We thought you might like to see a picture of our living room at Christmas, if nothing else to remind you that it does get cold enough down here to make a fire worthwhile. Indeed, we’re probably going to have to buy some more wood at the end of January – we’ve had a lot of nights below freezing.
Shortly after Christmas we decided to visit Nice by train. It’s a spectacular route round the coast, but we do wish that French railways would get around to washing the train windows so you could actually see the view.
Nice is right in the corner of France and has more than once been part of Italy. In many ways it isn’t really a French city, with a lot of Italianate architecture, such as the main square. There is also, oddly enough, a very strong Russian influence. In fact, there is a weekly train service from Nice to Moscow – it sounds improbable but we’ve had it confirmed by two Russians in our French class.
One of the most spectacular evidence of the Russians in Nice is the cathedral, which apparently is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral outside Russia. It’s rather weird wandering around it because you definitely don’t feel you’re in France. In fact inside we didn’t even feel we were in a church. Strictly speaking, you’re not supposed to take photos, but somehow Chris accidentally pressed his shutter button. It was built in memory of a Russian crown prince who died in Nice.
There is a rather sad plaque outside commemorating the visit by Tsar Nicholas II and his wife in 1912 for the dedication of the church. If he’d only known what history was about to serve up in 1917, he might have decided to linger on the Mediterranean coast.
We wandered on down to the sea, and then walked round the headland towards the port and so did a circuit back to the railway station. One reason why there have been so many foreigners in Nice is that it has a very much warmer climate than anywhere else in France. Often in winter it’s 10 or 12°C more than Paris, and 4 or 5°C more than Taradeau. It certainly proved to be so when we were there and there were genuinely people in bikinis on the beach and one or two brave souls swimming. We were not tempted.
If Christmas is less of a festivity in France than the UK, New Year’s Eve (Le Reveillon) is certainly celebrated with a great deal of enthusiasm. In the best French tradition it is dominated more by eating than drinking, and in the run up to it, the supermarkets are overflowing with all manner of delicacies. Our local actually had a special extension full of nothing but oysters.
There were also shelves of snails and foie gras. Incidentally, although we are more gastronomically adventurous here than we normally would be, we pass on foie gras on the grounds of animal cruelty and actually we don’t care for diseased liver at the best of times. One has to have limits….