I am a francophile and I don’t care who knows it. So francophobes …. be warned.
For many years I have had a desire to go to France, so much so I even took conversational French in first year university. (Which I passed, mercy buckets!) I am most pleased to announce that I finally made it. It was only for two and a bit days, but now that I am living sixteen thousand kilometres closer, it will be the first of many more days to come.
So my first dalliance with France is Nice, on the Côte d’Azur.
As the sun rises over Nice and the Mediterranean Sea the haze and glare off the water makes the sky almost white, contrasting the deep rich blue of the sea. As the water laps along the coastlines the deep blue changes to a crystal pale sapphire. This is the Côte d’Azur after all. I’ve not seen a coast line like this before. The closest I’ve seen would be on along the coast of the state of Queensland that trails down the barrier reef. The water there is perfectly clear, but it’s colour is warmed by the golden sands. The warmth of the early autumnal sun means that sun bathing is still a regular occurrence.
The promenade remains a social place in all hours. In the afternoon sun old bare chested men sit amongst the rows of chairs and debate the matters closest to their hearts that day. Roller bladers set up their tiny obstacles and perform for meandering onlookers. And cyclists are everywhere with wide dedicated lanes for pedal power. Into the evening groups of families and young people take to the beach with their market fare and take in the evening breeze sitting on the sun toasted beach pebbles.
My favourite place to be was in the Marché aux Fleurs on Cours Sayela. Stalls upon stalls of fresh cut flowers in every colour bright the street lined with restaurants. The flower stalls lead on into more delicatessens where you can buy fresh baguettes and pastries, cheese of all kinds, wines, fruit, meats and antipasto …. it’s all there for the taking. And I did. Both days I got myself a baguette, some fromage de bebris (slightly soft cheese made of sheep’s milk), a couple of pears, then made my way down to the Baie des Anges in the cool breeze and ate watching the world go by. I love this kind of market place, which reminds me of Melbourne and Prahran markets, or the street stalls in Helsinki, places the I love.
Between the Boulevard Jean Jaurès and Quai des Etats-Unis, under the shadow of Colline du Château high on the hill, way find the narrow alleyways that honeycomb the popular shops and restaurants that are far more appealing to me than the great malls a few miles away. Tiny little bars, cafes, boulangeries, ice creameries and restaurants are crammed with people enjoying taste and flavour. I have to say that how can you not love a poeple that have a intimate relationship with bread and their boulanger. No concept of day old bread here. And the tubs upon tubs of french ice cream and gelato in most conceivable flavours and colours have a popularity that reaches into the wee small hours of the morning.
So of course, I tried to speak french. And I have to say, I completely ballsed it up. Performance anxiety got the better of me. At times I was reduced to a mere bonjour/bonsoir/oui/merci/au revoir. As I walked away I would kick myself becasue I was able to create the sentence in my head. Looks like time to get myself back to Alliance Française classes.
Climbing all the way to the top of the hill of Colline du Château, there is a wide flat park for children to play and adults to throw a game of boulles. From here you get a grand view from the port of Nice heading out towards Monaco in the east, to along the Baie des Agnes into Nice proper and through to the airport, Antibes and Cannes in the west. And the view from the cemetery is incredible. Amazing prime real estate given to the remembered dead.
So yes, you are guessing by now that I loved my time in France. I was immediately drawn to the daily culture and rhythm of Nice. Of course, it is a tourist destination, so the people there are transitory, just like me. But I think I received a sense of something that is uniquely french, and like a hit of that first coffee in the morning, I want more.
Photos of my trip to Nice and other destinations can be found here.