27 May 2010

Nice, Eze and Monaco: Learning to slow down

The stress of preparing my students for their English evaluations, the lack of news from job prospects, and the chaotic pace of my life pushed me to reserve an impromptu train ticket down south.  I would never forgive myself for living in France for almost a year without seeing Nice, so off I went! It was amazing to see the contrasts in the terrain. The Lorraine region is quite flat, but the further south one goes, the more savage the landscape becomes.  The jagged cliffs, outcrops of rock, and tropical flora reminded me that I was no longer in the north of France.

I stepped off my overnight train, greeted by an abundance of sunshine, endless rows of palm trees, the cerulean blue waves of the Mediterranean, world-class hotels, and colorful architecture.  My type A personality immediately pulled me into full tourist-mode. As soon as I left my things in the hostel, I hit the streets, checking out the ornate Russian Orthodox church, the Cathedral, the Marc Chagall

 Museum, La Vieille Ville (the old city,) and of course, wandered the beaches.  The heat quickly took its toll.  I went to sleep the first night, dripping with sweat, full-blown headache, and more stressed than ever, marveling at how Nice could be described as a haven of relaxation.  Certainly it was a lovely place... but I just wasn’t getting it. What was I missing???

The next day, I booked a day trip to the medieval hilltop perfume-making village of Eze and to the principality of Monaco.  I savored the scents of Eze, wandering the labyrinth of narrow stone streets, marveling in the gardens, even buying a small bottle of Fragonard perfume.  It was lovely to gaze over the hilltop at the various levels of terraces and elegant homes literally spilling down the hill.

In Monaco, I was surrounded by undeniable glamour as I wandered the footsteps of Princess Grace.  The second smallest country in the world (only the Vatican is smaller), densely populated with wealthy foreign 'tax refugees.' I was in awe of the Casino and the endless array of lavish automobiles parading in front to drop off the wealthy clientele, half expecting James Bond to emerge with a sexy Russian spy. The Port of Hercules was overflowing with yachts and massive cruise ships.  Spectator stands were still visible from the recent Grand Prix race. Everything about this spectacular place was gorgeous... but alas, too rich for my blood. I was anxious to return to Nice.

I fell into a deep sleep on the bus back to Nice, nearly a coma of exhaustion. The bus driver awakened me when we arrived, joking about how I need to slow down and enjoy life. If he had any idea how he had nailed my personality on the head! 

Day three, I slept in till 10am, enjoying a grasse matinée. I filled my bag with a book, a bikini, a towel and my camera, setting out towards the beach. How delicious it was to lay down on the picturesque (albeit rocky) beach. I finally began to understand Nice.  The children splashing in the waves, the vendors selling chouchou (candied peanuts), the slender women sunbathing topless, and the faint, drifting sounds of Provençal guitar... time was standing still, at last! Hunger was the only force strong enough to drag me from the beach, and so I wandered into the Vieille Ville (Old Town.) Without a doubt, this is the most splendid part of Nice; winding cobblestone streets, nothing but bars, cafés, tiny churches, and charming boutiques. The architecture is much less conservative in the south. I fell in love with the daring turquoise shutters, pink façades and orange tiles roofs. 

Leisurely, I wandered the marché aux fleurs (flower market), browsing through flowers, antiques, and produce. I settled on a Niçoise salade for lunch; crisp, fresh, and colorful. I basked in the sunlight and street music, watching the passers-by, drinking in everything I had been too busy to notice the two previous days. I headed back to the beach, ending my day there. My senses were heightened, I suddenly noticed the subtle changes in light as the sun set, how the cast shadows on the tile roofs and the pebbles on the beach changed direction, how the Mediterranean seemed to inhale and exhale the most refreshing breeze.  I gazed at the scores of people at the outdoor cafés along the Promenade des Anglais, enjoying the essentials of life: food, wine, conversation... and the endless expanse of the sea.  

While, bien sûr, there are a million landmarks, churches and museums worth exploring, the real treasure of Nice is the change of pace she can bring to your life, if only you will allow her. 



Port of Hercules, Monaco

The Casino, Monaco

View from a hilltop Garden

La Vieille Ville
Old Town Nice

On the way to Eze

Produce in the marché aux fleurs

La Vieille Ville 
Old Town Nice

The hills of Nice

A picture perfect Salade Niçoise

This is what Nice is all about

It took me three days, but I finally learned 

to relax and enjoy la vie niçoise!


  1. Lovely photos, hon. Port of Hercules looks incredible.

  2. Great pictures, and your descriptions are colorful as well.

  3. I've always loved beach towns...After a couple of days, even hunger doesn't all THAT good a reason to leave the beach!



  4. Gosh, what a beautiful site!
    we’re about to embark on a journey to the the south - to castres, so not a million miles from the pink city
    i’m trying to document it from the very start!
    i wanted to say that your lovely site is a source of real inspiration and joy - the pictures and the words remind me - while i sit here typing in rainy london, that in the end it will be worth it!
    best, teresa

  5. Thanks Teresa!

    I will be sure to follow your blog! Enjoy your time in the south, and let me know if you need a tour guide in Toulouse :-)

  6. Thank you for sharing your photos and travelogues!

    (That would be "lie" down on the beach, not "lay" :-))


Related Posts with Thumbnails