This post is different. This too is written in a cafe. Not in Candies though. I started writing this in the morning in a boulangerie to be precise, or a bakery, in Cannes. Then it got hot and I went to our apartment and wrote the post. I tried to upload it. It got deleted. So I came out to the beach. At 9 pm it was finally cool enough to come to the beach. I am trying to write this post again, using the notes I saved, sipping on a cappuccino by the Cannes beach.
If you have been following my social media feeds, you would have known that I arrived in France a couple of days back. I am here on a holiday. I have come here to join my wife, who has come to Cannes for the Cannes Advertising Lions Festival. It's been a good year for them. They have picked up a Glass Lion and are on the hunt tonight for the Film Lions.
Update: they won it!
I have come here just to eat though. And to relax. I have not done any research before coming to Cannes, or on Paris where we head to next. I have no lists to guide me on the top 52 eats in Paris or articles on where to get the best croissant in Paris according to their chefs.
We plan to just unwind and pop into cafes that catch out eye and take life as it comes. When I post during the trip, it will be more like a diary of our days. There is enough stuff on the Internet of the top 10 things to do in Paris type.
Cannes is a bit of a known territory as Kainaz, my wife, has come here before for the festival and this time too reached here before I came to Cannes.
I guess this is a trip where we will just flow with the tide. No, we will not be going to the Euro Cup matches. We had no idea that the Euro cup would be on when we planned the trip and that's really jacked up hotel and travel rates
Yesterday we went to Nice (pronounced Niece), and came across some good food by serendipity. We went to a couple of places recommended there by locals and folks on Twiter. I must say that the places we stumbled onto were nicer.
We went to Nice, like I said, based on the recommendation of Nita, the wife of ad legend Piyush Pandey and a Cannes Ad Festival veteran from back home. Kainaz, and her art partner, Harshad, had not been to Nice before and the three of us went there together.
My flight from Mumbai via Dubai to Cannes landed at Nice Airport the day before. That's on the outskirts of the town. The airport is really tiny. I stopped at the cafe at the entrance, as advised by K, and had a strong cappuccino and a tiny dessert called Baby Trop which was like a chocolate cream sponge sandwich.
There are buses to reach Cannes but I took the cabs outside Nice airport. The drive to Cannes, right up to my apartment, cost a whopping 92 euros. The car was a posh Hyundai SUV though and the others were Mercs. My driver, Michel, a Frenchman, was chatty and helpful. He told me that he loves Indian food (tandoori chicken and roti) and Chinese food but not French food. His suggestion to me was to have seafood in Cannes as its close to the sea and Italian food as it's close to Italy.
Yesterday, we went to the old city of Nice as suggested by Nita to Kainaz and Harhsad. This is different from where the airport is.
How to go from Cannes to Nice
We went to the Cannes station which was a short walk from the city centre and bought tickets from the ticket machine there. It's pretty easy to use the machine. You can opt for an English display by pressing on the Union Jack and then can use cash or card. The cost in second class is between 6.5 to 7 Euros. We had allotted seats one way and it was a free for all on the return though we got seats. The loo is clean. The ride takes about 40 minutes. You have to validate your tickets in a slot machine before getting on the train. Same deal with buses and trams though they have validation machines in the vehicles. Similar to Italy.
Nice station is pretty small though it has a very pretty facade. There is a tourism office just outside and the ladies are pretty helpful and speak decent English. They pointed us to the Old City. Told us go to reach there (we took the tram at 1.5 euro each) and what to see (church, museum etc which we didn't go to). The lady told us that there are quite a few cafes but didn't venture to suggest any.
Wandering through Nice
We took the tram and reached the old town. We were looking for a charcuterie someone suggested to me on Twitter. K walked into a confectionery shop instead. It was a largish shop and really pretty inside. We hadn't even seen the name of the shop. The girl at the counter was pretty friendly and helpful. Her name is Morgan as we found out later. She is a student who works at the shop.
France gets a bit of a bad rep on account of offering bad service. Well, almost everyone I've come across so far in Cannes and Nice in cafes and shops have been competent to positively warm and know varying degrees of English. Fingers crossed for Paris.
K had some cookies which were nice and then I said I will try out the ice creams. They are called Glacé here. The ice creams were mind blowing. Thick and creamy. Our friend, Harshad, had a melon ice cream which tasted so fresh. I had a mix of a nougat and very intense chocolate one. The cones were nothing great.
We came out of the shop beaming. I checked out the name of the place In case you want to go. It's called L'Art Gourmand.
We walked down the small lanes of Nice in search of a local cafe called Rene Socca referred to us by a local to try out local food from Nice.
There were many nice and small shops on the way . K bought an off the shoulder black dress for the Cannes gala. Harshad bought gifts for his mom and aunts at a shop selling lavender based products. Prices were cheaper than in Cannes.
We reached Rene Socca finally with directions given by helpful locals. They serve pre-fried snacks here, fish fritters, spring onion fritters, fried aubergine, beef mince stuffed in vegetables, pies including the local favourite, onion pie, and Socca.
Socca is like a besan chilla or a gram flour flat bread made in a hot oven at the shop. You could order drinks on the side. None of the food, barring the Socca, was served hot.
The girls at the counter were friendly. One even spoke in a smattering of Hindi. Explained that the stuffing of one of the pies was 'like palak paneer'. That Socca was made with 'besan'. When we took our food, she pointed at the pepper mill and said 'kala mirch'. She was excited to hear that we are from Mumbai.
We ordered a fair bit of stuff for only 15 euros. Sat at the hall inside and ate. Can't say that the food spoke to us. Like I said, this perhaps is not the trip to depend on recommendations.
Serendipity on the other hand made me enter a charcuterie or meat shop. We saw foie gras there and bought a slice. Well it looked like foie gras but the lady at the counter said it wasn't. The label at the counter said mousse canard. Google later told me its pork, duck liver and Port pate. It was incredibly cheap. 1.5 Euro for a 100 g slice.
There was no provision to eat at the butchery and no spoons or forks. So I broke a piece of the pate with me hand and put it into my mouth. The flavours were intense and stayed on till well after I left the shop. The yellow layer of fat melted from the warmth of my palms. The texture was so fatty and pliant. The aromas so carnal. A truly multi-sensorial experience. Can I confess that I enjoyed it more than foie? Does that make me a philisitine?
I went out and checked the name of the shop. It's Boucherie De La Tour. The amount of English spoken here is sparse. The meats exceptional I am sure.
The lady at the tourism office told us there was a church etc at the old town but we preferred to walk around and just soak in the atmosphere instead of hitting the tourist spots. Plus there was a climb involved.
As we walked back to the station, serendipity struck again. We stopped at a meat shop where an enthusiastic young French man called Jeremy called us in to taste some meats. The stuff at his shop was so good that I bought a pork, a duck and a wild boar sausage and cow's milk cheese for back home. My sort of shopping. At the end he gave us a tasting of a truffle infused cheese whose lingering tastes held me in its spell all the way back to Nice.
Their shop is called Les Chalets D'Alpages.
We are headed to Paris tomorrow. We haven't booked anything yet apart from our hotel and our train ticket.
I hope to blog intermittently but do follow me @finelychopped for tweets and Periscope videos, @thefinelychopped on Instagram for pictures of what we are eating and on the Finely Chopped Facebook page for Facebook Live videos and @finelychopped for Snapchat.
If you have suggestions on where and what we should eat in Paris then do write in. Can't promise that we will go there. Also cafes and small local joints please. Not fancy expensive places and no Michelin stars.
Signing off with a few pictures of old Nice