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The truffle hunting in Provence was a success. The two trained dogs unearthed six beautiful specimens on the grounds of the producer -- a Frenchman named Johann Pepin married to Lisa, an American woman from Chicago, who had inherited the beautiful property, Les Pastras, from his grandparents and decided to give up their jobs in finance and public relations for the fresh air life, "starry skies" and organic farming in Provence. Their 11 hectares of rolling hills near Cadenet, as far as a crow flies from Ansouis, produces a variety of fruits, olives, grapes, nuts and...truffles.
We took the truffle-hunting tour Johann gives with a group of North Americans and learned things one might never know otherwise -- how to spot where the truffles might be hiding and how to train the dogs that love to unearth them for their masters. After the instruction and being a part of the action as the worker-dogs did their jobs well, we dined on shavings of fresh truffles and champagne, then unleashed our wallets to purchase some of their home-made products: truffle salt and truffle oil. (My daughter instructed me not to come home empty-handed.) One of our friends did much more -- he adopted one of their bee-hives in an effort to save the bees and have a small stake in the farm for posterity. The Franco-American couple who own and run the farm, have a policy to donate a fruit tree to the One Family Orphanage in Haiti for every oak tree that is adopted at Les Pastras.
Yesterday I took the morning bus from Aix-en-Provence to Nice -- a 2.5 hour ride for 25€. There are two buses that take the route -- the OuiBus that goes to the airport in Nice and the other that goes to the center of the city. I made the mistake of taking the bus to the airport and then having to transfer to the 98 bus that goes into the city from the airport...but, not a serious blunder since the 98 was waiting for me to hop on and the ride on the OuiBus couldn't have been more pleasant...with WiFi and an electric plug. The train from Aix would have been longer and more expensive.
Nice is as nice as it always is! The sun is shining gloriously and even though a bit chilly, it's very warming and inviting. Just being here makes me feel good even if I'm not running to the sea, although I can see it from my favorite corner table at Le Balthazar. I don't come for the food (don't expect much), but the corner table has a plug and a perfect view of the Promenade des Anglais from which one can watch what seems like the whole world go by. It has been swarming with promenaders.
Henri-le-Cactus is still happy as a spiny clam in his window growing taller by the moment -- way taller than me. The Christmas lights that were ready to be switched on when I was last here before Thanksgiving are now bright and twinkling like crazy. They light the balcony of "Le Matisse" and shine in the windows.
Some parts of Nice seem busy; others are quiet -- like one of my favorite restaurants, Coco et Rico, which was void of all lunch diners except for our table in spite of its great food and friendly service.
No matter. Nice is a great place to be for the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017. I will be celebrating in style with friends who love the Riviera as much as I do...friends from all over the U.S. and Canada, who share in our appreciation of the South of France.
Happy New Year to everyone, regardless of where you are and what you are doing.
P.S. "Le Matisse," my apartment near the sea in the Carré d'Or district, and the two-bedroom apartment next door, is available for short stays to friends of Parler Paris, Parler Nice and the Adrian Leeds Group. Email [email protected] for more information and to book your stay!
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