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12 May 2014

It’s been a travelling day today, on our way to Cannes. Along the way we pass the mountain that Cezanne painted many times.

We pass by our hotel in Cannes and drive into Cannes itself so that Ashley can show us the way for a walk in this evening. Nothing too hard about it. Keep the Mediterranean Sea on your right going in, and on your left coming home.

Avangari Resort looks promising: a large gold building one road back from the beach. A free night tonight, and I can’t wait to get off the bus and away from the larger group.

I’m allocated a room on the 5th floor and am handed a package – my long lost phone has arrived! The hotel lobby is pleasant and, as usual, the elevators are tiny. It’s a battle to fit 5 or 6 people with hand luggage in. Whenever I hop into one with a group of people I can’t help thinking how crook it would be if they broke down, with us all breathing down each others’ necks.

When I get off on the 5th floor, there is colourful carpet, a dresser painted gaily and dusk pink velvety wallpaper. My room is right at the end of the hall. When I walk in, I’m delighted. A floor to ceiling window looks out onto my veranda. Half of the window slides open and from my veranda I’m overlooking a large hotel pool, a railway line and then the Mediterranean Sea. The room itself has shelves just inside the door, a bathroom (with heated towel rails) to the left, and what looks like a cupboard door opens to a separate toilet. The expansive bed has white covers and pillows and a pretty red overlay across the foot. Gorgeous! I drop my gear, use the loo, rip open the package and verify that my phone, credit cards and licence are intact then rush back down to the lobby.

Ashley had offered to walk into town to lead the way if people wanted to follow him, but I’m really over playing follow the leader and instead team up with Steve to walk in on our own.

We set off down the road towards the beach, pass under a railway bridge and cross the road, (where I’m narrowly missed by a motor bike that toots at me) to the promenade that runs along a sandy beach. It’s a lovely warm evening. There are tiny waves lapping on the sand. I’m busting to feel the water, but reluctant to remove my joggers. I hurry down and lean over to feel the water – it’s cool but not impossibly – and soak my shoes at the same time.

As we climb the steps and begin to walk along the promenade, a man strolls towards us, rubbing his nipples with his fingertips.

“Did you see that?” Steve asks, after he passes.

“You mean the guy twiddling his nipples? Yeah, I wonder what that was all about?”

As we approach the town, there are restaurants lining the road. We come to a large cinema, with people queueing to go in. We decide it’s time to find a place to eat and figure they’d be better-priced one street back, so hook into a side street and pick out a pizza place. The only table outside is squeezed between 2 others, similar to the place where I’d eaten with Catriona in Paris. Women on the table right next to the vacant one tell us they will be smoking, but we decide to sit there anyway, and they leave soon after.

We order a pizza to share and a glass of wine each. The chardonnay is the first decent wine I’ve tried in France so far. The others, being part of package experiences, were house wines. whereas this one is bottled wine by the glass, so maybe it’s not that French wine is bad, rather that we’d been given the worst of it. (Even the white I had with Catriona in Paris was pretty featureless.)

Steve tells me a bit about his life while I eat more than my fair share of the pizza, drink my wine and eye off his wine, which he is sipping slowly. (I don’t start on his wine too, though I’m tempted.)

I look up and see a group of people from our tour standing on the foot path and yoohoo loudly to them, causing the people at the tables around us to look at me.

“We already saw you,” someone says, and I also hear murmerings about “they’re on a date.” They knock back our invitation to join us.

So, shrugging our shoulders, we continue with our meal and our talking, then follow it up with dessert. I have a delicious tiramisu and Steve has chocolate mousse.

As we walk out of town, back towards our hotel, the streets are almost deserted and Steve looks around nervously. There are some young men idling by the beach and some people behind us on the other side of the road.

“They’re from our tour,” Steve says about the people behind us.

On our way in I hadn’t paid attention to where we’d come onto the beach, but Steve says there was a walkover bridge nearby. However, when we go up the road next to the overpass, it doesn’t look right. The other people catch up and we confer with them and continue on.

Back in my beautiful room, it is hot & muggy, so I open the door to the veranda to let in fresh air and the sound of the ocean.

13 May 2014

I wake sometime around 5am but go back to sleep. Next thing I know it’s 9 o’clock and I think I hear a gentle tapping on the door. I had slept totally naked, so I don’t investigate, expecting it is probably housekeeping wanting to do the room. Pulling on some ‘jamies, I pop the “do not disturb” sign on the door, then take my time getting dressed. I take the sign off and go down to breakfast.

It seems most of the group has woken at a similar time and are all there having breakfast.

“I came to get you,” Steve says, “but you didn’t answer.”

“Oh, was that you? I’d just woken up,” I tell him.

It’s another glorious day, so of course we’re going to go swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. Graham and Vicki are planning to come to the beach, too, so, after going back to our rooms to get into cossies, and grabbing towels at reception, we head down together.

A slim girl with pert breasts walks topless along the shallows. I only have my speedos with me, not very glam for the occasion, but I strip off my shirt and shorts and feel the water on my feet. Not exactly warm.

“That’s freezing,” Steve says, wading in a little way in board shorts.

I work my way into the water a bit at a time. Yes, it’s cold, but gloriously refreshing, and I gradually adjust. Eventually I’m right in. Graham and Vicki just want to sit on the beach, and Steve goes in only up to his waist. Then Nada waltzes down and comes straight in and we frolic for a while until she decides it’s enough. We talk about going into town – we have to be back by 1:30 for the optional excursion, and think we have enough time to make it. Steve, Nada and I agree to shower then meet in the lobby.

I’m not very quick, and am just about to go down when Steve knocks at the door. He’s changed his mind, and so I do too. It would be a rush, and I can get by without the toiletries I’m low on for a bit longer. We look for Nada, but she’s nowhere to be found. We find out later, she’s given up on us and gone anyway.

So instead we lounge around drinking coffee, him sorting his photos, me getting onto skype with Jas. She’s been watching the budget and gives me a rundown on it. She shows me Willy, too, who comes meowing at her window while she talks to me. And she assures me Aaron didn’t forget Mothers’ Day. Obviously he has something planned.

I’m running about a minute late for the excursion leaving at 1:30, and the bus is nowhere to be seen. Someone else is running late, too, and we race down the street towards the yard where the bus was parked earlier in the day, but it’s not there. Just then, Ashley comes round the corner, looking for strays. He makes some kind of remark about us being late and we climb thankfully aboard.

Our first destination is the town of St Paul, a small, walled town perched on a mountain top, just within view of the ocean. We have to park the bus and walk up the hill and through the arch into the town. The pavements are inset with pebbles and the streets, of course, are narrow. We follow the leader up through alleys lined with gift shops. But the gifts, rather than being cheap trinkets, are beautiful works of art. There are amazing sculptures, carpets, silk and glass. At the top we look out at the view, then go to look at a graveyard where someone famous was buried. We wander around, buy an ice cream and I buy myself a little necklace with a blue twisting glass serpent, and a sparkling glass perfume bottle for Rachael.

The bus winds down the coast to Nice, and Nice is more than nice. The Promenade des Anglais runs along the beachfront. At one end of the town is an airport, where private jets are frequently parked. On the pebbly beach are fenced-off areas with deckchairs where you pay to sunbathe. On the opposite side of the road overlooking the Bay of Angels are elegantĀ  “belle epoch” hotels, such as the Negresco, which has a smartly uniformed doorman always loitering outside. It’s a gorgeous town. No wonder it’s a favourite hang out of the rich and famous.

After passing through Nice, we follow the Corniche Road higher and higher up mountains bordering the sea. The scenery is magnificent.

Finally we stop at a little restaurant perched up high on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. During our drive, the weather has turned cold. Some people are in shorts and light tops, but luckily I am in jeans and have a long-sleeved top with me.

Wine begins to flow freely as we eat our meals. We’d been given the menu 2 days before and chosen what we wanted. I start off with a salad then have a risotto with roquefort cheese, a rich blue-vein. It is so rich and so filling that I can’t eat it all, even though it’s delicious. Dessert for me is chocolate mousse with toffee sauce. It, too, is really delicious, but so sweet it induces a sweat. I shouldn’t eat it all, but I do.

I see a young girl wandering around early in the meal, and later, a little boy is asleep on the lounge on the other side of the restaurant. Obviously a family restaurant, and the kids just have to hang around.

Things are pretty rowdy by the time we leave the restaurant. Ashley starts to sing over the microphone as we drive back around the coast in the dark, then Ray takes the microphone and keeps the singing going. I don’t know the songs they’re singing (but I’m sure Colin would), until they start on silly ones like “Old McDonald” and “10 Green Bottles.” Arriving back at the hotel, we all go happily to our rooms.