Nice in Nice (Nahys in Nis — to Quote Ella Dyer)
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.
It was sad to leave the sunshine this morning now that almost a week has gone by having settled in quite comfortably to the Riviera climate and lifestyle. It’s been a jam-packed week of work, play and discovery. Each time I take a sojourn on the coast, there is a new enlightenment of what life could be like here on a more permanent basis.
At the annual meeting of my building’s “copropriété,” I discovered that all the owners were permanent residents — there are no renters. There are only four apartments occupied as residences, one architect’s office and three boutiques. The “Syndic” (manager) has volunteered for the job for the last 20 years and does a very good job that we all appreciate. The meeting held in the lobby of a nearby hotel lasted only 45 minutes — a record compared to my Paris meetings!
Fête de la Musique Friday night was every bit as exciting and fun in Nice as it is in Paris. The bands seemed to start up about 7:30 p.m. in key spots…at Place Garibaldi, along Cours Saleya, dotted all throughout Old Town, around the Vieux Port, at Place Masséna and all down rue Masséna. After dining on a “plateau de fruits de mer” at Café Turin at Place Garibaldi, we wandered into Old Town and felt very lucky to land just two minutes before show time scoring two seats dead center at Place Pierre Gautier (on the Cours Saleya) to hear the group “La TRIBU” play hommage to James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Earth Wind & Fire, Otis Redding and other blues and ‘funk’ music.
In spite of the music that makes one move and dance and shake ones bones, the audience remained relatively sedate and unmoving, while I couldn’t sit still in the seat. I wondered if it was just the French that won’t let themselves go like we Americans (although the audience was certainly international) — or if it’s just my New Orleans background that makes letting one’s hair down so easy…not that I was much livelier than they were under the circumstances. Visions of Mardi Gras in New Orleans came to mind, comparing it to the Carnaval de Nice — two distinctly different kinds of festivals with completely different kinds of human behavioral patterns! Oh, how well-behaved the French are!
The area around the port, particularly on rue Bonaparte, was awash with multi-colored balloons attracting the gay community. It’s growing by leaps and bounds, particularly in this part of Nice. On the ‘bourgeois’ side of town in the Carré d’Or, it was near to impossible to maneuver down my own street for the numbers of bands and crowds, but we managed to get home, hang out on the balcony, see the sights and hear the sounds in our PJs until late. The music went on till the wee hours of the morn, but double-paned windows and air-conditioning allowed us to tune it out entirely.
It’s a piece of cake to get to Menton from Nice, as long as you’re paying attention. I say this because there are trains about every half-hour, the trip is about 35 minutes and the fair is about 4. Saturday, our Menton friends instructed us to get off the train one stop after “Menton Gare,” at the “Gare de Menton-Garavan.” This is the last station before the border with Italy.
Comfortable on the train and buried deep in conversation, with my friend depending solely on me to announce when to get off, I suddenly realized we had missed the stop and were headed to Italy — to the town of Vintimille. (This was the beginning of a day riddled with foibles.) Our only choice was to take the next train back to Menton. Fortunately, with 30 minutes to ‘kill,’ and the covered central market of Vintimille only two blocks away from the station, we couldn’t wait to check out the Italian market and take in the smells of the fresh produce, cured meats, ripe cheeses and fresh made pasta.
This is one of the big advantages of living on the Riviera — the access to Italy was as easy as forgetting to get off the train! Except that now we lost one hour of our precious sun time!
In Menton, Imperial Plage is a private beach on the eastern end on a small quiet cove. In the backdrop are the stacked ochre-colored houses of the old town of Menton. The Italian cuisine at Imperial Plage is superb and the green and white sunbeds with parasols are classically Riviera chic sunbathing. It could not have been more heavenly to fall asleep in the sun and occasionally take dips in the cool calm blue water surrounded by such beauty.
With little time to spare, we all dressed for a Summer Solstice Party sponsored by the International Club of the Riviera at a member’s beautiful home with a large garden and pool in Roquefort-les-Pins — a small enclave due west of Cagnes-sur-Mer. About 80 club members gathered to drink “Pimm’s” (a summer alcoholic drink popular with the British), enjoy a freshly prepared buffet and the singing of three local and talented women called “Colette & Co” as the sun went down and the full moon rose.
The membership was a mixed bag of British, Americans, Germans and other nationalities, founded in the summer of 2007 by George Kasiliyake and a group of ‘internationally minded people’ resident on the French Riviera. The club’s purpose is to raise funds for a charity they choose through the promotion of social, cultural, educational, sporting and business networking events. Everyone was dressed in their summer frocks and short-sleeve shirts, looking awfully tanned and relaxed…as we were, especially after a few Pimm’s!
La Rotunde at the Hotel Negresco is the Promenade’s chicest café. And it’s not very expensive considering the ambiance, the location and the quality of the food. While the Ironman Triathlon was in full force along the Promenade des Anglais Sunday, we were having a civilized lunch — Salade Niçoise and a glass of rosé wine. Oddly enough, the runners and the bikers were using the same tracks going in opposite directions, but it worked well nonetheless. At a few points along the stretch of road, guards were letting people cross in dribs and drabs, each of us crossing while dodging the runners and bikers.
The competition was born in Nice and is perhaps the hardest and most demanding in terms of physical performance. This is the 9th event in Nice with 2,500 participants. The city has been peppered with hard bodies in spandex all this past week!
The beach still had a fair share of sun-worshippers, me among them. With a lightweight beach chair (stocked at Le Matisse) I settled in to focus on the blue, blue Mediterranean and the sun on my skin while listening to the sounds of the crowds clapping and cheering-on their favorite athletes just behind me on the track.
Our last evening was topped off with dinner at the elegant Les Brasseries Georges (2/4, rue Sacha Guitry) just behind Galeries Lafayette with Ella Dyer, author of “Nice in Nice” and her husband Jody. She wears many hats including as an Ambassador at International University of Monaco. She and Jody live here half the year, otherwise living in Atlanta, and they enjoy an apartment overlooking avenue Jean-Médecin, the tram line and Place Masséna.
The Americans in Nice are slowly, but surely, coming out of the woodworks to be discovered. As I’ve said from the outset, my goal is to find them, learn from them, bring the North American community together and create a cohesive unit that brings the best out of Nice and them. If you are an American or Canadian living in Nice and environs, please let us know who you are, what you’re doing and how you feel about the community there!
Email me at [email protected]!
A la prochaine…
(On the pebble beach, of course)
P.S. Sign up now and explore the Côte d’Azur with the Living and Investing in France Conference! Day one is packed with presentations. Day two is a property tour and on day three you have the option of taking a tour of the Côte d’Azur from Cannes to Menton with stops along the way: Nice, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Eze Village, Menton and more! To see the full schedule and register, visit Living and Investing in France.
P.P.S. Le Matisse and La Côte du Paradis are our Niçois apartments that are total luxury with the North American demanding guest in mind. If you want the perfect stay on the Riviera, these two apartments are sure to fill the bill. Here’s what one recent guest wrote: We really enjoyed this wonderful retreat. It’s been our favorite accommodations in our travels to Barcelona, Rome and Amsterdam. We really appreciated all the comforts of home — plus the espresso maker! Thanks again for providing us with a clean and comfortable apartment — and the terrace was great for watching the world go by, too! To learn more, visit Parler Nice Apartments.