Nice Under the Sun
The week in Nice came to an end today when boarding the TGV back Paris. Sitting in the sun Saturday afternoon in one of the Niçois blue iron chairs facing the ocean watching the calm waves lap at the shore, I looked at the weather predictions for Paris and Nice for the coming week. Paris: gray, gray, gray, rain, rain, rain, and about 10 degrees Fahrenheit less than in Nice where the prediction was sun, sun, sun.
In Margo Lestz’s Curious Histories of Nice, France, I learned that the blue chairs have become one of the symbols of Nice, first appearing in 1950, and at that time, were “payant.” Ticket-sellers patrolled the Promenade des Anglais to catch the illegal sitters. Thank goodness, not anymore!
My sunglasses broke midweek, unrepairable until returning to my Paris optician, leaving me blinded by the light, but happily. They almost never leave my purse in Paris, but in Nice they must always be handy. They are reminders time and time again how much I have missed the never-ending sun of Southern California, even though Paris offers endless other perks. No one denies the appeal of Paris, not even the Niçois, but there is no question that the sun has a positive affect on all those who live or vacation on the Riviera.
The general atmosphere and ambiance cannot help but make one relaxed even if working. I have yet to encounter a rude waiter or sales person — they seem to be in a perpetually good mood. No doubt, it is the sun that makes the difference. SAD is what is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder — depression associated with late autumn and winter and thought to be caused by a lack of light. Natural sunlight produces vitamin D and protects us from mood changes, but because of our ever-growing awareness of skin cancer and sun damage, we’ve largely reduced our intake of natural sunlight.
Paris naturally offers little sun and it could be assumed that this contributes to the Parisians’ often talked about surly nature. I’m not sure they are surly, but they do seem depressed. Those downward lines in their faces didn’t get there from smiling. The Niçois are different. In general I find the men more handsome, particularly the older men — they are tan, have those smiling lines in their faces, their hair is longer and in a more relaxed style. This photo of TV personality, Patrick Sébastien, with Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi is exactly what I mean.
According to currentresults.com/Weather/ in Southeastern France (from the Mediterranean beaches on the island of Corsica and the French Riviera, or Côte d’Azur, to the peaks of the French Alps), Nice does not have the most number of sunny days, nor does it have the 300 days a year that the tourist office claims, but it’s not doing badly with 211 days of sun. Marseille has the most with 230, followed by Toulon, then Ajaccio before Nice. Either way, I am not complaining.
Total annual Place Days of Strong Sun Days of Weak Sun
2858 Marseille 170 60
2839 Toulon 166 62
2756 Ajaccio (Corsica) 157 64
2724 Nice 147 64
2668 Montpellier 148 74
2579 Bastia (Corsica) 124 68
2465 Perpignan 120 79
2405 Montelimar 111 89
2119 Carcassonne 89 112
2066 Grenoble 88 122
2002 Lyon 81 128
1986 Bourg-Saint-Maurice 31 108
I came this time to Nice to work on my memoir and its book proposal, devoting at least six to eight hours a day to writing down what I remember of my life in Paris. It’s not at all a chore. Instead it’s pure pleasure to be conjuring up old memories both happy and sad beginning with our landing in Paris in 1994 and even some moments before that leading up to the move. Looking back, the roller coaster ride of life in the City of Light, while treacherous at times, has not made for a dull, boring existence. Adding Nice to the roster has contributed a new and colorful dimension, not without strife, but with a lot more sun.
With each sejour in Nice, I come to know more Americans living here. You can hear them on the streets and in the restaurants and can tell which are residents and which are visitors. I can spot them, too, without even hearing them, dressed and behaving differently from their Italian, Russian or British counterparts. The differences are subtle, but evident enough that in the blink of an eye, as Malcolm Gladwell describes in his book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, that one can make an educated guess subconsciously.
One afternoon midweek, the one time when the weather was cold and rainy akin to Paris, was the unlucky afternoon that was planned to visit Villefranche-sur-Mer and the properties that we will be filming in April for House Hunters International. Normally I’d hop the 100 bus for 1.50€, but considering the weather and the trek up the hill, Uber was a good and inexpensive solution. The trip from Nice cost 16€ — well worth it. According to Numbeo, a taxi would have cost about 25€. The taxis in Nice are more expensive than in Paris, believe it or not…1.59€ per kilometer on the average compared with 1.29€ in Paris. Avoid taking a taxi from the airport and opt for the 98 Bus or an Uber instead!
Late one afternoon I strolled over to the Promenade de Paillon just to take in the rays of the sun and people watch. The fountains were doing their dance and the world was strolling by. I shared a bench with two other women, one very elderly, the other her companion. I tried to strike up a bit of ‘pleasantry,’ but they weren’t interested in my jokes so I went back to reading my book. Along came a group of guys, one of them in a pink bunny costume. It was some sort of initiation and his goal was to get a kiss from the old lady. After a bit of banter, she acquiesced and the kiss was given. I managed to capture it on my iPhone. It might have made her day…as it did plenty for mine.
Tomorrow morning I’ll drag the hula hoop out from under my bed and try to work off the middle I’ve acquired in Nice. Living here full time would not be good for the waistline — the food is simply too good. New restaurants are opening so quickly that it’s tough to keep up. Old favorites are still doing a great job and the sun seems to make me hungry.
This time ’round, reservations were made at Le Comptoir du Marché (8 rue du Marché, Vieux Nice, 04.93.13.45.01), one of the three restaurants owned by Armand Crespo — the other two being Bistrot d’Antoine and Bar des Oiseaux. I love them all…each a little different, each as delicious as the next. We had the supreme table next to the open kitchen and couldn’t take our eyes off the yummy plates going by us. It was impossible to resist having all three courses.
For something more unusual, next time you’re in Nice, have a tea from the choice of what seemed like hundreds at a slick new Salon de Thé called Volupté Anytime at 26, boulevard Victor Hugo (04.93.39.60.32) next to the Carlton Hotel. The atmosphere is lovely and yes, it serves food which looked great, but we only tried out their teas. I’ll be back with more of a report.
This week was also devoted to meeting with a few real estate agents in preparation for a property search we’ll be doing here in April. The real estate landscape is very different in Nice than in Paris. It seems there are even more agencies in Nice than in Paris. They all know each other and work better with one another than their Parisian counterparts, but their clients are mostly British, Irish, Italian and Russian and they are not as familiar with dealing with American clients.
We are decidedly different and want very different things from the property we would own in France. I showed my apartment to one of the agents on Sunday who, after seeing it, understood what I meant when I explained that Americans have lived with contemporary all their lives. Now they want some charm — the history and charm that France can give them. While the Europeans are stripping those very things out of their lives by making their properties as slick and minimal as they can get them, we Americans want our home-away-from-home to feel warm and inviting, where anyone can come, relax and enjoy. We are not afraid to spend money to achieve that, even though our money must be spent with return on investment and justification in mind. The proverbial bottom line is that we want what we want, as long as we know others will want it, too.
Le Matisse is as sunny a spot in Nice as it gets. Old friend Henri-le-Cactus continues to grow taller as do the baby plants I started from a friend’s cuttings. The sun obviously agrees with them, too. Why am I not surprised?
A la prochaine,
Editor of Parler Nice
The Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. Le Matisse is available for rental all during the year, when I’m not using it, so be sure to book now as Summer is high season in Nice…naturally! Henri will be happy to welcome you.
P.P.S. Don’t miss the re-airing of Adrian on House Hunters International’s “Snapshot of City Life in Paris, France” Thursday March 24 12:30 p.m. ET/11:30 a.m. CT. See the full description on our HHI page.