Saturday, August 5, 2017

How do we compare?

Its already August, the summer's half gone.   Nice is crowded as usual at this time of year.   However,  except for the beach and the good time to be had at a private beach,  I don't really think Nice shows very well in Summer.  

Yes, the sea is beautiful but everywhere tempers are frayed , prices go up, trash receptacles overflow and places are over-crowded.  

   We just had my sister and brother in law visit and although we made the best of our 5 days together, I couldn't help thinking that my people hadn't had the best of Nice. 
   Their visit got me thinking about my unorthodox life in France and how it must be seen by my American friends and family.   Here are a few things I had to realize. .....

 1.)  Here in the west of Nice we have very few pretty restaurants within walking distance.    The closest nice place is the Rooftop Radisson open only in warm weather.    In Summer,  Miami ( the private beach) is good for lunch or drinks but it doesn't open until 9am and closes early on Sundays.  Last time we tried to eat there , it happened that their electricity had gone out in the kitchen.  

2.) There are only four funky little coffee shops within 10 minutes walk from our house but they are not along the Promenade des Anglais so folks tend not to find them on their own.  My guests discovered this when they slipped out of the house one morning so as not to wake us up early. They came back with patisserie but hadn't found their morning coffee. 

  Coffee houses are a big deal on the west coast of America and perhaps throughout the whole country.   In Italy, our own coffee house in the neighborhood was much more popular than it is here in France.   

3.) We have a mosquito problem in Nice.      Maybe Monsieur and I are now immune because we rarely feel a bite but Anglo Saxon skin is vulnerable .    It is a problem in humid, hot spots the world over so we could not really enjoy the terrace in the evenings or mornings when it is an otherwise ideal time to sit out.   My sister, it turns out was just too delicious. 

4) There is a real cosmetic difference in Nice and a "young" American town or city.  Right now Nice is a mess with the second tram line going in from downtown to the airport.  Its noisy and chaotic.....not fun for us or for visitors, especially if we are all using  buses.  But I am not referring to that.  More I am thinking about style. 

 Nice is an old town, inhabited since 350 BC,  bombed during the war, shabby but noble.  It is the kind of place that is lovely in its authenticity and loved by its people.  I have come to be very fond of its natural beauties and particularly my street with its 100 year old homes and the turquoise sea nearby.      But how do Americans see this town compared to other comparable sized cities in the USA?  

When I refer to cosmetic differences, let's take street paving as an example.  Aside from all of the roadworks going on,  the little streets like ours are a patchwork of old and new asphalt thrown "willy nilly" onto the street if there is a pothole.    I have seen the truck come up my street to throw some new macadam down and not even bother to tamp it down:  the traffic is expected to do that. 

 This approach makes for a "blemished" look, a" poor man's answer" to paving.   

  Taxpayers money and plenty of it has just been spent on a new bike lane and glazed sidewalks for the famous Promenade des Anglais and the resurfacing of the same.   

 But as for the little alleyways and country roads being paved  the Niçois don't "care a fig" about that.   (However, we did just have a bevy of macho weed cutters and leaf blowers and even a little vehicle street cleaner come around.  Our country lane now looks as good as it can look). 

5)  Americans use the bus only occasionally.  Most people in the USA take a car or the subway to work.   Cities are usually sprawling and vastly laid out so there is some reason for this precedent. 

 When Monsieur and I moved here,  we wished for a simpler life  without a car.   In Nice I am used to taking the buses.  I have my kindle app and I know usually where to board to get a seat to relax on the way home.   But summer days here in Nice we host music concerts or games where the buses are crowded going to the Nikaia or the Stade.  The bus drivers seem more aggressive and the air conditioning doesn't always work.  Yesterday,  the bus-driver nearly squashed a "poussette" with a baby in it by closing the door too soon. Everyone shouted.  The driver came back with " Well, the door is made of rubber" to excuse his negligence.  And during the Triathlon that the city  hosted while my family was here, there were no buses that day. 

6) I am a bit ashamed also that some taxis and restaurants take advantage of the tourists.  Two different taxis tried to charge 44 euros for a 10-15 minute ride for my husband and wife couple who arrived separately.  Outrageous.  The normal fee is 25 euros to our house. 

  Luckily neither one of them took the bait. 

   And I have had restaurants swear to me that they are serving fresh fish when it is obviously frozen.  When I told them that I was a resident , they "backpedaled" and admitted their "mistake" .  I was  even offered a free dessert.  But this behavior is disgraceful and does nothing to endear me or our visitors to Nice in Summer.  

  Perhaps very few tourist towns show well when the locals leave and the crowds descend.  I don't know.    I have had to accept though, that all of the strangeness that my visitors  embraced, made it part of their little adventure.  And an adventure was what they set out to have.  

Isn't it true that it's never what you were expecting that you learn the most from.  And its often what you learn the most from that makes you satisfied.    Confucius says....or somebody should.    

P.S. I was happy to hear that my peeps loved their holiday. 


  1. Dear Mary, read this while sipping my coffee, it was the next best thing to having a chat with you! Yes, as a (part-time) resident, I agree when the locals leave it may be each tourist for his/her self. Thank you for your sage's never what you were expecting that you learn the most from. As always, I learn from you :)

  2. Hi Ella, Thanks so much for extending the conversation. And for your kind words...

  3. Mary, I have missed your writing . Thanks for sharing this.


  4. Thanks, Kathleen, I will keep posting as long as google has a reasonable sized font to read. That issue is crazy making. lol.


  5. Beautiful blog, Mary! You are wonderful and we enjoyed seeing you and your city! Love you!!!


  6. Mary,
    thanks for a very thoughtful post. In my view, the discovery of the city (sights, sounds, tastes, smells) far outweighed the inconveniences of Nice.

    John Rogers

  7. Thanks, John , for extending the conversation.

    We really enjoy this place.