Visit from a Friend

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To the beach at Golfe Juans

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by TianjinPaul on August 14, 2012

My friend Matt and his girlfriend had come to visit us on the Cote d'Azur. There were several things they wanted to do on their trip, chief amongst these was enjoy sun and relax on the beach. However, they were a little disappointed that the beach in Nice is made up primarily of rocks, which makes it a little less than perfect for a relaxing afternoon. Therefore, we decided that it would be a good idea to do a little exploring to find a beach with some golden sands.

The closest sand beach to Nice is actually in Villefranche sur Mer about 15 minutes down the coast to the east. However, it is extremely small and on busy days it can actually be impossible to find a place and you get the bizarre situation of people queueing for the beach. Therefore, we decided that we would head west. Unfortunately, this would mean that we would have to take something of a drive as most of the beaches close to Nice are made up of rocks (St Laurent, Cagnes sur Mer). So, we decided to go to Golfe Juans.

After a 30 minute journey on the auto-route, we pulled into the small coastal town and drove along the sea-front. The beach looked glorious. It was sandy, golden and flat, running gently into the calm waters of the Mediterranean. The sea was not quite the same stunning shade of blue that you can expect to find in Nice. Rather, it was a slightly uninspiring shade of green, but we thought that was no barrier to enjoying a great afternoon in the sun. Sadly, we were not able to enjoy the beach straight away as we encountered one of the usual Cote d'Azur problems: Parking. The road next to beach had no spaces and it took me about 40 minutes to find a car park close by.

Once we were on the beach, though, it was wonderful. There was plenty of the space. There was absolutely none of the suffocation that you can sometimes feel whilst using the beach, where people are crammed on like Sardines. We were able to stake out a nice plot of sand and to plant our parasol and towels with freedom. Also unlike Nice it was very clean. On a Saturday afternoon in Nice the garbage can soon pile up and begin to smell. So, we were able to relax and enjoy the sunshine. The water was also lovely. It was easy to get it as the beach was nice and soft and there were no unruly rocks on the way.

Golfe Juans was also well equipped with showers and bathrooms that meant it was easy to wash off the salt and get changed after we had finished. It was something of a drive from Nice, but it was a very pleasant afternoon and I would certainly return their again.

MAMAC again and again

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by TianjinPaul on August 14, 2012

MAMAC is one of those places that you can visit again and again and again. You will notice from my previous articles about it that I have waxed lyrical about the building itself. This feeling has yet to dissipate. Even though it is one of the first ports of call any time I have visitors in Nice, I have yet to tiure of it. It has not yet grown to occupy the place of contempt into which I have placed both the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, both of which I was forced to visit countless times as friends and family came to visit me in China.

So, when my friend Matt and his girlfriend came to Nice, one of the first places on my list to take them was MAMAC. Unlike the Great Wall or Forbidden City and unlike most of the other attractions in Nice, there are aspects of MAMAC that are in a constant state of flux. The architecture of the building – which is a tourist attraction in itself – doesn't change. Neither do the top two floors. However, the bottom floor is dedicated to installations and travelling exhibits. So, you are always guaranteed to see something different.

When I visited MAMAC for the first time, the ground floor was dedicated to a display that was made up of art-work that used primary colour. Therefore, it was a feast of bright and bold yellows and blues that really slapped the visitor in the face and left them with few questions. I visited this exhibition with my girlfriend, but also with my mother when she came to visit.

When Matt and Gemma were in town, things were very different. The main exhibition featured the French artist Yves Klein as well as Jonathan Byers and Anish Kapoor. For this there was a colour theme, but it was very different to the previous display. Klein featured predominantly works that were done in blue, Byers was all about white and Kapoor was very aggressively red. The displays brought some fantastic contrast. Klein featured works in the hypnotizing of blues (There is a sculpture that resides in MAMAC permanently of the same ilk). There were pictures and sculptures that all seemed to transfix visitors. The most enthralling of these was a pool of blue powder that brought an almost tactile hypnotism to proceedings.

The Byers room was possibly the most relaxed place in the world and was almost as wonderful as the Klein display. It featured a series of displays that diffused a wonderful soft white light. It was almost futuristic in the way it used modern shape and technology, but created a light that was warm and homely. It was wonderful. The only let-down was Kapoor, who produced a series of sculptures in deep blood reds that evoked imagery of slaughterhouses. I will concede that the contrast to the other displays was stark and enlivening (I presume that is why they were placed together), but I could not enjoy the piece sin individuality.

Even though it was my fifth trip to MAMAC, I loved taking the trip and will be going again.

Great Wine

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by TianjinPaul on August 14, 2012

Cafe des Arts is a restaurant/cafe that I must have passed one hundred times at the very least during my time in Nice. It is located on Cours Saleya in the Old Town and is mixed in with hundreds of other restaurants and cafes. However, when my friend Matt and his girlfriend made the trip to Nice to visit, they thought it looked rather nice and would be a good place for a drink. I am not going to fall into hyperbole and begin to describe that having passed Cafe des Arts several times and never deigned to eat there I was suddenly transformed to its unquestionable virtues after one single visit. However, I must admit that it was not the worst place we have ever stopped in Nice.

As my girlfriend and I had already eaten, we were there primarily for a drink whilst my friend and his girlfriend were hungry, so they were eating. Because of this, we ordered just a bottle of white wine. By doing this, we found Cafe des Arts major strength: its wine list. It has a superb selection of high quality wines that whilst they are not cheap are also not outrageously expensive. The white we had from the Cote du Rhone was excellent and cost just 19Euros.

Our friends had ordered a couple of pasta based dishes and were impressed at them. Because of this and because the wine was just so good and we wanted another bottle. My girlfriend and I decided we should order some food – two bottles of white without food would have surely left us a little worse for wear. Therefore we decided to order the charcuterie plate, which proved to be a rare treat. It came served on a cold stone slab and featured a fantastic selection of hams and sausage. It was well stocked and full of flavour.

The setting for Cafe des Arts is also a strong point. It is in the heart of Cours Saleya, which makes it fantastically lively as, in the evening, this is by far Nice's busiest restaurant area and is a hot-bed for tourists. Obviously, this is no unique selling point as there are about 30 bars cafes and restaurants in a 200m stretch of street. It is also surrounded by the fantastic architecture of the Old Town. Cafe des Arts also makes the effort to stand out. It's terrace area is decked out in chic black chairs and covered by black awnings with very atmospheric lighting.

Cafe des Arts was, all in all, a very good choice. The food was good, but it was nothing you would not expect to find in most restaurants in the same area. This wine, though, was fantastic. We have since returned several times just for a bottle of white on a warm summer evening. Dinner and wine cost my friend's almost 50 Euros, so it is not cheap, but it is a very pleasant place to spend an evening.
Grand Cafe des Arts
Place Yves Klein
Nice, France
04 93 80 58 58

Perfection

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by TianjinPaul on August 13, 2012

There was very little planning involved in our selection of Bistrot de la Rad. As some friends of mine were visiting from the UK, we decided that it would be nice to visit the rather pretty confines of Villefranche sur Mer for sinner one evening. We planned to find someshere nice either by the port or in the Old Town. As it transpired, the port was extremely busy, so we opted to eat in the Old Town. We browsed the delightfully cluttered and clsoed streets until we came upon a rather pleasant looking bistro. We first stood outside for a few minutes persuing the extensive menus before making the excellent decision to take a seat.

Bistro de la Red was fantastic in every way. We had a onderful meal and the service was excellent. As two of our party were on vacation from England, our group was very much bi-lingual. To my delight, the waiter/manager (I think he was both as the place was very 'intimate') got the balance just right. He spoke French to my girlfriend and I before switching to English for our friends. This may not sound a great achievement, but you would be surprised just how often waiters will speak either in incomprehensibly fast French or patronisingly slow English. Therefore, it was a refrshing surprise when he explained the menu and specials in a clear and friendly manner in both langauges.

The food was also fantastic. I had gnocchi with roquefort sauce. It was a taste explosion. The cheese was rich and full of flavour, but succeeded in not being over-powering. My girlfriend opted for fish, which was also very good (you will have to take her word for that as I do no eat fish). My friend Matt had the Gambas, with which he was astounded. The prawns were large and delicious and came with a plentiful supply of rice.

The main course at Le Rad was excellent, but desert was even better. My friends had Creme Brulee, which was delightful - this is the most common desert in France, but is so often done poorly. It was light with the perfect covering of sugar. My girlfriend opted for a Nutella Tiramisu, which we shared. I was scpetical at the sound of such a concoction. However, despite being heavier than you might expect a normal Tiramisu to be, it was delicious - it was a complete surprise.

Dinner for four at Bistro de la Rad cost a very reasonable 90 Euros. This included four main courses and deserts with two of us having soft drinks and the others beer and wine. The bread and cold water were also plentiful and free of charge.
Le Bistro de la Rade
15 Rue du Poilu-Vielle
Villefranche-sur-Mer, France, 06230

Good budget option

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by TianjinPaul on August 13, 2012

I have lived in Nice for almost two years and until my friend - who was visiting from England - delved into the realms of his Rough Guie to France, I knew nothing of Pasta Basta. I was not even aware of its existence. After the rather good meal we ate there, I felt just a little ashames of my ignorance. Whilst Pasta Basta may not have boasted haute cuisine, it offered some very good pasta dishes at very reasonable prices - a combination that is not always easy to find in Old Nice in summer.

Pasta Basta does not really boast too many frills. It shuns the elaborate decor extravagabtly worded menus of many restaurants that you might find on the Cote 'Azur. Instead, things are relatively simple. The menus are printed on the place settings and the tables are rather simple bare wood. Instead, the focus is on the food, which is ood and very reasonably priced. There were four of us dining at Pasta Basta and we all ordered from the 15 Euro menu. None of us were disappointed.

Everything we had at Pasta Basta was good. However, it was the starter that truly grabbed our attention. We all ordered the tomato and mozarella bruschetta. When it arrived we were all astounded. It was almost the size of a pizza and was delicious. It would be no exagerration to say that the bruschetta could have been a meal in itself. Therefore, we were already quite full when the main course arrived we were already rather full. However, I certainly managed to find room for my lasagne. It came direct from the oven and was served in the dish in which it was cooked. It was very good. The only downside was the lack of side dish or garnish (had we not filled up on the bruschetta it might not have been enough). One other quirk was that three of us ordered the lasagne and the three of them all came directly from the oven in completely different dishes, which created a strange presentational effect.

For desert, we had the chocolate mousse. This was the most disappointing aspect of the meal. There was a very large serving - which is not always the case in Nice - but it lacked flavour and was rather blunt. We drank the house wine, which was surprisingly good, though not outstanding. We had the red, which was very flavourful and our friends had the Rose, which was very crisp and came nicely chilled.

All in all, dinner at Pasta Basta was a a surprisingly pleasant experience. Whilst far from haute cuisine, the food was good and the servings were very generous. The wine was also good. The service was also very good. The staff all spoke English and were very helpful. Dinner came to just under 70 Euros for four people, which represented excellent value.
Pasta Basta
18, Rue De La Prefecture
Nice, Provence, 06300

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