Archive for the ‘Cities’ Category

Winter Weekend in Barcelona   8 comments

Well it was supposed to be a winter weekend in Madrid until EasyJet decided to cancel our flights. Hasty replanning saw us head back to Barcelona. A fantastic city so hardly a chore.

A photo heavy single post to cover 3 days (or I’ll never catch up the blog). We did much of the same stuff as before so you can read through my posts from 2017 if you want some more details.

An early morning flight from Bristol on a very chilly day

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Superb views of a snow covered Pyrenees.

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And over Barcelona itself.

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We found a really rather nice hotel, the H10 Metropolitan just off Placa Catalunya. Right in the heart of the city, near some of the week known Gaudi buildings and an area packed with Tapas bars – more later.

View from our balcony.

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After checking in (and a welcome glass of Cava) we hit the Bouqueria Market for lunch. An amazing Fish Platter, that we tried very hard to finish and just failed.

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An afternoon walk along the seafront. By the time we got there it had clouded over and was really rather chilly. Only a couple of weeks later in the year than last time but several degrees cooler

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A few of the city’s well known buildings. La Pedrera (night and day shots)

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Casa Batllo – night and day.

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Fundació Antoni Tapies.

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Casa Thomas.

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Casa de les Punxes (my favourite from last time)

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And of course the stunning and still unfinished Sagrada Familia.

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When we woke on the second morning it was grey and the pavements were wet with rain. By the time we reached the Sagrada the skies had cleared to a wonderful blue and there was some warmth in the air.

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A walk in the Parc de la Ciutadella and its stunning statue before lunch.

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You are never more than a few steps away from a Tapas Bar in Barcelona and this one, Bastaix was small, friendly and superb. Tapas is great for any meal lots of plates for feast, a small number for a light lunch. This is Black Pudding and Goats Cheese drizzled with honey.

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Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar.

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To close out our second day we headed to another of my favourite spots from last time, the Carmel Bunkers.

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We caught the bus that takes you to the top but after two stops we had to get off due to a closed road. We had to walk all the way up but it was a fine walk that took in some other great viewpoints.

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Everyone knows I love views down over cities and this is one of the very best.

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We were lucky the skies had cleared to give such a stunning evening. As it was a weekend the place was packed with locals enjoying a good natured sunset party.

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Some homes sit on top of the hill – what a fabulous place to live.

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The crowds waiting for sunset – it was turning chilly and we weren’t really dressed for winter so we headed down. More tapas to eat and all that.

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Even though just a plain block of flats this building was catching both the sun and my eye.

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Our last day before a late flight home and time for another long walk. We really covered some miles over the three days.

The twin Venetian style towers at Place Espanya.

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The view from the Palau Nacional.

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A wander around the Olympic Park.

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We found a way up to the ridge above the coast with some unusual views across the docks and the harbour before we walked back to Montjuc castle.

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The ludicrously expensive gondola with views across the city.

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The lovely fountains and water features in the Jardins del Mirador and views across the harbour and Barceloneta

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We hopped on a bus down to the seafront for a snack and a drink on the beach.

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The waves were huge and the water busy with surfers and SUPs. I was envious of the conditions and ached to get in the water for a play.

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We settled for a beachfront seat and beer.

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Another long walk along the beach and water-front.

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And back through the town past the Cathedral

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And one final Tapas feast before we headed to the airport for our flight home.

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Wonderful sunny break in a vibrant city full of interesting stuff and great food. No better way to escape from a dreary British November.

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Weekend in London   9 comments

Brief post going back to early August. I’d arranged a trip tp Wembley to watch the Community Shield match between Man City and Liverpool. Rather than travel down for the day I treated the family to a weekend away (it was TJF’s birthday).

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No major new adventures but we took in some classics on the Saturday starting with a walk along the South Bank from Westminster to London Bridge.

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Lunch in Borough Market was followed by a trip to Greenwich via The Shard.

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Docklands Light Railway and the Greenwich foot tunnel under the Thames.

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I’ve vowed on recent city visits to spend a little more time sitting down enjoying drink rather than covering the distance. We therefore spent a very happy hour or so and a couple of pints at the Trafalgar Inn on the river bank.

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Needing to walk off the excesses before a meal we took a walk through Hyde Park along the Serpentine.

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And then along to Chinatown via Trafalgar Square.

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A slap up Chinese meal was enjoyed before we waved goodbye to TJS (he was staying with a friend) and to a walk back and forth across across the Hungerford Footbridge before heading back to our Airbnb in Hammersmith.

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A brief wander around the expanding zone of skyscrapers in the city before meeting UF and THO for a curry in Brick Lane before the footy, the next day.

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The Funsters were off to the Theatre to see a show while we went off to enjoy the match. A view along Wembley Way.

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And a packed Wembley Stadium for the match – City won on penalties which finished off a great weekend.

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Paris Stopover   23 comments

On our way home from Nice we had to change trains in Paris so decided to stop over for a couple of days. Nice journey along the coast in First Class on the TGV!

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Our first afternoon and evening was gloomy with the threat of heavy storms. We managed to avoid getting wet and enjoyed a nice walk down to the river.

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A chance to watch the Eiffel Tower “sparkle” as it does every hour.

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The stormy weather was the precursor to a seriously hot spell, much hotter than the Med where we’d just come from. Temperatures were predicted to reach 40C and above while we were travelling home. We vowed to head home if temps got too much and were out early to enjoy while we could.

We headed first to Montmartre for a walk around the interesting streets and found there are windmills up there. Memories of Holland. This one is Le Moulin de la Gallette (windmill of the savoury pancake if I’m not mistaken)

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This intriguing creation is Le Passe-Muraille – a man seemingly stuck in a wall. Odd but worth a look.

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The streets behind the tourist scrum at Sacre Coeur are wonderful and well worth seeking out if you are sick of selfie obsessed tourists.

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Sacré-Cœur itself is truly stunning even with the crowds and on a blue sky day is an arresting sight. As before the queue to gain entrance was more trouble than its worth so we admired from outside.

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Views over the city from here are very fine indeed.

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Needing lunch and keen to visit somewhere new we headed down to the the Canal de St Martin.

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It was lovely down there with an expansive waterfront and lots of happy people enjoying a sunny Sunday afternoon.

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After a lunch in one of the restaurants we strolled along the waters edge.

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I was especially taken with this remote controlled speedboat which was amazingly fast and very cool – I wanted one immediately!

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There were areas to take boats out and even a spot reserved for swimming although the water looked of rather dubious quality.

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We were planning a walk around the Parc de la Villette but it was hot by now so we returned to the apartment for a break.

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I took a few photos of our neighbourhood from the street and the apartment balcony.

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One of our favourite spots from our last visit was St Germain with its numerous restaurants. We headed back for a meal out via one of my favourite spots from last time, the Eglise Saint Suplice, stunning as always in the late afternoon sunshine.

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A post meal walk along the Seine to look at how Notre Dame is recovering from the fire.

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Luckily its two signature towers were not damaged.

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A glorious sunset on wonderful warm evening, one the advantages of hot daytime weather

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And back past the odd looking Pompidou centre on the way home.

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Following day was a scorcher. We took a trip to look at the Eiffel Tower from the Jardins du Trocadero and its massive water jets.

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They are rather impressive. The days after when the temperatures soared the restrictions on “no swimming” were relaxed allowing people to cool off.

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We took a picnic lunch out in the Jardins du Luxembourg. They are absolutely stunning but by now the heat really was soaring and we had the briefest look around before we decided enough was enough.

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Ironic that we’d looked forward to our trip to Paris to escape some of the heat of the Cote D’Azure only to find it hotter here!

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After another splendid meal in St Germain we took a last walk back to the apartment via the Institut de France.

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The setting sun over the water and the bridges was sublime

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On the footbridge of the Post des Arts was one final treasured moment. This brass group – Mouettes et Carbons – were playing and they were superb. They were covering tracks I’d never heard played with a brass vibe before. New life given to tracks such as “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Under Pressure”

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A couple of clips to show how good these guys were. Just watching and listening to them (they were great fun as well as great musicians) in the evening sun overlooking the Seine was a treasured memory.

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A fitting finish to a superb trip!

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And a final sunset picture as the sun set on our trip. Just a matter of 3 months of blog posts to catch up on now!

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Nice By Evening Light   4 comments

One of the delights of a city in hot weather is that the evenings are relatively cool and ideal for strolling and soaking up the atmosphere and in the case of Nice, the coastal views. Taking a walk along the seafront or through the old town was a regular feature and one we all enjoyed.

On our second night it was the Bastille Day celebrations and rather impressive firework display over the bay.

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We always walked up to the headland between the Promenade des Anglais and the Port where the sweeping views across the bay under the setting sun was breathtaking.

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Follow that with a walk through the old town, people watching, reading restaurant menus and eating ice cream and waffles.

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The buildings of the old town always looked especially fine in the evening.

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There was always a happy crowd down on the pebbles every evening.

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A couple of the very grand and very expensive seafront hotels.

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By way of a slight diversion from the theme. We hired a car for a couple of days to explore inland a little. The first day was rather frustrating in that it was cloudy and wet and a closed road within a mile or two of our chosen destination meant we spent several hours just driving around.

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The scenery was superb and the rain stopped long enough for us to have a picnic but we should have gone back to the coast and driven along the corniches.

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However I was determined to fulfil my desire for a mountain swim in one of the narrow slot canyons or Clues as they are known locally.

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This one is the Clue de Aiglun and its spectacular and it coincided with a dry spell in the weather.

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The walk down was much further and much steeper than the guidebook had indicated so it was a solo swim in the end.

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A truly wild swim and a little daunting as the water was high after the rain and the flow pretty strong so I was nervous about some of the pools. A great swim anyway.

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We then tried the Clue de Riolan where the water was much calmer and the swim much better.

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The gorge was extremely narrow and the water deep and calm. It started raining again so again I was on my own but I enjoyed myself if a little guilty for forcing the rest of the family top spend most of the day in the car to indulge my whims.

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Reason for this little diversion in the post is that when we returned to Nice the skies were beginning to clear and the evening strolls were the most memorable of all.

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I took a brief stroll to pick up some food for tea and Place Massena and the Promenade du Paillon were in fine form.

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Reflections in the fountains area

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A Nice space age tram passing under our apartment balcony.

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Clearing skies from the apartment.

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The setting sun started the light show while we finished our evening meal.

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With clouds clearing, the haze washed from the air and a low setting sun the light was just amazing as we took our evening constitutional.

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The seafront was packed with people taking advantage of the drier weather after a wet day indoors for most I’m guessing.

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I got a bit carried away with the photos as you can tell.

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With views and light as good as this, well you just have to.

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From a disappointing and frustrating day came a grand finish. The clearing skies gave hope for a memorable outing I had planned for the next day.

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Nice – Colline du Chateau (Castle Hill)   10 comments

One of my favourite places in Nice was the Colline du Chateau, Castle Hill that overlooks the old town and the majestic sweep of the Promenade des Anglais. We walked up here several times over the course of the week and the views were always just reward for the hot and steep climb.

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The first set of photos is from our first mid morning effort. It was hot and hard work but I was instantly charmed. Its a series of walkways, and steps with views across the rooftops of the Vielle Ville, the seafront and the mountains.

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Its also a great place to watch the airline traffic to the airport just down the coast.

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Evening was a much better time to take in the views. Me and TBF took a walk along the promenade to the headland and walked up the side that overlooks the port.

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Different hazy views across the bay and old town.

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The top is a lovely open parkland with lots of vantage points and childrens play areas.

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One if its main attractions is a fountain/waterfall on the west side. Its a wonderful place as it crashes down and generates a fine cooling spray.

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Its artificial but impressive nonetheless.

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As I’m the only member of the family capable of an early morning start I took a solo walk up one morning on my way to pick up the breakfast bread.

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Just me, a few hardy walkers and a host of joggers enjoying the last of the cool air before the days heat kicked in again.

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The rooftops of the old town look especially dazzling at this time of day.

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The sea always looked deep blue and inviting from up here.

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And a walk past the waterfall was mandatory.

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One more evening walk although I think this was also a solo effort.

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The ferry port where you depart for Corsica.

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The setting sun from up high. I should have found time to watch the sunset from up here but never quite got around to it.

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A pretty decent combination of waterfall, park, coast and mountains.

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Enjoying the Delights of Nice (By Day)   9 comments

Onwards on our journey through Europe and a very pleasant train ride through the Italian countryside and coast into France and the Cote D’Azure at Nice. Our apartment was superb, large spacious, air-conditioned and with a balcony overlooking Place Massena.

Early evening view.

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Nightime view.

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And morning view.

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We had breakfast out there every morning and the odd meal. It was a great place to take in the atmosphere even if it was a bit hot most of the time.

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The only downside was the Nice Jazz Festival across the square. When I say Jazz, as with most music festivals the theme is rarely supported by the music. In this case I heard no Jazz played and the the theme would be better described as pop and hip hop (I don’t recall the Black Eyed Peas ever doing Jazz). At the risk of turning into my dad the music was way too loud even though we were a couple of hundred yards from the arena.

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As soon as we arrived we were straight down to the beach for a swim. Another ideal feature of our base was that its only a 5 minuet walk to the beach.

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The beach at Nice used to be almost exclusively private bars with little public access but this has changed in recent years. There are now extensive stretches of public beaches which despite the crowds are clean and well provided.

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It surprises many to realise the beach here is pebbles and not sand. I prefer this as pebbles don’t get stuck in a variety of cracks and crevices and the water tends to be clearer. It does make for an awkward entry into the water though especially with a steep shelving shore and big waves.

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It was great to be able to pop down for an evening swim when some of the crowds had gone and the temperatures were a little more bearable.

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We went down here for a swim most evenings, one of the special memories of the trip.

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Behind the apartment was the old town, the Vieux Ville and a marvellous place it is. A maze of narrow streets packed with shops and restaurants and a cool retreat from the power of the sun.

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This is the Place Rossetti. We spent many happy evenings here, eating in restaurants and tucking into crepes and ice creams.

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It was also the way through to the Castle Hill above the town (more on that in a later post) and a walk through the streets was always a pleasure.

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The inside of the Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate.

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The Cours Salaya Market.

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I grew especially fond of the Place Massena and the Promenade du Paillon. My research told me that it used to be an ugly eyesore, a heady mix of dilapidated buildings, a car park and bus station.

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Enlightened planners have turned the area into a pedestrianised square (other than Nice’s sleek and modern trams) and park full of fountains, children play areas and statues.

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Its utterly wonderful and a great example of how to create an green oasis in a urban sprawl. I walked through it many times and loved every step.

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The fountains were especially fine.

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Its completely free and there was always a vast number of small children playing from morning till night-fall. We could always hear the screams of delight from our balcony which is in the photo below, left centre, 3rd floor.

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We walked along the Promenade des Anglais many times and the long sweeping curve of seafront is quintessential Nice.

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Nice also has its harbour at Port Lympia.

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We took a stroll around looking the lavish and luxurious yachts moored. A little research told us the bigger one’s cost just shy of 100m Euros!

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Some less luxurious and more traditional sea faring craft.

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A view across the harbour from the headland.

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A couple more posts to come from Nice as well as our travels in the local area to come.

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Milan Day 2   7 comments

The sun had gone in leaving us with a hot and humid day. Time to explore the west of the city and its churches. This is the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio.

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A huge building with what I was recognising as the northern Italian style of red brick and white fresco exteriors. I rather like the look.

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This is the Santa Maria delle Grazie, home to Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper (the painting not a leftover sandwich and packet of Jaffa Cakes)

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Even bigger and more impressive and seemingly very unspoilt and quiet, off the tourist tracks.

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We wandered the pleasant and wealthy looking streets back to the Castello Sforzesco.

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We were heading back to the Parco Sempione with a idea to climb this, the Torre Branca. Sadly it doesn’t open in the morning. 😦

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We wandered about the park as its rather nice, up to the Arco Della Pace, and then decided we were hungry and needed to eat.

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Onwards to the modern Piazza Gae Aulenti (more on that in a minute) and then down to a luxury food store called Eataly which had a fine cafe for lunch.

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Milan has a few old trams like Lisbon.

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Back to the Piazza. I’m a big fan of tall buildings and glass and steel skyscrapers so I liked it here. This tower block seemed be sprouting a forest. It was really odd.

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The Unicredit Tower is the centrepiece and a striking sight. I rather liked it, as you’d expect.

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We’d walked a long way so everyone wanted some R&R. I on the other hand wanted to explore some more so I was soon out beating the streets again.

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I wanted to see one of Milan’s more unusual sights, the Torre Velasca.

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It divides opinion in the city, some think its a unique and arresting example of contemporary modernist architecture, others just think it’s plain ugly. It appeared derelict and pretty much ready to fall down. Worth a walk though.

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I got thoroughly lost on the way back although I did find a few more interesting buildings while I searched for a way back.

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Another wonderful meal out to end our stay and a last lingering look at the courtyard of our apartment block.

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And the grandiose Milan Central station before we hit the tracks to the South of France.

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