Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Busy Month

Before I attempt to finish our stay in Nice, here's an update on what's been happening at the Dillon-Willmon household.

All but two of the group. Eric, Don, Jenn, Jen, Amy, Dan, Victoria, Thomas and Robin's arm.
Thanksgiving was our usual gathering of friends, except this year I did most of the cooking.  Amy had surgery on her foot the day before, so she sat on the barstool with her foot propped up on the other stool and supervised.  She also arrainged the potatoes for the cheesy potato casserole.  Dinner was delicious.  Desserts were decadent.  A good time was had by all!
Different view.  Eric, Don, Jenn, Jen, Amy, Dan Victoria, (Thomas is hiding), Robin, Bill.
Amy's birthday was next on the agenda.  Lovely dinner out, with some of the best cocktails I've had in years! Then it was time to buy the Christmas tree and decorate the house.  During this we experienced our first cold winter weather, so plants had to be moved inside.  The delicate ones planted in the ground had to have lights put on them, then be covered for protection from any frost.

It has warmed up again, but still rainy.  Snow on the mountains, but not down here.  That's the way to have it!

Snow on the Santa Catalina Mountains taken from our back porch.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Technological Frustration

It has been a frustrating few weeks trying to blog.  Bill spent days editing the pictures from Nice, only to have the hard drive he saved them to go bonkers.  Another few days spent trying to get said hard drive to talk to him, then all it could say, "would you like to reformat?"

Blogger hasn't been helpful either.  I gave up trying to post pictures, but it wouldn't post just words!  Part of the problem may be out internet connection which is just faster than dial-up, but not all of it.  So I just gave up, until today when I will try again.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

If All Else Fails

The policeman keeping an eye on Bill.
While taking pictures in Vieux Nice, Bill wandered into a courtyard with several large sculptures in front of the building; the offices of the Police Nationale.  It was not a restricted area, but the officer on duty took a lot of interest in this big hairy guy taking photos.  Then I entered the courtyard, saw the officer looking suspiciously at Bill and did the only thing I could to diffuse the situation.  Act Crazy.
Whistle to get Bill's attention, as well as the policeman.  Imagine that, Bill's taking my picture.
Fast step to the right and hide behind the sculpture.  Catch me if you can!
All three of us were laughing.  The policeman nodded at me, with a big smile on his face, then went back inside.  With a crazy wife, the big hairy guy didn't look so suspicious.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Where's Nicolas?

One day while wandering through Vieux Nice, we were met with blockades manned by many police, all in dress uniforms.  Something special was happening, but what?  We finally walked up to a policewoman and asked.  "The President of the Republic is coming!"  She wasn't really sure when, maybe around noon?  We went on to the flower market, then the chateau.  But, on our return trip, we walked right into where Sarkozy was to be.  We didn't have anywhere else to go and the rain was holding off, so why not wait for the man himself to show up.  We had seen him near the start of our adventures in Paris in July.  We could see him near the end of our adventures in Nice in October.  Kind of bookend Nicolas'!

A lot of commotion, so we think he has arrived.
We waited and waited and waited.  There were people coming up to security with embossed invitations.  They were searched and pointed in the correct direction, depending on what the invite said.  Some were left on the street, but in a restricted area right in front of the Hotel d'Ville.  Others went inside the Opera House, which is opposite.

Where's Nicolas?
Finally there was a big rush of people, we were let out from behind our barrier to rush up to the next barrier.  We never saw the man.  Too many people were in the same area and he is very short.  If you can't make out his big head of hair, you're out of luck in finding him.  Oh well.  We had a good time watching the crowd, critiqueing the police presence (which didn't seem very concerned) and listening to all the conversations in multiple languages.  Ah, France!

That evening on the news, we found out why the President of the Republic was in town.  He didn't come for an important meeting concerning all the financial problems in the EU.  He didn't come to solve any social issues of the day.  He came (drum roll please!) to pull a poster off the wall in the Opera House! It was a poster demanding the return of the young Israeli solder who was held captive for 5 years and had just been released.  France helped in the negotiations.  So, the President of the Republic flew to Nice, blocked traffic for several hours, had every police from city to national level working, all to pull a poster off the wall for a photo op!  Ah, politics!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bear with us.

We are having technical difficulties uploading pictures to Blogger.  I think it is Blogger's problem instead of our slow internet, but, who knows!
Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


This guy kept an eye on us whenever we were on the terrace.  He is a beautiful porcelain hominid.
We both would have loved him in our home!
 There's a game we play when housesitting, especially when the home is one we fall in love with.  "What one item would you take home if you could?"  We are only allowed to choose on, but in this home it was very difficult.  There is no limit to size, or ability to get it home; it's all fantasy.
Bill's favorite: The Devil with Insects.  This guy was sitting on the edge of the terrace wall.
 Bill would have put him in our garden as well.
We have always had art in our homes.  Paintings, photographs, carvings, weavings, and lots of baskets, not to mentions antiques and other pretties.  Still, we were overwhelmed by the amount of art in the apartment in Nice.  This only made our choices harder!  We don't play easy games.

Unfortunately, the piece I liked the best didn't show up well in any of the photos, so I'll describe it for you.  It's a Toad head made of cast iron with a very fierce expression, as only toads can have.  The head is mounted on an Egyptian-like stele with engraved toad hieroglyphs.  It would have been fabulous in the entry way!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Just What We Need!

At our home in Tucson, we have a problem with packrats.  Not little old ladies who hoard things in their homes, but the furry little creatures who hoard things in their nests.  Packrats are so good at what they do, that archeaologists love to find there nests when doing a dig.  Some have been found that date back 50,000 years!  This year the packrats came and stole most of the vegies just as they were getting ripe.  How do we know it was the packrats?  We could track them to the "door" of their nest, and there would be the vegie.  Most of the vegies were too big to haul inside.  In one case, they pulled all the leaves off a plant and "decorated" the outside of their nest. 

Now what does this have to do with Nice?  Well, we found the perfect pot to use in our garden.  It is totally packrat proof, as well as rabbit, mice and snake.  We will need a ladder, however, but isn't it pretty?  Now if we could just figure out how to get it home!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Chagall Musee with a Side of Matisse

Moses and the burning bush.
The morning was beautiful, so we walked to the Chagall Musee.  Bib told us it was only .7 k, but we sometimes forget that Bib calculates in "as the crow flies" mileage, and we ain't crows. 3 k later, we find the musee.  We also forgot that Nice is built on hills that run down to the beach, so we were walking up a couple of steep streets.  We tried to stay on the shady side, since it was a warm day. (No complaints about the warm!) 

The longer you look at these, the more you see painted into them.
Stained Glass windows in the auditorium.  It was very distracting trying to watch a movie when THESE were in the room!
A window Chagall designed for a cathedral.  Even though he was a Jew, there are hundreds of his windows in Cathedrals throughout Europe.  There is one in Germany where the cathedral was designed around his windows.  It is breathtaking!

The building was designed specifically for Chagall's paintings.  The auditorium, where we were shown a short film, has four of his stained glass windows. The central section displays a changing selection of visiting artists, then you come to a huge room that is totally Chagall.  I have loved his paintings since the first one I saw as a child.  I was not sure what it all meant, but the color, the movement, the overall joy spoke to my heart.  One cannot feel sad while looking at a Chagall painting.  Visiting here gave us more understanding of his work.  Since he was a Jew, most of the painting tell the story from right to left, like reading Hebrew.  He also painted in the round, with the central character in the middle and the rest of the story revolving around the center.
Most of his painting have religious themes.

Aaron and Isaac

A different way of looking at the cruxificion.
On leaving the museum, we decided to find the bus stop to go on up the hills to Musee Matisse.  We ended up going on stop too far, but a nice woman on the bus pointed out our mistake, and also showed up we could stop for a bite to eat or a drink at the local market.  It did sound like a good idea.  Into the market we went; Bill heading to the deli to pick up mini quiches and me going to find the bottled water.  Then we walked to the gardens where several museums are housed, as well as a Roman ruin, found a bench in the shade and had lunch.
The temporary show currently on exhibit.

A crocheted wall hanging from the exhibit.
You take two 8 x 12 wall painted white, stand them up,  then you let paint in your favorite colors run down the inside and puddle on the ground.  Viola! 
We really liked this!

Musee Matisse is house in an old building that a very modern wing added on.  The collection seemed to us to be things he had left to his family, or had been stored in an attic.  Working drawings, works in progress, models, but very little finished art work, except for some of his very early pieces, well before he became famous for his "modern" drawings.  While it was interesting to see the way he worked and his progression as an artist, it was a bit disappointing.  On the plus side, there was no entrance fee.
The older building is to the right rear.  This was built as the entrance, but the day we visited, it was the exit.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Jack and Tess

Jack doing what he does best, napping.
Tess with the yellow eyes.
Our hosts in Nice were Jack and Tess, British Blues, a breed of cat with intense yellow eyes as well as lovely blue/gray fur.  Jack is the older, being 10 and Tess is 4. ( Sorry you two if I've remembered wrong.)  They are both friendly and well mannered;  no hissing, no scratching, no biting.

"This is MY ottoman and I'm NOT sharing!"
"Wake me up when Tess gets off the ottoman."

Jack is a true gentleman.  When he wants to eat, he will sit by the bowl patiently waiting.  If you aren't around, he will come and sit until he gets your attention, then lead you to the kitchen.  Tess is, well, a terror.  (Her mom's description, not mine, but I came to agree.)  Tess will talk to you, rub on you, dance for you, do anything to get your attention because SHE NEEDS TO BE FED!!!

Tess opening the sliding door on the tansu while balancing on a narrow wooden chair.  Sorry for the blur, we almost didn't get the camera out in time!

Peeking out to make sure we saw her go in.

One morning we awoke to find every sliding door in the entire house opened.  We weren't sure which one had done it.  Or even what they were looking for.  Or even if they found it. Then a couple of evening later, Tess gets on top of a chair and works until she opens the sliding door on the tanzu chest, promptly jumping in.  I think we found the door sliding culprit!

Tess pausing on top of the tanzu before jumping up to the airconditioner.  With all the artwork, she looks like a statue.

Several times while were reading or at the computer in the evening, Tess would work her way up to lay on the top of the airconditioner.  I'm sure it gave her an excellent view of the livingroom and entry, maybe even down the hall towards the bedrooms.  She could probably even see out the balcony doors onto the neighboring buildings.  Tess does like to keep an eye on things.

When there aren't house sitters to take care of,  Jack and Tess keep Roxanne and Bruce in line.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Getting Around in Nice

This guy was guarding an entranceway.
We did not have a car in Nice.  We did not need a car in Nice.  The city buses run frequently, go everywhere, and are only 1 euro.  Tickets may be purchased from the driver, a machine near some stops or you can go to an office and by a card good for 10 rides.  All the tickets are good for the bus or the tram.  If you live here, you can buy a pass that lowers the price considerably.  If you are really daring, you can ride without a ticket and risk the fine.  We never saw anyone checking tickets, though we did see lots of rider not using a ticket.  We bought a card of 10.
The buses are clean, comfortable, airconditioned and have large windows.

The tram system is new, maybe one of the newer ones in France.  It runs very quietly on a rail with rubber pads so there is little jarring to damage the surrounding buildings.  If they didn't use a horn, it would be easy for the thing to sneak up on unsuspecting tourists.  Not us, of course.

Very sleek looking.
The other way to go from point A to point B is walking.  We walked a lot.  Walking means we are able to eat and drink well without gaining enormous amounts of weight.  When we went grocery shopping, we brought a little trolley cart with us, as well as shopping bags.  I think one of the reasons the French, for the most part, are not overweight, is all the walking they do. 
If we had been in a car, we would have missed seeing these animals on the window of a small animal clinic.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

It's Nice to be in Nice!

Looking out over Nice, the black glass building is the Holiday Inn.  It is totally out of character with the surrounding city, but works great as a landmark to find where you are.  The apartment is just around the corner, so we could always find our way home.
The morning we left Cagnes-Sur-Mer, we were up early, as the car had to be returned to the train station in Nice by 10AM.  The drive was not long, but we were concerned about traffic; Monday morning rush hour.  There was traffic.  BIB said it would take 17 minutes, but with the slow moving cars all around us, it was more like 35.  We had already scoped out the train station, so knew where to enter and park.  I jumped out to find the car return office.  As has happened before, there were signs, but no where telling you exactly where to take the car!  The woman in the office was very helpful, telling me to pull down into the parking garage, then drive up to the 6th floor where their people were, but we might have to drive back down to the 5th floor, as they were very full this morning.  I walked outside, found the down ramp, but for the life of me couldn't see a 7 story building to drive up into.  Back inside, where she laughed and explained that we would be driving under her building and up into the building behind.  Who thinks of these things?

We did go to the 6th and back down to the 5th.  Unloaded our stuff and found the elevator, only to discover it stopped 3 floor short of the bottom.  We lugged our luggage down to the ground floor.  Bill waited outside while I returned the key and signed the papers.  When I showed her all the additional damage that had been recorded in Montpellier, she just shrugged and smiled, no problem.

Another view of Nice.

Outside, we waited for the homeowner to show up.  We had not heard from him, and I must admit we were a little concerned.  But, not to worry, at 10:05, up he walked; introduced himself, and surprise! he's American!  It was a short way to their apartment building, with Bruce giving us a small tour.  "This is a lovely garden you can visit." "This building was Nazi headquarters in WWII."  "I think this is one of the most beautiful old buildings in Nice."

Arriving at the apartment, Bruce squishes us all into the tiny elevator, commenting on how it is very dependable having only become stuck once several years ago.  Their apartment in on the top floor, #7.  Well, wouldn't you know, between 3 and 4 we come to a screeching halt!  Bruce pushed the emergency button, then every button, cursing under his breath.  Finally an elderly gentleman comes and talks to us, but we aren't sure he understands.  I pull out my phone and we call Roxanne who is waiting at the apartment.  Then we call the Pompiers, followed by the elevator company. 

Don't clang the metal doors on the elevator!!!
Roxanne comes down the stairs, which wind around the elevator cage, says Hi, then continues on to let the Pompiers in the front door.  Other neighbors come by, but proceed on down the stairs.  After a short while, the Pompiers arrive. 5 minutes later, the door is opened and we are lifted down.  Now there is a bit of laughter, as not only us, but all our luggage and  shopping bags come out.  I think France must have a rule that not only do all the Pompiers have to be in excellent condition, they must be good looking too.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture!
The apartment landing with the elevator on the right.  The elevator is an old fashioned style with an outer door that swings open and an inner accordian door that pulls back.

Now we only have 3 1/2 flights of stairs to haul our luggage up.  Thank goodness for rollers, but it was still a chore and very noisy.  Arriving at their floor, we are met by Roxanne and the two very curious cats, Jack and Tess.  Welcome to our Nice Housesit!
On the penthouse terrace.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Home Again!

At the Nice Airport, there is a parking lot for Depose minute; Kiss and Fly.
It took 19 hours from the time we left the hotel in Roissy until we walked through our front door in Tucson, which is pretty amazing when you thing about it.  The flight was over clouds from the time we left Paris until we landed in Dallas, except for flying over Greenland! 

The east coast of Greenland with the first glacier to be seen.

This glacier is huge!  I loved the way everything looked so pristine.  The sun made the ice and snow sparkle.
Even though it was midday, the sun is so far south, the mountains cast long shadows.

It feels good to be home.  It will feel even better when we adjust to the time change!  There are still two weeks worth of posts to do on our wonderful house sit in Nice, so stay tuned.
Thanks to American Airlines AAirmiles, our round trip was only $199.20  for BOTH of us!

Saturday, October 29, 2011


The hills of Monaco are built up with ugly highrise apartment buildings.
The road to Monaco is a  spectacular drive along the coast with steep cliffs on one side and steep drops to the sea, on the other.  After parking the car and taking the elevator to the sunshine, Bill asked me what I thought. "This has to be one of the ugliest cities I've ever seen!"  Monaco looks like a crazy person was in charge of the building permit department.  The hills are a jumble of big, ugly highrises piled one on top of the other. No interesting architecture, not continuity of design, just ugly.  Fortunately, we were by the harbor which is very nice and full of beautiful yachts.
The setting is spectacular, but unfortunately, they let building happen with what looks like no prior planning.

We saw more expensive cars per square meter than anywhere else we have ever visited. 

The Grimaldi's palace overlooks it all.  It's good to be King, ok, Prince.
Walking to the casino, we came across an area called the star.  It's a garden built on top of a hotel, facing the sea.   The plants are beautiful and well maintained, but since this is one of the riches countries in the world, all 2 square kilometers of it, that is to be expected.  If you are a resident of Monaco, you pay no taxes on anything, but the majority of people who live here are not official residents. 
The Casino at Monte Carlo is quite a lovely building surrounded by beautiful gardens.

Adam and Eve in the garden in Monte Carlo.

The Casino reflected in an art piece entitled, Sky Disc.  This is the view of the back of the disc, the front focuses on the sky and is not rippled.
If you don't want to gamble ( and they charge you 10 euro to enter the gambling part of the casino!), then you can go window shopping.  They have all the big buck names.  We especially enjoyed Cartier's windows.
A Cartier watch with a few diamonds and rubies thrown in for good measure.  I don't know why Bill wouldn't buy this for me, after all, rubies are my birthstone.

After walking all around and up, Monaco is built in a bowl, so there is a lot of up, we decided to sit down and enjoy a cold brew.  The Cafe de Paris had a wonderful undershade area on the front where we found a table and ordered two tall ones.  We did not ask the price, deciding it would be the only time we would visit Monaco.  The beer was tasty and very cold.  Relaxing in the shade was very refreshing.  When the bill came it was 13 euro each for the drinks.  We enjoyed it very much.
This necklace also had a matching ring and earrings.  We did not ask the prices of these, either.

Beautiful gardens with fountains surround the casino area.

With a boat this size, you could bring all your family and friends.  This is just the outdoor area, wonder what the inside looks like?
Leaving Monaco, the road went over the mountain via switchbacks; extremely sharp, steep switchbacks. There was one so sharp, I couldn't turn the wheels with one hand, but I also needed to shift the gears at the same time.  That was an interesting sensation.  I would have felt like I was in a James Bond movie, except our little deisel Opal was not an Aston Martin!

Doune Castle

Doune Castle was rebuilt by Robert Stewart, the Duke of Albany, a man who was the power behind the throne as Regent for James I of Scotland,...