Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.
Friday, June 1, 2018
Cannes to Paris Avalon Cruise September 2017 - Prologue and Day One
This was the first part of a two month odyssey covering three weeks in Wales, and near on three weeks in France on a Cruise from Cannes to Paris with a few days in the city. This was immediately followed by a two week driving tour of Sicily with the Lenglui and daughter and family and friends entourage which has yet to be written up. All the notes and photos are there, just needs a rewrite and the fire in the brain to do it.
Anyhow, much of the posts are impressions of the various towns and places and not a great deal about food and wine. The restaurants "done" were Table 22 at Mantel (Day Two), Carlton International Restaurant (Day Three), the Avalon World Dinner (Day Seven), Le Nord by Paul Bocuse in Lyon (Day Nine) and the rest of the food and wine being on the ship (outside of some delightful bottles bought in Arles). Post cruise and Sicily will have more on the food and wine.
The short version is that it was a most pleasant cruise with some brilliant weather and experiences. Hugely relaxing and well put together - highly recommend Avalon cruises and cruise director Jean Loup in particular. Not visually stunning in terms of the passing scenery, but the food tastings and care shown on the cruise were of standard. My only other river cruise was Uniworld on the Douro on the Princess Isabel; Avalon's Affinity was a way superior ship in terms of space and facilities.
Saturday 16th September 2017 - Day One
Don't seem to be any photos of this day for some reason. I do recall taking some on the bus from Nice to Cannes, but I also recall they were pretty bad so perhaps they got trashed. See if they turn up.
Little bit of backstory - prior to all of what follows, I had been in Cardiff for about 17 days staying with my Sis. My reason for returning home was to renew a passport and spend time with her and rousting about some old haunts. Which was huge fun for me, but probably quite boring for everyone else - click here to read if you think you might like me mostly reminiscing about my first thirtyish years growing up in the Welsh Capital City.
I left the homestead in Grangetown when the cab arrived at 8.15am on the dot and had a doorstep farewell to my Sister. It was a bit early to go to the Sophia Gardens and her car would in no way be able to take my Orange Monster case. Fair enough. The Cabbie was of middle eastern descent and had been living in Penarth for over thirty years. He talked about shite wages and no motivation in the jobs today and the lack of pubs in Grangetown due to it having become mostly Muslim and that pensions have not kept up with inflation so the elderly buy booze from supermarkets rather than find a pub. And the nighttimes around the city centre are now apparently a bit iffy. My first thought was "what pubs in Grangetown?" they having shrunk from near on forty to about two - the Grange and the Cornwall. Sad reflection - pubs strangled by the Islamic faithful not being able to enjoy a pint.
The weather forecast said there was a 10% chance of rain. Should have taken that bet because a light persistent shower greeted my arrival at the Sophia Gardens bus stand. I parked under the bus shelter and sat on my Charity Shop walk seat cane until the driver called us aboard at 9am.
Was a ninety minute drive to Bristol airport, and the weather perked up as we crossed the second bridge. The first Severn was just about visible in the misty rain. Goodbye Wales - hope to see you again. The bus wound its way through some tidy towns before pulling in to disgorge people near the departure hall. My first time at Bristol Airport. It all looked quite modern and friendly - lots of glass to let in the natural light. Couple of shops to while away some time - think there was a Marks and Sparks Food Store there packed with sandwiches and fruit. I parked myself in a seat to pass the time to check in and read about Arles and Avignon in the guide book. Bag checkin time was noon for two pm flight. I do get anal about leaving plenty of time between connections - very fearful of missing them. I like at least an hour, and this time I had definitely got that. It also gave me the chance to check directions and routes to the hotel in Cannes. Here, I had taken photos on my handphone of Google Map directions to the hotels in Cannes, Paris and Sicily as backstops in case we got totally lost on the road - as it was, it would only be for Cannes that they would get used. Still, better be prepared, eh? I thought it was a useful backstop in case there was a need for a roadmap.
Noon came around and I sauntered to the check in via the bathroom and filled up the bottle with drinking water. The scale said I was 300g over the 20kg limit but nothing was said by the check in lady so through it went. Spent the next two days wondering whether Easyjet would dock my credit card. I don't think it did. There was still some time before the need to get to the gate so I parked up at a coffee bar eating a bag of crisps and some sandwiches made by my Sis and finishing off the remains of the water in what would soon be a discarded leaking bottle - it having embarrassingly discharged much of its contents in the back of the aforesaid taxi.
Got through security quite painlessly thanks to great instruction from the gate staff. Found a seat and parked up waiting for the gate number to be announced. Watching people, all seemed easy. Not many Muslims at the airport, even in the staff. Hmmmm... Unspoken bias perhaps? Compared to somewhere like Heathrow, this airport was like a seaside village, totally untouched by the finger of migrated people. It was good to hear some of the old west country "Brizzle" accent - memory of a different time.
The screens kept saying that the plane was continually getting delayed - result was the 13.55 flight finally took off about 16.00. Brilliant. Spent the time in the waiting area reading newspapers and drinking water.
The flight finally got called, we all boarded the plane, and it finally took off. No reason given why late. Dozed a bit on the plane, read a bit before suddenly we were landing. It was about 6pm French time. Luggage was second off the carousel. Opted to go for the E22 bus to Cannes cos the original plan to walk to the apparently nearby Railway station looked like it would be sweaty and rough on the expensive to replace luggage wheels. The research on transit to Cannes from Nice Airport paid off. The tickets for all buses get purchased from a tiny ticket office out of the airport exit, and you need to scour the different stops to check which bus you need. Got the ticket, found the stop, bus was there in ten minutes and on time (about 7pm). Looked like I was the only one going to Cannes from the Airport. So far so good. Luggage got stowed and we were quickly on the road. It was all familiar from four years previous, the signs, the turn offs, the tolls. And the light. I had forgotten the perfect light of the riviera. Blues and greens and dusty Browns all meld together in a seamless Riviera vista. Felt like a homecoming - it was good to be back on the Riviera.
I had already internet booked a hotel near the Railway Station so as to easily wheel the bag there off the train. I would stay at the Atlantis Hotel on rue 24 Aout for two nights before wheeling the bag to the Carlton International to join Lenglui off the BA plane who would get bus transferred there from Nice Airport. Got it at 55 Euro a night which felt pretty okay. Of course, all this was now a bit fluid since it involved the bus stopping at or near La Gare. I asked the driver in poor French if the bus stopped near the railway station. His reply was fast and in an accent that was quite large, but I caught the word "terminee" and rejoiced. My hotel was close to where the bus would stop. Indeed it would turn out to be a one minute stroll along the Place de la Gare to the rue 24 Aout. I overshot it first time, but a check on my Google Map showed the correct street and the hotel sign was large on the wall.
The bus stopped at the Railway Station (about 7.45pm), but it all looked different from my previous visit in September 2013. Lenglui and I had taken a train to Cannes from further up the coast and I remembered less marble and more spanky coffee shops. I also remembered less Arabian style kebab houses that seemed to be situated every second store on the side facing the station. You were spoiled for choice - if you like kebabs.
The Hotel Atlantis has a great location for anyone arriving by train or bus, being on one of the streets off the main Place de la Gare road that runs past the Station. A pleasant homely and somewhat seafaring reception gives way to a warren of rooms on the upper level - I was way back somewhere and didn't quite recognise the street that the window overlooked. Basic bed, desk, space to hang clothes, TV on the wall, narrow bathroom. There was a minibar which kept the water and other bits cool (I rarely buy from minibars - better to hunt down the local minimarket). I was alone, and two in here would have been a squeeze luggage wise; as it was I was able to park the orange monster on one side of the bed and sleep in the other. It's not a startling hotel, but at fifty euro for a clean bed and shower in the location it was then I would definitely go back. Got a bit noisy about two a.m. on the street though. Bloody French.
4 Rue Du 24 Aout
+33 4 93 39 18 72
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
The check in at the Atlantis Hotel was a bit long due to French manners and the traditional no respect for the time or consideration of others. But it was all friendly and no rush on my part. All was seamless, everything having been prepaid. Got the wifi password and a photocopy of facilities, took the elevator up the one floor, dumped the bags in the non descript but cosy room and went off on a hunt for some food and water. Nothing looked appetising along the streets - either Bistro and expensive or Arabian and kebabs. Ended up at a Monoprix store that was just closing (about 8.30pm) and bought two Apple jam croissants and a salad sandwich with a bottle of Evian and back to the room to load up the wifi, turn on the TV and clamber into bed. I had made it back to Cannes in one piece.