Once we arrived in Nice, our class hurriedly found our hotel rooms and prepared for a dinner with our professors and an anonymous French guest. After a short walk to downtown Nice, we sat down for a leisurely three-course meal, plus aperitif and wine, at Frog. (Trust me, the restaurant was much nicer than its website leads one to believe. I don’t know what it is with the French and bad web design.) Our waitress, who was so incredibly chic in her oversized 1980s-style glasses and messy bun, brought a round of peach cocktails to the table, along with some raw vegetables, olive tapenade, and frog legs. The cold, crisp slices of bell pepper, cucumber, tomato, carrot, and fennel served as a pleasant palette cleanser for the buttered, fried frog. Once we had our fill of green things (ha ha), our waitress brought individual servings of beef stewed with potatoes, carrots, and chocolate. On the side sat a carefully crafted fort of chickpea fries. To be honest, I was not so impressed with the stew, perhaps because I thought it was something I could have easily made at home. For dessert, we had an apple tart sprinkled with pistachios. Dinner was not especially fun for me, as I was seated between our special French guest who spoke no English, our professors, and one particularly verbose classmate. After an hourlong debate on Russian politics, comics, and other topics I did not know or care much about, I mentally checked out of the conversation. I had never been so happy to leave a restaurant. A few of us then walked to the shore to dip our feet in just so we could say we did. It was not nearly as cold as I expected, not even as cold as the Pacific in summer.
The next morning, we awoke bright and early to catch a bus up the coast to Roquebrune. There, we toured Le Corbusier’s summer villa, which was not a villa so much as a shack with a view. I was so happy to be spending the day in the bright, warm sun that I almost didn’t mind the extensive tour. After walking up and down the mountains, we hopped on a bus to Monaco. It really is a stupid little city-slash-country, but I was glad to see it. A few of us grabbed paninis from a street vendor and sat in a plaza overlooking the water. Stomachs full, we wandered to the Monte-Carlo Casino to try our luck at the slot machines. (I didn’t actually do any slots, but I did watch the boys.) We then met our professors and headed back to Nice.
Once we returned to Nice, we visited the Las Planas tram station. While I thought the project was interesting, I was disappointed in the details. They were just so sloppily executed! After a quick self-guided tour, we took the light rail back to the hotel. A few of us relaxed in one of the rooms with some wine, snacks, and a rousing game of Name That Tune before heading out to dinner at a local pizzeria. I did not order any pizza for myself, but I was able to try some of the others’ in exchange for some of my mussels and saffron pasta. Both were insanely delicious. Since the night was still young, we walked to an Irish pub for a couple of drinks (real, legitimate beer and cocktails) before turning in. A female musician sat in the corner covering ’90s hits such as Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in My Pocket,” and all was right with the world.
Saturday, we had most of the day to ourselves. We chose to spend it shuffling through farmers’ markets and sitting on the beach, basically my idea of a perfect day. For mid-February, the weather could not have been any better. I got some great use out of my new camera’s HDR settings! We flew back to Paris via EasyJet (Europe’s answer to Southwest) and were home by eight. Although the trip had its ups and downs, I had a really wonderful time visiting the south of France.
This afternoon, Pierre told me I looked French. I must have somehow acquired that je ne sais quoi!