Thursday, 24 July 2014

Nice la Belle

I was tempted to call this post Nice is nice but to be honest I thought that would be a little corny and I wanted to express my true feelings about this fabulous French city from where I have just returned.

The city is actually called Nice La Belle, which is French for Nice the Beautiful and having just spent a week there, I am of the opinion that it is a very fitting name.

We were located in an old traditional apartment very close to Place Garibaldi, which is a central location very close to the city centre, and more importantly, to Vieux Nice (old Nice), the old town, an almost labyrinthine area of narrow streets full of tiny and extremely quaint shops, small traditional French cafés as well as restaurants and bars and even a traditional old market.

I was accompanied, of course, by Mrs PM but also my eldest son Stephen and his girlfriend.

Our apartment was ideally situated, just a short walk from a supermarket and a wonderful bakery that enabled us to buy fresh bread,  pain au chocolat and pain au raisin to enjoy for breakfast every day. I also indulged myself with French ham and, naturally, some delicious camembert.

Being based in Nice, we were able to visit a couple of other local famous locations on the Côte d'Azur, namely Cannes and Monaco, which I will dedicate a separate post to a little later.

Being with the kids, there was more emphasis on relaxing by the beach but Mrs PM and I had some influence, persuading them to explore the local area and sample the delights of southern France while at the same time allowing them to persuade us to spend time at the beach and the extremely inviting Mediterranean Sea.

Spending a day on the beach was quite expensive; we had a choice of staying on the public beach or renting a sunbed and parasol with mats to allow us easy access to the sea. SInce the beach was full of pebbles rather than golden sand, we opted for the more expensive option as it was far more comfortable and we were right next to a restaurant with waiters serving drinks to your own sunbed next to the sea. It was a temptation we simply couldn’t resist.

I did learn a valuable lesson while on the beach:

Remember to take your wallet out of your pocket when walking into the sea.

Yes I was that stupid. I walked into the Mediterranean Sea with a wallet full of Euros and Pound Sterling as well as a credit card.

Isn't it funny how you only realise your mistake when you are floating in a beautiful turquoise blue sea? Talk about shattering a peaceful moment.I had to dry out my wallet and my Euros on the sunbed for an hour having made a complete arse of myself in front of my chuckling family – and no doubt quite a few fellow sun worshippers.

And I wasn't allowed to forget my error.

The beach area we chose was adjacent to the old town, which allowed us to pop to lovely little cafés for a light lunch (that sometimes wasn’t always that light) so at least when my money had dried out, I could drown my sorrows (while suffering merciless piss-taking at the hands of people who are supposed to love me).

The old town is delightful and when we ended up visiting the area every night for our evening meal, consisting of typically delicious French cuisine accompanied by a baron of French beer and/or a glass or two of fantastic wine.

Mrs PM led the way with her command of French but by the end of the week, the rest of us had gained enough confidence to test out our own skills. The kids basically copied the words Mrs PM spoke, whereas I, claiming to know a little more French, was a little braver sometimes attempting primitive conversation (on my part at least).

I only fell foul of my lack of vocabulary a couple of times, usually when the polite French people spoke back to me at the speed of light, prompting me to shrug in the characteristic Gallic fashion with the words “Je suis désolé; je ne comprends pas” before allowing Mrs PM to bail me out.

I did okay though.

The people of Nice were extremely friendly, something stereotypical Brits do not associate with our friends from across the English Channel. Basically I have always found most French people to be extremely accommodating, with the possible exception of certain Parisians with whom I have had trouble on just about every visit. A lot of French people outside the capital also feel the same to be honest. The extremely funny taxi driver who took us back to the airport remarked upon the fact a lot of Parisian tourists who come to Nice look down their noses at the local people. So it’s not just us. In fact, given that certain Londoners are also extremely arrogant, I can sympathise with them.

One other thing I noticed about Nice was that there is quite a noticeable Italian influence. Of all the other nationalities we encountered during our week, there were a lot of Italians there; in fact some of the street names in the old town were in both French and Italian. I didn’t realise just how close the city was from the Italian border. In fact it is only around 15 miles to the border from the old town.

We certainly enjoyed more than our fair share of Italian ice cream.

On our final day, we walked to Parc de la Colline du Chateau, a park that overlooks the old town and the Baie des Anges for some breathtaking views of the city in the glorious sunshine that we had enjoyed for just about all of the week (apart from a rather spectacular thunderstorm one day which we fortunately just missed and forced us to sit in a restaurant for a little longer than we had anticipated – allowing me to enjoy an extra baron of Kronenbourg!).

Sadly, we are back now but I wonder whether we traversed a weird space vortex on our trip back to Manchester. The temperature in Nice was a very pleasant 27 °C and back in Manchester today the temperature is exactly the same. I think we must have brought back a little bit of Nice with us.
I leave you with a few photographs of the city.

Stephen and his girlfriend make a new friend in the old town
Place Garibaldi
Shopping in the old town
Like father like son (yes - we were in big trouble)
Mrs PM ordered cactus for dinner
Nice from Parc de la Colline du Chateau
Old town market
A quaint little shop
I think we might return in the future because Nice is, as the name suggests, very beautiful. I recommend it.


Elephant's Child said...

It looks very, very hard to take. How you suffered to bring us this post.

Pandora Behr said...

Wow - looks like you had a fab time - and gee, doesn't your son resemble a younger you. Wondered where you had been - glad you had a good vacation.


Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi EC,

Well it's a dirty job - but someone's got to do it.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

Mrs PM calls my lads "the clones"; you can see why.




joeh said...

I guess she doesn't speak the language that well if she ordered cactus for lunch.

Looks like a beautiful place.

Oh, the wallet thing...done that...cell phone as well. The cell phone was less forgiving.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Joeh,

That's the second time I've done the wallet thing!

Not done the cellphone thing ... yet!




H2B said...

Mr PM,
Thank you for a wonderful travel blog as usual. It reminded me of my fav t-shirt given by my sis, which had disappeared due to excessive wear-and-tear (or it was chucked it by someone-we-shall-not-name who couldn't stand the 'Swiss-cheese rag'). The t-shirt said ,'My sister went to Nice and all I get is this lousy t-shirt'. Hmmm, I have to visit Nice to get another one.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi H2B,

Well - if you had said earlier ...




Jackie K said...

Nice is lovely - much NICEr than I had expected. Your going swimming with your wallet made me laugh, as did the cactus caption.
You obviously had a great time :)

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Jackie,

Bizarrely, the first time I swam with my wallet was in your native Australia - in a bloody swimming pool.

Aussie dollars dry out more quickly - but it could have been the heat.