Saturday, 16 January 2016

In Nice...

If I was the Camp Tramp I think I'd take advantage of the UK's membership of the European Union and move to Nice, certainly for the summer months, but only if I could still rely upon my British benefits. Yesterday I took a walk along the Promenade des Anglais. It was a cool and crisp day and the palm trees swayed gently in the breeze. The sea was blue, but I'm guessing it was very cold.

My thoughts exactly...
As the day progressed so did the weather. It was certainly much warmer than it was in the UK, but that was only to be expected considering how much further south I found myself. That said, the South of France gets a little chilly during the winter months. On Thursday night, for example, it was rainy and blustery and wet and a colleague and I took shelter in, of all places, a McDonald's. I rarely eat in McDonald's, but having only had a small chicken and bacon roll and a Mocha Iced Bun for lunch on the plane, I was in need of sustenance. A Chicken McTasty sort of did the trick, but I regretted it the moment it arrived.

Yesterday morning I walked with the same colleague to the eastern end of the bay where old people braved the wintry seas to take a dip. Apparently it does you good and to be fair to one old geezer, who we saw towelling himself dry after a bracing swim, he looked in pretty good shape. The sea was in good form too. Despite the fact that it was January, it was still blue – not the tea-with-milk-colour that characterises Britain's south coastal waters.

Up among the rocks we spotted some kind of 'camp'. Nothing major (nothing like the Calais 'jungle' – just a sleeping bag and a few blankets) and that was when I thought of the Camp Tramp. Why sit on a freezing cold Brighton beach drinking Stellas when you can do the same thing on a slightly warmer beach in Nice? Perhaps when I next see him, I'll suggest it, although I don't think the Camp Tramp is sleeping rough. I don't even think he's a tramp, just a wayward individual with a drink problem and some mental health issues. Perhaps I ought to give him a wide berth.

Looking west from the eastern end of Promenade des Anglais
While away I heard that Alan Rickman had passed away. He died aged 69 of cancer. Rickman played Severin Snape in the Harry Potter movies and he was the third well-known person from the world of entertainment (I wouldn't describe any of them as 'celebrities') to die over the last fortnight, the other two being David Bowie, also 69, and Lemmy Kilmister, who had just turned 70. All three died of cancer.

Watching those old people braving the cold seas and trying, perhaps, to hold back the years – why else would they do it, certainly not for their own entertainment – I found myself wondering whether there's any point in such behaviour. When the Grim Reaper calls, he calls, and there's nothing anybody can do about it. And then I had a frightening thought: what if you could see the Grim Reaper, perhaps walking on the beach in your direction, possibly even coming for you. Imagine the horror if you dived into a café in an attempt at losing him, only to look up moments later and see him looking straight at you through the window.

View of Nice from the Meridien Hotel's terrace....
I had a day to kill in Nice and I spent most of it wandering the streets, enjoying the view (and a cappuccino) on the roof terrace of the Meridien hotel and then lunch in Le West-End hotel, where I had spent the night. A light linguini with asparagus and a glass of Bordeaux and then another walk along the sea front that was interrupted when I passed the Hard Rock Café and found a group of work colleagues enjoying the winter sunshine and some nachos. After a glass of red wine we headed towards the main shopping area and then, after a cappuccino, we walked back to the beach where some more colleagues, wrapped up warm against the cool weather, looked out to sea and sipped pints of beer served up at a beach bar.

Room 626, Le West-End Hotel, Nice...
It was soon time for me to head to the airport and a flight to Heathrow. I took the 98 bus for six Euros rather than spend 40 Euros on a taxi and soon I was at Terminal One awaiting the 2030hrs British Airways flight home. En route I enjoyed another chicken and bacon roll and another Mocha Iced Bun. The latter was wonderful and I was tempted to ask for another one, but it would have proved slightly awkward. The French woman sitting in the aisle seat next to me had ordered a salad and a and a roll and bun contained in a box, but while she had eaten the salad, the roll and bun remained untouched. I feared that by asking for one more – and possibly being told that there were no more left – that she would feel obliged to offer me her's. I would, of course, refuse, but I didn't want the awkwardness so I kept my mouth shut. Another roll and bun would have made the two mini bottles of red wine I had ordered just that little bit more enjoyable.

View from room 626, Le West-End Hotel, Nice...
Once on the ground, pleasantries were exchanged between myself and those of my colleagues who had opted for the BA flight to Heathrow – the rest returned to Gatwick. I took the tube to South Kensington. On the train were two people who made me smile. First a rather rotund, bald-headed gentleman with an iPad who might have stepped out of a Dickens novel. In a jovial manner he engaged in conversation with a foreigner, somebody, no doubt, who had just arrived in the UK. I couldn't hear the conversation over the clatter of the train as it raced through the dark tunnels, but they laughed and joked like old friends, catching the attention of other, equally intrigued passengers, and that made me smile.

Nice-looking crepes, but I resisted the temptation...
Next up was a younger man with a beard who jumped on board at Baron's Court with a small bottle of vodka in one hand and a similarly-sized plastic bottle of Coke in the other. I watched as he topped up the three quarters full bottle of Coke with vodka. "Don't judge me," he said, and we both laughed.

It was so cold when I changed trains at South Kensington that I opened up my suitcase, took out a woolly jumper and put it on. I was on a late train bound for East Grinstead but I alighted at Sanderstead and then walked home along the alleys, dragging my suitcase on wheels behind me; it made such a noise I must have disturbed the neighbours who, at around 1130hrs, must would have been settling down the for night.

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