From Gatwick we caught a flight to Nice – also on the back of the plane in the “toilet seats.” This was my first time to France, but I just feeeeeeeel French. I have no good reason to – I mean, I do have a 23andMe DNA report telling me one of my direct ancestors came from the region, but I just feel it in my bones. Maybe it’s my laissez-faire attitude at combing my hair. Maybe it’s my unhealthy obsession with mussels. Maybe it’s because I love speaking English in a French accent. Whatever the case, it was glorious to finally visit the country I have admired from afar for years.
Everybody says you’ve got to go to Paris, but I wanted to stick my feet in hot sand, so we headed to Nice. We spent the next few days walking – around the city, to the beach, to restaurants, to waterfalls, to castle remains. The promenade runs along the beach and is filled with tourist-heavy restaurants. We stopped there the first day for a Madam Croquette (ham and cheese sandwich, topped with more cheese and a tomato), and would come back later for bailey’s icecream floats and grenadine beers (one of these is amazing, the other is disgusting).
That first day in France also happened to be my birthday. Sipping champagne, lying on the beach with a book, sharing fries with my main squeeze, was just about the greatest way to start another trip around the sun.
We walked up to the park towards the outskirts of town. Stairs on stairs on stairs leads you to increasingly panoramic views of the city.
At the top are the ruins of an old castle that once stood on the grounds, overlooking the city and windy as hell. It’s a free hike up the hill (unless you want that guy with the colored pigeons to take a photo of you with said pigeons – then it’s 5 Euro). You can’t help but imagine what it must have been like for the people who lived there during that time – what was their life like? What did they see when they looked down at the now glistening city below? How did they keep their hair in place with all the dang wind?
After my existential jaunt, we wandered around for a bit, taking the other path back down. A winding road spits you out near where you started. We walked back towards our hotel, making our way through the sunny, narrow streets of the city,
Then, since it was my goddamned birthday and all, we went to the best italian restaurant in the city (Rick Steves says Nice has great Italian food and I’m certainly not one to question the high-waisted khaki travel god, knower of all things European and possible creator of the universe). It just so happened that this restaurant was directly beneath our hotel. Shawn put on shoes and I put on lipstick and we walked downstairs, finding ourselves with clam pasta and pizza and bread and wine and wine and wine. It was a very good meal.
Afterward, since – again – it was my goddamned birthday, we walked to the promenade and shared a bailey’s ice cream float. While it wasn’t a birthday cake, I made a wish as I scooped that first spoonful of buttery, banana goodess into my mouth.
After a quick trip to Monaco, we came back to Nice for one more meal. I wanted to experience a real “French” restaurant – whatever the F that means. Turns out that it meant really slow service, really delicious food, and really familiar American pop music played by an old fella in the corner on an amped guitar. Tres bon!
The fries were crispy, the mussels were salty and the steak was huge. Leaving the restaurant, we stopped by a bar and asked the waitress what her picks were. Folks, take it from your old pal Sarah: if somebody, anybody, offers you beer with grenadine, tell them thank you but no thank you. That somebody is not your friend and they mean to do you harm. Beer does not need syrup in it. Case closed, okay?
The next day, we caught the bus back to the airport and headed to Barcelona. Waiting for our flight, I had to cram just a liiiiiitle more french bread into my belly before we said au revoir to France. Next stop, Barcelona!