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Thursday, February 2, 2012

French Travel Adventures. Train from Montpellier to Florence. Part Two.



Hearing Bomb and Get Off the Train in the same sentence accompanied by brusque arm motions is unsettling, and needs little translating. So, yes, there was some mass confusion and as we detrained I ran into a couple from California who I had met while on the train from Nice, on the inbound trip, weeks ago. 
What kind of circumstance is that? And just what is it about meeting on trains that forges such seemingly intimate friendships?

We reacquainted and moved as a tangled mound of spaghetti might, lurching our bags and pulling on elbows, and getting as far from the train as we could.

More Pasta with Paolo

As the petite group of Americans tumbled through the station we added to our numbers and even the One Asian Gentle Man who was in my car on the train and now traipsing with us felt comfortable in attempting to figure it all out. Gradually we detected the truth. The Bomb was not on the train. The Bomb was not even in the station. The Bomb was found at the next station, or near it, I am not entirely sure, but turns out it was an unexploded WWII Bomb, a live Bomb, that craved some attention, but that attention did not include having a train run over it.

But now how exactly and what exactly did the “Italian Officials” and the “French Officials” (since technically now the Bomb was in France) well you can imagine they were having a field day with this type of International Border situation. But besides that, how did they think we would or even should proceed to Nice? This was making a grand assumption that we wanted to leave Italy. Leave antipasto? The Italian Officials seemed to think it wouldn't be so bad to stay. Who could blame them? 

Typico Antipasto

So we asked again. Just for clarification.

A bus was coming. 
Si. si. Yesssss, Senora.
Pronto? Quand est? When?
(The French Officials stepped in)

Je ne c'est pas.
Tres certain?
Oui! Bien sur!

A bus was indeed and certainly then, on its way. And they did seem certain that they didn't know. 
From where A Bus was coming.  
It was a bus for sure, and that was all we knew. I glanced at all the detrained and disgorged passengers along with French and Italian Officials and knew they were all waiting for the one and the only A Bus. But perhaps A Bus that was growing larger as it made its way towards us, or multiplying into Buses, I hoped. 

The little group agreed that we all, even our Asian Gentle Man, had A Train to catch in Nice. Was this where we were destined to live out our days, my mind was spinning a story even as we stood there trying, desperately I reasoned, to get to our new home. We learned, as it turned out, that we were only about 30 miles from Nice. Probably because we were all destined for a new, a very nice life in Nice in a Grand Maison overlooking the Promenade Anglais and the Cours Saleya we all somehow at the same time got the brilliant idea to hire a taxi.

The Dijon Maison

We did.
We arrived.

And then just as quickly as we arrived, we began the departure dance. But what a beautiful life we had in Nice’s train station until we all departed. I decided it would be unkind to mention the now empty rooms of our Dijon Maison (see photo). Or how to adequately say adieu to the Poissonier bringing icy mounds of rascasse to the Cote Cours Cafe in the Cour Saleya Market. It would be uncouth to use a spoon to empty the CafĂ© au Lait’s that we left rudely on the equally Dijon table. We pushed back our chairs without extending even a gracious invitation to our garcon as we flung a sad little au revoir at him. It probably was for the better that the little group didn’t realize our alternate life had come and gone so quickly. We didn’t have to make the usual excuses. 

What is it about meeting in trains that forges such quick and intimate friendships?
Has this ever happened to you?

Read Part Three.

A Nice Fountain in Nice


Nicois Style Spaghetti

Makes enough for 4

As much spaghetti as you can comfortably grasp in the circle of your thumb and forefinger.

½ cup good olive oil
2 red peppers, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 very ripe tomatoes, chopped or if not possible then use chopped canned tomatoes such as san marzano
2 tablespoons wrinkly black nicoise olives, pitted and chopped
4 anchovies
handful of fresh basil stems and leaves
few sprigs of fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne chili

Chop the peppers, the garlic and the tomatoes. Heat a medium sauté pan and heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the peppers and all remaining ingredients with thyme and basil. cook for 30 to 40 minutes.

Cook the spaghetti in a pot of salted boiling water. When al dente, drain the pasta.

In the large pot mix all the ingredients together. Season to taste with salt and pepper and a  bit of cayenne chili. Serve immediately. Board the Train.

Promenade Anglais


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