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Nicing It and Loving It

What was I thinking? Boots, tights, sweaters…in Nice? Even though the weather report said it would be in the low 70s, it was hard to believe that a short train ride away we’d be peeling off the Parisian winter clothing and enjoying the warm breezes of the Mediterranean.

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“Nicing It” (“neesing it”) has become a regular monthly excursion for a ‘hit’ of sun and surf, not to mention good pasta, “Salades Niçoises” and gelati of a million flavors, topped off with a good rosé wine. Ritualistically at least one dinner is had at “Le Bistrot Antoine” in Vieux Nice (27, rue de la Préfecture, 06300 Nice, which never disappoints us at a price two-thirds of an equivalent restaurant in Paris. The food is creative bistrot fare at it’s best and the choices are so many that you just want to try everything on the menu. Their sister restaurant, “Le Comptoir du Marché” (8, rue du Marché, 06000 Nice, is equally as good, plus both, family run, serve well with big smiles. It’s simply one of my favorites of all times.

Another must is a “boule” or two of gelati at Fenocchio Glacier at 2, Place Rossetti in Old Town. With about dozens of flavors from which to choose (I didn’t do an official count, but some reports say over 100), you can’t taste them all in one vacation, much less a weekend. It is always tempting to choose a flavor as exotic as “cactus,” “tomate basilique” or “romarin,” but like the ritual of Nicing It monthly accompanied by a dinner at Le Bistrot Antoine, so is “une boule de chocolat Rocher” on a cone. It’s tough to skip it, like an addiction — once you’ve had it, you can’t get enough.

Add to the list a walk along the boardwalk to watch the waves hit the gray pebbles. My sister couldn’t resist pocketing a few beautiful rocks to take home as a souvenir. (Please don’t tell the authorities.) The Negresco Hotel beams in the background as we circle the water’s edge of my neighborhood. The Parc Albert 1er is currently under total renovation, so it’s off limits to cross (at the moment), but the city has high hopes for it, evident by the display of photos of the past and photo-illustrations of the future plans along Place Masséna.

Shopping is more fun in Nice, too (for me), because of the colors. Clothing is much more carefree and colorful, but not unsophisticated, at least in the chic shops of the Carré d’Or. I’ve come to habituate the Arcus shoe store on rue de la Liberté (number 10, phone, email [email protected]) where somehow I manage to buy at least one pair of shoes every time. These are home-grown from the foot of the Pyrénées at Béarn in the southwest of France where they are made (since 1872) with rich, beautiful leathers. Styles are simple, but the comfort is extraordinary. The sales ladies there are always friendly and naturally happy to see me once a month.

Sunday morning we ritualistically headed to the Cours Saleya to peruse the flower and produce market, savoring the large variety of Provençal soaps (I smell every “verveine” along the way to see which is best), marveling at the beautiful fresh flowers and produce, taking in the scent of the spices and gourmet teas and adoring the bins of olives, particularly the “petites Niçoise.” A trip to Nice wouldn’t be complete without this stroll through the stands at least once, even if nothing is purchased.

On route from there to catch the number 22 bus to take in the beautiful works at the Musée National Marc Chagall in Cimiez, three American gentleman crossed our paths talking loudly among themselves about how to get to the museums in Cimiez, The Musée Matisse and Chagall. It’s hard to explain why there was a sudden connection with these guys, but in a very natural way we chimed in, explaining we were headed there, too, and how they could tag along, convincing them that the Chagall was more worthwhile than the Matisse, should one have to choose.

It turns out these three friends traveling together were from Chicago and Dallas, two of which had known each other since college in Florida, and were exploring a bit of Europe together. It almost felt as if we had known them our entire lives, no ‘newness’ between us even though we didn’t know them all.

At the Chagall, we wandered on our own and got separated. When my sister and I headed out, they were nowhere to be seen, so we chalked it up to a brief encounter and headed downhill on foot back into the center of town, stopping at the Théâtre de la Photographie et de l’Image (another ritual of Nicing It) to see what was on. Denis Brihat’s “La Straight Photograpahy” is what’s on the walls at the moment, just having opened this past Thursday with the artist present at the opening.

What an extraordinary surprise to see these images, intense and sensitive — an “examination of nature.” Flowers, fruits, leaves, trees — the things we come across in our daily lives, but in his camera’s eye looking as stunningly sculptural and textured as to be creative works of genius. I was mesmerized and awed by their beauty and simplicity.

Tired and heading home, we were wondering what happened to our new-found friends not having seen them leave the museum, nor in the café there…and then in total synchronistic fashion, we crossed their paths once again, this time, hours later, literally in front of my apartment door!
Shocked and thrilled mildly explains our reaction! We had never exchanged addresses nor more than first names. Their landing there was by sheer fluke, having missed their bus stop and trekking back by foot on streets they didn’t know. And there they were, at our doorstep. How “acausal” is that?

So, the rest of the evening was spent with Ken, Craig and Rick — first with  drinks at my apartment, then “Moules Marinière” at Taverne Masséna just across the street, topped off by drinks at the Seven Blue Bar on the 7th floor of Le Clarion Grand Hôtel Aston  from which the views of the city are inspiring. It’s the best vantage point to see how the reconstruction of the gardens are progressing with the towers of Vieux Nice, Le Château de Nice, the sea and the bright sign of the Hôtel Méridien Nice in the distance. By the end of the evening, we felt like old friends, not new-found, even if the friendship was worth but a few hours.

Today my sister flies back to New Orleans direct from Nice after her two-week stay and my daughter and I take the afternoon train back to Paris. In the meantime, I am writing you from the balcony of “Le Matisse” overlooking rue Masséna in the early morning as the deliveries are being made to the various restaurants and other establishments. The sun is coming up and casting a warm glow on the ochre-colored buildings.

It’s been yet another incredible weekend Nicing It and Loving It.

A la prochaine…

adrian place massenaAdrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Nice

(In Nice – photo by Erica Simone)

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P.S. Le Matisse and La Côte du Paradis are two beautiful luxury apartments available for your next vacation in Nice! Visit Parler Nice Apartments for more information and to book your stay.

P.P.S. Headed to New York City or want to be? Our cozy West Village studio with a view of the Empire State Building, elevators and doormen, is available December 5 through 10 for just $185/night. Visit  West Village Studio for more information and to book your stay!


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