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.
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
The market is open on Mondays 'Cours Saleya'
Vintage schoolbooks. I love French stationery.
Charming 60s plates
'Fèves' in the shape of kings for the galette des rois (a typical Epiphany to Mardi Gras cake)
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
I associate gold with the Cote D'Azure, glinting expensively from the bronzed wrinkled skin of retirees and criminals.
A pretty enamel jug
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. These were very expensive, upwards of 30 euros for the small ones.
Modern Interiors magazine
Enormous spaghetti poster.
'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
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?
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.
Savon de Marseille, olive oil and lavender soaps, typical of the South of France.
Ochre buildings and cerulean skies.
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.
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.
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'.
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.
Butternut squash 'cappuccino' with nutmeg foam
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
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: