The Road Taken...to Nice
I’ve had plenty of writers as guest bloggers, but today is the first time I’ve invited a reader to take over for me. If you follow this blog, you already know her from her frequent insightful comments. If not, you’re in for a treat. I’m happy to call her my friend, though we’ve never met face to face (yet!)
A few weeks ago, Mia wrote about how she nearly moved to Nice, France, but didn’t. And about how she sometimes still wonders what it would have been like… I’m a regular reader and I had just planned a short break in Nice with my guy, so I promised to let her know what it was like. And like the hospitable Blog Queen that she is, Mia invited me to share the story with all of you!
So, what would it have been like to move to Nice? Well, I think it’s safe to say that Mia would at least have loved to spend her free time there.
Nice is on the Côte d’Azur, and even in late October, it has the azure seas and clear blue skies you’d hope to find there. We got slightly lucky with the weather (it had been raining the week before), but it was sunny every day on the three days we were there, and nice and warm. We’re from Holland, which is wet, windy and rather cold at this time of year, so this was a welcome relief.
We strolled on the famous Promenade des Anglais, looking out over the sea, and we enjoyed the sunshine on the beach, which we shared with a curious combination of other tourists and locals. They ranged from deeply-tanned elderly citizens in bathing attire to a young French couple who clearly didn’t think it was that hot; the girl wore a woollen mantle over her coat and didn’t take off her sassy beret. It all added to our sense of being on holiday, away from home, and very much in France — especially combined with that other French cliché, people walking around with just a baguette in their hands, bought fresh for lunch or dinner. And, of course, combined with the language.
The French are notorious for expecting foreigners to speak their language. However, we found they can also be really friendly and help you out if your French doesn’t quite cut it, and Nice is enough of a tourist destination to ensure that you’ll usually find at least one English speaker in any restaurant. I love trying out my language skills and my French isn’t bad, but the one time the conversation with a maître d’ got too complex for his english skills and our French, a fellow patron helped us out by translating. And this was a rather special conversation: we were trying to explain that we were afraid we’d paid about 40 Euros too little for our food the night before. I guess that would be an outlandish situation for any restaurateur!
In that same restaurant, we had been served great food and wine at a communal table that we shared with an older Irish couple. We probably wouldn’t have talked to them otherwise, but we ended up having so much fun chatting together that we stayed for two more glasses of wine after dinner. :)
Nice doesn’t only taste and feel great, there’s plenty to feast your eyes on, too. Holland is a very flat country, so I get excited every time I see a hill that’s over 50 feet high – Nice offers those; we climbed Castle Hill, and had a beautiful view from the park on top. The old town is very picturesque too, with colourful old houses in narrow streets. Then there are wide squares and boulevards with beautiful, stately 19th-century buildings, and a number of museums.
You can visit the Chagall and Matisse museums, or the archaeological museum in an old abbey, but we opted for the museum of fine art, close to the Promenade. And it was a hit! The Musée des Beaux-Arts’ collection includes sculptures and paintings from the 13th through to the 20th century. We particularly liked some of their 19th- and early 20th-century paintings, including happy, colourful scenes by Nicean artist Jules Chéret and poignant symbolist paintings of cruel women with claws, knives and more, by Gustave-Adolphe Mossa. We also got to see a great temporary exposition of modern art, the selection for this year’s Nürnberg Art Prize. I loved it! And all of this came without an entrance fee.
Mia, you may be happier living close to your family in Boston, but I can heartily recommend Nice as a tourist destination. And if you bring your DH, I’m sure you can make it romantic, too. We sure did!
If you’re reading this, I’d love to know if you’ve ever been to France. Did you like it? Or do you have another destination that you can recommend?