Stuffing My Face with Petits Farcis…and Other “Cougourdons”
As I trained southbound to Nice on Saturday, I read an article someone sent me from GeopoliticalFutures.com that was an enlightening look at the difference the powers both Northern France and Southern France have in France and in Europe. While instinctively it’s clear that the north and the south differ greatly, particularly culturally, I hadn’t seen the difference from this geopolitical perspective. Read the article “France as a Northern and Southern European Power: The country holds a unique position on the Continent”
by Antonia Colibasanu.
From a cultural perspective, Paris and Nice are worlds apart, not just five hours 40 minutes by train. When the tracks reach the shoreline of the Mediterranean, it feel like having landed in a different country altogether. The landscape changes, the architectural styles change, the colors change, even the quality of the air changes. The people change, too. Discount the Russians, Italians and British, who make up a good part of the population, and you are left with a decidedly different breed of French cat.
Friday night as I was walking through Le Marais in Paris, I noticed that navy blue was the current color of choice for outerwear. Other colors people were wearing included black, brown and beige. But that was about it. I was wearing a red beret and it was the only bright spot on the street. This is not true in the south. The range of colors in clothing is everything from the ordinary to the extraordinarily bright and is one of the things I love about shopping in Nice where there is so much more choice…evident, on the streets and in the shops.
Paris takes on an air of sophistication. The only people smiling as they walk down the streets are the tourists, particularly Americans who have a permanent smile on their faces. You see it in their crow’s feet around their eyes and their upturned mouths. Southerners in France have more of the same happy expression, with lines in their faces etched into their tan skin.
I arrived in Nice amid torrents of rain and arrived home soaked. By 8 p.m. the rains had stopped and Sunday morning was incredibly blue, sunny, breezy and glorious. The Niçois came out in the droves to soak up their precious sun taking all the available café seats in full exposure. I had to flirt mercilessly with the Maître D’ at Le Safari on the Cours Saleya to get a table outside for lunch — “Complet, Madame,” he said, until I begged pathetically until he said, “N’inquietez pas. Je vais vous trouvez une place, Madame!” (Don’t worry. I’ll find you a place, Madame!) And so he did. The sky couldn’t have been bluer, the sun couldn’t have been brighter, as we lunched on “Les Petits Farcis” (stuffed vegetables), one of my favorite Provençal dishes.
At the same moment, many Niçois went up to the Jardins des Arènes de Cimiez for the annual “Festin des Cougourdons” — a celebration of the arrival of spring honoring the “cougourdons,” a vegetable of the cucurbitaceae family — that we know as gourds, pumpkin, squash, zucchini, watermelon, cucumber and even loofah. They were brought to the region in the 16th-century and those that are inedible can be dried and used as kitchen utensils and musical instruments. While I was dining on Petits Farcis and Salade Niçoise, others were enjoying folk dance performances and music in the Gardens in Cimiez and purchasing products of Nice.
Last summer I spent an extra week in Nice and enjoyed my time there so much that I’ve already booked a train down to spend five weeks from mid-July to mid-August to take advantage of the sun and surf. (Now’s the time to book to get the best fares!) Since I land right as the annual Jazz Festival begins (July 17-21, 2017), I’m already securing tickets. Last year, the festival was cancelled as it sadly followed the July 14th attack on the Promenade des Anglais for which they weren’t prepared.
The festival was born in 1948, as the first of its kind in the world. Revitalized by Mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi in 2011 by bringing the event back into the heart of the city to the Albert 1er Gardens and the Théâtre de Verdure, the public responded with enthusiasm and is now in a successful sixth year. The gardens are a stone’s throw from my apartment on rue Masséna, so you can bet your bottom euro I’ll be there for as many concerts as possible.
I’m here all week visiting properties with two different clients who are planning to purchase vacation homes and signing a “Compromis de Vente” (pre-sale agreement) on behalf of another client. The property market in Nice is hoppin’ — with very little inventory and high demand. Prices are on the rise and the pickin’s are getting slimmer by the moment. Nonetheless we are hopeful to find a few choice properties, all in central Nice with balconies or terraces and hopefully sea views.
You’ll hear more about it on Wednesday once in the thick of it. And for those who like to keep up with Henri-le-Cactus’ growth, he’s a few inches taller than me now — so getting close to six feet! He simply loves his sunny window as much as I do. (I wonder what will happen when he hits the ceiling?)
A la prochaine,
Editor of Parler Nice
Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. For those who wish to visit Nice, my neighbors and I offer our apartments for vacation (and longer) stays only to our Parler Nice friends. Theirs is a two-bedroom, two-bath luxury space that sleeps up to six and mine is a one-bedroom that sleeps up to four. Learn more by visiting Le Matisse, or inquire by emailing Patty at [email protected]. (Look at how little Henri was when this was taken!)