Transitioning Back to Paris Via Nice and Provence
Going back to Nice and then to Provence after a week in Corsica was a good transition to ending vacation and coming back to the working life in Paris this morning. For many of you, Paris IS the vacation, while for those of us who live and work here (NOT live and RETIRED here), Paris life can be very intense and hectic. Often I joke that it would be nice to be a tourist again, or even a retiree so that Paris could be enjoyed to its fullest like it once was BW (Before Work).
Since Paris became home and not just a vacation spot, other parts of France have become the oases, which are as worthy of exploration as is Paris — there is simply too much in France to discover. Corsica is very much part of France, even if the Corsican separatists wish it weren’t (The National Liberation Front of Corsica or “Fronte di Liberazione Naziunale Corsu,” or FLNC). Nice is France “à l’Italien” (the Treaty of Turin to cede the area to France was signed in 1860 between the Sardinian king and Napoleon III) and Provence is…well…La France Profonde overflowing with Frenchiness (Provence has been part of France for more than five hundred years).
August 15th is traditionally the deadest day in Paris and the liveliest day in Nice. It’s “Assomption” or Assumption Day and a national holiday in France. Parisians are on holiday and the holiday-goers are on the beaches. The airports were flooded with vacationers heading in one direction or another. This day is taken seriously.
We landed in Nice, unpacked, noticed the unusually cool weather, grabbed sweaters and headed out for a seafood dinner at Le Café Turin at Place Garabaldi. At 10 p.m. we could hear the fireworks starting, paid the check and strolled down the Promenade de Paillon to see them fired off from the Promenade des Anglais.
Nice has arrived on the scene as a world class city — the town just gets nicer and nicer thanks to Mayor Christian Estrosi (who I hope will run for President of France in the next election). He was one of the very few French politicians who did not attend ENA (Ecole Nationale d’Administration), was a prize-winning motorcyclist (Grand Prix) and a business man with Italian grandparents. He’s a member of the UMP party and Nice likes him for all the obvious reasons.
Rain struck Sunday after a gloriously bright sunny morning visiting the flower and produce market on the Cour Saleya. The black clouds blew over only a few moments after we got settled in lounge chairs on the beach, creamed up with suntan lotion and closed our eyes in anticipation of an afternoon on the beach. We watched the black clouds roll in with anticipation, heard the thunder from not far away and decided to pack our bags and give up. Beach goers used their parasols to protect them from the rain so there was a sea of oversized and very colorful umbrellas scurrying down the Promenade des Anglais headed toward cover. There went our beach day.
Monday’s blue skies and bright sun made up for the lost beach time on Sunday. From the Promenade des Arts, we hopped the 81 bus to Villefranche-sur-Mer — a short ride away and a perfect lunch spot at one of the several cafés along the port. The main reason to be in Villefranche was to visit an apartment we found for two American investors prior to the signing of the Acte de Vente that should take place sometime later this week.
The apartment is a one bedroom in a contemporary building with a long and large terrace, expansive windows and drop-dead amazing views of Villefranche and the entire Cap Ferrat. For the buyers, it was ‘love at first sight’ and the apartment lived up to their hopes and dreams. Property in Villefranche is expensive, but views of this calibre aren’t found in many places on the planet.
The beach in Nice (in spite of the pebbles) Sunday afternoon under a bright sky was literally beach mat to beach mat with barely a spot to be had. We wedged in our two lounge chairs and settled in for a couple of hours of sun and surf. Just in front of us was a family of four speaking what we think was Russian with a tiny blonde-haired little girl off of which we couldn’t take our eyes. She was like a sophisticated woman in an child’s body — perhaps only 1.5 years of age. Her movements, expressions and demeanor were easy to fall in love with and we both wanted to take her home with us, particularly because the mother barely even touched the child, even though the little girl was clearly desperate for her mother to acknowledge her. It was painful to watch.
Vacation ended on the best note of all — with one last stop in Provence for an elegant lunch under the “plantane” trees at Chez Thomé in Tholonet and then a barbecue rib dinner in Ansouis on the terrace of Barb Westfield’s beautiful village house. The village was swarming with vacationers and tourists roaming the tiny ancient streets, but I didn’t feel like one of them, being a ‘regular’ visitor to the village and the region.
Barb made the ribs “sous vide” — “a French method of cooking in which food is sealed in airtight plastic bags then placed in a water bath or in a temperature-controlled steam environment for longer than normal cooking times —- 96 hours or more, in some cases—at an accurately regulated temperature much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 55 °C (131 °F) to 60 °C (140 °F) for meat and higher for vegetables.” (Wikipedia.org) These had been immersed in their warm bath for about three days, then chargrilled for only a few moments to crisp them up and they were without a doubt the most tender and delicious ribs I ever tasted.
The TGV from Aix-en-Provence brought two weeks of vacation to an end today about noon when it glided into the Gare de Lyon in Paris. Of course, that’s not half bad, is it, even if it’s not ‘vacation’ per se?
A la prochaine,
Editor of Parler Nice
The Adrian Leeds Group
(In Ansouis, 2015)
P.S. It’s not too soon to begin making plans to be at Parler Paris Après Midi when it returns Septermber 8 with authour and Paris expert David Downie. David will be talking about his latest book, A PASSION FOR PARIS: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Light. Don’t miss it!