As promised last week, I've moved to the South of France and taken up residence in a large house just outside Grasse. By day I cruise the corniches in an unmarked stolen Rolls-Royce looking to have an unfortunate hit-and-run incident with Michael Winner. By night I drive up the coast to Monte Carlo where I do my best to break the bank. I've sadly had no luck with either project so far. My funds are going to last me another week and then I'll have to sell the Rolls and bin the fantasies for another year.
I spent a lot of time on the Côte D'Azur as a kid and I have a real love for the area despite the onslaught of building that has left the coastline almost devoid of nature. It has got so bad that it is almost pointless to try and determine where one town ends and another starts. Nice, Antibes, Cannes, Golfe Juan, Mandelieu have all blurred into one enormous conurbation.
I flew here from Bristol airport, a first for me. I took an easyJet flight, just about the most unglamorous way of arriving but the flights are always packed with interesting people on their way to their holiday homes.
I got lost on my way to Bristol airport and will undoubtedly be featuring in a big way on the next episode of "World's Daftest/Scariest/Wildest Drivers". I made the big mistake of following the Sat-Nav in my car. It decided that it would be much more interesting to take me right through the centre of Bristol in rush hour rather than the leisurely drive round the city on a motorway that most normal people would take. By the time I realised what this evil machine was up to I was stuck in traffic and it was laughing at me. "In 100 yards, you will still be stuck in solid traffic and your blood pressure will have shot up once again," jeered the anodyne voice. I was terrified as I didn't want to arrive one minute late at the easyJet check-in to find that 14-year-old idiot who appears in their TV documentary series, leering at me over the desk as he waved a "Flight closed" sign in my face. I apologise to the people of Bristol whose gardens, drives and parks I roared through in order to make it with five minutes to spare.
It was all worth it. Once we landed at Nice we went straight out to supper at one of my all-time favourite restaurants, Le Tétou. It's a glorified beach shack in Golfe Juan that just does bouillabaisse and has a Michelin star for its efforts. I've been going there since I was in nappies and it remains a constant oasis of calm in an increasingly concrete desert. This sense of calm is considerably augmented if you are a multimillionaire, as the prices are astronomical. One has to just plonk a credit card down when the bill arrives and not even look at the total if you want to drive home safely. As a boy I used to love going there with my parents because, quite apart from the exceptional food and wine, it had a world-class topless beach right beneath the windows.
As a hormonal adolescent I would wolf down large bowls of soup laden with lobster, saffron potatoes and rouille while discreetly admiring the spectacular floor-show on the beach. Things, I'm glad to report, are no different nowadays except that I'm forced to hide my gawping from my wife rather than from my father who, I now realise, is another keen admirer of the view.
Unlike the old days, one cannot weave one's way home in a car after three or four wonderful bottles of local rosé. The coast now resembles a police state with fierce-looking riot policemen lining the roads, machine-guns at the ready pulling one in two drivers in for breath tests. Sadly, the test is not for the reek of garlic; if it were then the air quality would be much improved down here.
On Thursday I went scuba diving off the Iles de Lerin, the little islands off the coast of Cannes. Afterwards, as I wandered into Eddie's, a gorgeous little restaurant in the old harbour where they cook my catch, I was told that Henman had lost. I raised my glass to him as the first whiff of grilled fish hit my nostrils.Reuse content