Sunday, January 20, 2008

Nice France and Palm Trees!

January 20, 2008
Nice France
“Wow” might sum it up. After sleeping fairly well on the top bunk in a cramped room with six other women in the downtown Nice Youth hostel, I woke up to a blue-sky day. I walked down the main drag, which is fairly grungy in my book with a "red light" district, MacDonalds (yes even here) and other chain stores all closed for Sunday. Thankfully, I arrived shortly at the glorious Mediterranean and the famous Palm tree-lined, Promenade Des Anglais – a 4 mile paved walkway along the beach and sea. The Promenade was fairly busy – really hate to imagine what it is like here in the summer – I highly recommend this time of year if you are thinking of exploring Nice. I walked down to the mostly stone beach and found a few gaggles of men and women, some of whom had taken their morning constitutional and been swimming in the turquoise sea.
A friend of mine told me that when she was here 30 years ago it smelled so horrid that there were ships off shore spraying perfume. Not so this time - no stink and no boat propelled perfume. Have just realized that the fabulous pictures I took were taken without a card in the camera – first and last time I make that mistake. I do have some with my little camera – but unfortunately not the wonderful older man and woman showering after their swims!
That’s what comes of getting flustered. This morning I was dealing with packing everything up on my top bunk and leaving my laptop at the desk – there are no lockers here except for something big enough for your passport, so if you come this way don’t bring anything valuable that is bigger than your wallet.
I sat on the beach for a while and drank in the melodious French language and laughter, the swimmers, the sailboats and the sun - not too hot – must have been around 55-60º. The swimmers got dressed and donned their coats – one was even wearing a beret – how perfect can you get?
I forced myself to get up as all I had at the hostel was some diluted orange juice. The free breakfasts are not gluten-free, in fact they are gluten-rich, so I was pretty hungry.
I crossed into the old city and to my joy walked right into the huge Sunday market at Place Pierre Gautier with wall to wall people and vendors.
The market was full of the most beautiful food I have ever seen – piles of sun-dried tomatoes, olives, cheeses, flowers, fruits and vegetables – as well as full of French people doing their Sunday shopping. I was able to find the Bio/Organic stands quickly and bought two handfuls of fresh mixed greens and a bunch of carrots. Another vendor sold me a little cake of goat cheese covered with herbs. Another still sold me the best sun-dried tomatoes soaked in herbs and garlic I have ever had – so divine – she said “for salade”, well I have been eating them straight all day, alternating them with the tiny, herbed, black olives I bought at the same stand.
While munching on all these delicacies, I walked through the old city with very narrow streets and shops covering every inch. No lie - there were accordion street players and an Edif Piaf-like street singer. And now the hostel is playing the French National anthem on the radio – I feel like I have just walked into a film! Where are you Humprhey Bogart?!
After some more Alpes Maritimes local and bio food, I hiked up the many stairs to the top of “Castle Hill” with fabulous views, but no castle. Here I took more photos that the world will never see.
Then I hopped a bus to the Musee Matisse – a beautiful orange stucco building in a public park filled with olive trees and men playing serious boules (see the following website for a great explanation of the game:
The Museum has a great collection of Matisse’s work from different periods in his life and work – a lovely spectrum and not overwhelming.
After this I was totally exhausted and bee-lined back to the hostel to make a meal with the remains of my markets finds and what food I had at the hostel from Switzerland.
Tomorrow I hope for the Chagall Museum and some other fun finds including the health food stores I found using the information in my Go Lightly Guide to Traveling Naturally in France – so happy it works ☺

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