Happy Nice, Happy Life
CARNAVAL CANCELED DUE TO CORONAVIRUS
I came to Nice with the idea of seeing the last of the Nice Carnaval parades, but “thanks” to the Coronavirus, the carnival was cancelled…as was the Fête du Citron in Menton. Naturally it was disappointing, but understandable. All the cancellations of big public gatherings taking place across the globe is understandable, even if affecting our pocketbooks, or ruining our plans…or scaring us. The authorities have no choice, but to find measures to reduce the risks of contracting the virus, or spreading it, or taking responsibility for unnecessary deaths, while at the same time trying not to create a panic.
I make no comment on the pandemic, other than to say that I discovered a long time ago how to live without fear of the unknown and do what I can based on knowledge, instead. So, I stopped giving the “bises” (kisses) to everyone which is so customary here in France and even shaking hands has been discouraged and am making an effort to abide by the precautionary measures. That’s all I can do for now.
The Niçois don’t seem to be concerned as people are at the cafés and markets like normal. The grocery shelves are full, hence no sign of panic. I have seen one or two people wearing face masks, but the masks do more good to keep it contained, than for the prevention of catching it. The U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, Tweeted Saturday to “STOP BUYING MASKS!” “They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!” he said.
The good news is that Israeli scientists are claiming to be a few weeks away of having a vaccine and then 90 days more to complete the regulatory process, according to Israeli Science and Technology Minister, Ofir Akunis. (If anyone can do it, the Israelis can!) If that is true, then the financial markets should start to relax, as should all of us.
PICKY HUNTING SCREENING
Meanwhile, we’re enjoying life in Nice as usual. John G. Jones helped organize the screening of our latest House Hunters International episode, “Picky Hunting in Nice” with “contributors” Sarah Starbuck and Jack Newcastle at Le Truc (78, rue de France, Nice) Friday night. The story goes: “New York newlyweds follow their dream of living abroad by moving to Nice, France. He’s passionate about having a dedicated office where he can teach linguistics, while she’s hoping for peace, quiet and a stove for cooking.” A formidable group of friends and fans came for the screening and laughed their way through it, as Jack does his Don Rickles imitation and Sarah rolls her eyes, while I argue with him in disbelief. If you haven’t seen the episode, you may still find it on Youtube, although they aren’t supposed to be online (copyright laws) and may not be there for very long…so watch it ASAP to get the laughs! Or stay tuned for when we announce the next official airing.
A TOUR OF JEWISH NICE
Saturday was Leap Year Day, Shabbat, and a great day to ask Robert Levitt to show me the new Holocaust Memorial that sits in front of the Israelite Cemetery on the “Colline du Château” in Nice. In all the years of living part-time in Nice, I hadn’t ventured to the top of the hill until having this opportunity when the parades were cancelled and Robert was free to show off his talents. There is no tour guide as accomplished or as knowledgable of Nice’s Jewish History as Robert Levitt who lives and breathes his love for Nice and it’s colorful historical past. I felt honored he agreed to accompany me.
The Jews of Nice established their first synagogue there in 1418, and as was the case in most places in Europe, they were forced to live within a gated or walled area. In Nice, it was called “the street of the Jews,” now known as rue Benoit Bunico in Vieux Nice. The Jews found a way of integrating with their fellow Niçois by building tunnels and secret doors, that can now only be accessed via the apartments to which they lead, but not from the streets. One synagogue on that street was at number 18, built in 1733 by architect Anselme Spinelli. The building now looks like any other apartment building, except for the remnant of the ark-shaped window that once housed and displayed the Torah. (I learned this tid bit from Robert.)
This is where our tour started. As we walked along the streets of Old Town (aka Vieux Nice) Robert pointed out special markings over the doors indicating who lived there, or who was the architect or some reference to the inhabitants, many of whom were Jesuits. He took me inside a secret metal door that led to dark alleys between the old buildings that were remnants of medieval Nice most tourists or even residents never see or know about. I certainly hadn’t, but the door was unlocked and anyone could enter.
We climbed the steps and walked up the paths to the top of the château hill to the newly inaugurated memorial to the Jews who were deported from France, but we didn’t stop there. First off, it’s impossible not to revel in the views of the city from this mount. All of Nice, with its red tile roofs and ochre-colored buildings is stretched out before you (except for the port side), with the curve of the Baie des Anges glistening at its left side, even on a cloudy day as it was. I could almost see my own apartment building just behind the “Grand Roue” (Ferris Wheel) at Place Masséna.
Robert guided me away from the new memorial to what is just steps beyond — the memorial to the non-Jews who saved so many Jewish lives…”Justes parmi les nations” (Righteous Among the Nations). Robert pointed out the names engraved on the monument of a few of the individuals and how they risked their own lives to save their Jewish compatriots. Many were clergy who hid them in churches, orphanages and the like, as well as individuals who took them in as their own. These were very courageous Niçois to have followed their hearts.
Many passers-by didn’t even notice the new memorial wall, although it’s no longer the small plaque it once was. Le Mur des Déportés was inaugurated January 30th, 2020, 75 years after the liberation of the death camps. Nice saw fit to pay tribute to the 3,602 Niçois Jews who were arrested and never seen or heard of again. The wall is engraved with all of their names; the men, women and children who lost their lives to the Germans authorities. Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi (who by coincidence had dinner at a table next to mine at Chez Papa [9 Rue Bonaparte] Saturday night), the Prefect of the Alpes-Maritimes and regional delegates of Yad Vashem were there to lead the ceremony.
The gated “Cimetière Israélite” entrance is just beyond the wall. We couldn’t enter because it was closed for the sabbath, but we could peer through the gate and from further up the hill. There is a small building at the entry also commemorating the victims. On either side of the door of that building are two marble urns. In one are the ashes of the martyrs killed in Auschwitz and the other contains “soap made from human fat by the Germans of the Third Reich with the bodies of our deported brothers.” (If that doesn’t wake you up to the atrocities, nothing will.)
I urge you not to wait as long as I did to venture up the hill or take a tour with Robert for in-depth enlightenment of Nice’s fascinating history. The trade-off of the Carnaval parades to do the brief tour was well worth it. There is so much more to Nice than what meets the eye if you have the right guide. To contact Robert Levitt, visit his website or email [email protected] and be sure to let him know you read about him in Parler Nice!
JOHN AT BREWDOG
House Hunters International star John Garland Jones, is now singing his heart out at BrewDog every Sunday afternoon from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The “gang” (our community of clients and friends) are gathering there over specialty beers, schmoozing and hearing John sing, so this is another great place to meet people and make friends.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Sunday morning I met with my neighbors in Nice to discuss the possibility of installing an elevator in our building. We all want it badly and we’re fortunate enough to have an engineer living on the top floor who knows how to design it. That part was challenging enough, but we must also get permission by the boutique owner on the ground level to change the placement of a doorway leading to the ground floor of the stairwell, employ experts to assess the plan and provide an estimate to do the installation and ultimately find the money to make it happen, as well as get the permissions from the owners in the building. It takes time and tenacity, but since we all want it, eventually it should come to fruition. I am all for it, myself.
My neighbors are French, “very French,” but the engineer once lived Stateside working for a big tech firm. So, he’s a bit more understanding of me culturally than the others. In front of me, as we sat there over coffee and the elevator plans, the two gentleman started to discuss what they dislike most about Americans! I’m sitting there thinking, “what am I, chopped liver?,” but they thought nothing of saying these things knowing full well I understood every word. That didn’t upset me, because it was flattering to realize that they felt they could say those things comfortably without really offending me. And what was their number one complaint? That “Americans are obsessed with ‘the bottom line.'”
“The bottom line” is a phrase that doesn’t exist in French. They simply don’t think about “the bottom line.” When they said this, my only possible response was, “Yes, of course they do!” I couldn’t argue with it. They were right. The French tend to do what is right, or what they think is right, without considering “the bottom line.” And that’s one thing we Americans living here like so much about their thinking.
If America wasn’t so bottom line oriented, then Americans would have better health care for less cost, better education for their children at less cost and a whole host of other things the French believe are rights, not privileges. But, it seriously made me wonder about what the French really think about us. I know what we think about them, about which I could write tomes, but do we know what they think about us? I took it to heart, as should we all.
ASA IN CONCERT IN NICE (AND IN NIMES)
In the most recent NicExpression Magazine, I came upon a promo for singer Asa’s debut concert in Nice this coming Friday, March 6th, at the Théatre Lino Ventura…which I will sadly miss as I’m headed back to Paris Wednesday to tape House Hunters International #43! But, I urge all of you to go if you can. And if not, she will be performing in Nîmes the following evening. You won’t regret hearing her perform…I promise you.
NicExpression Magazine is Christian Estrosi’s tool for informing the public in Nice. The goal is to provide each issue with comprehensive information about community life, achievements, sports offerings, culture, etc. All in a pleasant way to read, clear and interesting. Each month, the 6-page dossier is devoted to a major subject in the life of the people of Nice. Distributed to 250,000 copies per issue, for 10 issues per year, NicExpression is searchable and downloadable in digital version! Get your copy: downloadable or viewable online .
Happy Nice, happy life.
A la prochaine…
Editor of Parler Nice
(at Château Nice)
P.S. We’re still looking for a loft or atelier style property in Paris in which to tape a House Hunters International episode — valued between 350,000€ and 400,000€. If you have such a property or know of one, please email me immediately at [email protected] Merci!