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A Taste of Nice

Friday I will be packing my bags to head to Sardinia, not by ferry, but by plane — the easier, faster way to get there. Next week, you and I will both be on vacation from Parler Paris, Parler Nice and French Property Insider while I behave like a lizard on the sand of the Italian island. The following Monday, you’ll get a full report of what Sardinia was like, particularly as compared to Corsica, my vacation spot of preference for the last many years.

This is the first summer I’ve spent as many consecutive weeks in Nice and not ashamed to admit that Nice is really nice. Why hadn’t I done this before? Because, like most investment property-owners, I allowed others to enjoy my apartment during high season, instead of just enjoying it myself. How dumb is that? I’ve learned my lesson that there is just one life to live and you can’t take the hard-earned bucks with you to the grave. Enjoy it while you can.

I bought the apartment on rue Masséna six years ago with the idea that perhaps Nice would be a viable retirement haven. And as it turns out, it is. The more I’m here, the more I want to be here and can see dividing my time between the two French cities even more than before. Paris is Paris and will always be Paris. There is nothing quite like it, but Nice is nice and there’s nothing quite like it, either.

Do I miss Paris? No. Not at this moment.

My world here is smaller and therefore manageable by foot. The weather is so spectacular that it’s preferable to be walking, even with the snaking, slithering tram that is so amazingly practical. There’s no shortage of easy-peasy transportation if you wish to get out of the Niçois enclave to see more of the coast, but at the moment, I don’t even care. One look at the azure water in the Baie des Anges and it’s enough to make me swoon.

Today I will give you a taste of MY Nice: the every day life in Nice and what that might look like if you were to consider a visit or a life in Nice of your own:

A Day in the Life of a Part-Time Niçoise

The sun rises and floods the apartment (Le Matisse) with light because it’s south-facing, so much that if I don’t wear an eye mask, I’m bouncing out of bed about 7 a.m. without an alarm. That’s BEFORE I open the drapes and that’s what I do next — pull back the drapes and really let it pour in. It stays light all day long as the sun moves from east to west and by luck, the apartment is opposite low buildings and therefore has light longer than most of the other buildings on my side of the street.

The TV goes on to see what horrible news is coming out of the U.S. and the White House. Why I torture myself, I’m not sure, but curiosity gets the best of me and then I scream at the TV a bit before making coffee. (If I don’t want to make it myself, the city’s best coffee is just down the street at Caffè Vergnano 1882.

After a bath in my big oval tub with bubbly water up to my neck, I settle down to answering emails and getting work accomplished…unless of course, I have an appointment around the corner at my favorite nail shop for a pedicure. Sakura Nails does a great job making my feet smooth as silk for just 30€, without a fancy-shmancy massage chair, but with the skill of the owner, Itoé, a Japanese woman whose fingernails are longer than her own fingers. (I don’t understand how she does what she does with those nails!)

Lunch could be with friends, or clients or alone with my trusty laptop. I naturally fall into one of my two favorite restaurants: Il Vicoletto or Portovenere. Il Vicoletto has a luncheon special that always changes and for under 20€, I (and anyone else) can eat like a “regina” (queen). There is no shortage of wonderful restaurants in Nice. Just last week I gave a long list of restaurants to clients who recently purchased an apartment here in which I had eaten since I’ve been here and each one has been exemplary…this was while we were dining very well at the Hôtel Westminster on the Promenade des Anglais with a beautiful view of the palm trees and the water from our Promenade-side table.

New and big palms have been planted all along the “Prom.” They are propped up to allow them to root well. This is after a South American moth and the Asian red palm weevil destroyed so many in 2010. The Niçois and tourists are happy to have their beloved palms back, alive and well.

Afternoons are up for grabs — either it’s a beach day or a day to write or other excursion. If I’m writing, then I might park myself at the Balthazar on the “Prom” at the corner of rue Halevy where there is WiFi and a plug at the corner table (where I am at this moment) or at the Ruhl Plage where there are tables or lounge chairs, right on the water, shaded by enormous parasols. The cost of the drinks is the same in either location, but there are no plugs at the Ruhl so I can’t stay there quite as long.

The Balthazar is close to where the truck finished its mad race last July 14th and remained closed for a while in memorial of the victims. All the employees found themselves the next day to want to be together, welded. The spectators of the fireworks ran, rushed behind the bar and into the kitchen to hide. Each time I sit here I think of that moment and realize our lives go on in spite of such horrors…and the people passing with their beach gear are as happy to be here as I am.

If the afternoon is spent at the beach, then I take my folding lounge chair down to the public beach between Ruhl Plage and Le Galet, since it’s the closest to my apartment (I’m too lazy to schlep further down). I try to get close to the water, lather up with sunscreen, plug in to Spotify with headphones, open a book to read and munch on snacks, all while watching the escapades on the beach. The people watching is entertainment all by itself and could keep me quite amused (see last week’s Parler Nice, Life’s a Beach.)

The calm or violence of the water varies with the wind and the tide. If the waves aren’t too big, which usually is accompanied by a strong undertow that isn’t too inviting for a poor swimmer such as myself, I’ll put on my water shoes (a must) and take my “noodle” (a cylindrical piece of polyethylene foam) into the water to float a while, looking around, back at the shore and out at the water. There is usually a fleet of sailboats from a sailing school that dot the seascape along with the gigantic and colorful Corsican ferries that go in and out of the Old Port. The world’s largest aircraft, the Emirates A380 superjumbo, which flies between Nice and Dubai, leaves Nice just before 4 p.m. and dominates the sky above the blue waters. I imagine it is for this reason that Emirates T-shirts dominate the landscape, too, thanks to the 44 per cent increase in capacity — the big planes are bringing over more and more tourists and I’ll bet they are handing out T-shirts to their passengers.

The pebbles make for a much cleaner beach visit than sand, but nonetheless, the tub gets another workout before heading out to dinner. Dusk is a great time of the day to venture into Place Masséna when the sun is low in the sky and the pink tones of the buildings reflect on the scene. There are always street performers there gathering big crowds.

I might then walk down the Promenade de Paillon toward Old Town or Place Garabaldi. The Promenade, once a river and then a deserted park, it is now a wonderland of families enjoying the fountains and playgrounds. I love watching the little kids discovering the jets and their “sensual power.” One little boy of about three or four years old ran from jet to jet — and maybe he was too young to realize the true nature of the pleasure, but it was obvious he found it “seductive.” I watch and I chuckle.

Sometimes going to a movie strikes me — it’s so easy as there are theaters all around within a 5-minute walk. The Rialto, just down the street from Hôtel Negresco, is a great cinema venue and a bit comical. One older woman runs the ticket booth (and has all the years I’ve been coming here) and doesn’t open up until minutes before a film, so you don’t have to get there too much in advance. The line grows long as we wait for her to open up her cash box and say “Bonjour.” There are lots of single older people in the theaters, so when alone, I don’t feel alone at all. People are friendly and will talk among themselves. Somehow, it’s much simpler than in Paris and inviting to drop in any time.

On Sunday mornings I like to go down to the Cours Saleya in Old Town just to peruse the market, even though I don’t usually buy much of it. The Provençal produce is spectacular, however…but since I’m not cooking much, there’s not point in buying it. Looking is enough. The Provençal soap vender I like best is Les Savons d’Oceane from Marseille — the one on the farthest west side of the market in the midst of the flowers. If you’re walking east from the beginning of the market, down the center, you’ll run right into a big table with dozens of different flavors of soaps. My favorite is the rosemary which has pieces of rosemary in it and is the strongest smelling of all the other makers’. It’s also really creamy. A bath or shower with this soap is pure heaven.

In the evening after dinner, it’s delightful to walk along the Promenade. There are a few brave night swimmers in the water, picnickers on the pebbles and if you want something more “civilized” (since you’re in your evening dress) the Lido Plage holds a veritable party — with a band and dancing right down on the pebbles at the water’s edge: “Les Soirées Tropicales Du Lido Plage” from 8:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Rue Masséna is constant entertainment. With the double-paned French doors closed, I hear almost nothing, but if you’re on the balcony, you can see and hear the lively activity that starts once the delivery trucks are gone (11 a.m.) and until midnight. The Brazilian acrobat dancers are regulars as are musicians of all kinds. One time the sound of drums was so loud that I had to go to see what was happening and spotted a band of drummers at Place Magenta, just a few meters away making quite a racket and drawing a big crowd. Yep, that’s my “hood.”

One thing for sure — there’s never a dull moment. Before I came, I thought I might be bored.

No way.

A la prochaine,

Adrian Leeds

Editor of Parler Nice
Adrian Leeds Group

(Lunch at Portovenere)

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Next week, I will be on vacation in Sardinia and not publishing our thrice-weekly newsletters. But I’ll be back on August 14th with a full report!

P.P.S. If you have 30 seconds, could you please vote for Parler Paris Après Midi? It only takes two clicks!


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