Monday, October 4, 2010
The best part about flying into Nice Airport is the view. The runway is right on the sea, and as the plane makes its descent, there are gorgeous views of everything from the waterfront Promenade des Anglais to the tree-studded mountains in the background.
I enjoyed these in-flight views of Nice on Friday afternoon as I traveled to the French Riviera. But it wasn’t just the views I was excited about. It was also the homecoming. Since living in Nice when I was 18, I have only been back twice. The last time was six years ago, and I’ve been due for a visit for quite awhile.
After reaching the city center, I started to realize how much of Nice has changed since I lived there, and how much has remained constant. Starting in Place Massena, I noticed a series of opaque sculptures on poles that weren’t there on my last visit. All of them were shaped like humans. Set against the bright blue sky, they were a great addition to the city’s most famous square.
Next came Vieux Nice. I couldn’t resist a walk down Cours Saleya, the home of a huge flower market and several open-air cafes. It was nice to see that the market hadn’t changed, and great to walk through the perfumed rows of roses and lavender.
Speaking of lavender, the lavender gelato at Glacier Fenocchio in Place Rossetti was still as amazing as ever. The artisan gelateria—Nice’s most famous place for ice cream—still had two long rows of unique gelato flavors like avocado, violet, and tomato and basil. On my second visit of the trip, I tried the orange blossom flavor, which tasted just like Sevilla in the springtime.
As I savored the gelato, I looked around the square and realized how many more places were still there that I had forgotten about. Next to the gelateria was the restaurant where I had my first-ever glass of red wine (it seems funny now to think about how much I disliked it). Not far from there were some of the nightlife spots that my classmates and I would occasionally go, including an American establishment called Wayne’s and a small bar called Blue Whales.
Another thing that I was happy to see in Vieux Nice was the excellent socca. A traditional local snack, socca is a crepe-like food made from chickpeas. The best in Nice is found at Lou Pilha Leva, but the second batch of socca I had at a cafe near Place Rossetti wasn’t bad either.
Full of good local food, I found myself wandering through the small winding streets of the old town. I was glad that most of the shops I used to go to were still in business, but a bit surprised to remember how much I loved shopping as a teenager.
Leaving Vieux Nice behind, I walked back to Place Massena and ended up in front of Galeries Lafayette. I laughed thinking about all of the rainy afternoons my friends and I spent shopping there. On Friday it was too sunny outside to want to go in, but if the store is still as well-merchandized as it was when I lived there, I’m sure a new batch of foreign students is spending a lot of time inside.
Continuing west along the pedestrianized Rue de France, I cut one street up to walk along the road I used to take to school. There was a bakery there called J Multari that always lured me in with the sweet smell of freshly baked bread and pastries. My nose was happy to discover that nothing had changed. Their selection of bite-sized cakes, eclairs, and other goodies beckoned, and I came away with a raspberry tart and a lovely Nutella beignet.
I enjoyed them quickly, as I had to catch a train to Monaco. Walking up to the train station along Avenue Jean Medecin, I noticed one other difference. The bus that I had taken to school in the mornings had been replaced by a shiny new tram. I wished I had time to take it up north to my host family’s home, but I had to get to the gare. It’s okay, though. Now I have an excuse to not let six more years pass before traveling to Nice again.