Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Travel: a Nice day

Revitalising warmth, golden light, Italianate architecture, rich old people with tanned faces and coiffed white hair, big sunglasses, proper lunch....can you visit the South of France for just one day?  bmi are running flights to Nice for £94 return (economy) and £159 return (business). The advantages of business class, are the comfy wait in the VIP lounge and free food and drink on the plane. But seats are roomy and spacious even in economy. I took the early morning flight from Heathrow, arriving in the centre of Nice just in time for midday lunch and returned via the 8.50pm flight to London landing at 10.35pm. This gives you a decent whack of time just to soak up a little vitamin D, visit the market, eat and shop. I also had a cookery lesson at Nice's only cooking school L'Atelier Gastronomique via GoLearnTo.com (the teacher Aude speaks good English). It's the perfect cure for those last heel-dragging weeks of the British winter. 

'Nice' biscuit cutter beach photo
 I bought a 'Nice' biscuit cutter in the market. But I can't find a recipe... anybody know how to make them?
Sun kissed arches france
Sun kissed arches

The market is open on Mondays 'Cours Saleya' in nice
 The market is open on Mondays 'Cours Saleya'
Vintage schoolbooks. I love French stationery
 Vintage schoolbooks. I love French stationery.
Charming 1960s plates
 Charming 60s plates
Les couverts, french cutlery
 Les couverts
 'Fèves' in the shape of kings for the galette des rois (a typical Epiphany to Mardi Gras cake)
 'Fèves' in the shape of kings for the galette des rois (a typical Epiphany to Mardi Gras cake)
White 'fèves' which means beans.
 White 'fèves' which means beans. You can see some of them are in the shape of beans. If you find one in the slice of 'galette des rois' then you are 'king' for the day.
Giant fabric backed retro posters 
gold with the Cote D'Azure
 I associate gold with the Cote D'Azure, glinting expensively from the bronzed wrinkled skin of retirees and criminals. 
pretty enamel jug
 A pretty enamel jug
 Designer labels
Vintage 'Kelly' Hermès bags
 Vintage 'Kelly' Hermès bags. Only £2.5k each. 'On peut discuter le prix?' said the stallholder. 'Er no we can't', I said backing away. They were beautiful though, shiny soft leather like ancient doctor's bags.
Copper moulds for jellies, aluminium fruit shaped moulds for ice cream and chocolates
 Copper moulds for jellies, aluminium fruit shaped moulds for ice cream and chocolates. These were very expensive, upwards of 30 euros for the small ones. 
 Modern Interiors magazine
Enormous spaghetti poster
 Enormous spaghetti poster.
 Vintage nightgowns.
 Vintage nightgowns.
torchons or tea towels
'Pre-loved' torchons or tea towels. But these were très chèr, at 12 euros each, normally they are around 5 to 7 euros each.
 Looking at silver
lunch in france, market stall
One thing I love about French life is the seriousness with which lunch at 'midi' is taken. It's more than food, it's a sacred ritual. Even if you are running a market stall, you down tools, set up a table, get out 'les couverts', the plates and glasses, and have lunch right there. This couple had sole with poireaux (leeks) in a truffle sauce. You don't get that dahn Petticoat Lane.
 Another stall holder lunch.
Une petite salade verte, lasagne, baguette.
Baguette, salade avec des radis, un peu de chevre...suivi par? 
 Un gratin...
 Olive trees against the dusky sunset pink of the Municipal theatre.
La vannerie, a shop specialising in basketry where the lady inside is caning chairs.
 French cookbooks on a sunlit pegboard window display
 Cuisine Nicoise: many original shop fronts in the Old town.
 Cuisine Nicoise: many original shop fronts in the Old town.
Savon de Marseille, olive oil and lavender soaps
 Savon de Marseille, olive oil and lavender soaps, typical of the South of France.
 Ochre buildings and cerulean skies.
 Ochre buildings and cerulean skies.
 Menu chained up against a lace curtained restaurant window. A regional speciality is 'Socca', chickpea flour crepes.
 Menu chained up against a lace curtained restaurant window. A regional speciality is 'Socca', chickpea flour crepes.
 Terracotta washed walls, sea green painted wooden shutters and gold glass lettering in a patisserie.
 Terracotta washed walls, sea green painted wooden shutters and gold glass lettering in a patisserie.

Atelier Gastronomique chef Aude

Atelier Gastronomique, which chef Aude started six years ago. I learnt a great deal from her. She's knowledgeable about the science behind cooking too. We made a menu:

Butternut squash cappuccino soup with Parmesan wafer
Salmon filet in 'feuilles de Brick' (a North African filo style pastry available in most shops in France) with leeks in saffron sauce

Aude recommended cutting leeks and carrots at an angle, this makes them cook quicker so that even the dark green leaves of the leeks are tender.
Feuilles de Brick are thicker and sweeter than filo pastry but added texture and interest to the salmon parcels. 

to make tomato roses
 We learnt to make tomato roses. This reminded me of that game in which you peel an apple or orange all in one piece, throw it into the air and the shape it makes when it falls is the first letter of the name of your 'true love'. Wonder if it works with tomatoes too... well they are 'pommes d'amour'
Parmesan tuile
 A Parmesan tuile, lacy like a golden chewy snowflake. Aude suggests grating Parmesan into a frying pan, flattening it into a circle and cooking it until it melts. Turn off the heat, let it cool, then peel off carefully. She prefers to do this on the stovetop rather than the oven, to prevent burning.
Tomato roses
 Tomato roses
Butternut squash 'cappuccino' with nutmeg foam
Butternut squash 'cappuccino' with nutmeg foam 
Salmon wrapped in feuilles de brick
 Salmon wrapped in feuilles de brick. Oil the feuille (leaf) slightly, then you then fry them. When the feuille is golden, the fish is cooked.


I flew to Nice with bmi, British Midland International, who fly directly between London Heathrow and Nice. Flights are twice daily for Monday to Saturday flights, and a daily service on a Sunday. Economy fares are available from £94 return, and business class fares are available from £159 return including all taxes and charges Flying in business class allows the glamour to begin at Heathrow. Relax in Terminal One’s newest lounge and once on board enjoy a guaranteed aisle or window seat, a three-course meal and your choice of drinks. For more information visit www.flybmi.com

Cookery Classes:

Here is the link to the cookery class I took on Monday with details of the class and pricing (runs Mon,Wed,Thurs,Fri):

Cookery class with market visit included which runs on Tuesdays:


  1. Butternut squash cappucino looks novel! Looks lovely for a day trip but what about over night? What did you cook in your lesson?


  2. You can stay more than one day, but the hotel is not included obviously.
    We cooked the menu I mentioned:
    butternut squash cappucino
    salmon in feuilles de brick
    chocolate moelleux

  3. It certainly is. The colours and light were amazing.

  4. wNow that's what I call a day out.A girlfriend and I flew there for a weekend there...the sunshine, the light , sitting on the beach in March sipping a glass of rose at 5pm...the market....

    ooh I shall have to return.....you've set me off now....

  5. Parmesan tuile flashbacks. Used to make them in the microwave on sil pat mats.

    Well that beats Weston Super Mare for a day out!

    Why did you fly bmi though when you could have used your own personal jet - that's what you've got it for?

  6. Some fantastic photography going on here! What a nice trip! xxx

  7. Glorious photos and glorious food...making me wish for a trip to the south of France!

  8. Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.

  9. Beautiful photos, and great looking food. I always cut leeks at an angle, but never knew what the logic behind that was!


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