nice was nice

On Thursday morning, I flew to Nice to meet Christina, an old friend I have known since the seventh grade. Since I had visited Nice before, my main goals were to eat good food and get a decent tan. I accomplished both.

After checking in at our hostel, we walked the couple of kilometers to the beach. We talked about girl stuff as we basked in the crisp seventy-degree sun. (We refused to swim, as the water was absolutely freezing!) When we got hungry, we walked to Cours Saleya to scope out a touristy bar and restaurant. By day, this pedestrian-only street is home to farmers’ and specialty markets, but by night, it becomes very Little Italy-esque. Hosts and hostesses stand outside the restaurant doors, flashing their menus and waving patrons to one of the many outdoor tables. It may be gimmicky, but it’s a perfect place to people watch and enjoy the last few hours of sunlight. Ultimately, we settled on a cute little bar for pre-dinner kirs and olives before heading to a pizzeria. I enjoyed a salami and peperoncino pizza, while Christina ordered an eggplant and ricotta pizza. My dish was absolutely perfect—crispy, spicy, slightly cheesy, and freshly seasoned.

The next day, we relaxed at the beach and did a little bit of shopping. Not too much to report. For dinner, we both tried aïoli niçois, a local dish of cod and steamed vegetables served with a garlic mayonaise. I have to say I was not a huge fan, but I was happy to try something new.

On Saturday, Christina and I decided to take the train to Cannes. Since the Film Festival is in a few days, we thought we might see a celebrity or two. No luck. We did, however, enjoy a leisurely lunch of white wine, mussels, and french fries. (Yeah, moules frites are a bit thing in France. It may seem like a strange combination, but it is a completely genius one.) My huge pot of mussels was served with a fresh cream, lemon, and herb sauce which was simply to-die-for. After gorging ourselves, we lounged on the beach and read fashion magazines. It was a really lovely and relaxing afternoon. We managed to gain the courage to walk into the water once. Eeps! It was so cold, our skin was splotchy and red after just one minute. Once the sun began to set, we walked around the old town. There were so many narrow, hilly streets—I’m talking six feet wide—lined with restaurants and boutiques. I wish we would have had appetites to eat there because the atmosphere was just too picturesque.

All in all, I had a wonderful time in Nice and Cannes. After spending the semester with seven guys (not to mention the occasional male visitor), being around another girl, especially one I have been friends with for so long, was a very welcome change. I am looking forward to leaving for London in just a couple of days, this time with Seth. I think it is kind of a big deal to travel with a significant other. What if your travel styles don’t match? Fortunately, I think Seth and I have more or less similar expectations for our adventures.

nice, monaco, and nice again [recap]

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!