Life in Nice: Too Relaxed for My Own Good!
WHY YOU MIGHT WANT TO LIVE IN NICE
If I stay in Nice any longer, I might just get too relaxed for my own good. Even when the weather is less than perfect on the Blue Coast, the swaying palms, the warm-colored buildings and leisurely lifestyle melt the blues away.
Easter weekend couldn’t have been more perfect with friends from Paris, Nice and the U.S. exploring things to do, more restaurants in which to find great meals and lapping up the Riviera “joie de vivre.” With each stay, I discover more Americans living in Nice (or environs) who have made this part of France their permanent home and are loving it, extolling its virtues for things to do that they wouldn’t be doing in Paris. One has taken up sailing, another rowing — activities that seaside living allows. Culturally they are finding that while the Riviera is missing the grand art exhibitions that Paris exudes, music, opera and dance performances are prevalent and offer a good alternative.
Being a small, walkable city, with good public transportation, Nice is really manageable and accessible. From my spot in the Carré d’Or at “Le Matisse,” I can go by foot to just about anywhere within 15 minutes, but the tramway and buses are always there should they be wanted or needed. I’ve been opting out of riding more often than not now that the Promenade de Paillon is open as it makes a great fun and easy direct path from Place Masséna to Place Garabaldi, without walking through Old Town. It’s become a destination for the Niçois and tourists alike.
Good Friday was a special treat in Old Town with a procession led by the religious leaders of the Sainte-Réparate de Nice Cathedral to the 14 “Stations of the Cross.” Painted canvases depicting Christ carrying the cross to his crucifixion were placed along the streets of Old Town starting at Place Rossetti. We had ringside seats at the Bar Bitch to watch the procession from its first station and two after, before dining at my favorite bistrot, Le Bistrot Antoine. The Caesar Salad there, touted as “vrai” (real) on the menu, is not what I would call “real”, but I would say it ranked up there with the absolute best!
For a small adventure, Saturday morning we trekked up to the Marché de la Libération just to see what it was like — clearly abundant with beautiful fresh produce, meats and fish and a lot less expensive than the touristy Cours Saleya. This is where the “vrai Niçois” go for their marketing, without a doubt.
I had lunch on Friday with American musician Farnell Jenkins in a little restaurant in Old Town where he had come to know the owners from his past visits to Nice — “Oliviera.” If you like fresh-pressed olive oils, this is the place to get them (even Alain Ducasse seems to think so as he praises it in one of his guides to the Riviera). The food was delicious, but the olive oil tasting even better.
Then, Saturday night was what we all had been waiting for — drinks at the Relais bar of the Negresco Hotel where Farnell was debuting his three-night gig. Farnell is the composer of a song titled “I Wanna Be Loved” written in 1972 and later performed by Elvis Costello & The Attractions — I’m sure you all know it. In the warmth of the wood-paneled luxurious room, a dozen or so friends of Parler Nice gathered to hear Farnell and set an American tone. While we partied, Farnell played the baby grand piano and sang with a rich husky voice the kind of songs that everyone loves to hear, that conjure up a cornucopia of memories.
We were an active bunch of American ‘hooligans’ — Tim S. and I danced the swing right next to the piano so long that Farnell accused us of ‘wearing him out’ to which we accused him of the same! Then Martha M. couldn’t help but egg him on to play and sing some gospel (his true love). When he obliged her, she ran over to the piano to sing along with him! An American woman traveling alone and sitting near us ended up joining our party — that ended up keeping Farnell company into the wee hours of the morning.
Farnell Jenkins is the real thing. He’s authentic. I find that the French musicians who are playing R&B, jazz or gospel, are well trained and accomplished musicians, but they lack the soul someone like Farnell Jenkins so naturally carries with him. It was a total treat for all of us to be in such a beautiful space enjoying such a talent and all we can hope for is a return engagement!
The scents of blossoming trees has sweetened the air almost at every turn in Nice. Along boulevard Franck Pilatte in Mont Boron on the eastern side of the Old Port, the trees are lined up and overflowing with flowers and aroma. We’re not sure if they are Orange Blossoms, but its intoxicating. Large cruise and merchants ships were harbored in the port creating a backdrop to the Sunday Easter scene.
We topped off the weekend with an early movie (The Grand Budapest Hotel) and dinner at home after miles of walking and exploring the seaside city. It’s very quiet here this morning — another holiday: “Lundi de Pâques” — the Monday after Easter Sunday. Even rue Masséna is tranquil.
Uh oh. Getting too relaxed for my own good…time to head home to Paris?
WHY I LIVE OR WANT TO LIVE IN FRANCE
Last week, I asked you readers to express yourselves: “Tell me in 25 words or less: ‘Why I live, or want to live in France.'” And you did.
Holly F. believes she was French in another life. I understand her. I used to think so, too. That’s one reason I ended up in France. Deborah H. agreed with her, except that she felt for the first time in her life, her ‘spirit and soul was finally home.’ Woody G. isn’t sure what it is, but he feels like he’s home, too. And so does Tom W. where he and wife feel comfortable in France. JGA has French parents and says his heritage is here. Jackie H. wants to wake up each day smiling and says that the beauty and history in France challenges her senses and emotions. Judy H. is also enamored by the beauty, including the architecture and rooftops. Suzanne B. didn’t want to have regrets at the age of 85, so came at 65 to learn French.
One of our readers who is in the process of purchasing a property in a Paris suburb says the decision was like duking it out between the right side (emotional) and the left (rational) sides of the brain. (The right side won, but what she doesn’t realize is that the investment in French property is actually rational and left brain!) Kathleene of CA wants to live in a stone cottage aged 200 years, then buy aged cheese at the market where fresh produce is sold.
Ellen H. says living in France completes her long time goals for a cultural experience and Claudia L. thinks there’s no better place for middle-aged retirees who have already seen much of the world, but Terry O. thinks it may be impossible on a middle class income. (I think he’s wrong. One can live cheaper here!…thanks to lower health care costs and inexpensive public transportation.) Ellen S. says that France ‘beckons’ her, but that the downside is the high cost of living and “the need to prove that [she has] health insurance that’ll pay for medical care should [she] become ill there.” (Ellen, that’s the easy part. You’ll find lots of companies willing to insure you here for about one-third of what it costs Stateside!)
Germaine J. thinks she’s one out of 10,000 that doesn’t want to live in Paris. Why? Her complaints: the food has changed (not for the better), smoking on the streets is ‘terrible,’ and the doggie poop still pisses her off as ‘uncivilized behavior.’
Well, guess you can’t please everyone…
A la prochaine…
(at the Negresco Hotel – photo by Michael Honegger)
P.S. There is only one share left at Le Palace des Vosges, the outstanding fractional ownership property at the best address in Paris, Place des Vosges — and once it’s gone, it’s gone! Don’t be disappointed…the final share is only 147,900. For more information visit Le Palace des Vosges or email [email protected].