Nice To Meat You

After several trips to Paris over the years, I was eager to see more of France so one weekend in early December, we planned a very last-minute low-key trip to Nice.  It was so brief (arrived Saturday, departed Sunday) that I just brought my Jansport with one change of clothes (if at all).

When we first got to Nice from the airport, our destination became...Monaco.  The tiny principality of Monaco is just a handful of miles away from Nice, and even uses Nice's airport/helipad since it doesn't have its own.  High rollers of course go to Monaco by helicopter from the Nice Airport and head to the Monte Carlo casino, luxury shopping, and Formula One racing.  Alex and I went to Monaco on a public bus.

As cheap as that sounds, the bus ride was one of the most amazing experiences.  The water on the Riviera was a gorgeous cerulean blue and the mountainous land rises steeply up from the coast, where terra cotta-tiled houses are studded into the landscape.  If we had more than just a weekend, I would have loved to explore more of the smaller towns along the way.

Monaco itself was undoubtedly very beautiful, with extremely clean streets and glitzy glamorous facades.  I did, however, get the sense that the principality was a little hoity-toity and we certainly did not belong.  We had to walk a pretty far way just to find food that was in our price range.  Naturally, I got hangry and we stopped at McDonald's for an unremarkable croque monsieur-like sandwich.  Finally we found a little casual spot that served all sorts of pasta and I thought bowtie pasta with pesto sauce had never tasted better.  We spoke a bit with the waiters, who were mostly Italian.  Monaco is so close to Italy that a lot of Italians living in the northern parts commute into France and then subsequently into Monaco for work in the hospitality industry.

And I thought my commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan was bad...

We popped by Monte Carlo, only to be turned away at the front by a sign that said you need to be in freaking black tie attire to even enter.  We walked through a few shopping arcades that were decked out in fairy lights for Christmas.  Finally, we headed to a large open air Christmas market along the water to take in the festive sights (and the sight of expensive yachts parked along the marina).

We were feeling adventurous and wanted to stand at the border of France and Monaco, and looking at a map, it didn't seem all that hard.  Of course, I was regretting the decision after a good long time of hiking up and down steep hills and windy stairways through the streets of Monaco.  On the map, it looked so simple!  Finally, after dark, we arrived at the roundabout with the big stone marker, took a dumb selfie, and walked into France and took the bus back to Nice.

We walked around a really popular section of Nice with lots of restaurants and boutique shops.  We chose La Rossettisserie for dinner, and I'm so glad we arrived when we did.  We were the first diners, but the place filled up almost immediately after we arrived.  The restaurant had a really cozy homey look, like the rustic kitchen of some rural French family.  The wait staff were very nice and helpful.  We had rose and red wine with delicious sausage on crostini and a beautiful braised lamb shank.  Everything was so delightful!

The next morning - Sunday - was market day.  We headed for the flower market, and were pleasantly surprised to see that there were more than just flowers here!  There were two long neat rows of vendors selling flowers, fresh produce, dried fruits and nuts, neat and fragrant soaps made with the famous herbs and essential oils of Provence, bread, socca (more on this in a sec), and more.  For breakfast, we had a huge flatbread dotted with lardon, thinly sliced potato, rosemary, and olive oil.

For a snack right after, we tried socca, a local street food which is (I think) a very thin, crispy pancake made of ground chickpeas.  They cook it on a wide griddle and expertly cut them into chip-size pieces with little knives.  I liked the nuttiness of the pancake, which was salty and crunchy on the edges and a little fluffy and softer towards the middle.  It was very romantic to walk around with a paper cone filled with socca, wandering the aisles of a Sunday morning French market.  What could be better?

One of my favorite things about Nice is the architecture.  Think: a combination between the pretty pastel colors you see in Bermuda, plus richer darker red/orange tones like in Tuscany, plus the azure sparkling water right at the edge of town, and everything with a sepia tint on top of it.  Nice was beautiful, any way you looked at it: from above, you see the red terra cotta roof shingles and palm trees; from the narrow streets, you see the colorful walls and window shutters.  Nice was truly a feast for all the senses.