TRAVEL BLOG: French Foreign Legion (01/09/23)

No time for sleep.  Sleep is for losers. Well, we would love a lie-in, but if we don’t get out of l’appartment by 10am the owner will send the Air B’n’B boys around.

That would be a welcome development actually.  There has been no human contact with our host at all. Whilst the flat is more modern than the cave we lived in, in Montferrat,  the hospitality shown to us by Hélène and Jean-Marie, means their place wins hands down.

The mysterious Nice host liked us though. We get an e-mail telling us we have been rated as five star guests. ‘Please do the same for us’. We will think about it.

As we leave the apartment,  Jean Wick comes flying down the stairs, buttered (French equivalent of battered) and bruised with gun totting rats coming behind in a pimped-up Renault.

As soon as we open the door into the street, the Three Musketeers ride past chasing a troop of dodgy mime artists. Then, as we walk past the recruitment office for the French Foreign Legion, three Legionnaires run out with clubs to press gang us. Then they see the state on me and declare, “Quoi Le Sacreblue? Tu Merding Moi?”. With a shrug of le shoulders, they nonchalantly go back inside and continue smoking.

My dad went on holiday and all he brought back for me was an application form to join the Foreign Legion. What’s he trying to say?

Can you tell I’m writing this in the airport waiting for a delayed flight?

Once out of the apartment,  we sat and had granola and coffee,  waiting for the luggage storage to open. We have an evening flight, so can spend the day wandering around Nice. But we don’t want to do that dragging a 23kg case. Even if it does have wheels.

Everything is starting to accumulate now. Ten days of drinking, lots of walking, and Mediterranean heat. We don’t really feel like doing much. We slowly head towards the port, stopping for drinks every ten minutes.

We are soon sat in a dreaded (ahem!) Irish Bar. Our excuse is that it overlooks the harbour and sells ice cold Finbar’s Cider. Today the waitress literally shrugs her shoulders nonchalantly and says “it is the only cider we have”. Yesterday the waitress said,  “We don’t have Magners, I’m sorry”. I explained to her that I don’t have any particular affinity to Magners anyway. It’s mass produced with no love involved.  I prefer proper West Country cider. She shrugged her shoulders and went to pour a Finbar’s, which was quite agreeable.

Whilst I have some time on my hands, here is an interesting fact about Magners Cider. They don’t sell it in Ireland anyway.  In Ireland it is sold as Bulmers. But in the UK there is a massive cider company called Bulmers. They make Strongbow. So to avoid any confusion, they call Bulmers Irish Cider, Magners outside of Ireland. (Follow me for more useless cider pedantry).

The view from The Irish Pub on the harbor

I normally try to avoid Irish Bars when abroad. I like to sample local culture. I also try to avoid Burger King, Pizza Hut and Tesco when abroad. I avoid McDonald’s when I’m at home, let alone abroad. I think I would make an exception for a Greggs though,  but you don’t see them abroad.

Very few of the international Irish bars I have come across are actually Irish. They might have a shamrock on the wall and sell Guinness (and sometimes the aforementioned non-Irish Magners), but that’s about it. There are two exception that springs to mind. The Irish Bar in Bordeaux is run by an Irishman. And the one in Budapest is run by an Irishman, he has a lot of Irish staff and gets his supplies from Ireland – which explains why a pint in there is twice the price of anywhere else in Budapest.

A lot of Brits gravitate towards Irish Bars (and McDonald’s) so when away watching Wales play football,  they are often a safe bet to catch up with other Wales fans. No other Wales fans around today though, but I do hear quite a few Irish accents on the tables around us.

Tiredness is kicking in, so we give in to temptation and I have vegetarian bangers and mash.

Nice, as you are probably aware, attracts a lot of people with some spare folding money in their trouser pockets. Sitting in the harbour there are a dozen or so boats that would have cost the equivalent of the GDP of several small countries. They are impressive and obscene in equal measure.

Give us five euros and I’ll look after your boat Monsieur

We go for a wander and watch one of these monstrosities sail in, do a handbrake turn and fit into a space the exact width of the boat. A bit like a Mini in a scene from The Italian Job. Isambard Kingdom Brunel himself would have been Impressed,  but we cannot help but wonder if computers are involved.

Our wander takes us to the other side of the harbour, so we can look over at the Irish Pub, behind which the hills rise, revealing a considerable number of beautiful red roofed buildings.  They go on for some distance and I ponder on whether the figure of 343,000 for the population I confidentiality cited yesterday is accurate (turns out it is).  Whatever the resident population,  I would imagine it must treble with with tourists.

Although we have the time to spend the entire day wandering this marvellous city, we don’t have the energy to cope, particularly in this heat. We decide to just plot up in a bar just a few yards from where our bag is stored and watch the world go by. Most of the cafes and bars we visit have alfresco seating which is busy, but inside are empty. The Irish Bar was huge inside but completely empty indoors.

We sit for two hours wondering when we should head to the airport and eventually decide we might as well loaf about there as in the bar we were in and head for le tram.

On arrival at the airport we informed we are too early. We cannot check-in more than two hours before our flight. This is a new one on me. I thought two hours was the recommended minimum, not a maximum. This was compound by our flight being delayed. An e mail or an update of the website would have helped.  We didn’t know till we got there.

Perhaps the stricntess of this two hour thing, enforced by a very assertive lady that was taking no prisoners, might be becasue of the Air Traffic Control thing earlier in the week. The last thing they need is two day’s worth of customers clogging up the departure lounge.

No problem, there is a cafe outside the check-in. We get a coffee and the staff watch us get comfortable before telling us they are closing. With loads of people standing around waiting for their check-in slot, this waste of a seating area is nothing short of scandalous.  They should be shot in the face with a ball of their own merde. Loafing about off Garibaldi Square might have been the better option after all.

Only the French could name a square after a bloke that invented a type of biscuit.

Eventually we get in the queue to check our hold case. We know it is under 23kg, cos it was under when we came over. We can’t help having that moment of panic as we put it on the scales.  Will the added weight of sweat and skid marks on our, now dirty, clothes take us over the limit?

We breathe a sigh of relief as we are a kilo under the limit. Then frustrated that we didn’t squeeze in an extra kilo of … I don’t know what actually,  but I feel we are not getting our money’s worth.

In the departure area Megan sends me, the one with the poorest grasp of the lingo, to buy food. I come back with a bowl of couscous,  because a Chinese lady told me it was vegetarian; mint tea because I had it the other day and it was, erm, mint! And a Toblerone,  because it’s an airport.

It’s not long before we have to abandon our comfortable seat and stand in a queue, which isn’t moving, to board our plane. Only fifty minutes late, which is a bit of a result given the chaos earlier in the week when the Air Traffic Control computer went for a bit of a lie down.

the view from my reading room

After two hours reading ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’, and having doubts about how I have punctuated this blog, we are heading westbound on the M4.

The end.

To read all the other blogs from this trip, check out the the France Tag here