Before I start recounting my recent travels, I’m going to share some good news. I found a job for the month of June in Oklahoma. It’s heartening to have something to look forward to when I return besides the threat of unemployment and couch sleeping. I also miss my home state and am looking forward to spending some time there.
I recently spent over a week traveling with my parents who came to visit. I met them in the train station in Nice and we spent three nights on the Côte d’Azur (French Riviera). It was nice to escape the endless winter of Valence and see the sun and ocean. It wasn’t exactly swimming weather (although my dad swam in the Mediterranean), but it was the warmest weather I’ve felt since I got off the plane in September.
This was my second time to visit Nice, the first being in 2006 when I was studying abroad in Clermont-Ferrand and took the train down to visit my friend Karen. Between then and now there have been some improvements to the center of town, including a tram and fancy new paint on many of the buildings. This time I stayed in a hotel rather than sleeping on a concrete floor, so that was also a nice improvement. There are definite perks to traveling with one’s parents.
Our hotel was a short distance from the beach and we spent the first two days exploring Nice. The beach in Nice is made up of rocks smoothed by the sea and there is a sidewalk that stretches along it offering great people watching. On the day we arrived, we got sandwiches at a bakery and ate them on the beach before walking up to the Colline du Château (Castle Hill) where there is a park with a beautiful view of the city. It’s a bit of a hike up and there isn’t much left of the castle for which it is named, but it is worth it as you can see from the first photo on this post. That night we had dinner at a typical French restaurant near the hotel and I got an omelette with mushrooms.
The next day we started with the charming old town of Nice and made our way around to the harbor, passing this odd statue that is apparently a part of the library. The weather was great again, and I didn’t even have to wear a jacket. Considering I’ve practically existed only in boots and a long coat since November, this was a welcome change.
There were a lot of giant yachts in the harbor, many of which were marked “George Town, C.I.” Google research tells me this might be the Cayman Islands. There were also quite a few from London. I guess the economy hasn’t taken everyone’s yachts and the British pleasure-cruisers are still making it down to the French Riviera. I think that every apartment I’ve ever lived in could fit in some of those yachts with room left for my parents’ house. Alongside the yachts were tiny one-person fishing boats that older Frenchmen were preparing to take out to sea.
After admiring the harbor, we walked across a jetty to a lighthouse to get a view of the boats and the ocean. I remembered when just a week earlier I’d been pummeled by wind and rain waiting for a boat in Marseille and it was such a contrast to the calm blue water in Nice.
On our way to get paninis for lunch we walked through the Marché à la Brocante et aux Antiquaires, a flea market set up in the old town. I especially like the above arrangement with a skull, sabers, antique plates, a painting, and a candelabra. I would like to have something resembling that in a house someday. There were also chandeliers, old signs, and genuine art and artifacts next to the expected fare of old video games and kitsch. It was all accompanied by some lively accordion playing. I’m not too fond of the accordion, but I’ve had to adjust to its omnipresence on the streets of France and I’m finding it less grating. I forgot to mention that there was also an accordion player at the top of the castle hill.
After lunch, we returned to the beach and spent a while relaxing in the sun. My dad was brave and plunged into the cold waters, but I occupied myself with people watching and played my favorite traveling game: “guess the nationality.” Over the course of this trip we found that the Americans and Germans dress and carry themselves in a similar way, which might be why I felt like I blended so well in Berlin. I also enjoyed watching the young male American tourists almost break their necks off looking at the sunbathing topless women.
Having seen a lot of the center of town, we decided to hike up to Cimiez. The upper class quarter overlooking Nice was where the city first started and there are still some Roman ruins, including an arena. We visited the Monastère de Cimiez, a Franciscan monastery, and its cemetery which houses the grave of artist Henri Matisse. He died in Nice in 1954 and before that worked for many years in the city. Raoul Dufy, another artist, was also in the cemetery, although his grave was less decorated.
The monastery also had a lovely garden with new spring flowers. Finally, a little color after months of brown! After the garden we walked back down to lower Nice and had dinner in a restaurant by the harbor, where I introduced my parents to the Chevre Chaud salad and Moules Frites.
That covers the first couple of days in Nice! If you want a preview of things to come, there are many photos on my flickr.