Thursday, 23 July 2009

Look And Sigh!

Photo by The Edge

Nice, Part 3

Thursday 16th July 2009
We got up a lunch time as we hadn't got to bed until almost 5am after the U2 show the previous night. We decided in advance on a very lazy day today as we knew we'd have to recover form the rigours of attending a stadium gig!

After a slow awakening we walked the short distance to the bus stop on the Port, today we were going to Eze-Bord sur Mer. The fare anywhere along the route, which went as far as Menton, was one Euro, amazing!

The journey was great in itself and I thought rivalled the Amalfi Way. Hugging the coast for most of the trip we travelled through Villefranche, Beaulieu sur Mer and onto Eze. As you approachedEze sheer cliffs soared into the sky and the road was literally cut into the rock, very impressive. It is a small place bordering the Avenue de Liberte and the railway line with a backdrop of hills and cliffs, and a crescent azure blue bay, a very beautiful setting.

We soon found our way to the beach, which is public, by crossing the railway line that you weren't supposed to cross but everyone did. We followed a little lane down to the beach. This was where most of the grandest houses were and Debbi and I recognised Bono's house. We walked along the fairly busy pebbly beach and found a nice vacant spot in front of it. The house is literally backing onto the beach and the outside areas appeared to be not very high above it, not that private really and we occasionally could hear people talking up there.

We settled down and relaxed. Even with the people there (many of which were obviously U2 fans) it was restful and we just lay down and chilled for a couple of hours. It was a great way of recovering from the strenuous day of the gig (this touring lark gets harder as you get older!). We all regretted not bringing our bathing costumes though as the sea looked very inviting!
Afterwards we walked back to the main road and had a much needed ice cream and drink at a roadside cafe and just soaked in the atmosphere. We commented that it had a bit of the feel of Killiney in Ireland, though was on a grander scale and has better weather!
We got the bus back to the Port in Nice and went home. It was an eat in night for us so I made the dinner. Later we walked up the Place Garibaldi and had a bottle of red wine watching the night life of Nice pass by.

Friday 17th July 2009

We'd put off a trip to Monaco twice earlier in the week so today was our last chance. But Julie wasn't well, a touch of diarrhoea. Once we knew that it was nothing more serious than that and it had settled a little Debbi and I left to get the bus to Monaco. Unfortunately the bus was heaving with people and we stood a lot of the way. I'd been looking forward to just relaxing and admiring the scenery en-route but there was no chance of that as I stood wedged between passengers.

Monaco was noisy and very built up, it had a different ambiance to Nice and I didn't really like it. First we stopped off and had a snack and drink. Then Debbi and I walked to the famous aquarium housed in an impressive building built into the rock overlooking the sea. The entrance hall had very grand decor, all based on the ocean. The aquarium itself wasn't that exciting, in fact we were disappointed with it. And the rest of the museum was not that interesting either plus the place had the worst toilets we'd been in on that trip, they stunk! Yuck, you don't expect that somewhere like that. The views from the viewing terrace at the top of the building were wonderful though. Below is a photo of the Oceanographic Museum.

After that we headed back for the bus stop as time was getting on and we were eating out that night. I think we were both ready to leave Monaco, neither of us were enamoured with it.

We waited ages for a bus and then two arrived at once! By time everyone was crammed on you could hardly move. Needless to say for a while neither of us had seats and unfortunately I was unable to appreciate the wonderful scenery once more because the bus was so full. And it was so hot in the bus, at first the driver didn't have the air conditioning on, she must have been a sadist or something! The sweat was running down my
face and trickling down my back. Eventually someone asked the driver to put on the air con and almost immediately it cooled slightly. I think we were dehydrated when we got off the bus as though we were only minutes from our apartment all we could think of was "drink!" and we had a Coke at a cafe at the Port.

Julie was feeling better when we returned and had been able to eat a little which was good. We got showered and changed ready to go out for a meal. Unfortunately Julie felt unable to come with us and decided to stay in the apartment. We left and went into the Old Town to a restaurant we had seen a few days earlier called Le Barbecue. We got a table and once more went for the set menu. We had the most delicious fish cakes to start, they were so much better than ours! For our main course we had sumptuous barbecued steak and delicious home fries. I only had room for ice cream for dessert .

We got talking to a couple at the table beside us. He was from Italy and it was his 74th birthday that day, Debbi wished him Happy Birthday in French, I was most impressed with her! The woman was about my age and a designer, she had a fashion shop nearby and invited us to go to see it the next day. Unfortunately as we were leaving the next day we didn't have time to do that. But it was nice talking to them, everyone we had met in Nice had been very friendly.

Me and Debbi at Le Barbecue, Nice Old Town

After the meal we walked to the sea front and promenaded like everyone else was. It was windy but it was warm, the palm trees rustled, the cicadas "chirped" and the waves broke on the rocky shoreline. The lights of Nice swept in an arc around the bay, people walked, sat in huddles on the beach, played music, no drunks, no hassle it was lovely. We walked on past the war memorial, lit up with the colours of the French flag and along the quays of the Port. It too looked almost unreal with all the lights dancing on the water and shiny decks and hulls of the luxury yachts. I don't know what it was, but you know every now and then you get a time when everything seems perfect? Well that evening was like that for me, good food and wine, great company, a beautiful place to walk around, simple things really, but all together they made such a special evening for me. Nice has captured my heart and I can't wait until I go back there again.

So that's it, my time in Nice. I've written these articles quickly as I wanted to get them done before I have a whole load of other stuff to share about Dublin - I'm off there this Friday. So please forgive any typos or bad grammar.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Nice, Part 2

Monday 13th July 2009

We stayed in the apartment this morning as we were waiting for Julie's case to be delivered. It duly arrived at 12:30, and Julie was delighted to be reunited with her belongings. After she'd had time to sort out a bit we decided to go into the centre of nice and do a sightseeing trip. The tram we were going to get left from Place Garibaldi, but on our way we saw a gorgeous patisserie/chocolatier shop - we just had to indulge! And boy, the little expensive cakes were works of art beautiful to look at, subtlety flavoured and worth every Euro.

After that diversion we finally got to the tram stop. We thought you bought the tickets on board but we'd missed seeing the ticket machine on the platform. Luckily an inspector didn't get on during the short journey. The fare was 1.30E to any destination, very cheap and the trams were modern and left every six minutes.

We got off at Place Massena, a very large square just off the Promenade des Anglais. We knew where the tour started from and we walked there. We sat on the top of the open decked bus and set off. First we headed back the way we had come, past the Old Town and Port and onto the road that does a loop around Mount Boron on the Cap de Nice. There were some fabulous mansions in the hills over looking the Port including one that was very eccentric looking, Indian influenced and had been built by an Englishman. The views down to the Port and city were wonderful.

We went round and back towards the city and up into the Cimiez area where there was a Matisse museum. We continued on and heard about all the aristocratic Russians who had moved to Nice at the time of the revolution and many built very grand homes. There is even a beautiful Russian cathedral in the city that we passed by.

Finally we drove along the famous Promenade des Anglais, so named because it was built by the British. To be honest I was a little disappointed in it. The pebbly beach was covered with sunbathers crammed together like sardines, you wouldn't get me on there! We passed the famous Hotel Negreso, a lovely building that is still as exclusive as it was originally intended to be.

After the trip we walked back up to Place Massena. We had the most delicious Italian ice cream ever, mmm. Nice was once part of Italy and only ceded to France in 1860 so there is a strong Italian influence in architecture and food. Nice has it's own language, Nicard, that is being resurrected. All the street signs are in both French and Nicard, the latter bearing a strong similarity to Italian.

We went into the famous Galeries Lafayette store. It wasn't as grand as the one in Paris but still large and bustling as the sales were on. We spent ages searching for the toilet there and eventually had to ask and found it hidden away in little corridor.

We walked on along Ave Jean Medecin, Nice's main shopping street and wandered into a few shops. It was tempting to buy things but after all we had spent on the U2 tour we were quite sensible for once and didn't buy anything! We noticed lots of signs everywhere offering U2 tickets for sale.

After a while we got the tram back to Place Garibaldi (paid this time!) and walked home. We were eating in tonight and I was cook. Afterwards we sat and chatted. There was no TV in the apartment which I found really good, it encouraged us to communicate more. We did quizzes and had some good laughs.

Tuesday 14th July 2009

On the sightseeing trip the guide had said that there was a lift to the top of Castel Hill close to our apartment so we decided to explore there. We found the lift ok and soon were up at the top of the hill, which was the original settlement of Nice. It was an oasis up there, lots of cool shade from the abundant vegetation, a large waterfall the spray of which was very welcome! Play areas for kids, a cafe, shops, lots of seats and fabulous views down over the city and sweep of the bay on one side and the Port on the other. It was quite windy so even in the sun the heat wasn't too overpowering.

Afterwards we walked back via the Port and saw boat trips advertised so decided to go on one. They told us that because of the wind the trip might not go but we put our name down and were told to be back by 14:40.

We went to an Irish pub on the other side of the Port for a late lunch which was very good. The boat trip was on and soon we were sailing on the slightly rough Mediterranean. The route took us around Cap de Nice in the horseshoe bay and Villefranche sur Mer. It was beautiful, mansions littered the hillsides, the bay was full of boats, some very luxurious and even a cruise ship. The guide pointed out the luxury homes of the likes of Bill Gates, Mick Jagger and Tina Turner. The rich know where to live!

Photos: Promenade des Anglais and Nice Villefranche sur Mer

We did a loop in the bay and then sailed back towards Nice before turning and following the Promenade des Anglais back to the Port. It's always nice to see a place like this from the sea, you see a whole new perspective.

That night we were going out for a meal and we'd already picked a restaurant, Le Lunel on the Port. We had one of the set menus, again excellent value. We had Kir to start, I had we all had goat's cheese salad to start, sea bass in saffron (yum!) for main and I had apple pie to finish. We got a bottle of very good red wine in with the set meal, all for 25E, excellent value. A relaxing way to end a busy day. We were all excited about the U2 gig the next day!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Nice Part 1

Saturday 11th July 2009

I've always had this excitement when arriving somewhere I've never been before, and as I looked at the beautiful Riviera coastline below as our plane descended into Nice I felt that feeling bubbling up in me. All the planning was over, it was time to enjoy!

The heat hit Debbi and I as we stepped out of the plane. Our friend Julie had arrived before us, but she had bad news, her luggage hadn't arrived with her! We waited as she reported it missing and then got a taxi to our apartment. The driver, Jean-Marc, was very chatty and gave us a commentary on places to see in the city and surrounding area for the full twenty minute journey!

I watched the new city whizz by, bright buildings framed by blue sky. Mountains and cliffs to the north and east, a dramatic setting. We arrived at our apartment in Rue Antoine Gautier, close to the Port and Old Town of Nice. Jean-Marc gave us his card and we saw more of him during our holiday as he became almost our personal chauffeur!

The apartment manager, a chatty Australian called Mike, was waiting for us. We entered the large, old green double doors into the stairwell which was tiled and had grand marble stairs, very French. Unfortunately we were at the top of the 65 stairs, but we somehow managed to haul our cases up.

The apartment was lovely, with an open plan living room/kitchen/diner, two bedrooms and a bathroom. It had the original hexagonal terracotta tiles on the floor and old-style double windows with the faded green shutters you see all over Nice. It had a nice feel to it.

The apartment belongs to travel writers who are away a lot and it has lots of their things still there so it felt homely. It had an eclectic mix of paintings and prints on the walls, various knicknacks and a good selection of books. Some of the things had value (eg an Ipod sitting in the dock) so there was a degree of trust involved when staying there - something that had attracted me to the apartment in the first place, trust is a rare thing between strangers nowadays.

We soon were out again looking for a supermarket in which to get our supplies in and found a Monoprix on Garibaldi Square just up the road. It was a beautiful square with it's fountain around a statue of Garibaldi and colonnades on all sides.

We got everything we needed and headed back. But we took a wrong turn and ended up in the Old Town. Now the Old Town is lovely, but not whilst carrying very, very heavy bags! We walked and walked having no idea where we were. We were going to have to ask for help, I practised my French for the first time to ask directions to the Port as we knew we were near that (yes, yes, we stupidly left the apartment without the map of the city Jean-Marc had given us!). The guy I asked looked mystified for a moment as I'd used la instead of le so was asking the way to la porte - the door - LOL! But he cottoned on and very helpfully gave directions back to me in English and we finally headed in the right direction.

We walked out of Vieux Nice and onto the seafront beside Castel Hill. We stopped for a rest at the beautiful war memorial that was built into the rock of the hill as our arms were aching, we were weary and very hungry. By now it was dark, but we could see the Port now and knew our ordeal was nearly over. Soon we were plodding up the marble steps to the apartment.

We made a meal and toasted to a great holiday with red wine. We lent Julie clothes to tide her over until her case was (hopefully) returned, then we just relaxed and chatted and didn't go to bed until 4am!

Sunday 12th July 2009

We had a "lazy" day today and after a very late lie-in we out to explore the area around our apartment. We wandered down to the Port and looked at the luxury boats there, one even had a helipad on it! Some of them must have cost as much as the gorgeous mansions on the hillside above the Port. How the other half live!
It was very hot and I was hoping that I could cope with the heat. Like a vampire I kept in the shadows as much as possible .

That evening we decided to eat out in the Old Town. The Old Town is almost like stepping back in time with streets and narrow lanes meandering in all directions, no wonder we got hopeless lost the previous night! But it was a lovely place with loads of atmosphere. I was surprised to read later that until only a few years ago the Old Town was a no-go area. Now it is safe and we felt no threat wandering through it.
There were so many restaurants that it was hard to choose. Some parts of the hotel a very busy, heaving with people and we didn't want that. In the end we found a restaurant called La Mama in a quieter but atmospheric area.

People had told me Nice is very expensive, and it's not cheap, but if you go for the set menus when eating out you get excellent value for money. This is what we did that night and we had a fantastic meal - I had a gorgeous steak for my main and it was so tender and cooked to perfection. It was lovely to be able to sit in comfort outside in the balmy night eating and drinking, chatting and people watching. We took our time with our meal just soaking up the atmosphere and sinking into the French way of life. I already new that I loved this place.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

U2 360 In Nice - Perspiration, Numb Arses, La Griffe and Joy

We arrived at the Charles Ehrmann Stade des Sports at about 3.30pm and it was still very warm - our taxi driver, Jean Marc, (who we got to know quite well over the week as he ferried us about the city) said, "Good luck" when he dropped us off as it was an extra hot day in Nice. Being from the far north of England I'm not very good in very hot weather so I had been careful to drink lots of water and had my can of Magicool in my bag - thank heavens for that stuff, it really makes a difference, but I was still worried I wouldn't be able to cope with the 30 degree heat. But fate was on our side and a few clouds started drifting across the sky cooling the temperatures just enough to make them bearable.

We could see The Claw, (or La Griffe as we realised it was in French from the tour souvenir article in Nice Matin newspaper that Jean-Marc kindly gave us), towering above the stadium, it looked a strange creation indeed. The stadium is situated in the north west of the city and flanked to the north by mountains and impressive cliffs, such a beautiful backdrop for the gig.

At 5.30pm the doors opened, and to my despair (but not surprise) the Magicool was taken off us - the security woman laughed as we had one last spray before discarding the tin. We were in the very cheap non-reserved seating, which really was only large concrete steps, you sat on one step and put your feet on the next. We chose seats that soon would be in shadow and were to the right of the stage. It was quite a good position and we had unobstructed views, except for a leg of The Claw. It certainly is a massive structure and on first sight in real life isn't exactly pleasing on the eye.

Time passed and gradually our bums got numb from sitting on the hard concrete. We got up shuffled about, sat down, got up again..... no wonder these seats had been cheap! The music being played was rather boring, a lot of it I didn't know which would not have gone amiss playing in a lift.
At 8pm Snow Patrol came on and instantly we realised what a great sound system lay within The Claw, it was crystal clear. I love Snow Patrol, I really like Gary Lightbody's voice and think they have written some fantastic songs including the classic Chasing Cars. They played a wonderful set of mainly their most well-known songs. Run gets to me every time, I could feel the emotion build up in me, I simply love that song. The band went down well with the audience too which was good to see.

9pm came and went, bums got number, but the rest of our bodies cooled down a little as the sun dipped lower in the sky. We speculated on what U2's entrance would be like. A helicopter was flying very low overhead and we joked that maybe they would parachute down and each slide down a leg of The Claw!

Finally at 9.30pm David Bowie's Space Oddity boomed out (one of the few decent songs played) and we knew this just had to be the start, and it was. Larry came out and played the drums and the band exploded into Breathe. It worked well live and was a powerful starter. The sound was the best I'd heard at a U2 concert and Bono was in good voice. He also looked very slim, where were those thighs and bum??!
Next was my favourite from the album No Line On The Horizon. I dialled my friend Dawn's number on my mobile and she was able to listen and enjoy it many hundreds of miles away in Scotland, the wonders of the modern world! The performance was stunning. The Claw almost seemed to come alive during the performances, puffing smoke, lights creating different effects, 360 video screen had very clear pictures of the band and videos.

Loved Magnificent, those opening notes are so distinctive and it went down extremely well with the crowd. I could see that being a great opener for the show with it's brilliant intro.

Desire was followed by snippets of two Michael Jackson songs, the last of which was Don't Stop Until You Get Enough. Bono repeated the last line over and over his voice getting softer each time until it was a whisper. I thought that was very effective, signifying how Michael slipped away from this life.

Stuck In A Moment.... was next dedicated to, "Another Michael". It was really good to hear this song again and it was performed so well.

Next was Unknown Caller complete with karaoke-like lyrics on the screen. I didn't like that and I don't like that song any better now I've heard it live either.

The screen then had a metamorphosis and lengthened downwards until it was just above the bands' heads, it was like The claw was coming alive, I almost expected it to start kicking out its legs to the beat next!

A real treat came next, The Unforgettable Fire. And it was excellent, the video screens echoed the song and Bono remembered all the words (which can't be said of some other songs at this gig!). It made me realise just what a complicated song that is both musically and lyrically, such an achievement for the then (1984) very young band.

A more recent tune was next in the set, City Of Blinding Lights, and the expanded screen created beautiful effects to go with this song and everyone was singing along to the "ooooohs". Great fun.

At first I didn't recognise I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight as it was so different from the album version,much more dancey. I'm not sure whether I liked it or not. Part of me was disappointed because I really like the album version, but part of me liked the risk the band were taking by doing this version. I need time for this one.

Zzzzzz for me next, Sunday Bloody Sunday and Pride. "I'm so sick of it!" But having said that the crowd erupted when both were played, they are crowd pleasers and U2 are almost trapped into playing them. But I do wish they would be brave enough to drop more of these songs they play at almost ever concert.

There wasn't a lot of talking from Bono but he did talk at this point about Aung Sang Suu Kyi. Oh no thought me, please don't say put on the masks..... He didn't, instead people who obviously had been picked form the crowd came out onto the walkway with masks on sticks in front of their faces and stood there as Bono sang Walk On. All the sticks were the same so they had obviously been given the masks to use by crew members. It worked quite well, better than the other idea, (maybe U2 had seen the opinions on the Net?) though sometimes you could see where Aung Sang Suu Kyi's eyes had been removed so the person could see to walk and that looked a bit weird. I didn't see anyone in the crowd put on a mask.

A heartfelt speech from Desmond Tutu about Africa was a prelude to One after which the band left the stage.

The encore started with fabulous Ultraviolet sung by Bono using a microphone that looked like a small steering wheel suspended from high within The Claw. He used the mic as a prop almost swinging on it and swinging it back and fore and catching it. I can see him missing one day and getting hit in the face! It was absolutely wonderful to hear that song again, very, very underplayed over the years. It is very strong live.

With Or Without You (Bono got no one on stage) followed by Moment Of Surrender close. It was a powerful song to finish with and I really enjoyed it. I've just picked out some songs to write about, the full setlist is at the end of this write-up.

And so that was the end of our first 360 show. The show is a barrage of music and vision, and we felt a bit over-awed at first and didn't say much. Now a few days later I've had more time to digest it all. I was very skeptical about The Claw, I really feel shows are about the music, emotion and communication not "effects". The Claw's "effects" are spectacular, stellar and even beautiful at times, most bands would be drowned by it. But i don't think U2 were, though at times it was close, but I think they pulled it off. Lovely to hear some rarely played songs again, though I would have been happy for there to be more rather than some of the over-played regulars.

So we walked out into the balmy night of Nice, cicada sounds ringing in the early hours (the show finished at 11.45pm). We risked the portaloos which were scary but not as scary as some I've been in! We now had sore feet from all the standing, the arses had improved a little, dust and grit stuck to our sweaty, sunscreen covered bodies, we were hungry and thirsty, but happy, U2 had delivered.

Already battalions of cleaning trucks and men with witches broom-like brushes were starting the big clean up. Dozens and dozens of coaches had whisked away the people from right beside the venue into the city centre, excellent organisation. The crowd had been great, good mannered, enthusiastic and we didn't see one person drunk, the Brits could learn a thing or two on that last point! We walked up the road to the police station where we had arranged to meet Jean-Marc to take us home. As reliable as ever he soon arrived and whisked us off across the city, we hoped we didn't smell too rank in the confines of the taxi after our strenuous day. We arrived at our apartment at 2am. Jean-Marc joked Bono was waiting for us inside - he'd brought him in his taxi earlier.

Showers, then we had a pizza, followed by meringues Chantilly (the best meringues I've ever had!) washed down by Moet champagne. We felt human again and the concert adrenalin was still flowing, we chatted until 5am when we though that maybe we should go to bed.......


No Line On The Horizon
Get On Your Boots
Beautiful Day
Mysterious Ways
Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For / Stand By Me (snippet)
Desire / Billie Jean (snippet) / Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough (snippet)
Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of
Unknown Caller
The Unforgettable Fire
City Of Blinding Lights
Vertigo, Let's Dance (snippet) /
I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Pride (In The Name Of Love)
Walk On / You'll Never Walk Alone (snippet)
Where The Streets Have No Name


Ultra Violet (Light My Way)
With Or Without You
Moment of Surrender

Jet Setting

Got back from Nice last night and already miss the place. I fell in love with Nice, especially the area where we stayed (near the port). I love the French way of life, food, wine, weather, lovely people, more relaxed.... I'll endeavour to write up what I can about my Nice trip and of course the U2 concert before I set off on Thursday for the next stop of my 360 tour - Dublin. Meanwhile here are a few photos from Nice.

View of Nice Port from the Castel

Old Nice

The cakes were a work of art, almost too nice to eat, absolutely delicious!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Magnificque Nice!

Just a quick few lines from Nice. Gorgeous place, the lively winding streets of the old town, azure blue sea, huge cabin cruisers in the port, faded shuttered windows, ochre walls, dogs in restaurants, brightness, great food and wine, lots of walking, sunshine and tomorrow U2!!!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

A Dog In A Suitcase!

Well I'm off to Nice soon for a weeks holiday and my first U2 360 gig, it 's the start of my tour. I'm so excited I could burst! I've never been to Nice before and it's a place I've always wanted to see. And of course the concert is eagerly awaited! I've looked a little at reviews but tried not to learn too much about what has been happening on stage so far. Started my packing tonight and a little dog called Pepsi decided he wanted to be part of my luggage! See the photo below, think he's trying to tell me something? LOL!

I'll be taking my netbook with me so may try to update the blog while I'm away. Keep checking my tweets on Twitter as I'll be updating on there too.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Video of Barcelona Gig 30 June 2009 (Spoiler!)

This apparently is called an Electronic Press Kit and it has surfaced on the Net. It shows snippets from the first night opener in Barcelona, great panoramic views of the stadium and claw, fans, the band, Willie Williams. There also seems to be parts of a new U2 song 9which is a bit Fez-like)at the beginning and end of the video, interesting. The video is official and is very good, well filmed and gives a bit of the feel of what it must be like to be at a 360 gig.