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Nice-er than Ever: Mission Accomplished

I’m back in Paris now, but Nice was home for the last two-and-a-half weeks. This is the longest time I’ve spent in Nice in one stretch and for good reasons.

First and foremost, there was a job to do: write the first chapters of my first bona fide book and write the book proposal.

Secondly, I wanted to see what it would be like living in Nice, not just being a three-day visitor.

Thirdly, there was business to accomplish: people to meet, deals to be made, things to be taken care of.

Missions accomplished.

With the exception of a couple of rainy days, the weather has been drop dead gorgeous. The sun has shown “sans cesse,” the temperature is just a tad cool (sweater or jacket) and as a result, everyone’s moods are glowing, mine included. It is the perfect antidote to the gray of Paris.

If you read Lisa Anselmo’s recent blog post, “Paris in the Greige Zone,” then you might recognize me as that friend who was complaining to her about my building’s hallways, “specifically, the color they’d chosen to paint the apartment doors and accent trim.”: Greige. I think I invented the word. Maybe not, but it fits. It just adds more of what Lisa calls “bland” and “oppressive”…”Like a cloudy sky threatening rain on a cold, damp day.”

Paris is Paris and nothing can replace that and our love for the world’s most beautiful and romantic city, but enough is enough already. It’s time to let a little sunshine in!

In Le Matisse, my apartment in the heart of the “Carré d’Or,” it’s impossible to be depressed, where the sun has a constant presence from morning to night thanks to the southern exposure. The bright Matissian primary colors don’t hurt the happy mood and Véronique Husson’s gorgeous mosaic tilework is added “bijoux.”

As planned, I spent most of my time writing and working on the first chapters of the book and the book proposal which I promised my agent. It’s the most reclusive I’ve been in my life with the exception of the two weeks I was sick in bed in August. While I have lots of friends in Nice, the social life hasn’t been as demanding, hence the reason for going there to begin with — where distractions were reduced and real quality time could be spent writing. (I hope you didn’t mind reading a few past issues of Parler Paris these last two weeks while working on the book.)

Yes, 25 chapters got written, plus the book proposal and by Friday morning, the agent had it in her hot little hands. I felt very accomplished. And still, many other missions got accomplished, too…plus a few extra bonuses:

1. The mosaic table from “Le Provençal” that was special enough to drive down to Nice in August (costing a small fortune) cracked into pieces thanks to being outside on the balcony in the recent inclement weather so that the wood base swelled up. After visits from four different “carreleurs” to give estimates to repair it, only to learn that the only way to do that was to completely retile the table to the tune of more than €600, I took the matter into my own hands. With “Enduit de  Rebouchage” that is used to plug nail and screw holes in a wall, I filled the cracks, glued on a missing tile, sponge-cleaned it off and now it’s almost good as new. It cost me nothing and it is happily ensconced in the living room next to the sofa. Mission accomplished.

2. I saw six films. There is never enough time in Paris to see movies. In Nice, it’s a piece of cake. The theaters are close by in easy walking distance. You can show up five minutes before the film and get a good seat. There are no ads and previews before the film so it takes a bit less time out of one’s busy schedule and they are cheaper — half the price of a film in a Paris theater with a discount for seniors. Five I saw alone.

Lots of people go by themselves, so there’s no feeling weird about it. The best of the lot: La Femme au Tableau (Woman in Gold). The worst of the lot: Marguerite (French). The most thought-provoking: L’Homme Irrationnel (Woody Allen’s Irrational Man). The ‘what was that I just saw film?’: Youth. The two saddest true stories: Amy and Le Prodige (Pawn Sacrifice). Mission accomplished.

3. If I were to live in Nice full time, I’d get fat. The food is just too good and there’s too much pasta on every menu. I’m in love with Lisbon born Armand Crespo’s three restaurants: “Le Bistrot d’Antoine,” “Le Comptoir du Marché” and now “Le Bar des Oiseaux.” All three are in Vieux Nice within 50 metres from one another and all three are amazing. There’s not a single Paris bistrot that compares to any one of these for great creative cuisine at silly affordable prices. Reserve as early as you can and try them all. I did.

Le Bistrot d’Antoine: +33 (0)
Le Comptoir du Marché: +33 (0)
Le Bar des Oiseaux: +33 (0)

I also discovered a few new restaurants, thanks to friends…but almost wish I hadn’t! Mission accomplished.

4. The rains came pouring down, but that didn’t stop me from making a special visit to L’Institut de Francais in Villefranche-sur-Mer to have lunch with Frédéric Latty and the students. The 46 year-old institution (founded in 1969) that has educated many thousands of illustrious students in their luxurious Provençal villa, set high on the hillside overlooking the Mediterranean’s most beautiful bay, has a reputation for being a bit expensive, but well worth it. If you really want to learn French, this is where you do it.

Almost everyone I know knows Frédéric, since almost everyone I know has  attended the school at one time or another. He is the Executive Assistant and the very face of the school, even though its founders and owners, Jean and Madeleine Colbert, are there most days. Those from just about every country in the world, who have attended their month-long full immersion courses, leave speaking a much more fluent French and falling in love with Villefranche.

Chef Nathalie’s good food is a special treat every breakfast and every lunch — another great reason to attend, although rumor has it you’ll gain five pounds thanks to her formidable cuisine. I coveted Nathalie’s totally cool “damier” eyeglasses, and she generously graced me with permission to try them on for size, but her lasagna was even better! Of course, I pigged out.

Julien is one of their best known profs and rightly so. I watched him hold a practice session in the palm of his hand in the grand salon overlooking the water with everyone speaking French, laughing and having a jolly old time. I suspect all the women students fall in love with Julien (at least that’s what I’ve heard).

Getting there is simple — the 100 bus takes only a few minutes from Nice Port to the Octroi stop in Villefranche. Then, take a deep breath, or instead breath deeply as you walk up the winding road to the villa high on the hill. Once you’re there, you can relax and enjoy…or stay in Villefranche where Frédéric can offer you accommodations.

To learn more and enroll in any one of their upcoming 13 four-week courses, visit the site at or email [email protected] and be sure to tell Frédéric that Adrian sent you. Mission accomplished.

5. A friend arrived to spend an exploratory weekend as it was her first time in Nice. From early morning on Halloween Day we explored the city by foot until our feet couldn’t hold us any longer. The route? From home down rue de Paradis to shop (love the Benneton shop on the corner), to Place Masséna, down the Promenade de Paillon where the fountains were dancing to the delight of the kids who were playing in it, to sunny Place Garabaldi, down rue Bonaparte which has become “Le Petit Marais,” to the Vieux Port where the new tram is being installed, around the port and back to see the yachts, back down rue Casini to Place Garabaldi where we had lunch in one of the many cafés. From there we wandered into Vieux Nice, stopping at Place Rossetti for a gelato at Fenocchio Gelateria where there are 100 flavors from which to choose, down to the Cours Saleya after shopping in some of the best boutiques in old town, to the Quai des Etats-Unit to the Opéra Plage where we basked in the sun on chaises longues, then up to the Promenade des Anglais and all the way down to the Negresco Hotel to see the Nikki de Saint-Phalle which is currently “on vacation” and home via rue de France. Whew! Mission accomplished.

6. Halloween was lively in Nice. Kids and adults alike were dressed up for the occasion, having started early in the day. Merchants were handing our candy, but when the kids entered the 24-hour pharmacy with “Trick or Treat,” the pharmacist treated them to sample tubes of toothpaste! Mission accomplished.

BTW, Henri le Cactus is taller and happier than ever. He has a new friend, a fuzzy “dame” named “Amélie La Cactuse.” (named after Henri Matisse’s wife).

A la prochaine,

Adrian Leeds
Editor of Parler Nice
The Adrian Leeds Group

(dining in Nice photo by Betty Pak)

Respond to Adrian

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le-matisse-adP.S. Le Matisse is available immediately for rent! Ask about our discounted low season rates (Dec. 1-19, Jan. 2 to mid-February). Email [email protected] for more information or visit our site.

P.P.S. Own property in Paris for less by investing in a fractional ownership. We are currently representing three properties with re-sale shares available. Learn more about them on our French Property Franctional page and contact me with any questions at [email protected]


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