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Discovering Nice & the French Riviera: One Day Trip at a Time

Sunny, sweet success! After carefully planning a Côte d’Azur getaway in 2010 and being thwarted by an angry Eyjafjallajökull, I finally managed to reach Nice on a fresh attempt nearly a year and a half later. And oh là là, was it ever worth the wait.

I’d been to the French Riviera before — Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, Villefranche, Monte Carlo — but not to Nice and never for long enough to really dig in, explore, and feel at home. So this was my glorious two-week opportunity and I intended to make the most of it from a home base in the charming, tangled streets of the colorful Old Town (known locally as Vieille Ville or Vieux Nice).

Nice is nice. Really nice. Really.

Old Nice was just as lovely as all the pictures and write-ups lead you to believe, only more so. The painterly churches and architecture of all kinds, featuring shuttered windows and trompe-l’oeil surprises are more than mere eye candy — it’s guilt-free dessert for the soul! Which is pretty handy given all the ice cream, gelato, and tempting local treats on hand around every corner. And as corners go, one street was sweeter or more brilliant than the next. But after 12 days I whittled down my favorite flavors to a short stretch near the top of the Old Town where a seemingly single building melted effortlessly from lemon yellow into burnt orange, then a rusty red, and finally a pale peach with celadon shutters, door, and matching mailbox. Truly a Technicolor work of art, Vieux Nice.

When I wasn’t snacking on socca, salted caramel crêpes, Niçoise salads, Fenocchio ice cream, or the most amazing variety of vegetables and other delights seasoned to perfection à la Provençale, I was trekking up to the top of Castle Hill (Colline du Château), tucking into the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMAC), shopping for local art and other items you can only find in Nice, or soaking up the sun and people-watching à la plage. And beyond that, I was taking the most enchanting day trips to nearby towns, both inland and along the coast. Continue Reading »

Posted in Travel | 15 Comments »

7 Little French Things That Make Life Better

Fleur de Sel Foodfreak.de / Diptyque Candles Frankincensy

The plight of the Francophile is that, more often than not, he or she doesn’t live in France. In fact, it’s quite possible that he or she has never even been to France, or at least, not with any frequency. But because separation makes the heart grow fonder (and sometimes downright obsessive), we must come up with coping mechanisms to keep the French dream alive, no matter where we are.

If I were super-motivated, I’d be hosting regular French film soirées and presiding over a French lit-themed book club, but alas, that all sounds much too Type-A. For now, I will indulge in the little things that help me feel closer to the country where I really belong (and where I would be, if there were any justice in this world).

1. Tarragon Mustard. Maille whips up a delightful version, but I am partial to the Edmond Fallot variety, which I slather on whatever happens to be lying around.

Caudalie / Tarragon Mustard  Julien Hausherr

2. Roger & Gallet products. Their Tilleul (Linden Blossom) moisturizing cream changed my life, and I will forever associate its scent with my cozy little studio on rue Mouffetard. Abroad, you can find these products in department stores and boutiques that carry high-end bath products.

3. Fleur de Sel de Guérande. Keeping a container of this fancy sea salt in the kitchen ups the ante of just about any dish, and will inevitably impress your foodie friends. Sassy food blogger David Lebovitz explains why this salt is all it’s cracked up to be.

Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living, Shopping | 13 Comments »