The Blairs want a drill in all things French and experience is the best teacher. But Franco-mania can produce life's sweetest pleasures and its worst misfortunes. Is the Blair's dream home hiding in the back roads of Europe's dairy land? Find out when House Hunters moves to Normandy, France with the help of professional real estate consultant Adrian Leeds.
Dear Parler Paris Reader,
The last two days have been some of the two most intense and productive days of my life. It's amazing how many things can take place at one time without losing one's mind (or at least one hopes not). It's the usual tornado of life ten times faster than normal keeping us spinning high in the air.
We arrived Sunday evening at a hotel in Nice in which we had not stayed before (Le Nouvel) -- only to encounter an unpleasant desk clerk (a smile would have cracked her face), no WiFi in the room (although promised on the Web site) and a very sad ambience. Our first project was to cancel the hotel and move to another. The Web site which we had used to make the reservations was quick to come to our rescue, thank goodness, and the next morning we checked out and moved to a hotel closer to le chantier (construction project, and in this case, the apartment "Le Matisse" ).
The replacement hotel (Le Paradis) was chosen simply because a friend had recently stayed there and gave it a good review. But the exchange was not for the better. It's totally run down, stained, shabby and pretty pathetic, and aside from the yellow walls and red blankets which at least give it some life, it's a far cry from the others we've stayed in -- this being the ninth visit to Nice within one year.
Véronique Husson, the "mosaïste" (Intemporelle Decoation Mosaique), is staying on after I leave tomorrow, so we ferreted out another hotel for her. After a brief visit, she claimed that it was charmant for the petit prix. We're spoiled. We can attest to the gross difference in luxury between any of the hotels we've stayed in and any of the apartments we represent. A hotel that provides the same standards, amenities and luxury would only be possible for at least double the price...and even at that, a hotel does not provide kitchen facilities, washer/dryer, complete video and sound systems and all the other comforts of home like an apartment.
Most of the apartments offered by the British and Italian (and French) owners in Nice cannot be rented for less than one week. We disagree with this policy both in Paris and now in Nice. Four days or more booked more than one month in advance is all it takes to reserve a beautiful deluxe 'home' in Paris or Nice...and if you should happen to reserve within 30 days of your stay, only three days is the minimum...and those three days you spend in a plush apartment will make your stay the kind you will treasure forever...not like the nightmarish memories I'll have from this stay in 'Not So Nice Niçois Inns.'
Le Matisse was supposed to be further along than it was when we arrived Sunday night, but the progress in two days has been amazing. What everyone has accomplished in such a short time would make your head spin. Véronique has completed almost all the tile work in my apartment and started on the work in the adjacent apartment -- which may be dubbed "Villa Paradis" -- although this is not absolutely certain. She's a "turbo" with the tiles, leaving her mark on my bathroom, kitchen, dining room table and bedroom dressing area. Next door, she is now 'attacking' two bathrooms floor to ceiling.
Meanwhile, the plumber, electrician, meneusier (carpenter) are busy assembling the furniture, finishing the molding detail, installing the appliances, etc., etc. We are reviewing every detail, making tons of decisions and working out little problems. There is dust everywhere, so our black shoes last about three seconds before turning semi-permanently gray.
One of the owner's of the "Villa Paradis" is here preparing his apartment, too. Borrowing the contractor's truck, we drove north to Leroy Merlin (like a Home Depot) to make purchases for the apartments. More than four hours and no lunch later, we headed back with a load of important odds and ends that they will need to complete the work. Making the decisions about which door knobs, which mirrors, which tiles, etc., etc. is both exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. At the cash register, after ringing up all the items, my 'good old Capital One credit card' went into 'security block mode' rendering us helpless for a good 15 minutes while phoning the U.S. (from an expensive French cell) to answer a slew of (dumb) questions to prove who I am to unblock the card...whew!
Still, it's shaping up nicely and it's easy to imagine the final product. It's going to take yet another trip to Nice to complete the process, however. How terrible. Today when we saw the sea for only the second time since arriving, it was blue-blue and so was the sky. I'm soaking up the vitamin D.
One of the pleasures of discovering Nice has also been the food. We're seeking out the best bistrots, pizzarias, cafés, restaurants...and finding them, too. But this is yet another story...so stay tuned for the "Cheap Insider 'Nice' Restaurants"...and why not?
Last night one of our Parler Paris readers yelled out at me walking down rue Masséna. It was a surprise for both of us to see each other in a relatively unlikely spot. So, you see, Parisians are vacationing in Nice. That's when you know you have really arrived...when Paris becomes so "everyday" that Nice becomes the new friend and Paris becomes the old friend who knows you better than anyone.
P.S. By hook or crook, Le Matisse is going to be ready for its first guests in time for Carnaval de Nice February 17 through March 4, 2012. I'll be there even if you won't! To learn more about the annual festival in Nice and along much of the Riviera, visit Carnaval de Nice and to book your stay in Le Matisse, email email@example.com. For a video of mosaïste Véronique Husson at work, vist Véronique on YouTube.
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Practice speaking French and English. Make friends, discuss interesting topics, learn about other cultures, progress in understanding and speaking, naturally and easily. Meets three times a week -- come as often as you like!