This is Libby again, guest blogging for Gary about our travels.
For a change of pace, Gary and I decided to visit Nice in the French Côte d’Azur for a bit of sunshine and respite from the grey February doldrums of Toronto. After spending a couple of days in Paris, we took the TGV from Gare de Lyon last Saturday and set up our household in Nice for a two week stay.
Even though it is winter here, the daytime temperature is a consistent 15-17 degrees Celsius and the sun shines 26 out of 30 days. And what beautiful sunshine it is! The light bathes the yellow-hued buildings so radiantly. Artists from Matisse to Chagall revelled in the Nicoise sunlight. It’s easy to see why.
We’re based this time in a fully-equipped, third floor apartment in the Vielle Ville just off Place St. Francois. Like our Boulogne apartment, there is no elevator but the building is 18th century vintage, 200 years newer than our last French abode. The Vielle Ville is a warren of winding streets occupied by purveyors of food and clothing and other local products (e.g., herbes de Provence, lavender and other soaps, local honey, and confitures, from fig to Corsican clementine).
There is an annual Carnival in Nice from mid-February to early March, featuring big ballooned “geants”. (People in head-to-toe costume get in free). Yet, the city appears to us to be relatively quiet. It’s off-season in the Riviera, but for us, it’s just perfect.
Nice is the 4th largest city in France with a population of about 500,000. It is an elegant southern city with Italianate influences on its architecture and cuisine.
The square-shaped, old port of Nice is another attraction. There are boats and ships of all kinds, from small fishing vessels to large, luxury yachts. One of the houses near the harbour was home to Napoleon Bonaparte in 1794.
The luxury yacht pictured below, the “Maraya”, can be chartered for the small sum of $300,000 per week. Based on an Internet check, for that you get a crew of 15, six cabins with a capacity of 12 persons, a dedicated ski boat, and a water misting system in case you get too hot while sunbathing. As they say, “champagne dreams and caviar wishes.”
There are more restaurants than one can imagine in Nice serving foods of all nationalities and, of course, many specializing in interesting Provencal and Nicoise regional specialties ranging from olives and tapenade to pissaladiere (the traditional onion tart) to salade nicoise (salad with tuna, hard-boiled egg, olives, anchovies and green beans).
There is also daube nicoise. The one Gary had was braised beef in a dark, clove-scented wine sauce with ravioli stuffed with cheese and chard. We also discovered socca, a chickpea pancake which is the quintessential street food here and ravioli nicoise, a pasta filled with daube de boeuf and chard.
We plan to visit some neighbouring towns and villages over the next week, such as Eze, Antibes, St. Paul de Vence, Villefranche-sur-Mer and maybe others, as time allows, before we head back for a few days in Paris. We’ll keep you posted on our further travels this trip, so stay tuned.