Yesterday I was sunbathing on the beach. When I left Nice this morning, the temperature was 25°C (77°F). After a six-hour train ride up to Paris, I arrived to rain and 12°C (53°F). Ugh! It’s back to work tomorrow, vacation officially over.
The beach in Nice is pebble, not sand. There are public and private beaches. My favorite is Neptune private beach. You can rent a lounge chair (called a transat) for the day or half a day. 22 euros for the loungers in the first row (closest to the water), 18 euros for the other rows. The private beaches have restaurants, showers and lockers. If you wish, the plagiste (beach boy) will bring your food and drink directly to your lounge chair, or you can eat in the restaurant area (grilled fish, salads, pasta, grilled meats and chilled wines).
A truly hedonistic experience.
The atmospheric Old Town in Nice
This is a speciality of Nice called pissaladière, a pie topped with caramelized onions, anchovies and olives. Served warm, it’s very good.
Another specialty is socca, a flatbread made from chick pea flour. Very easy to make, I make it at home and take it to work (non gluten), only 3 ingredients: water, chick pea flour and olive oil.
The Old Town of Nice is a feel-good kind of place. A district to wander in, eat street food or sit in the sun and have a meal washed down with the local wine. In the large square, markets are held daily. There’s a lot of bustle, restaurants and shops here.
The last time I was in Nice was around fifteen years ago. Back then, there was a wonderful candy store, called a confiserie, located on the avenue Jean Médecin, the main boulevard running down the center of town. It was an old-fashioned candy store that sold regional specialties, and I remember a kindly, elderly lady served me. All my favorite sweets were in that shop: nougat, calissons, marzipan, all kinds of chocolates and candied fruits. The lady put my purchases into a gorgeous pink paper bag with the name Mimosa printed on it in gold letters. It all seemed like a dream. I was 99% certain on this trip that the shop no longer existed. I thought this because Nice has been completely modernized by its ambitious, “forward-thinking” mayor. The consequence is that many of the small speciality shops have been replaced by chain stores like Zara, H&M, Starfucks, I mean, Starbucks, etc. It’s very sad.
So two days ago I was strolling down the avenue Jean Médecin, imagining in my head where that shop used to be, when – lo and behold – it was there in front of me, completely unchanged. I stopped dead in my tracks, blinked, then practically ran into the place. I chatted excitedly to the saleswoman inside; she said it was a family business and they were one of the last specialty sweet shops standing in the region.
I purchased my favorite candied mandarin oranges, calissons, and egg-shaped praline chocolates (dyed blue to look like robin’s eggs).
It’s a small shop wedged in between larger stores on either side, with the original marble floor and glass and marble shelves. If you go to Nice, please visit this shop and buy their delicious products. The candied mandarins are divine, and if you haven’t tasted calissons, you’re missing out on a treat.
Calissons are a traditional French candy consisting of a pale yellow paste of candied melons, oranges and ground almonds topped with a thin layer of hard white icing. They have a texture similar to marzipan, but with a fruitier, distinctly melon-like flavour. Calissons are almond-shaped and typically about two inches in length. Calissons are traditionally associated with the town of Aix-en-Provence; consequently, most of the world supply of calissons is still made in the Provence region.
CONFISERIE MIMOSA – 27 avenue Jean Médecin, NICE
Another institution in Nice is Le Grand Café de Lyon, a beautiful Belle Epoque restaurant-café located at 33 avenue Jean Médecin.
LOTS MORE PHOTOS TO COME OF ITALY
I stayed in an excellent, not-too-expensive hotel in Nice called Ibis Styles Nice Centre Gare located at 3 avenue Durante. Request a quiet room overlooking the inner courtyard. A full buffet breakfast is included in the price of the room, one of the best buffet breakfasts I’ve ever had.
I ate in two excellent pizza-pasta restaurants: on the bustling pedestrian street, rue Massena, is Pizza Cresci at number 34 rue Massena and, further along at number 37 rue de France, is La Trattoria. Both have outside terraces. The pizza is excellent as is the service.