The Eye Candy of the French Riviera
One reason I came to Nice was to tape another House Hunters International episode next week in Menton. Believe it or not, they’ve worked it out so that we can do the job safely and securely during this time of Covid-19 confinement. Insuring the crew is safe during the pandemic comes with many restrictions. We will all be checked for temperature before being allowed on set. We’ll be wearing masks and gloves, except for when we’re on camera. Hand-washing or use of sanitizing gel will be constant and all the equipment will be sanitized. We are to maintain social distancing as much as is possible. Our meals will be brought in and we are not to carpool with others. (I have the luxury of a private driver to escort me to the set daily and return me home to Nice!).
The story line is about a young Franco-American couple who are seeking a rental property on the Riviera near to his work in Monaco. The properties we’ll be taping all have a view on the sea and that undeniable Riviera caché that can’t be duplicated anywhere else in the world. If you think this is what dreams are made of…they are.
The French Riviera, aka “Côte d’Azur” (Blue Coast), extends from Cassis, Toulon or Saint-Tropez on the west to Menton at the French-Italian border in the east. The Principality of Monaco is a semi-enclave within the region, surrounded on three sides by France and fronting the Mediterranean. The name “Riviera” actually comes from Italian relating back to an ancient Ligurian territory. But “Côte d’Azur” is a nickname given to the coastline by Stéphen Liégeard, a French writer—from his novel of that name, “La Côte d’Azur”—to describe the coast between Marseilles and Genoa.
Taping the TV show on the Riviera makes for serious “eye-candy.” Not only will the viewers love it, but there will be the sheer pleasure of producing the show with the sea by our side. It’s always been a major resort area, for the upper class British at the end of the 18th-century, then it quickly became the “playground” for the aristocrats including the British and Russian monarchies—Queen Victoria, Tsar Alexander II and King Edward VII, when he was Prince of Wales. The Rothschilds fell in love with it, too, as did artists in the 20th-century such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Francis Bacon, and writers such as Edith Wharton, Somerset Maugham and Aldous Huxley. Celebrities have always flocked here, the likes of Elton John (whose mansion sits atop Mont Boron) and Brigitte Bardot (who made topless sunbathing “de rigueur” in Saint-Tropez) to name just two. As a result, the French Riviera hosts more than 160 nationalities, teeming with foreign residents and why we, as Americans, can feel so comfortable here.
Nice is the largest city and the heart of the region with a population of about 340,000. It’s France’s fifth largest city and its international airport is the third busiest in France. The A8 Autoroute connects the cities, and the train station welcomes the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) that services the entire region. Some of the luxurious and beautiful seaside resorts along the coast include Cap-d’Ail, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Roquebrune Villefranche-sur-Mer, Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, Cannes, Saint-Raphaël, Fréjus, Sainte-Maxime and Saint-Tropez, and not to forget Monaco. Yachting is a major pastime among the rich and famous here with 50 percent of the world’s superyacht fleet. In fact, 90 percent of all superyachts visit the region’s coast at least once in their lifetime.
It’s not just for play, however. The area around Nice is home to the Sophia-Antipolis high tech and science park research center and university with 35,000 students. For tourists, they boast 300 days a year of sunshine. While I’d like to believe that, I’m not so sure it’s true. No doubt, it’s certainly one of France’s sunniest destinations, and I am never one to complain, even on gray days.
One of my personal fascinations of the Côte d’Azur is the color of the sea that changes with every moment. I learned that pure water is perfectly clear, of course, and that if the water is very deep, there are no reflections off the sea floor, but the blue color is due to the absorption and scattering of light. Everything affects it, from the color of the sky to the molecules and particles in the water. Just ending confinement in June of this past year, the color of the water in the Baie des Anges was the most stunning blue I’d ever seen it, likely because of the lack of pollution in the air (or so I imagined). Yesterday, when I took a stroll with Riviera singer, client and friend John Garland Jones, it was overcast and stunningly a shimmery silver, gradually changing to blue as the clouds lifted.
We’re in our Phase II of confinement now—we can go as far as 20 kilometers from home for up to three hours. We still have to certify why we’re out and about using a printed attestation or the special app on our smart phones. It feels like no man’s land in a way because the shops are open, but the cafés and restaurants are closed. In our three-hour window the most we can do is shop, which isn’t good for my pocketbook. Somehow I’m managing to find all sorts of things to purchase, even if I don’t really need them. Daily I go out for groceries, just to have an outing even if the fridge is full.
Normally, I dine out every meal (as you might already have heard), so this is a big shift in my usual schedule, having to craft a lunch and cook up a dinner. I like to eat well at every meal, so this has become a new and creative ritual. In the nine years I’ve been part-time living in Nice, the kitchen has gotten very little use…until now. The only thing I’d ever used was the “multi-cuisson” oven (microwave, convection oven and grill) for heating up something like milk for coffee. In fact, I’d never learned how to use it except for simple things like that! This time I was determined to at least roast chicken!
Thanks to Said Ali, our illustrious Paris IT guy who was here in Nice this past weekend setting up high-speed Internet systems for one of our clients, I now know how to actually set the oven to work! (These “new-fangled gadgets” simply aren’t intuitive to an old lady like me, even though it’s nine years old!) Lo and behold, the roast chicken thighs turned out juicy and delicious—now that I know how to roast them at 175°C and finish by grilling and crisping the skin. I couldn’t wait to send Said a photo of my success thanks to his instruction. He responded with, “What can I say? I’m the oven whisperer.”
Whispering or not, dining on chicken under the sun on the Riviera, even during confinement, isn’t half bad!
A la prochaine…
P.S. Look into our Après-Midi future by visiting our Events page and see who will be speaking next and what their presentations will be about. Plan to attend them all!