There are many reasons why I love the South of France.
Three of these reasons are: sunlight, flowers in courtyards, and southern French architecture around the Monastery the Cimiez Hill. Simplicity at its best. You all know by now that I went to Nice for Mardi Gras. It’s time to tell you about Nice, one of the jewels along the French Riviera.
“Nissa La Bella” is the unofficial anthem of Nice. Written by Menica Rondelly in 1912, the song goes as follows:
“O ma belle Nice – Oh my beautiful Nice
Reine des fleurs – Queen of all the flowers
Tes vieilles toitures – From your rooftops
Je les chanterai toujours. – Will I always sing.
Je chanterai les montagnes – I will sing of the mountains
Ton si riche décor – Your rich scenary/your scenary so fine
Tes vertes campagnes – Your green countrysides
Ton grand soleil d’or. – Your golden sunshines
Toujours je chanterai – I will always sing
Sous tes tonnelles – Under your arbors,
Ta mer d’azur – Your sea of azure,
Ton ciel pur – Your skies of pure.”
Nice certainly does not disappoint. The skies were pure and the sea was a rich blue that I have yet to find along the ocean coastlines of Northeast America. I will always maintain that there are few things on the planet more beautiful than a seafront or ocean front.
Nice’s origins can be found among the Gallo-Roman ruins of Cimiez. Today, most people live at sea level and not on the posh Cimiez Hill. I really liked visiting the ruins for some reason. I felt like I was walking through history, in the footsteps of the great men and women who came before me.
Nice is also home to quite a few free museums. Anyone who has spent time in France knows that the French like to charge an arm and a leg if you want to see their collections. It was refreshing to be able to see many museums for free this weekend. My favorite museum of the ones we visited in Nice: le musée d’art moderne et d’art contemporain (MAMAC)– the museum of modern and contemporary art. While collections featured some puzzling and interesting works, it was the terrace on the top that I fell in love with. Orange and blue. The colors of the day.
Sunday morning we headed up to the Colline du Château. This hill overlooks the Baie des Anges and the old port harbor. Unfortunately not much is left of the castle or the cathedral that were once on the hill, but there are cemeteries up there as well. The views were kind of stunning. Now those of you who know me know that I cannot visit a new city without sampling some of the regional specialities. As Nice is on the Mediterranean, in France, but close to Italy, its food is heavily influenced by the Mediterranean tastes. In the first row of photos is the socca, something that looks like a large crêpe, but is in fact thin flatbread made of chickpeas. They cook it on large trays over coals and serve it in quarters, with peppers. It was delicious. Other Nice specialities include the pan bagnat (essentially a tuna sandwich), beignets de sardines (deep fried sardines) that Yuri had for lunch, and the tourte de blettes that I had. A tourte de blettes (Swiss chard) can be served salty or sweet (salty: see top right, sugary: see bottom right). Nice also is fond of the pissaladière (bottom left), a kind of tarte/pizza, but with onions and anchovies instead of tomato sauce. I don’t really like onions or anchovies, so I passed on that one. You’ll have to try it for yourselves one day.
Finally, we wandered through the old historical quarter of Vieux Nice. All throughout, people were airing out their laundry from the windows, adding even more color to the streets. This quarter was full of pink and yellow buildings, green and blue shutters, and tiny little streets.