10 November 2015 - Mortgage France News |

10 years in France: The next visit

The second article in a series written by Tony Bayliss, the founder of Mortgagefrance.com. The series will centre on his love of France, and experiences there throughout his time in the country.

 

In 1995 there was a coupon offer in the Daily Express. It went something like “collect x number of coupons and you can fly to Nice from Liverpool Airport for £30” or something like that, if I remember rightly.

I have always wanted to return to the South of France. Carole and I had made numerous trips to France, mainly Normandy but we had visited the Alsace region also and I always wanted to take her to see the South of France, and naturally I wanted to return to see if it had changed at all, and to enjoy the sun.

I collected the requisite number of coupons and once the Express had given us the booking number I hit the phone. The line was constantly engaged and whatever I did I could not get a response. By this time I was seething with frustration and wondering if there was some sort of scam going on, and began bombarding the Express with complaints and threats that if I didn’t get my tickets I would not let the matter rest. Whether it was to keep me quiet I don’t know but I was suddenly able to purchase 2 return tickets from Liverpool to Nice.

I was unable to find Joseph and Ermine’s hotel in any guides (remember the world wide web was still in its early stages) and decided that we would drive to Cros de Cagnes and find a hotel. It was a quiet time of the year and I reckoned that it wouldn’t be too busy. A rental car was booked and we awaited our day of departure like children waiting for Father Christmas.

The day arrived and we had a late afternoon flight arriving in Nice around 5pm. The month was February so we expected it to be dusk. The excitement on that day was never to be forgotten, and we set off for the airport early, parked the car and waited in the terminal for our flight. Our anticipation grew even more once we climbed the steps onto the plane and took our seats. Soon we were up in the air and on our way to Nice.

Just under 2 hours later we were descending into Nice Airport. The approach to Nice airport is incredible, coming in along the coastline from the west, over the Cap d’Antibes. If you look to your left you see the flats at Villeneuve Loubet which is known as the “wedding cake” Cros de Cagnes and you land. As we landed, Carole was gripped with fear as she thought we were landing in the sea as the runway is off the sea. We had arrived! As walked out of the plane through the airbridge we could feel the much warmer air and even though it was dusk in February the air had that wonderful silky smell and feel to it. We waited for our luggage with unconcealed awe and anticipation. Once our luggage had been collected we passed through customs without a hitch and went to collect our car.

I could remember the way to Cros de Cagnes from all those years ago and had planned to take the coast road. The roads had changed a great deal and I had to take the road that runs slightly inland just north of the railway line. We found a hotel without too much trouble and even managed to park outside. It was nearly dark now as we checked into the hotel and the temperature was falling but as we entered the hotel we were welcomed by a lovely smile from La Patronne and her husband as they showed us into the bar/ dining room.

Our room was at the rear of the building so we didn’t enjoy a sea view, but that didn’t matter, we had a fantastic few days and visited Nice, where Carole fell in love with the amazing flower market. We walked up through the old town of Nice meandering through the narrow lanes with the very high buildings. Amongst all the tourist shops there are also some amazing artisans, Italians making pasta, ethnic clothes shops, baker, patisseries and butchers displaying an amazing selection of meats.

That trip we visited Antibes and saw the busy market and walked around the port admiring all the super yachts. Cannes was also on our list of must do’s, we spent time walking around the harbour and looking in the shops along the busy rue Menardier.

Sadly the time came for us to go home but there is no doubt that seeds had been sown on that trip which would change our lives. Initially it meant we were spending our time in The UK saving up to fly back down to the Riviera.

The next time, only a couple of months later we returned to the South of France on a 5 day jaunt and returned to the same hotel We received a wonderful welcome and our vivid memory of that stay was the delicious scallops we were served for dinner one evening. Mmmmm!

The next time we booked into the same hotel once again and were surprised to find that there were new proprietors. The new “Patronne” was an attractive, charming red head by the name of Ghislaine assisted by her husband. This time we were give a front room with a small balcony where we could sit and watch the planes landing at Nice airport and the bustle of people going about their business. This was great and we were starting to enjoy ourselves even more. Ghislaine had completely changed the menu in the restaurant and was serving very much local cuisine, which we thoroughly enjoyed “feasting” on; mussels, local fish, bavette of beef, farcies, bouillabaisse and more of the local specialities washed down with local wines. On Monday the restaurant was closed so we went to a local pizza restaurant, and had pizzas cooked in real pizza oven at the back of the dining room.

This was the life, and we continued visiting like this on a regular basis for some years. The flights were not expensive and we could just go for 5 days at a time and not be away from our work for too long.

One trip however we made a last excursion into the Nice Flower market before returning and Carole suddenly was in tears and announced that she wanted to live here. Thus the course of history was to change…

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