Nice… I came to Nice because of one reason and one reason only—a favorite author of mine, James Baldwin. Although I won’t be doing the half hour field trip to Saint Paul de Vence until tomorrow, I’m already having a hard time why he chose Nice and not a place like Marseille. Both are charming and are surrounded by mountains and the Mediterranean.
I suppose, however, that it must be because Nice is more American than any other city I have visited in France. The city is heavily geared toward its tourists and at just about every corner, you can recognize the English language being spoken. I don’t know what Nice was like back in the 1960’s, yet I can only imagine why Baldwin went with this area over another… He must have felt some connection to home here.
Frankly, I don’t feel that I fit in very well in my black Levi jeans, simple grey T-shirt, and Converse shoes. In short, most women are dressed for the kill and I am quite unfashionable. A quick trip to the Galleries Lafayette by my hostel, had my head spinning with its enormous prices. From my understanding of the city, there is a lot of money here… Like a lot of money.
I can’t say that I’ve done much sightseeing, but my roommate Jack and I ventured to Coco Beach yesterday, walking past places like Garibaldi Place. As a biology doctorate student, Jack pointed out intriguing things about the local wildlife. Did you know that seagulls attack pigeons!?!? I didn’t, but I got the whole thing on video at Garibaldi Place. Garibaldi sounded familiar and I remembered that he was an Italian general. Apparently, Nice was annexed and re-annexed more than twice over. Today, it’s French. Not too many centuries ago, Italian.
Anyways, it’s truly a gorgeous and charming city… Perhaps too gorgeous and charming for my liking… A little bit too… Perfect? I know I will return to Marseille for the calanques. As much as I want to say that Nice’s coast is as beautiful as Marseille, I simply just cannot. It’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but I have been spoiled by the calanques. At this point, I’m not sure that anything could ever compare.
At the very least, the food is fantastic. Upon my arrival, I had gnocchi with beef broth garnished with cherry tomatoes at Le Felix Faure, the closest restaurant to my hostel open late. The portion was massive, the taste delightful, and the service impeccable! The service really reminded me of America. Nice is the first city in France where I have experienced servers upsell. Would you like dessert? Would you like another glass of wine? Would you care for a cappuccino? I got chocolate mousse for dessert and the portion was just about as massive and delightful as my dinner. I will admit I ate much of the dessert, which to most people, would probably be a shameful endeavor.
Last night, I ate the best mussels I have ever had. Today, my jeans are still reminiscent of the experience. They were cooked in curry for a little bit of spice with fries and bread on the side. Paired with a white wine Sancerre, I was in heaven! In comparison to the mussels I had in Paris, these were much smaller and not fishy at all, whatsoever. My server Ilona was a pleasure and gave me great tips for exploring the city.
Right now, I am enjoying an Expresso Viennoiserie topped with a more than ideal amount of chantilly, the best whipped cream you may ever have. Bistro Massena is the bomb and if you ever come to Nice, you should most certainly come here for the coffee and perhaps a croissant!