One Euro, Deux Chaises, Vingt Vins and One Hundred to Monaco
Monday while having breakfast on the balcony in full sun, I told one of our staff, “I may never come home,” jokingly of course, but the sun is the one thing that Paris lacks more than anything else. Even on the city’s brightest and sunniest days, which we’ve had much of the last week or so in “Gray Paree,” there is still a translucent filtered quality about the rays and the sky is never really blue-blue…at least not the same deep blue one can see in Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji or South Africa (as reported by researcher Anya Hohnbaum who visited 20 different destinations to scientifically prove her findings — physicsworld.com).
My daughter and I took the train down to Nice Sunday night to have three days of mother-daughter ‘communing’ and so that I could show off “Le Matisse,” my latest apartment accomplishment. The last time she had seen it was before having signed the Acte de Vente (title deed) and long before any renovation had taken place. Other than enjoying the apartment, our only goals for the few days in the south were to have a great “Salade Niçoise” and to do a little shopping.
The “Zara” store at Place Beaumarchais in Monaco is perhaps the world’s best Zara — the company sells its chicest garb in this particular location, just a stone’s throw from the Monte Carlo casino. With this in mind, Monday afternoon we hopped on the number 100 bus for a whopping one euro each to take the coastal road to Monaco. The scenery is drop-dead gorgeous and the ride is a mere 45 minutes to the center of town. This same bus also takes you all the way to the last town in France — Menton. What a deal.
In Monaco we had lunch at the port, drooled over the luxury yachts and headed uphill toward Zara. Normally the bargains are well worth the trip, but after trying on dozens of items, we walked out with only a few purchases. No matter — it’s always fun.
Iced coffee at the Café de Paris next to the casino is a small fortune, but who cares when you’re surrounded by beautiful scenery and the most expensive cars on the planet — how many Bentleys do you think can be parked in front at the same time? Try four.
We headed back to Nice for the evening, but continued shopping until the stores threw us out onto the street. Dinner was at one of my favorite Niçois spots — Restaurant 20 (Vingt) sur Vin, a bistrot off avenue Jean-Médecin behind the Monoprix (18 Bis rue Biscarra) and we headed home after chuckling about the drunken fellow who, in a friendly way, had interjected himself into the dining experience of the couple at the next table. Luckily we managed mostly to escape his banter.
Salade Niçoise we ordered up for lunch yesterday at “Maori,” a great little restaurant and bar just a few steps from the apartment on rue Masséna (number 15). The guys there have come to know me as over the past year it has often become my office (free Wifi with a plug next to a good table) and it has the best Salade Niçoise I’ve found so far. As it turns out, all their salads are a ‘class act’ and their daily specials are consistently delicious. It’s a pleasure to have it so close by.
With two lightweight aluminum lounge chairs in hand after lunch, we headed down to the Nice pebbles — me wearing almost all the wrong clothing — black tights and ankle boots that are more perfect on the Paris streets than at the sea. We hadn’t really thought in advance about being on the beach in March…obviously. The chairs were a new purchase to leave in the apartment, but it was an ideal moment to test them out and I must admit, they were PERFECT — have them any way you like — sitting upright or lounged back.
One of the advantages of the pebbles (although sand is my preference) is that one can do what we did — plop down on the chair, kick back, let the sun bake on your face, chest and whatever is exposed, then head home clean as a whistle without getting sand under your finger nails or dragging it into the apartment. The 45 minutes we had facing the calm blue Mediterranean in full sun turned my chest bronze and melted away any tension in the muscles, including the most important one — the brain.
Nice is not Paris, nor Paris Nice. Nothing quite comes close to Paris in terms of great cities and I can’t imagine ever wanting to give up Paris for any other city in the world, but there are a few things a city like Nice has that Paris doesn’t…besides the weather and the blue, blue sea, that is. One of those things is a ‘friendly attitude.’
There is no question that the Niçois are more relaxed and friendlier than Parisians. Of course, Parisians are world-famous for their bad humor and although one can get used to it and learn how to deal with it, it’s really a pleasure to get friendly, pleasant, relaxed service wherever you go. In fact, you can actually joke and play with just about any Niçois and likely never get ‘your head bitten off’ as one might in Paris for doing nothing of any importance.
As an example, on our way to the train station yesterday afternoon, we stopped at a fast-food pizza and chicken restaurant across from an open Islamic produce market. We ordered up chicken and vegetables to take on the train for dinner, but they weren’t prepared with plastic forks or knives for us…so, believe it or not, they gave us their metal utensils wrapped in a napkin without our asking, without charging and with a big smile.
I vowed to return them next time I was in Nice, but they didn’t seem to care and I wondered, would this have ever happened in Paris?
The answer is “probably not.”
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Nice
P.S. “Le Matisse” is just the beginning. Rent it now, but stay tuned for our second Niçois luxury vacation apartment to be available as of May 1 with two bedrooms, two baths and the same great location. To learn more or to reserve your stay, visit Le Matisse or email [email protected].
P.P.S. Catch Adrian LIVE in a radio interview with Doni Belau on Overseas Radio! Simply go to Overseas Radio on Monday, 4/2/12 at 10:00 a.m. (EST, 1600h in Paris) and click on the “Listen Live” button on the upper right.