Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Cote d'Azur Is More Than Nice

The Cote d’Azur Is More Than Nice
Nice isn’t what my husband and I expected.  We expected it to be, well, French. But it’s just as much—maybe more—Italian.  Picture being in an Italian countryside village like Assisi but with crepes and us speak English and practice it themselves.  Gloriously, there’s no Parisian language conceit.  In fact, Niceans are more accepting and relaxed all around.  For example, suddenly, while eating al fresco at a “kitchen”-type restaurant, munching on a rather mediocre salad Nicoise (originated in Nice, of course), an older man at a nearby table broke into song, soon joined by his fellow diners.  This went on for quite some time—until they left.  No one except my husband and I seemed to notice, yet alone mind.  Frankly, all my when-in-Rome hospitality convictions failed me as we found their extravagant warbling to be more annoying than charming.  Rather than enjoy the novelty, we analyzed the spectacle to death: What if we tried that? What if we joined it?  What if we voiced our disapproval?  Bad, bad hospitality on our part, I confess. Other than that episode, we found Niceans to be friendly and accepting.

Leaving Nice, we took a 1 Euro bus to journey farther south in the Cote d’Azur to Cannes.  Again, we experienced this pleasant blend of the best of the French and the Italians.  Like most places we’ve traveled to, the native had their own quirks. In Cannes, remarkably, the locals were dressed in multi-zippered attire.  http://obeyclothing.com/women/dresses-skirts/cannes-dress.html We don’t know why.  It was striking—almost ridiculous.  The film festival—scheduled to begin the following week—doesn’t dominate the town as much as you might think.  Cannes consists of three areas:  The first is a long frontage street, facing the water with a casino (or two maybe), older and more modern hotels, and upscale stores. The second lies behind that—streets filled with small restaurants, cafes, a department store, touristy shops, boutiques, delicatessens, and some tourist areas (like a castle and church).  There’s a big city flair in these two sections.  Then, there’s the old section, which is much more subdued and picturesque.  Again, shops, cafes, and boutiques.  But less touristy and hectic.  Walk to the elevator that takes you to the top and look out over the city and the sea.  Rain or shine, it’s a great view. 

Even farther south, is the Grasse area.  We stayed at an awesome B&B run by a British couple.  I believe I’ve already reviewed that.

In each location, we experienced this unique blend of French and Italian hospitality—the panache of the French without their Parisian haughtiness and the culinary triumphs of the Italians without their loud arguing.  Moreover, the step is laid-back, the service is attentive, and the countryside is pleasing. 

Today, we recall our late-May stay in the Cote d’Azur with serenity and nostalgia.

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"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." - from A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf