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On the Promenade des Anglais in Nice: Gail, Cecilia, Jean-Charles, Joss, Jean-Luc, Cameron, Alexandra
After our departure from Crest in southeast France, our next scheduled accommodations don't begin until February 16th in northern Italy, a good eight hours' drive away. We thought it would be good to stop somewhere along the way for a night or so, in order to break up the long drive. Fortunately, Jean-Charles and Cecilia Mourey, our friends from America (who had taken us to the Chicken Festival in Bourg-en-Bresse back in December), have now begun to settle into their new home outside of Nice. Even better, they have offered to host us at their home for several days.
So after locking the doors at Crest for the last time on February 12th, we drove our fully-loaded station wagon to France's Côte d'Azur, home to such exotic cities as St.-Tropez and Cannes, where the international film festival is hosted every year. (We were thrilled just to drive farther south than Arles, so that we could see new scenery on the autoroute du sud for the first time ever.) Our goal was to reach Jean-Charles' and Cecilia's home by noon, but we got a late start; and after pausing for our usual lunch of sandwiches at a roadside rest stop, we finally pulled in at 1:00 PM.
The Moureys actually live in Vence, an inland town between Cannes and Nice that dates back to Roman times. We were warmly greeted by Jean-Charles, Cecilia, and their children, Alexandra (aged 9) and Jean-Luc (aged 5). We added our small collection of suitcases and boxes to their huge collection of boxes (they are still in the process of moving in) and immediately set out on our first excursion.
(The Moureys moved from the US to France back in December, but the majority of their things just arrived a couple of weeks ago. Their trials and tribulations in trying to move a household of furniture, antiques, and other possessions internationally is a horror story that we will not even begin to recount here. Suffice to say that they are still recovering from the experience.)
We had wanted to get down here as soon as possible because February 12th was Mardi Gras and the Carnival was in full swing. Our goal today was an afternoon parade, and the two families drove to nearby Nice, where we found garage parking before proceeding to walk down the Promenade des Anglais along the beach boardwalk to our destination. Unfortunately, none of us was very familiar with Nice, and people kept telling Jean-Charles that the parade was either 500 metres or two kilometres farther down, depending upon whom he asked. We finally reached the parade -- already in progress by this point -- after about five kilometres, only to be told that there were too many people in the area and they weren't letting anyone else in. So the children were only able to catch glimpses of the parade from behind a barrier a block away.
Fortunately, we discovered a play area nearby. For a small admission, the children could play for 15 minutes among a variety of activities that included slides, bouncing chambers, and trampolines. Cameron and Joss were thrilled to be on a trampoline for the first time in months -- even more so because there were actually a dozen trampolines all connected to each other. Because most of the crowd was off watching the parade, the children actually ended up with more than a half-hour of playtime. As well, we had a wonderful long walk along the beach boardwalk at sundown to get back to our cars. Russell bought barbe à papa (cotton candy), Gail bought French burnt peanuts, and all of the children got candy.
Our first day with the Moureys ended up being the best weather we had there all week. Jean-Charles took Gail and Russell on a walking tour of historic Vence on February 13th under overcast skies, but by Valentine's Day on February 14th it was raining. Instead of doing more sightseeing, we spent the remainder of the week around the house, visiting and eating.
Our days with the Moureys were warm, friendly, and relaxing. It was great for Cameron and Joss to have other children to play with; in addition to Alexandra and Jean-Luc, the 12-year-old neighbor Julie was like another member of the family. (It was also good for Joss to be the "older boy" for a change, although he and Jean-Luc fought as much as they played. It is also interesting to think that in just a couple of years, Cameron may start bringing girls like Julie home to meet the family.) The children constructed with Lego, made Origami airplanes and fortune tellers, played cache cache (hide and seek), and watched videos. Joss spent a lot of time at the piano (as did Gail and Russell). On one rainy afternoon, we took all of the children to see the new Astérix movie with Gerard Depardieu and Ramal, "Mission: Cleopatra" -- in French.
Making jelly doughnuts: Cameron, Alexandra, Jean-Luc (living in his pajamas), Joss
The adults mostly sat around and ate, à la française. Our breakfasts, lunches, and dinners were huge multi-course home-cooked festivals of food. Gail's homemade jelly doughnuts were followed by Cecilia's homemade crêpes, which were followed by Gail's homemade pancakes with syrup, etc. Gail had brought several bottles of wine from various regions, which were well complimented by Jean-Charles' several types of cheese from various regions. Desserts included raspberry cake with raspberry sauce, and pear and caramel ice cream cake. Cecilia's grande finale dinner of homemade burritos was followed by Gail's grande finale dinner of raclette with potatoes, meats, and vegetables. After months of living on a tight budget and starving ourselves, it was wonderful to indulge for a while in real French -- and international -- cuisine.
(While in Crest, we had compiled a mental list of French phrases that seem designed to scare away Americans. In addition to "pain" -- bread -- we saw such bon mots aas "dégustation" and "saveurs du terroir.")
Joss at the piano
Cameron making pancakes
The adults all had a wonderful time together. When Russell joked that we had gone from "Bad" (Germany) to "Nice" (France), Cecilia countered that we had already gone from "Bad" to "Wurst." While Gail and Cecilia were at the house discussing how alike the men were, Russell and Jean-Charles were off at the Virgin Megastore and FNAC in Nice remarking how alike the women were. (Jean-Charles had volunteered to take Russell into town to do some book and DVD shopping, but it was Jean-Charles who ended up bringing back bags full of merchandise.) Russell also took advantage of Jean-Charles' massive CD collection to fill up his Nomad Jukebox with some of our first new music in half a year.
All things must come to an end, and on February 16th we repacked our car (we had donated some of our food to the Moureys, so our small porthole through the boxes to the back window was now slightly larger). Our goal was to leave by noon, but after a lazy lunch of leftovers, we discovered that we were still sitting and eating at 2:00 PM. When we remarked that we would have to leave as soon as everyone was finished eating, Cameron immediately helped himself to another serving of fromage blanc in an effort to stay for just a little while longer.
We are very sad to leave the Moureys, especially because it also means the end of our long, long adventure in France. We are now officially back on the road, and tomorrow we will wake up in Italy.
Having a wonderful time on the Côte d'Azur: Russell, Gail, Cecilia, Jean-Charles
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