.  It is spelled just like we spell the organic compound.  I was hoping to see if there was a connection in the two words but didn't find one.  

So lets make this just a photo posting of last weeks glories when the blossoms of the Wisteria prevailed in my neighborhood. 

The plant above took hold in this wall about ten years ago, from a seed brought over from the opposite wall.  It didn't start blooming until about 4 years ago but now look at it. 

  I have watched it grow each year until it now covers the entire pergola erected by the adjacent neighbor on the right of the photo.  

 Wisteria is a hardy, determined vine.

I love seeing it cascading down over fences and buildings but I don't dare plant it myself.   It is one of the strongest plants I know of.   I have seen the stems bend solid metal fences and lay havoc to weaker walls and plaster.  It can grow 10 feet in a season.  

 It is in fact difficult to hurt this rampantly growing, unrestrained , often invasive plant.  

But the neighbors don't seem to let that bother them and so for two weeks of the year, my street is transformed by its hanging violet plumes. 

Le Sejour Cafe

Ardoise outside of Le Petit Cafe

 Since last May,  the well kept secret in Nice is Le Sejour Cafe and its sister restaurant .... Le Petit Cafe. 

Opened by Renaud and Marilene Geille and their lovely daughter Marina, the place is welcoming, animated and beautifully appointed.

  Today my friend June and I took ourselves to Le Sejour for our first visit. 

 I don't know if you remember but 11 rue Grimaldi used to be an African art store.  Now it is as charming as a cozy living room.  

Also you may know that Renaud and Mariléne Geille used to be owners of Les Viviers ( since 1998)  and its Bistrot not far from this new address in Nice as well as three or four other well known establishments before that time.     Since 2006 , Le Viviers  was sold and this new project was launched with daughter, Marina. 

Marina was in fact the one who recruited the new chef, Thomas Prod'homme.... just 26 years old... but already established at the Cap d'Antibes Beach Hotel. 

His menu is fresh Mediterranean with a contemporary flair and an emphasis on fish. 

Each day there is a varied, tasty menu to choose from but June and I decided to go straight for the main course and leave room for dessert instead of an appetizer. 

I chose a risotto with its sauce of cepes and garnished with Morilles.   It took a while coming to the table because I am sure it was made fresh after I ordered it. 

June chose a succulent slab of Cabillaud ( cod) with a bed of fresh spinach.   We were both very pleased with our choices.  And looking around I saw all the dishes beautifully presented. Chapeau!

We both jumped at the "cafe affogato "when we saw it at the bottom of the dessert menu although next time I just might have to try the Irish coffee ice cream with "chantilly".   Affogato for those of you who have travelled or lived in Italy, is simply hot coffee over vanilla ice cream ( home made) and a bit of whipped cream on top.  I could tell that the coffee was especially good.  I will have to ask next time what they use. 

Marina says ,"Je voulais revenir a Nice et créer aux cotés de mes parents un lieu gourmand, authentique et chaleureux"

 and I think the family and team has succeeded in all of that. 

 The service was friendly, welcoming,  and the food delicious. 

 Yes, it is a bit pricier than other places... but with good reason.   A main course, a glass of Sauvigion blanc, and an" affogato" came to 72 euros for the pair of us.  It was worth that.   

  For me and for many others, the total ambience has to be there as well as excellent food for the experience to make an impression.

  Next June and I will try Le Petit Cafe down the street at number 2 rue Grimaldi.  It will be like going into the next part of the dining room and just as agreeable I am sure.  

Marina spoke to us afterward and asked us if we had enjoyed our meal.  Now even that friendliness makes a big difference to me.   

Le Sejour Cafe
11 rue Grimaldi
04 93 27 37 84

Call ahead.  The place was completely full inside and out.