The “Journey” of the “Patrimoine”
Sunny, sunny, sunny — all day long, all weekend long on the Blue Coast. Oh how Gray Paree could use a little of the light and the color of the Mediterranean. When the TGV reaches Marseille and the sun starts to pour into the windows of the train, making it warm and even sometimes a bit stuffy, it is the sign that we have ARRIVED.
Now when I pack for the weekends spent in Nice, about once a month, I find that the black clothing is left on the shelf while the colorful items come floating out almost organically. Wearing black in Nice is virtual heresy — it feels so much like a force against nature, while in Paris, donning muted tones of gray, taupe and black are so perfectly fitting. Yes, we are products of our environments.
Even the nature of the people are as different as the primary colors of Nice are to the smoky palette of Paris. The Niçois are not sophisticated like the Parisians, but they are definitely sunnier and friendlier. Those big smiles on the people with whom I have come in contact more than once (and who remember me) is a very welcoming sign that this is home away from home. The more time I spend on the Riviera, the more I enjoy it — not that it could ever replace Paris, per se, but because it’s a frivolous contrast to the serious side of Paris’ ‘stone-face.’
September may be the Riviera’s finest month. The weather is still warm and sunny, but not hot. The kids are back in school leaving the adults to play. The streets and restaurants are plenty active, but not to the point of congestion and it’s easy to get a table at your favorite restaurants. The beach has lots of sun-bathers, but because the kids aren’t there, it’s “tranquille.”
On the train were many ‘sportif’ people sporting large bags, each filled with a bicycle. It was a clue to what was going on in town — the Triatholon de Nice that took place on Sunday along the Promenade des Anglais and on the streets bordering the Parc Albert 1er. All over town you could see healthy, muscular, tanned people with shapely legs…on bikes and on foot in…wearing spandex.
We dined Saturday night at my favorite bistrot, “Bistrot Antoine,” seated next to a couple from Donegal, Ireland, who were amazed by the simple two-hour flight for them to change their lives by coming to sunny Nice. The woman must have said “I just love it!” about 10 times, after which we realized that when one’s environment is a constant gray and rain, that the Côte d’Azur must seem like total paradise.
“You live in Paris? You lucky person! And you have an apartment here? Oh my, you are lucky indeed!,” she went on to exclaim, at which I thought, “Lady, it’s not luck at all. You make what you want of your own life. Making a move to France and setting up life is not usually something that just befalls you. You have to plan, work for it, go ‘through the hoops,’ ‘jump all the hurdles,’ etc. And ‘it ain’t easy’ as we all know. But thousands upon thousands manage it with success. No lady, it isn’t ‘luck.’ But yes, I do feel lucky.”
This weekend was the annual “Journées des Patrimoine,” providing a perfect opportunity to visit some of the sights in Nice perhaps previously missed, overlooked or off limits. It was odd that there was no sign of the event on posters or even in front of the participating sites, even though online information was easy to find before we arrived.
We took Sunday late morning to start off on our “‘journey’ de patrimoine” first at the Cour Saleya in Vieux Nice for brunch and to peruse the open air market. The market is forever a source of pleasure — just to go from one Provençal soap stand to another to see which has the best-smelling “verveine” (verbena — my favorite), or marvel at the mounds of different olives, or the enormous home-grown vine-ripened tomatoes…and to soak up the sun, the colors and the moods of the happy vacationers.
Touring the old town, without missing having a scoop of “gelato” from the city’s finest Gelateria, Fenocchio Glacier (2, Place Rossetti), we visited the Palais Lascaris, where “The Living Keyboard” is on exhibition until October 29th of this year. This is Nice’s most important aristocratic residence, associated with the Lascaris-Vintimille family, built in the 17th-century and restored in 1946, then transformed into a museum by the municipality. The collection of harpsichords, pianos, clavichords and organs is impressive, but the residence itself is a shining example of example of the Italian Baroque architecture that is found everywhere in Old Nice.
On to Place Garibaldi at the northeast end of Old Nice, like the ‘spout’ to the district surrounding the Old Port, are both areas which become more beautiful as the city gentrifies. I took a moment to dunk my feet in the cool pools of the fountains at the Place, then we headed down rue Cassini to the port, where from a port-side bench in full sun we watched a large yacht ‘park’ at the dock by ‘backing in.’ The ferries to Corsica were boarding, reminding me of just one month ago when we cruised there for a few days of total R and R.
On the way back wandering through Nice Centre to the Carré d’Or, it was a pleasant surprise to discover the Stéphane Couturier photography exhibit at the “Théâtre de la Photographie et de l’Image” on boulevard Dubouchage (number 27). Born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, his photos of construction architectural and sites are “characterized by a vast array of visual information, an extraordinary clarity, and a poetry of conception that separates him from his contemporary German counterparts.” The theater, with its black velvet seats and gilded Belle Epoque framed stage was the setting for a performance Sunday afternoon. We missed it in lieu of a rest on the balcony, watching the sun go down and the people descend on the restaurants on rue Masséna for a lazy Sunday evening.
Today, we take in a few last minute errands and behave as if we live here before boarding the TGV back to Paris later this afternoon, leaving all the sun and colors behind us for yet another long weekend next month at “Le Matisse.”
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Nice
(In Nice – photo by Al Stewart)
P.S. Happy New Year to all those who are celebrating the year of 5773, wherever you may be — whether in a house of worship or just worshipping your house, your home, or your hotel.
P.P.S. Parler Paris Apartments, special offer! Le Beau Marais is a large, luxurious studio apartment located on an historic and quiet “cul de sac,” and promises a very tranquil “sejour” in the City of Light. From September 18-24, only 175 euros per night for four nights! Book now! Visit Parler Paris Apartments or email [email protected] to reserve your stay.
P.P.S.S. Le Matisse and La Côte du Paradis are our Niçois apartments that are total luxury with the North American demanding guest in mind. If you want the perfect stay on the Riviera, these two apartments are sure to fill the bill. Here’s what one recent guest wrote: We really enjoyed this wonderful retreat. It’s been our favorite accommodations in our travels to Barcelona, Rome and Amsterdam. We really appreciated all the comforts of home — plus the espresso maker! Thanks again for providing us with a clean and comfortable apartment — and the terrace was great for watching the world go by, too! To learn more, visit Parler Nice Apartments.