December 3: Slipping on olives

Not a genie escaping from a bottle, but another sunset, with a plane's condensation trail

Joel and I have signed up to do a 10km/6.2 mile run along the Promenade des Anglais – the ‘Prom Classic’. We’ll be two of around 6,000 runners who’ll set off at 10am on January 8, and hopefully, we’ll be among the finishers too. When we lived in the other place here in Nice (boo, hiss), I used to bike down and trot along the Prom, but I don’t think I did more than 4km at a time, although I did bike back up home again, which must have counted for another couple of km. It’s not so straightforward to get to the Prom from here, and the days are winter-short, so it was easy to talk myself out of putting in the effort. When we realised that there are less than six weeks to go, we got serious.

The street we live on is the spine on top of a small hill. Like many of the small hills around here, it was once an olive grove, and left-over trees still line the road – I often have to clear the fallen olive pits that gather beneath the windscreen wipers of our car. It’s usually peaceful here, and the hill is what gives us the views, but when you’re considering your running options, it’s not good. Joel, concerned in that testosterone-y, masculine kind of way about his time for the Prom Classic, opts for going downhill to warm up, past the restaurant and towards the centre of town, then taking the steep incline home as fast as he can.

The Roman ruins at Cimiez

My running pace is always more… umm… stately. I’ve opted for suffering first, and I go in the other direction uphill to Cimiez. I figure if I can keep going uphill for at least 20 minutes, it counts as 35 on level ground. It helps that it’s such a pretty run. Cimiez has always been a desirable area to live in, right from Roman times. I trot past some pretty well-preserved 3rd-century Roman ruins, which, pertinently, were some sort of sports ground complete with sauna. Queen Victoria liked Cimiez, too. The Regina, an enormous apartment building that you can see from all over Nice, was built for her as a hotel after she complained about the quality of the rooms she was staying in on her first visit. She came back several times. There are lots of beautiful 19th-century buildings, built originally as hotels for the wintering Russians and English.

Dianne and her painting at the Matisse museum

I also trot past the Matisse Museum, my favourite gallery in Nice. When our friends Dianne and Richard from New York were here a few days ago, we walked up to the museum, following my run route. Dianne discovered a painting she’s loved for years, ever since she copied it for an art class as a teenager. You’re not allowed to take photographs in the Matisse Museum, and even though we were alone in that particular gallery, a guard must have been watching on the CCTV cameras, because he came running in to stop me taking this wonderful photo of Dianne looking at her painting. Too bad, guard! Too late!

With Dianne and Richard at the Negresco

Dianne and Richard stayed at Le Negresco, the hotel that has been a landmark on the Promenade des Anglais since 1913. We went to inspect it and brought Toni, who was dying to see the art. The Negresco is famous for exhibiting the enormous modern art collection of the owners, so that each floor is a gallery. Most of it is really, absolutely, seriously dire, but there were one or two things I wouldn’t have actually thrown away, like drawings by Sonia Delaunay. Just to give you an idea of style, one of the restaurants, La Rotonde, is designed as a carousel, complete with horses. It made me giddy to look at it. Dianne and Richard couldn’t face having breakfast there. Their suite was a bit of a Napoleonic mish-mash, too, but that didn’t stop us lounging around in it. Joel brought a flask of margaritas and lots of nibbles, and Dianne, generously, handed over her five-star slippers. Look, I’m wearing them now.

On January 8, we’ll be starting our run very near the Negresco, and running all the way to the airport, then back again. There’s a bit of a spanner in the works, however, as I slipped on some olive pits on the road the other day while running downhill and, at the same time, looking up at one of the buildings I particularly like. I hope my knee can hold out. Serves me right, I guess. That’s not training, that’s sightseeing.

Cimiez apartment building


About Suellen Grealy

In 2011, a series of coincidences led my husband Joel, our cat Ted and me away from London, where we lived quite happily for 30 years, to Nice, where Joel grew up. While he and his sister ran their restaurant, I wrote a novel. Family being family, Joel and his sister no longer work together. Writing being writing, the novel lingers on... Meanwhile, we've found ways of living a completely different life from the one we had in London, including running our own restaurant together, 7 Villermont. The only constants are our Ted, our now-battered Peugeot, and each other. Everything else is a complete surprise
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