I like my holidays with a little bit of graft, if only because I’m the sort of dizzy bint who doesn’t really believe I deserve a holiday unless I’ve done something totally epic right before it. (And this one is even worse because it is Free! And the Bossman is going to be spending most of it At Work!) So I was quite chuffed that we had to be up before four in the morning in order to get to the airport. Well, I wasn’t at the time, but it felt quite exciting. By which I mean, a bit grim.
And there was the massive queue and the, Will we make it to the plane in time, and the Hunt For The Loos (further away from the boarding gate than the supermarket is from my flat, and eventually I had to turn back because the boarding gate was invisible in the distance and I wasn’t going to make it to the plane in time.
(On my return, the Bossman pointed out some other loos right next to the gate.)
But after that, there were bacon rolls and cheap merlot at 37,000 feet and the threats of Being On The Next Plane Back if I fell asleep (the Bossman is gonna be doing the driving, and reckoned he would be in no fit state for it if he fell asleep, so solidarity was compulsory.) And an amazing view of the blue Mediterranean shore as we came down for landing, past the mountains and a solid row of terracotta highrises that I was told part of was Cannes, and everything was very colourful indeed and completely unlike the watery grey landscape we took off from.
Apparently, the hotel is right by the airport. As in, we can walk it. Whoa! Usually I fly Ryanair; sometimes the hotel isn’t in the same country as the airport.
My first impression of the very south of France is that everyone here is very slim, very tanned, has wrinkled up in the sun as opposed to flabbing slightly in the fog (I am not going to speculate on which look is objectively ‘better’, we are all gonna get old somehow), and smokes like a chimney. I think, I might enjoy this holiday. Even though they gave us a Ford Ka, a fate I am assured is close to death (although not as close as I was after weltering in the heat in my jeans for nearly an hour). Now, to the hotel, where we can dump all this stuff and I can shower!
Nope: hotel check-in is not for hours and hours. Ick. So we piled it all into the back seats and set off for the supermarket instead. Wow. Our hotel is quite well-appointed. As well as being walkable from the airport, it is literally across the road from the supermarket, there is a mini bus-depot on the road between the two, and there is a train station somewhere up the back of it. And the beach is twenty feet down the road. Everything the pedestrian needs! Also, there is a cash machine.
I was banned from using the cash machine on the grounds that I have six kilos of unused euro-cents in my hold luggage, which I should use first; but unfortunately the bag ripped, so they will have to be retrieved later (hopefully when the Bossman is at work, so he cannot analyse exactly what caused my luggage to be twice the size of his. Which sounds like I’m carrying contraband, whoops. Look, I have like sixteen outfits, alright. I have never travelled with this many clothes ever).
Anyway, we bought the makings of a picnic and set off into the hills to see Le Souterroscope de la Grotte de Baume Obscura, which the Bossman assures me is well worth a visit. Somehow, I fear this holiday is going to mostly consist of him doing all the things he has previously done – when he is not in the office – oh lucky him. I was finding it pretty hard going, being out in the blazing sun under a sky of unnaturally lurid hues, even with the air-con, so I was quite happy to disappear into the ground until it got cooler. Summer in Scotland this year has been a non-event, so I have not even a smidge of protective colouring and spending the whole time lobster-coloured and sick as a pike is not high on my list of priorities for the week. (Hence I have three bottles of factor fifty with me, but it rubs off if you just touch things, for godsake.)
Hurtling off the edge of a bend in a bendy road at high altitude within half a day of arrival was also not high on my list of priorities for the week; but I was told I was making rather a big deal of it (damn right, I was on the side with the drop and I am scared of heights. Except in aircraft, for some reason. Well, except when in wildly-plummeting aircraft when told we’re all going to die and that it’s all my fault, but that’s another story).
Anyway, the Bossman’s driving is mainly very sedate and reassuring, which is one of the things I like about him, and we didn’t die, instead we drove through the loveliest little town, clinging to the mountainside and all yellows and pinks and other warm colours, with fountains in narrow plateaus at every bend; and then out into the countryside and a low forest of dwarf oaks, all ochre dust and little picturesque shacks. It made me quite nostalgic for that year I spent up near Toulouse, which is silly because the second half of that year was quite awful. (But the scenery was very pretty).
And the caves were lovely! (for people who like that sort of thing, which I do). Bless, they seem to have made a huge effort with them, on what doesn’t seem to be a very big budget at all – there’s no tour-guide, you just escort yourself around the caves with the aid of a big torch (for emergencies) and some audio-recordings and a number of little gargoyles hidden in the alcoves. (There is also cctv, so they can see you deface things/ get lost/ have cave-sex). There were only the two of us, which meant I used up most of my camera battery taking wobbly pictures of stalactites, but hope springs eternal that one day I will go down a big hole in the ground and come back up with a decent photo.
I was impressed that someone has gone to the trouble of writing a bunch of music specifically for this particular cave-system. Even if the title of the piece for the last cavern, ‘The Music of the Concretions’, still makes me laugh. This is just because I am incredibly childish.
(Also, due to the presence of limestone caves in the hills above us, I now know that we are in Hard Water Country, which means my hair is going to be brittle as old string and look sodding awful for the entire holiday. Ho hum.)
After that, it was still not time to check in, so we went back to the wee town, apparently called Grasse, (pronunciation still unknown) and parked up to wander around in the blistering heat (this was the point at which the bag of smash ripped and shot centimes, or whatever they are, all over the car). I’m not sure how much the Bossman likes wandering up and down steep hills in air hotter than the human body, but he was dead nice about it and pointed out lots of wee shots that I could line up to try and draw from.
Finally! We can unload everything into the hotel room! And shower! Woo!
And now, dinner!
But no – apparently dinner is not till at least eight p.m. hereabouts. So we rolled into bed. Ah sleep, you are rapidly becoming my favourite hobby ever.
And then we got showered again and went down to the shore in our gladrags to see what Nice has to offer. My first discovery was that this is not technically Nice; it is St Laurant du Var, so that is me told. My second discovery was that we are not ‘a stone’s throw from the topless beach’ as the Bossman kept telling me; we are a stone’s throw from the handicapped beach, but since the two things that seem to stand out most about me in his mind are… well, yeah, those, and also his firm belief that I’m an imbecile, I suppose I can see how he got confused.
(Seriously, a handicapped beach, though, how cool is that? They have special bits for driving wheelchairs down to the sea, for instance. I said, how come we don’t have them at home, but apparently it’s because there is no tide worth speaking of in the Med. I did not know that. The shame!)
(But I am fairly sure there was a tide of rather alarming proportions on Santorini when we were going along the foot of those cliffs and it was getting dark and the damn thing was coming in? Oh, I’m probably wrong as usual).
My third discovery was that, despite not being in Nice at all, the waterfront is actually rather lovely. It’s wall-to-wall restaurants down one side, all with discreet, shadowy figures waiting to enquire if madame would like a table (as opposed to jumping out in your face, say) and behind the ranks of al fresco tables, they’re all full of mirrors or massive cushions or soft candlelight or bellydancers, even. With the mountains peeking up behind them and stormclouds of rather epic proportions boiling up behind them, corks. But on the other side is the beach (pebbly) and the soft, lavender colours of sunset. And all the planes coming in to land.
We stopped at precisely none of the restaurants, and kept going to the harbour bit, where the immaculate tiles of the walkway gave way to raggedy bits of fixed concrete and drifts sand, which gave me hope that we could get dinner without going bankrupt. Right at the end was a tex-mex place that the Bossman apparently frequents regularly – certainly, they remembered him, which I was quite impressed by.
At this point I discovered he wasn’t kidding about me having to do all the French. I have roughly enough French to get a) a beer, b) to the loo, and c) explain that that’s all there is.
However! We had massive portions of tex-mex and a lightning storm boiled up from the stormclouds for our entertainment; fortunately, not right overhead, because we were dining al fresco. But it stayed dry, and we had beers and cocktails, including pina coladas, which I have actually never had before, go figure! And on the walk back, the wind swept up and the boats in the harbour bobbed wildly and made tinkling noises and the lights all along the walkway went out and I was suddenly reminded of that bit in Lost Boys. You know, just before people get attacked and killed by the vampires. Ah balls.
But it was just the rain coming on. Oh my god, we had pina coladas and then got caught in the rain, this is the happiest day of my life!
Mind you, for only being a hundred feet from the hotel, when we got in, we sure looked like someone had dumped the sea on us.