France - Nice

by Kimp 8. November 2012 19:29
Photo Blog
 
A few months ago I was at a Pub, watching a soccer game, with a friend whom I hadn't seen in about 3 months.  I was about 2 liters deep in German beer and having a great time, when John says to me, "Craig, I'm headed to St. Petersburg Russia in a about another month." My immediate response was, "Dude, I am sooo, going with you.".
 
The next day I started the process of figuring out how to fast track a Visa for that foray. The first thing I did was block off on my calendar. I'm staring at the calendar and thinking, "Dude, that's a month before the shortest day of the year in Northren Russia. Does the sun even fully crest the horizon there? What the hell were you thinking?". I was also wondering if they were going to deny my Visa, because they were suspicious of me going there for the first time, at a time when nobody goes there under those circumstances. I imagine if you get turned down once, then it is even harder to get one the second time.

Two days later, John told me that his plans were moved back, so he wasn't going there until some time next year. Those two days of thinking about not getting any Sun for a while, left me feeling Vitamin D deficient. The only cure for that is to get some serious Sun on my skin. So I kept the dates, but changed my destination to the French Riviera. 

The French Riviera is about 50 miles of Mediterranean coastline in Eastern France and all of Monaco's coast (about 1 mile). It starts at the village of St. Trope and goes all of the way to the village of Menton which is near the Italian Border. Composed of 5 small areas (some with more than one village) and one city.  Nice (pronounced like Niece ) is the city, and it's right in the center of the Riviera. Nice is short for "Nice La Belle" which translates to "Nice and Beautiful".  The first hominid's to settle in Europe, settled in Nice. That was 400,000 years ago, and they're probably still talking about it in heaven.

The climate is subtropical, the landscape is mostly hills made of rock, and the number of days with sun per year tops 300. Even in the rainy season, the rains are light, and if it rained once this week, you'll not need an umbrella for another week or so. The area inland of the Riviera is called Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. Provence is in the French Alps and is known as one of the best French wine regions.  There's always a huge section of decent priced Provence wines, on the wine menu, at Riviera restaurants.

The Alps are what keeps any cold front's from reaching the coast. The warm air from the deserts in Africa come across the Mediteranian Sea picking up moisture, but the rain isn't dropped until after it crosses over the Riviera and hits the alps.

It kind of looks like someone took Arizona, put North Carolina's sky over it, and when he seen that was nearly perfect, he put a huge body of water on its border and made it perfect. As soon as transportation made the Riviera a feasible place to travel, Europeans started visiting in droves as a winter escape. Then it was discovered by the early Hollywood movie stars in the 1920's, before the depression. During the depression, rich American's came here to invest their money, cause the economy was so much better, then in the US.

There isn't any cookie cuter Riviera village experience, all of them are distinct and different. With Nice's sun, 4 miles of beach on a gently arched coast, clean fresh air, and soft light, it is known as both a place of good relaxation and a place for great inspiration. The water is always royal blue and the light in the middle of the day is as beautiful as the light at sunrise or sunset. The evenings are nice, clear, enjoyable, and are often spent on the extra wide promenade (walkway) that flanks the beach. Nice is home to several world class museums. Many world class artists have come to the Riviera, usually to relax after they'd made their mark in history, and painted pieces that they donated to local museums. Marc Chagall has a whole museum, dedicated to his works in Nice.

There is however a cookie cutter European Beach experience. Most Americans stuff their cars full of coolers and beach gear, then drive several hot hours to get to the beach, struggle with jam packed traffic and are worn out by the time they arrive. Most Europeans, pack a Speedo and a few changes of clothes in a backpack. On the way to the train station, they stop and get some bakery fresh bread, a block of cheese, and a bottle of wine. Then they board the train, feast and relax on the way to the beach. When they get there, they rent the equipment that they need, a locker and a towel. Since everyone does that, the prices are pretty cheap. When you are thirsty, you either motion to the beach-side cafe to bring you a tall cool one at your beach spot for a decent price, or you walk a short distance to one of the many cafes that are nearby. When you are hungry, you have your choice of eating cheap Euro-fast food or dinning moderately or splurging. Whatever your heart desires. 

My homeboy Jacques hooked me up with a 3'x6' piece of prime beech, a terrycloth covered lounge chair, a table, an umbrella, and a towel for a whole day, for about $20. And, since I bought the package, he threw in the first beer for free. Many European women save some money by just buying the bikini bottoms and if you forget your Speedo, no big deal, just swim in your boxer shorts. Nobody will even bat an eye.

I ate a late lunch at a place named Campo Fiori (Field of Flower's), where I had a huge bottle of water, some Fish and a half bottle of Provence wine. I then walked all of the way to the other end of the beach in front of the classic, big name, hotel Negresco. That's a place where the cheap rooms are like a $1000 (800 Euros) a night. By that time I had to pee really bad, and I couldn't find any place close, that looked like they had restrooms. I am wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a light jacket and I am trying to get up the nerve to go in and use their restrooms when I see an old guy not dressed much better then me, saunter right past the doorman. 

I am looking at the doorman standing about 5 feet on the other side of the double glass doors talking to two bellhop's and the valet, with his back to me. So I sneak up on the doors out of sight of all of them, then quickly appear about 3 feet from the doors. One of the guys the doorman was talking to him, alerted him of my presence, and he turns and lunges to try to get to the door before me. He trips and nearly goes headfirst right through the glass. Luckily he catches the door knob and uses that as a prop to right himself again and then he opens the door. I gave him one of those looks, like, dude, pay attention and then sauntered right by him like I owned the place.

The lobby, the sitting rooms, the chandlers, and the furniture looked like those of a period specific mansion. The bathrooms were just as nice. But all of that paled in comparison to the best part of that whole hotel. Which was the French Maid exhibit that was scattered around the main lobby. Bonus!!!

 

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