After a week of blissful hiatus, I am back and ready to divulge to you the experiences Matt and I enjoyed in the French Riviera. We were so very lucky to be treated to this fabulous vacation by Matt’s super generous family. Robert, Matt’s Dad, took that month-long trip back in September to Paris to learn French through immersion classes, and invited us along for a couple of visits. This April, he’s at it again. And as a special treat, he invited the whole gang along for a week-long vacation before classes get started. Michael (Matt’s brother), Anna (his fiance), and Nancy (Matt’s Mom), all popped over to Nice last Saturday and we hurried along behind on Sunday.
We were a bit worried stepping off the plane in Nice, because the rain was coming down HARD. Matt joked that Dublin weather will haunt us for the rest of our lives, but do not fret, because we had beautiful weather the rest of the week. Because of the downpour, touring Nice by foot wasn’t looking appealing, so we settled for a group lunch nearby. The food in Nice is very Italian in influence, so imagine pastas and pizzas all week (though I will be sure to expound upon some of our authentic Mediterranean and French meals later on). It was so nice to all be together and visit, so that’s exactly what we did the entire first day. The condo was set right on the main beach strip with a view of the ocean and room for all of us. We settled in that first day, enjoyed some wine and cheese for dinner, and did a ton of catching up.
We awoke the next day to absolutely gorgeous weather. Sure, the ground was still moist from the showers the day before, but it was nothing true sightseers couldn’t handle. We went first to the market just around the corner from the condo. This is the same famous Nice market that appears in the movie To Catch a Thief with Carey Grant and Grace Kelly. On Mondays, the market consists of old antiques, which Matt found quite interesting. He loves everything antique and old, so I was surprised that we didn’t leave the market with a boatload of stuff. Just browsing was an experience, though. Old canes, parasols, art, books, etc., gave us an idea of what old Nice must have been life back before we were born.
From the market, Matt and I joined Michael and Anna for a small lunch at an outdoor cafe. We went truly French with stuffed vegetables, a croque madam, and bruschetta – yes, the last being Italian-influenced as I mentioned above. At noon, there was a large KABOOM, at which point all birds took off and the four of us nearly flew out of our seats. Matt asked the waiter, “what the hell was that?!” to which he smiled and replied, “it is noon.” Ha, simple and straight to the point; we all got a good laugh at that response.
We then joined up with Nancy to wander into the long park at the edge of old Nice. Matt went off in search of a cigar shop while the rest of us wandered around in awe of our surroundings. The large palm trees and fountains in the center of town were grandiose, and it was by them that we found a fabulous view of the mountains behind Nice. Metropolitan life was buzzing in the surrounding squares and we had quite a nice time strolling around for the rest of the afternoon. Matt and I briefly broke off to check out the all-pebble beach and I stuck my feet in the Mediterranean for the first time since Majorca, Spain. It was freezing, but the sun was warm and I knew that at some point in the week, we’d be laying on those flat stones soaking up the rays.
That night, the entire gang gathered to head over to the port on the other side of the hill for dinner. We chose a table outdoors at a seafood place by the harbor, to which began one of the most delightful nights of the week. We all tried to order authentic food – minus Matt who does not like seafood – and boy were we in for a surprise! Robert, Anna, and I received lobsters open-faced in the shell, with shell-crackers for for the claws. This was my first time with lobster cooked this way, and it was hilarious! Growing up, Matt spent summers in Maine with his parents and grandparents, and Nancy became somewhat of a lobster connoisseur. Thankfully, she was not shy when it came to helping us learn the ways of lobster-cracking. With fantastic French wine flowing and plenty of entertainment, this was easily one of the best nights we had on the trip as a group.
Walking back to the condo, we passed a French monument built into the side of the cliff-face, honoring the French fallen in both of the World Wars. During the day, and lit up at night, it was a stunning reminder that we are so lucky to be given these fantastic opportunities. This was just the beginning of our trip, and on that stroll home, the lights of Nice filled me with excited anticipation for the week to come.