Sunday, July 10, 2016

A room with a view 2 (Rome: June 2016)

27.6 Montefalco – Rome

On the platform, heading for Rome.
Arriving at the bus stop we again meet the German backpacker, and commiserate about the dearth of buses and bus information – seems that everyone drives! But the bus arrives on time, and we have plenty of time for the train.

By the time we get to Rome the train is packed to the luggage racks, and it takes around 15 minutes to offload and walk from the distant platform to the exterior of the enormous station. Everything looks filthy, with rubbish strewn around and overflowing from bins. We wade through it for half an hour, to the apartment, and it gradually improves. Casa Letran is in a shabby-looking building with a creaky, shabby lift, but Alessandro meets us at the door, and the apartment is light, spacious, beautifully renovated and decorated, with smooth, cool terrazzo floors. We pay rental and deposit, and are left to admire the amazing view over San Giovanni in Laterano, the Arch-Basilica and cathedral of Rome. Fabulous!

The local streets are packed with little convenience stores, each seemingly selling the same things. Find a larger one that has a more extensive selection of deli items, fresh meat and wine, and they are very patient as we stumble through our shopping list … meat, cheese, bread, pasta, olives, coffee, milk … Next door, we find a small selection of salad and fruit, and we are set. For dinner – figs and gorgonzola, fettucine with sausages and tomatoes, with Orvieto Classico (white) wine.

Rome apartment - our windows circled
Bedroom 1 in apartment
View from bedroom - Santa Scala and San Giovanni in Laterano

28.6 Rome

A slow start after a long breakfast, coffee, and some research in Lonely Planet on a Rome itinerary. Try to book at Galleria Borghese but it is booked out for the next two days. We are only 10-15 minute walk from the Colosseum, Forum and Palatino, so it seems practical to start there. On the way, our first Roman church – San Clemente – a cool dim sanctuary on what is already a hot, crowded day. It is of interest as there are several churches piled atop each other – from Pagan temple to 4th C and then 12th C church. But we forgo the archeological tour as the day is disappearing.

The crowds increase until we arrive at the Colosseum, wow! It’s crazy, and full of large tour groups – no way are we going in there! Instead we head for the Musei Capitolini – it’s a good decision, the museum is a lovely cool environment with sparse crowds and great views over the Forum and Palatino. There is no way we will be able to see all of their collections, but we begin on the pinacoteca (painting floor), and half way through are ready for lunch. The café is closed for renovation, and we are directed to an outside café, which turns out to be a tiny hole-in-the-wall churning out good cheap coffee, panini and salads. We throw down coffee, then find a quiet spot in what looks like the museum box office to share a mozzarella and tomato panino.

The museum has antiquities and sculptures, paintings and miscellanea. We can’t get to all of it! We never get back to the pinacoteca … it is enough for one day! We walk home through the still hot and busy streets, marvelling at the antiquities scattered around like discarded rubble. Grab some pickled calamari to go with our pasta tonight.

Colosseum - without crowds ...
... and with crowds 
Cool, calm Capitolini Museum
From Capitolini - view over Forum and Palatino

29.6 Rome

We want to check out the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano, across the road, before the tourist hordes descend. Turns out it is a religious festival/public holiday today so they have extra services. We get twenty minutes before ushers rope off the apse and other areas in preparation for a mass. But we do get a good look at the giant ‘Marvel comic’ figures of apostles, created by the pre-eminent sculptors of Rome following the 17th century renovation of the cathedral by Borromini. It’s a stunning space, with an amazing history dating from Roman times, and we will return later. (It was founded by Constantine at the site of a Roman palace in AD313, and is the model for all Christian basilicas, but has had many makeovers, one of which removed most of the early 14th C Giotto frescoes).

Then walking in the same direction as yesterday, via the Colosseum to the Doria Pamphili Palazzo/Gallery. On the way we happen upon the Chiesa del Gesu – the main Jesuit church in Rome, housing the remains of founder Ignatius Loyola. Wow, the frescoes by Il Baciccia are magnificent, and this one was not even on our radar. The churches here really are on another level in size, majesty and decoration. How awestruck peasant pilgrims must have been!

The Doria Pamphili is a really engaging museum experience. The entrance ticket includes audio guide, which usually I avoid as I find them more distracting than informative, but this one is really essential, telling the story of the Doria and Pamphili families, the politics of the time, and the provenance of some of the artwork. But they also have some amazing pieces of art without any additional information other than name of artist and work. Frustrating! The palazzo itself is beautifully restored, with the art displayed as it would have been in its heyday. There are private apartments here where the family still lives. We have a small (and overpriced) lunch in the café – not a patch on yesterday’s hole-in-the-wall.

We take some detours going home and get lost wandering through parks relying on a sketchy tourist map (our usual saviour, Google maps, has given up today). Finally orientate ourselves, and make a final visit to S G in L, marvelling at the frescoes and the amazing Vasarely-like floors. Then home for a final Roman feast of eggplant and gorgonzola frittata, leftover pasta with calamari and anchovies, and a panzanella salad of stale bread and tomatoes (better than it sounds!). We have loved staying here! And will be sad to leave.

Marvel superhero Apostle - St. Philip by Mazzuoli
St Giovanni in Laterano, Vasarely-style floor
Doria Pamphili Palazzo Gallery - hall of mirrors 
Evening view from our window

30.9 Going home

Clean up, and take a few photos of this lovely apartment, one of our favourite stays, then we are on the metro and train to the airport. Worst coffee in Italy! Then on our way to Hong Kong in our comfy premium economy seats. Watch ‘Vinyl’, a music-oriented series produced by Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger – it’s fab! Arriving in HK at 6am, we are too exhausted for the planned day trip around the island, and instead spend 18 hours languishing in air-conditioned blandness waiting for our midnight flight. It’s an experience. Are airports the cities of the future? Horrible thought, rather by far the griminess and crowds of Rome! We console ourselves with some nice Chinese food (roast goose, braised pork and LOTS of green veg), and expensive beer (around $30AU for 2 beers!) and finally are on the last leg back to Sydney.

Room with a view - HK Airport

Saturday, July 9, 2016

A room with a view 1 (Montefalco, Umbria: June 2016)

25.6 Montefalco

Trains are running and we are so anxious to get to Montefalco that we share a taxi from Foligno with a German backpacker, rather than wait an hour for a bus that may not even run on a Saturday …

Casa Caterini is lovely! A cool, spacious apartment on the edge of the old town, with a fabulous view from the kitchen/living room. There is a giant crane in the middle just now, but it still looks fine! Montefalco is small, neat and charming, just a bit of the tourist ‘theme park’ about its medieval prettiness, but the main industries are olive oil and wine – represented by a plethora of olio e vino shops, and almost as many as churches!

My cold is really bad now, so we chill out in the apartment until afternoon, then check out the town. A beautiful central piazza with roads radiating like spokes to the edge of the old town, just a few minutes walk in any direction. Each road has a gate, and at least two churches. We get provisions at the local alimentare artisanale (bread, olives, anchovies, mozzarella bufala, pork fillet, veggies and fruit. And local wine at the enoteca next door – Montefalco Rosso and Montefalco Bianco. At the ‘tourist office’ aka wine promotion bureau, there is no good news re weekend buses (most buses run only on school days), so we won’t be visiting any nearby villages. But the advisor tells us that there will be a festa with wine-tasting in the piazza tonight!

View from our apartment - crane dangling
Montefalco laneway
Montefalco laneway 2
As we wander, the weather turns blustery, and there is thunder – from the high vantage point we can see the rain blowing in. The party being set up on the piazza, as well as the umbrellas of the cafes and restaurants, are dragged under cover or covered with tarps, and the decorations dance madly in the wind. We escape to the Church/Museum, where apparently we are just in time for a presentation of an artistic nature. Seems that they are desperate for an audience so we are herded in! We explore the underground museum, set in a medieval basement winecellar, and filled with archeological artefacts and medieval winemaking machinery that resembles torture equipment. But as the presentation (which will be entirely in Italian) is about to begin we make our escape … to the Chiesa di San Francisco, to see the Gozzoli frescoes and the Perugino Nativity. It’s full of chairs – another performance about to begin. It’s a three-piece string ensemble playing classical music interspersed with poetry reading (in Italian of course!). A beautiful way to wait out the rain as I snuffle into my tissues.

Home then, for a brief rest, and cook a fabulous dinner of pan-fried pork fillet topped with eggplant and white anchovy, with olive and white wine sauce. The eggplant is light purple and round, and has a firm, meaty texture. Yum! Then back to town for (hopefully) the festa.

So the Aperitiva and Candlelight dinner parts of the festa may have been slightly washed out, but when we arrive back just after nine, a few dozen hardy souls are sitting in the piazza, some sipping wine, and the band is playing some fairly tasteful rock covers. We buy a ticket to the wine-tasting and settle in. (The wine-tasting works out well – at 7 euros for 4 tastes it sounds pricy, but I get to have 6 tastes, including four expensive sagrantinos, and share them with Chris. They are delicious!).

Windblown decorations in the piazza
String ensemble in St Francis church
Band playing for the festa, and display of classic Italian scooters
Poster for the Festa
 Meanwhile, the crowd builds – by 10 o’clock it is a beautiful evening and all seats are full. By 11 it’s packed with people of all ages, from young children to great grandmothers. Very few are smoking, a few more are drinking in the restaurants, or wine-tasting, but mostly – just being there. The piazza is becoming covered in chalk messages, one of the festa activities. What a treat this is! Home late, in spite of my cold, and fall into bed.
[We find out later, from seeing a poster, about the festa theme: The Night of Desires’, all about love. The music we saw was a performance of the Umbria Ensemble (plus a reader) of Beethoven’s music and love letters. The chalk is for writing messages of love. The finale at midnight was the release of balloons, and couples all sharing a kiss. Italian speakers amongst you can translate the poster!]

26.6 Montefalco

Still feeling awful, shouldn’t have had a late night, but how could I not! Travel is full of missed opportunities, and occasionally a serendipitous hit. Our host comes by for payment, and when he finds out that the pharmacy is closed, brings me paracetamol and cold medication – what an angel!
Today, I thought I might walk to Bevagna (7km only), in the absence of buses, but am not well enough, so we meander slowly around the town to see if we can manage to see ALL the churches. If I must be ill, it’s not a bad place to be, we can wander for an hour or two, then go home to nap. The town itself, and the churches, are lovely, and (the churches) very individual, from large and elaborately decorated (St Francis) to very plain and modest. All are living churches. Home for lunch, we have grilled veg with mozzarella, and a glass of wine.

Perugino nativity at St Francis church
A modest chapel
Relic - body of a Spanish pilgrim
The local restaurant menus look enticing (rabbit! pigeon!), so we decide to eat out for dinner. We book at L’Alchemista on the piazza, then wander to ‘the edge’ with a bottle of wine for an informal ‘aperitivo’. Again a storm blows in! it reminds me of Sydney summer – hot, humid day, then brief thundery change clearing the air. It actually hails as we shelter under a large pine tree.

At L’Alchemista the food is very good, but service lacking. Gnocchi with sagrantino sauce is plain but tasty, pigeon served four ways (roast leg, stuffed breast, sausage and pate) is delicious and exactly the kind of laborious dish that one eats out for. Grilled veg accompaniment is fine (I especially like the charred fennel) but – no condiments, water is forgotten, we have to ask twice for the bill.

On the edge ... of town
Storm blowing in 

Romans and Popes II (Perugia, Italy: June 2016)

21.6 Nice-Perugia

Up at 6.30, walk to station, expensive platform breakfast with delicious fresh OJ. The train is on time and we are on our way to Milan. Fabulous! We have facing window seats and plenty of room to spread out for picnicking, as the train meanders along the coast via Monaco to Savona. But ... A plump Italian mama claims the seat next to Chris (not understanding that she could, for now, occupy any of several other vacant seats) and proceeds to chat loudly and non-stop to the couple across the aisle. Chris is growling. Less than an hour later another Italian mama claims the seat next to me, and joins the conversation, even more loudly and vociferously! Announcements ask those on mobile phones to be considerate, but ... They are  talking so loud they don't hear the announcements. We give up the idea of a picnic and enjoy the view - the line hugs the coast all the way from Nice to Genoa (which seems to be a vast container terminal), then inland to Milan.
On the train ...
On the train from Nice to Genoa - through a dirty train window
On the train 2 ...
We arrive on time, five hours to kill. By the time we have stored bags (12 euros), bought a map (2 euros) and been to the loo (1 euro each), then had a quick picnic in a nearby garden, it’s four hours. Enough time to walk up to the Duomo? No problem! But … phew! It is a hot walk through a busy city. Rest stops in parks along the way, photo stops in the amazing Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, an insanely beautiful upmarket shopping arcade full of beautiful people, and tourists with selfie sticks. The piazza around the Duomo is likewise packed, and the Duomo - wow! Nothing has prepared me for the scale of it. We take some photos but don't fancy the wait (and security checks) for the interior, so set off back to the station, detouring for wine and pizza to eat on the train. Arrive back to the vast station with 15 minutes to spare.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan
Duomo, Milan
Finally on the train, we share a compartment with a young mother and two lively children; she talks on the phone and they progressively run amok. We find a vacant compartment and picnic there, by the time our seats are claimed the mother and her mad children are gone, and it is peaceful again. It's a long trip (5.5 hr) on a regional train, but the time passes pleasantly, eating, drinking and chatting. A young woman calls her boyfriend - 'You won't believe! I am on the train with Australians!'
A late night taxi ride to the Hotel Iris - it is beautiful! Large room, large window, great view with full moon! But tomorrow we will move.
Midnight in Perugia - from Hotel Iris
Morning in Perugia - from Piazza Italia

22.6-23.6 Perugia

The Hotel Morlacchi is very different - a cosy guest house with small rooms and an indifferent view, but it is in a great part of the old town, close to everything but in a student rather than a tourist area. Where to start? Museum, Church, Piazza?
Italia classica - Piazza Italia
Dubious Mum and dodgy baby
Not so dodgy … lovely sculpture by Duccio, who also decorated the cathedral
Cattedrale San Lorenzo
After checking the view from Piazza Italia (stunning, like all the views here!) we start with the National Gallery of Umbria, located at the breathtaking Palazzo Dei Priori, another amazing space with a medieval-Renaissance collection of art and sculpture. Again the gallery is almost deserted. The focus this time of course on Perugia (and Perugino), in the context of other major cultural centres (Florence, Rome, Siena etc). As in Avignon, slightly dazed mothers of God gaze doubtfully upon their distinctly dodgy babies …
The cathedral is majestic and atmospheric, and not too OTT, but seems photography not allowed … so I manage just one quick snap …
A trek to San Severo to see the last remaining work by Raphael in Perugia, a fresco at San Severo chapel, which is tiny! Then there’s the ancient Arco Etrusco originally build in the 3rd C BC, then ‘adapted and improved’ by the Romans.
On the steps - of Palazzo Dei Priori 
Raphael fresco - detail 
Arco Etrusco 
WW1 display at Civic Museum, Palazzo della Penna
What next? There is a modern collection somewhere, but it takes some time to find it at the Palazzo della Penna - it's the most poorly signposted and designed museum that we've seen for some time! A retrospective of the futurist Dottori, installation from a 1980 visit by Beuys, and display of WW1 artefacts, signage all Italian. Well, we are in Italy, but it's remarkable how little English is spoken here compared to other European countries, far less than in France, even by many working in tourism. I wish my Italian was better - even rudimentary skill such a I have in French would be useful.

We have no kitchen so it's back to picnicking and restaurants. I buy ingredients for Caprese salad and make it up in our room. We have design-your-own salad at Café Morlacchi, our local. We try Pizza Mediterranea (a Lonely Planet recommended pizza place) and take the leftovers home for lunch. We eat salad and drink wine at Piazza Italia (Giardini Carducci) where the view is almost unreal. I try and fail to find my friend Ruth's recommended gelataria, but have a fine nocciola and cioccolato gelato at our local artisan gelataria.
Cheese man - at the little co-op supermarket 
Delicatessen - at the co-op - should show this to our local IGA
Lunch at Caffe Morlacchi - new hat from Provence
Giardini Carducci - our picnic bench
Perugia twilight 

24.6 Perugia (Locanda della Posta)

Today to Montefalco – and I can’t wait to have an apartment again. We drag our luggage to the station (it’s going to be a hot one!), but when we try to by tickets, we are told with a shrug “Sopresso!” – there’s a strike and the trains aren’t running. A hazard of Italian life, and we have been lucky so far, but not this time. I get online, book a hotel (two previous already booked out), the third in four days – Locanda Della Posta. It’s a slightly shabby 4-star in the middle of tourist territory, and the room, while bland, is large and comfortable. And there is a bath! It’s now very hot, and I’m coming down with a cold, so hibernate all afternoon, emerging for aperitivo at Kundera enoteca. It’s a nice cool spot, and we’d like to stay for dinner, but they only have aperitivi, at least for now, so we fill up on them – lovely arancini, grilled veg, tiny cups of pasta and couscous, frittata …

Friday, July 1, 2016

In the empire of the Romans and Popes (France, June 2016)

13.6 London - Orange (L'Herbier d'Orange)

Up early, and just as well, as train check-in is slow due to the large number of football tourists (World Cup in France). Most of the day on the train, footy louts drunk and noisy at 9am, then alcohol sales are stopped for everyone! Poor management. A smooth and uneventful trip, but at the other end there are strikes on the trains going to the centre of town, and local bus is crammed and slow, but we finally arrive in the centre more than one hour after arriving in Avignon. Have missed the 3.30 Orange bus, so the 4.28 train is a more expensive but faster option. Finally arrive at our accommodation in Orange at 5.15, not too late. Reception is very friendly, the room is large and light (with a bathroom build oddly covering one window), and Orange looks lovely.

After settling, we go for a stroll to find somewhere to eat - A La Maison is recommended and in a great location, we have Italian salad (melon, prosciutto, tomatoes and mozzarella) and a pan fried fish with rice and veg, washed down with a yummy local viognier.

Chris and rosé in Provence (his Dragon cap from Wales)

14.6 Orange (L'Herbier d'Orange)

Memories of Orange are of meandering through a labyrinth of shuttered terraces punctuated with plane-tree shaded squares. There is a famous (enormous!) Roman theatre that draws tourists to the antique ville, but it is mostly a lively, but slightly down-at-heel, provincial town.

This first morning we eschew hotel breakfast in favour of exploring, and go hunting for a cafe. We seem to walk endless circles, finding brasseries setting up for lunch, but nowhere to find a croissant. Finally buy croissants from a boulangerie, and eat them surreptitiously at a brasserie. Travel seems so often punctuated with these kinds of experiences, looking for what you know must be there but being frustrated! But it does promote exploration ...

Our hotel on the left
Shutters of Orange
After visiting the Theatre Antique and the Museum (most fascinating are the fragments of Roman land registries, showing ownership and tax paid - so humans have treated 'land' as property for millenia now), we treat ourselves to a cheap cafe lunch (12 euros), and get what we paid for. After rosé, a nap. Then more exploring in search of a dinner time picnic spot. Again frustration - there is nowhere to sit near the small river/canal that flows through the town - until we climb Colline St Eutrope, behind the theatre. We eat bread, cheese, salad and wine at the top of a lovely park, slightly shabby with weeds and rubbish, but with amazing views. Polishing off the wine as the sun goes down ... Zzzzzzz ... What is it? A leaf blower? No, a drone, hovering overhead! We dream of a slingshot, and Chris tells me of eagles being trained in the US to take out small drones.

Fragments of ancient land registries
View of Orange from Colline St Eutrope

15.6 Orange

A meandering day. Start late, after a hotel breakfast this time, and try to find out at the local tourist office about the bus from Avignon to Uzes - they tell me we need to travel via Nimes, which I know is not right ... Seeking the next picnic spot, we wander along the canal then to 'Arc de Triomphe', the other Roman remains here. Nearby is a small park with men playing boules. Also check out Place Verdi (large barren square) and Place Sablot (small new square without overlooking cafes).

Chris is no shopper so late afternoon I escape to check out shops, but it's slim pickings for bargains or bric a brac - lots of trendy clothes, homewares, hippy shops. Finally find a small strip of second-hand shops and buy a skirt for 1 euro, and then, to console myself, a small bottle of Pastis.
For picnic tonight: a quiche and pisalladiere with tomatoes and nectarines at Place Sablot.

Playing boules

16.6 Orange - Avignon

After all, it is quite easy to take the bus back to Avignon. Nice views, and only 2 euros. Our new hotel (Hotel Boquier) is only five minutes from the bus station, and not far from the tourist sites around Palais du Papes. But it is in a funky student area near a large park, and Place des Corps Saints which is lined with lively cafes. We walk. And walk. Collection Lambert, the modern art gallery, is closed for installation,  so to Musee Calvert - an eclectic mix in a beautiful ancient building. Wander around the 'palais' and garden, then for dinner to the highly recommended local restaurant Fou de Fa Fa for baked chicken breast and roasted duck breast (also gazpacho and cheese plate). It's nice, and the service is excellent, but for the price still not as good as home cooking (68 euros with wine).

God shines on Avignon!
Avignon posters

17.6 Avignon - Uzes

A few more hours in Avignon, we traipse through the Palais (rather cluttered with staging for the upcoming festival), and have a surprisingly cheap and simple lunch in the tower cafe, then check out the Musee de Petit Palais. It's just 14th to 16th century religious painting, but it's fascinating to see in detail the development from gothic to renaissance, and the influence and the interpretations of different areas (Florence, Siena, Venice, Avignon etc). And the building itself is spectacular, we are almost alone in there, and it's quite lovely.

In the afternoon  -  bus to Uzes, met at the bus stop by the lovely Sylvie, and led to a gorgeous little stone-walled studio apartment (Le Portalet) with valley views, a tiny kitchen, and a bath!

Avignon - Palais du Papes
Avignon 'living sculpture'
Lovely studio apartment in Uzes

 18.6 Uzes

It's a lovely apartment for three days, and we immediately plan to spend our time cooking and relaxing, and forget any day trips. Today is market day, and we meander over at around 11am; it's getting busy. Buy: soap, cheese, olives, terrine, fruit and veg, duck, fish fillets (Sebaste = redfish).  By 12 pm it's getting very crowded, so we go home to a leftover lunch of sausage, potatoes, asparagus and courgette. Hoping the crowds will be gone, I go back to the market after lunch, but most of the market has gone. I buy a woven market basket and some tea towels.

For the rest of the day we just wander. It's a really gorgeous place, beautifully restored medieval town, but ... also full of tourists, galleries, boutiques ... not the tiny backwater village we had imagined. Nevertheless, an easy place to chill out.

Instead of an evening excursion, we drink rosé at our window, with chevre and figs. (It is raining - a thunderstorm followed us home.) Then cook the fish with olives, lemon and garlic, baby potatoes, and tomato and basil salad. Loving having a kitchen!

Uzes market - the olive shop
Chris and rosé

19.6 Uzes

Follow the tourist trail around town. Start late, so many things are closed, hard to get used to the opening and closing hours here in the south - usually 9-12 (or 10-12) then 2-7 (or 3-7). Except Sunday when it is all different, and almost all shops are closed in the afternoon). Try to buy some bread and wine on our way home but the epicier is closed. Wait for Sylvie to come so we can pay for the apartment - she is late, and I'm anxious to go out again now that things are open ...

The medieval garden is a sweet oasis, quite shabby and informal. Really terrible art exhibition. I climb the tower for a view - I am a sucker for a view. Chris stays on the ground with his vertigo, and borrows some tarragon and rosemary for our dinner. Back home and grab wine for an evening drink, in the park this time, with a view over a tiny olive grove. For dinner - magret de canard (quite easy really) with apricot sauce.

Place aux Herbes - the main square
Olive grove
View over cathedral near apartment - from the medieval tower

20.6 Uzes-Nice (Hotel Rex)

Early bus, only 3 euros for both of us, long wait for train at Avignon but all runs on time. Finally post some postcards, break my reading glasses and buy more, then train: Avignon Centre - Avignon TGV - Marseilles - Nice. The Nice train is SO crowded, it's a commuter train with no room for luggage, but most passengers are tourists so bags are piled onto seats and in walkways. Opposite us, two middle-aged gays with a pug dog in a bag. As we all cram bags between our legs we are chuckling, but really, darling, it's too much! It's a 2.5 hour trip and feeling very cramped at the end, but manage a small nap. The gays alight at Cannes, and the train is emptier by then, we can finally stretch our legs. Twenty minute walk to the hotel stretches our legs too. Rex Hotel is small, shabby, clean and basic, and very central, on Rue Massena just off Place Massena, the main city square.

Nice street scene
Cathedral at Nice
Nice colours and washing
Nice is hot and sunny, and absolutely packed with tourists! We walk along the esplanade and into the old town, there is an antiques market in the large square that looks fascinating, but it's too hot to linger. Plunge into the cool, labyrinthine alleyways, full of cafes, restaurants, boutiques and souvenir shops. Above, the multi-coloured apartment buildings have shuttered windows hung with multi-coloured washing. Seek shade in the cathedral – OMG it’s OTT (just a glimpse of what’s waiting for us in Italy!).

We walk in circles, seeking out two recommended restaurants - one is closed, at the other tiny place we make a booking. The meal at Chez Palmyre is good and authentic if not spectacular - veg salad with pancetta, potato and leek soup followed by magret de canard (I can't resist) and rare tuna on mash, then chocolate mousse and salted caramel millefeuille. With a bottle of wine it's less than 50 euros - bargain!

Finally a walk to the hilltop park for spectacular twilight views on a hot night.
Chez Palmyre
Twilight Nice
Place Massena at night