Catching Carnival the Niçois Way
SPECIAL NOTE: From time to time, instead of “Speak Paris” (Parler Paris), you will be receiving “Speak Nice” (Parler Nice). It only makes sense that when I’m on the Côte d’Azur, that instead of pretending to be in Paris talking about Nice and the Riviera, that we should just call ‘a spade a spade’ and talk about Nice instead.
For those of you who are only interested in the Riviera, and not Paris, you may opt in to just Parler Nice. And for those of you who have been reading Parler Paris for a long time, you may just have to put up with a Parler Nice on occasion. If you’re not interested in what goes on on the Mediterranean coast, then just delete the issue and forget you ever saw it.
The sun is pouring in the windows of Le Matisse this morning. It was silly to have installed so much lighting in the apartment — it lights up to the point of needing sunglasses indoors! Henri, the cactus, has grown more than a foot since his arrival about eight months ago since he’s happily installed in one of the three floor-to-ceiling windows.
I arrived yesterday afternoon after a smooth and uneventful Air France flight to a hazy afternoon with signs of Nice Carnaval everywhere. The confetti was being swept out of the Spar market on rue Maccarani where I stopped to pick up a few essentials before heading up to the apartment. Rue Masséna was bustling as usual with tourists and locals having a lazy lunch on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
It always feels so good to arrive on the Mediterranean. The airport is on the water so there is the sudden jolt that “Dorothy, you’re not in Paris anymore.” The 98 bus for four euros goes straight to my apartment along the water’s edge. The color of the water is aqua where it’s shallow, changing to a deep blue as it deepens. The palm trees scream of France’s idea of the tropics and the sun hits the apartment buildings along the Promenade des Anglais all day long as they face south and the sea. It has an immediate calming effect.
The night before, I had the privilege of attending a dinner party hosted by a VIP of one of the world’s biggest technology companies (which shall remain nameless) at his large and luxurious terraced penthouse apartment on the Champs Elysées. The view was drop-dead stunning, with the Eiffel Tower in full view and the Avenue streaming below bookended by the Arc de Triomphe and Place de la Concorde, lit to seduce and entice. The champagne and wine flowed along with a sumptuous dinner, but the revelry had taken its toll on me — still in recovery from a flu that rendered me au lit (in bed) for four days. Nice is the perfect antidote.
Last night we took in dinner at a nearby restaurant that has been in business 107 years and which maintains it’s original Art Nouveau decor — Le Franchin. Michelin Guide lists it and while Trip Advisor reviews are mixed, we had a delightful meal; loved the atmosphere, but particularly loved the humor of the waitstaff. It wasn’t overly expensive and felt the entire experience well worth the price.
The plans for the few days spent here include looking at properties for sale (I’m trying to find acceptable studio apartments in Old Town that meet our requirements for a great rental!). I continue to discover that most apartments simply don’t meet the needs of an American or Canadian (or even Australian) renter — that we have standards above the average European’s and want our experience in an apartment every bit as luxurious as in a multi-star hotel. Nice doesn’t have enough at this level of offering to satisfy the American market as most are owned by British and Italians who have a very different idea of what makes for a great stay.
The last renter at Le Matisse, who was the first to stay here one year ago and came again like an annual event, wrote promptly upon arrival and offered a photo from the balcony at dusk: “Got here with no problem…still have my cold, but being on the Riviera for a few hours is making me feel better already! I’ve attached a picture of the sunset from the balcony that I just enjoyed a few minutes ago…Feels like I’m ‘home.’ I know just what she means.
This trip I will also be taking in some of what Carnaval has to offer beside confetti. This year’s Carnaval is themed “King of the Five Continents.” There are two major events — the Carnival Parade and the Flower Parade. Tomorrow afternoon is the Carnival Parade made up of 18 floats and 50 big heads plus 100 other attractions. It passes along the Promenade des Anglais and very near Le Matisse, so it will not be missed!
The word “Carnival” comes from “carne levare” meaning “away with meat.” It’s all related to the Catholic tradition of Lent, but regardless of abstaining from eating meat, or practicing Catholicism, we are blessed with the festivities for all. You might note that in French, it’s spelled “Carnaval,” while in English, it’s “Carnival.”
Wednesday, I’ll have a full report with photos, of course, of this year’s event. So, do stay tuned!
A la prochaine…
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