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In Search of a Property Not in a Winter Wonderland

Nice wasn’t the sunny haven I was hoping for. In fact, it was (and still is) doing a pretty good imitation of Paris — cold, gray and wet. Meanwhile, back in the City of Light it has not been raining as is usual, but snowing wildly, totally white — not the usual gray — so heavily covered in snow that it’s wreaking havoc with life in the city. It is the first snowfall in years…and sadly, I have missed it. Friends have sent me photos just to make me jealous, as normally it would be me in Nice making my Parisian friends jealous with the sunny weather. This time it’s the other way around!

I’m in Nice this week with clients visiting properties for purchase. Our clients are seeking a “pied-à-terre” that they and their family and friends can enjoy from time to time. Our first day out — Monday — we visited eight one and two-bedroom apartments, all within the districts of the Carré d’Or and the Quartier des Musiciens. After Day One, we were able to eliminate six and put two at the top of the list, but we agreed that there wasn’t a single one that we’d have immediately ruled out.

The first one took our breaths away. Newly renovated situated on a northeast corner in the Quartier des Musiciens on a high floor with big floor-to-ceiling windows on all sides and a very large covered terrace — with great views. We almost thought we had found THE ONE right out of the gate, until we started to visit the others. The others were a mixture of old, needing lots of renovation, to relatively new with very few modifications to make. Of the eight, that first one still ranks as one of the top contenders along with apartment #7 (in the chronological viewing list). It had been recently updated (but could use a few changes to add a second bathroom), lacked the terrace, but had windows on three sides in a fabulous location next to the Anglican church in the Carré d’Or — with views of the church and the park. The big decision is of course, big terrace vs location. Would they rather be closer to the sea or have a terrace on which to spend lazy moments?

That was just Day One and the decision was already tough. The couple making the purchase had never been to Nice before. They spent the first few days simply walking every inch of the city to get to know it and found it as charming as everyone else. After getting the know the city, they certainly weren’t sorry they had decided to make their purchase in France in Nice rather than Paris or elsewhere…even in the inclement weather.

After the property visits on Monday, we dined together at Villa d’Este — a big well-known and well-respected Italian restaurant a stone’s throw from my apartment on rue Masséna — along with a couple from San Antonio who had moved here permanently last summer. They were in a similar situation at the time, looking for a place to which they could retire and didn’t know where in France they could afford to live. I suggested Nice and they took my recommendation without knowing anything about it other than my ravings. Immediately upon their arrival, we found them an apartment in the Carré d’Or two blocks from the beach that needed complete renovation, and our team renovated it to luxury standards…all within their budget.

Over dinner, Robert from San Antonio was bubbling over with his excitement for the virtues of the city and environs. He thinks he’s “died and gone to heaven” — and went on and on about how much he loves not owning a car, how they walk along the Promenade des Anglais every day to see the sea, how inexpensive life is in France, how many friends they have made thanks to all the Anglophone organizations and Meet-Up groups, how they are taking tons of day trips to other parts of the area on the public buses that cost only 1.50€, etc., etc., etc.

He and his wife, Juliana, couldn’t wait to share that enthusiasm with our property search clients. I didn’t have to do a thing…just sit back and watch. Robert also imparted on us some of the lessons he’s learned along the way, such as never speaking to anyone or asking a question of anyone before saying “Bonjour,” never ask a French person how they are doing unless you don’t mind getting a lot of complaints (Americans always say “fine,” even when that’s not true!), and to expect a mountain of red-tape and bureaucracy. He had us in stitches laughing, but said nothing that would discourage them from continuing on their quest for an apartment.

Yesterday we visited almost as many as Monday — seven. One was a penthouse on boulevard Dubouchage with fabulous views of the city from the north bedroom windows and from the south from a large terrace. Another was a totally professionally renovated apartment quite ruined by an overzealous young designer with concrete floors and zero charm. Another was tucked behind the Promenade des Anglais with a sliver of a view on the sea, but a beautiful view of the Villa Masséna and the Hôtel Negresco. A couple of others we visited had been lived in for years needing complete renovation, but having lots of potential.

One of the owners who was present while we visited the apartment told us all about how the owners above her renovated their apartment creating an open or American kitchen, which she called “not a real kitchen.”

I chuckled, put my hands on my hips, put on a big smile to make a joke of it and said, “Madame, an American kitchen IS a REAL kitchen!”

“Oh no! When it’s closed, your guests have to smell the aromas coming from the kitchen!” she argued.

“But, madame, “That’s the pleasure! Plus, the cook has a chance to talk to their guests and not be imprisoned in the kitchen!” I retorted.

She actually agreed with me; we laughed about the exchange and moved on to the next apartment. Seeing so many wonderful properties made us all even more confused, as again, there wasn’t a single one that wasn’t worth a visit. At the end of the day over a great cup of coffee at Il Caffé Dai Ragazzi on rue de France, we went through all the prospectuses, one for each property, numbered and dated them so we could remember each property, calculated the cost per square meter and added any estimated renovation costs to make a fair comparison between them. That made it easier to narrow down the choices to three that we’d want to revisit.

Today we’re going to see a handful more, larger and more expensive to get a sense of what money will buy, and revisit a few with the hopes that by Thursday an offer can be made on one of them and our clients will walk away with the beginnings of an apartment in Nice. Our colleague who does the design and renovation will join us to comment on what can be done and what the expected costs will be. That will help tremendously!

For those of you who care about Henri-le-Cactus’ progress and growth, he still sits majestically in his usually very sunny corner and doesn’t seem to be as bothered by the rain in Nice as I am! Today will be partly cloudy, tomorrow the rains will be back, but the weekend looks bright and sunny. I certainly hope so!

Meanwhile, I am missing the winter wonderland in Paris, and it’s been raining “sans cesse” (non-stop) in Nice, but what the hell…Nice is Nice nonetheless.

A la prochaine,

Adrian Leeds

Editor of Parler Nice
Adrian Leeds Group

(chilling in Nice)

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P.S. To all my friends of Parler Paris and French Property Insider, I make Le Matisse available for short to medium stays while I’m not using it. Those who have already stayed here have found it as delightful as I do. So if you’re interested in getting to know Nice, Le Matisse is your answer. Visit the site or email [email protected] for more information and to book your stay. Then, you can say hello to Henri-le-Cactus for me!


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