Monday, March 16, 2009

Nice: Part Two, Lazy Beach Days

12:00PM March 15

On Saturday night when we got back to the room, I realized that I couldn't find my passport. That day, between my mp3 player, camera, wallet, train tickets, and various change, I had so many things in and out of my pockets that I had lost track of it. I last remembered having it when I checked into the hotel, so I made a thorough search of my bags and the room but still could not find it. First thing Sunday I got up and started researching how I could replace it, at least temporarily. All of the consolates were closed on Sunday though, so I tried to enjoy the day as much as possible, knowing I couldn't do anything for the time being.

I then met up with the girls at a great outdoor market near the beach. This large plaza that stretches some three or four blocks rotates between different types of vendors each day, and on Sunday it was one of the most wonderful farmers markets. Most stands had a different specialty, be it bread and pastry, candies, nuts, spices, produce, flowers, pattes and jams, or eggs. The only problem was that we didn't have any kitchen to cook with. We did get some jam though, eating it at a picnic the next day on the beach.

The Nice Farmers Market: produce



Bread & Pastry

After the market, we hung out on the beach for a long time, putting our feet in the sixty-degree water and taking a nice nap in the sun. I bought a chocolate scone and a pastry filled with cheese and a little mustard at the market and enjoyed them on the beach. I was about as relaxed as was possible at the time.

The Nice beach

The girls on the beach. From left to right: Brittany, Jaimie, Victoria, Alex, Kate, Yvette, and Marielle.

Feet in the water

We then went back to the room to drop some stuff off before heading out to another small seaside town just down the coast. When we got back to the hotel, I was relieved to receive my passport from the front desk, where I had apparently left it the day before. Needless to say, I was much more conscious of where I put down my passport after that. Now I was ready to enjoy my spring break, and I put on some Earth, Wind and Fire, starting with the tune "Happy Feeling," before we left the hotel.

We took the train one or two coves over to the east, arriving in the gorgeous hillside town of Villefranche Sur Mer. The beach there was much less rocky than that in Nice, and we again dipped our feet in the water and napped. We then walked around the town for awhile. At the top of the hill was a great looking castle, but I couldn't convince anybody to go with me to the top. Jaimie and Brittany did join me on a journey halfway to get some great views looking down over the harbor. Eventually we settled in at a restaurant for some fresh seafood. Bouillabaisse--originally a peasants dish, consisting of an easy catch in broth--was one of the staple dishes of the menu at the restaurant I've worked at the last two summers, and I made sure to order it, getting the true French seaside experience. A good bouillabaisse needs a great broth, as that flavors all of different seafood within, and this place did not really have that down. It was adequate and under-seasoned, but the seafood itself was spectacular, particularly the scallops and mussels.

The gorgeous Nice train station

The beach in Villefranche Sur Mer

Walking up the hill in Villefranche Sur Mer

Overlooking the town from halfway up the hill


Jaimie had convinced us, from her previous travels, that there was little to do in Monaco except at night, so we next took the train another few towns over to Monaco. When we got there, around 9:30, the town was desolate. The town's infrastructure was impressive, as the wealth of the Monaco has been spent to create a serene environment, but everything was shut down at night except the casinos. This must have been what Jaimie remembered as having the great nightlife, and they were definitely hopping, but it was not really the place for a bunch of penny-pinching college students to be spending their spring break. The casinos were quite elegant, trying to appear like classical buildings, but they were ultimately still gaudy new structures created for gaming. We got on the 11:00 train back to Nice, having done little more than drop a single two euro coin in a slot machine.

I was a bit disappointed that we took Jaimie's advice because we never got back to Monaco, a city I think I would have enjoyed during the day, and one of the destinations I was most eager to see on the Riviera.

Our last day in Nice was a lot of the same stuff. We went back to the same plaza, which was now a flea market. The girls spent a lot more time there then I cared to, and some of them went to buy traditional perfume afterwards. I went and chilled on the beach instead and listened to Quadrophenia, the Who's 1973 album which I felt was appropriate given its numerous references to the sea.

We all met up for a picnic on the beach later with the jam we'd purchased the day before, some cheese, and bread from our favorite little pastry shop which we frequented two or three times a day while we were there. I got a towering pastry that time called "caffe religiouso," which was essentially two profiteroles, stacked like a snowman on top of one another, with a coffee filling and icing. I could continue to say that the pastry was fabulous, but at this point, I think that's a given.

I was feeling very inspired at the time, so I spent a good while working on the screenplay my friend and I started last summer. I've been pretty pre-occupied at school, so I haven't worked on it much since winter break, but I finished another two scenes. I wish I could go back to that beach and write every day.

For dinner we went out to a place the girls had enjoyed their first night in town while I was back in Florence playing at Caffe Artigiani. I had pasta in a bolognese sauce, but the real standout, was my chocolate mousse for dessert, with a huge tower of whipped cream on top.

In the main plaza they had these odd Buddha-like sculptures that would light up at night.

They had a ferris wheel in the park by the beach for a fair, but by the time we went to take a ride, they started taking it down. As seen in this picture, there are no carts on the ferris wheel.

Excellent chocolate mousse

After dinner, half of the girls went back to the hotel, and I went to an Irish pub nearby with Jaimie, Yvette, and Jen. They actually had a great cover band that was French but had spent enough time in America that their accents were not at all perceptible. I dug the live music, as they played a ton of Beatles tunes, but it only made me miss my guitar more. While we were there, I made sure to get my requisite glass of champagne in France. I had hoped to have it at a restaurant or maybe buy a bottle and share it on the beach, but that didn't seem like an option by that point, so I enjoyed my authentic French champagne at an Irish Pub. It was extremely tasty and much better than the proseco we've had in Italy.

We decided to take a stroll on the beach when we got out before heading back to the hotel. It was a great time, but I got some rocks in my shoes that night, and the next morning I realized that one of them had cut open the heel of my foot. It was a little uncomfortable to walk on, but fortunately we'd be spending most of the next day sitting on planes and in airports.

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