Pure Gold to the Spirit of the Past, the Present and the Future
It’s the last day of 2018. I’m always a little bit sad to see another year pass, but at the same time thrilled to begin the new year filled with resolutions designed to improve upon one’s life. There are always things we can do to make a difference to our futures, but at the same time appreciate what we have and enjoy our life in the present.
Reflecting on the past has been mirrored this past week in the reflections of the trees on the Canal du Quai de la Fontaine in Nîmes, as well as in the sun streaking across the Mediterranean Sea while people bask in the sunshine sitting on the “galets” (rocks), and on the fountain in the Promenade de Paillon in Nice while people of all ages tread between the spouts hoping they don’t suddenly go on and get them too wet.
We cut our time in Provence short to have a stressless entry into Nice a day early, by visiting Arles, having lunch there, then driving into Nice — a 2.5 hour drive on the autoroute all the way. The return was “du gâteau” (piece of cake) with light traffic and a simple drop-off of the rental car at the train station. This gave us time to unpack at “Le Matisse” (my Niçois apartment) and settle in for a few days to say so-long to 2018. My old friend, “Henri-le-Cactus,” stood proud when we arrived. He is growing even taller than ever, having surpassed my height eons ago.
I promised friends I’d made artichokes for New Year’s Eve dinner and set out on Sunday morning with my six-wheel Rolser brand red marketing cart in tow up to the “Marché aux Fruits et Légumes de la Libération,” just one stop on the tramway north of the Gare Nice Ville (train station) at Place du Général de Gaulle (Open 6 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday).
The market is primarily fresh produce, although there are a few butchers, fishmongers and purveyors of cheese. This is the market the locals go for “real” shopping. The Cour Saleya is lovely, but much more of a tourist destination and the prices are much higher. Still, there are Niçois specialties on the Cour that Libération doesn’t offer at all.
Artichokes weren’t easy to find at this time of year — only a few vendors had them, but we managed to find enough respectables specimens to steam, marinate and serve up “à la Adrian.” The artichoke originated in the Mediterranean region and although they are harvested from the fall until spring, even up to May, that’s when they are at their best. Cold weather limits their growth.
While perusing the fresh produce, the dark red/black “Sweet Marmande” tomatoes were particularly impressive. I’d never really noticed them before, but as it turns out, this is a variety of tomato named after the region Marmande in Lot-et-Garonne where it is grown, that is a cross between the Pondorosa and the Mikado, brought to France via the Americas in the mid 1700s.
With the sun out in full force, and after having gotten all we could at the Marché de la Libération, including a liter bottle of home-grown bottled virgin olive oil, we hopped the tramway again, the Rolser filled with our finds, to head to the Cour Saleya for some of the specialties the Marché Libération didn’t offer — Oregano being the main missing item.
It was perfect timing for what is my traditional lunch of “Salade Niçoise” and “Petits Farcis” at Le Safari, while watching the revelers stroll by, sitting at an outside table, again with the full warm sun on my face. I soaked up every ray.
A walk along the Promenade des Anglais was a must for such a glorious afternoon after depositing the marketing cart and fresh produce at home. Down below on the “galets” (the Nice pebbles) were hundreds of sun worshippers dining “al fresco” at the various beach restaurants at the edge of the Baie des Anges and others just hanging out and taking in the last few moments of the year 2018. You might be “dreaming of a white Christmas,” but I can tell you that the warmth and sunshine of the South of France is pure gold to the spirit of the past, the present and the future.
Happy New Year!
A la prochaine…
Editor of Parler Nice
P.S. Here’s your first resolution: Get a copy of “Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You”… Janet Hulstrand’s new practical guide aimed at first-time visitors to France, as well as long-term expatriates. It is designed to help readers “crack the code,” avoid common mistakes, and get off on the right foot with the French. The book begins with five easy-to-follow essential tips “for even brief encounters” that will pave the way for a positive experience in France. The tips are followed by 10 chapters that go into a deeper explanation of French habits, manners, and ways of viewing the world.
Janet Hulstrand shares the perspective she has gained in nearly 40 years of time spent living, working, teaching, and traveling in France, and illustrates the principles she is discussing with sometimes touching, and often amusing, personal anecdotes. Her deep admiration and affection for the French people is clear, but she also knows that they can “require special handling” and provides helpful, practical tips on how to do so, inviting readers to learn from her mistakes.
Reflections contributed by David Downie, Adrian Leeds (me), Harriet Welty Rochefort, and other well-known commentators on Franco-American cultural differences provide additional perspective and depth. A glossary of French terms that is both substantive and whimsical provides surprising insights into historical as well as cultural reasons for the French being “the way they are.” Aimed mainly at an American audience, this book will be helpful for anyone who wants to better understand the French, and have fun while doing so.
Visit facebook.com/DemystifyingTheFrench/ to “Like” and to pre-order the book (the ebook will be available on January 15 and the print edition is scheduled for release on March 1). You can also visit Amazon to order the book.
P.P.S. I cooked and prepared the artichokes this morning, but you won’t hear more about them till Wednesday…in 2019! Meanwhile, keep in mind that Le Matisse is available to friends of Parler Nice for stays of a few days or much longer. If you are interested, write us at [email protected] for more information and to arrange for your stay.