Tuesday, April 2, 2013

french babymoon: pars deux de trois

I totally tricked you with the title of pars une. I went over my journal and decided that it warranted two additional posts instead of one, because it would've been much too long. This whole travel journal thing may well be very boring to you, so I don't want to make the installments these extended epics. That's also why I'm spacing them out. If it's super boring, apologies. It'll be over soon.

As before, "this is French 2011 me "and "this is regular 2013 me." Just to be clear.

Wednesday, April 6

Off to Nice – two days early! We have breakfast at the hotel and I steal about five of the mini jams because they’re cute. 

We go grab our luggage from the room and Sean makes fun of me for trying to open the door by pulling instead of pushing. I say something witty like he’s stupid while simultaneously missing the step out the door and stumbling against the railing. Good timing Jess.

Our taxi driver speaks little English but is nonetheless very friendly and tries as best he can to explain the sites on the way back to the train station: the very old Avignon bridge, half of which crumbled into the Rhone River some time ago; the Popes’ Palace and museum, which my French book tells me is where the Popes stayed during the Babylonian captivity. Unfortunately, this is as much as we saw of Avignon.

We arrive at Nice at 1:30 and at first glance the area seems a little suspect: graffiti, beat-up buildings and the like. But Nice’s reputation is in fact well-deserved. About three blocks south is the gorgeous Mediterranean, and our hotel, the Flots d’Azur is right on it. We even have a slight view from our little window. 

The room leaves much to be desired (there is very literally a water closet for a bathroom and a matchbox shower) but it certainly fits our [last minute!] bill. We stop in the room only long enough to change and immediately start out across the street to the “Promenade des Anglais” which is the main walkway following the coast.

The French certainly are exhibitionists and Sean has to avert his eyes from the beach for the better part of the walk. But we find a beach café about every 1/8 of a mile and, as we’ve just eaten, note the menu and prices for a later date. The weather is flawless: the clearest blue sky, the softest sea breeze, and about 68˚. Ahhh. We walk all day – and I mean, ALL DAY. We’re on the Promenade for a couple miles before cutting over to the “Vielle Ville” (Old Town), with “Marche des Fleurs” (rows upon rows of gorgeous flower shops and vendors), and more cafes and restaurants in one spot than I’ve ever seen in my life. Literally.

We stop for a cappuccino at “Nexus Caffe” to consult our handy-dandy Frommer’s guide for an activity and fairly easily decide on “Le Chateau” since it’s quite close. We must first arm ourselves with a picnic though, so we brave the narrow alleyways for a boulangerie in search of baguettes and fromage. We find baguettes for .90€ and Sean discovers Heineken for 1,70€ but cheese is quite pricey so we settle – that is after Sean and I cave to some delicious Bailey’s gelato.

super attractive baguette faces

Le Chateau is a park, situated quite high above sea level, which actually used to be a castle built in the 17th century. It has been ruins for hundreds of years, but now serves as the most beautiful picnic grounds with panoramic view of Nice and the Mediterranean and the houses and building nestled in the hills. Kids are playing baseball in an open field, and there’s an elaborate jungle gym and playground teeming with little ones.

We’re too cheap to take the elevator so we tackle the hundreds of stairs to the top and find a bench with our name on it: right on the crest of the mountain and shaded by some friendly trees. Sean annihilates his two Heinekens while I savagely attack the baguette. Our picnic is followed by another ferocious Crazy 8’s session in which I bring the France record to 13-11. We explore the roving Chateau grounds before descending at about 6:30 to commence on the long walk back to the hotel.

panorama and Le Port
game face
I didn't even make him pose like this. What a tourist.

My very flat and inefficient sandals did not serve me well and I rather conspicuously begin to limp up the Promenade. It therefore takes us quite a while to get back and we rest our exhausted feetsies for a twenty minute power nap before dinner.

The beach cafes don’t stay open for dinner so we choose “Le Jardin de Capitole” across the Promenade that still has a sea view. We spend a good two hours over Marguerite pizza (Jessie) and roasted chicken and fries (Sean) followed by scrumptious “Le Grande Dame” which is essentially a huge sundae with a mountain of whipped cream.

Sean gives my tiny, ineffectual foot a good hard massage before bed, then does some push-ups to alleviate his sundae guilt. I just journal, which also burns calories. Quits at midnight.

Thursday, April 7

Today was chill-out-we-don’t-need-to-travel-or-worry-about-metros-or-trains-or-anything day. We woke up at 8:30, showered and got ready for our first full Nice day. The hotel served breakfast on their terrace in full view of the sea, and at 9 a.m. it was already a breathtakingly beautiful day of about 70˚. We munched on croissants (Sean) and baguette with apricot jam (Jessie) and then took off for a walk up the Promenade.

On this pleasant day at such an agreeable temp we decided to try one of these beach cafes we had seen previously for morning coffee. “Neptune Plage” was one of the first we came to, and with its woven wicker chairs and navy & white umbrellas and flowers at every table, I was all for it. The café is on the sand (although in Nice the beaches are more pebbles really), so needless to say we had a flawless view of the crystal clear Mediterranean. I got a cappuccino and Sean a café au lait and we started our day the French way: slow and relaxed. After staying an hour or more we dropped down to the shore to feel the water, which to me felt a comfortable 66˚ or 67˚.

really hope there's no topless chick in the background. this blog is PG, tops
fat fat preg feet with at least month old polish

We grabbed some brochures and info on scooter rentals, tour buses and day trips at the tourist office on the Promenade and perused a couple on a bench. We decided to look into renting a scooter but by the time we got there it was 12:15 and they were on their two hour lunch. But in the same neighborhood as the rental place were cobblestone streets lined with cool shops and restaurants and prime people-watching territory. Baby told Mama it was time to eat so Sean & I got the longest ham & cheese sandwiches - and I tried a “Pschitt!” (pronounced exactly like a curse word) which is sparkling lemonade…yum – and we tried to spot the Americans from the droves of people walking by. We usually qualified those clutching maps and looking distressed or those who were overweight as Americans – how sad.

I had the idea to grab some wine and play cards on the beach so we found a supermarché and got white wine, peanuts and water. I only had one cup cuz I have Baby but Daddy had many cups. Perhaps because of his diminished capacity I was able to bring the Crazy 8’s record to 19-15. Maybe I should feel bad for taking advantage. I don't.

We talked and talked til almost dusk. Suddenly of the miles and miles of empty beach in Nice, the two feet in front of us seemed the most prime spot to two French toddlers to dig a tunnel – puppy-dog style with the pebbles spewing out behind. This seemed as much a cue as any to take our leave and change for dinner.

It was between 7:45 and 8 when we struck out to find dinner. We’ve become so European, eating all late. However we headed up a street with virtually no restaurants and walked much too far on it before turning around and getting on the right track again. After twenty minutes or so we settled on the first thing we came to: a French burger joint! It was pretty much empty and the owner spoke pretty much no English but he was so friendly. He made a mean burger and fries, and he was over in the corner between cooking and taking orders to peel fresh potatoes! It’s like French In n’ Out.
We walk back at about 9:30. We’ve had a good relaxing Nice day. We move to our new Nice hotel tomorrow.

Friday, April 8

We had to check out of Flots d’Azur by 12, so after another sea-view breakfast on the terrace, showers, and haphazard packing, we hit the bricks (or, more appropriately, cobblestones) and start on our twenty minute walk to Hotel Regence. 

I’m pretty excited about this one because it’s smack in the middle of Place Massena and, as we’ve discovered on our previous meanderings through Nice, Place Massena is the place to be.

 Sean tried to be sly with this street shot but that chick totally knows she's in a stranger's pic.

We check into the Regence to a cute little room and venture right out again into the midst of bustling Massena. Lunch is in order so we explore the several dozen restaurants in about a ½ mile stretch and double back to split a pizza in a place that also offers endless mussels for one price. Too bad we both hate them.

We both have our books so we wind through the streets that we are now becoming familiar with to the Promenade and a beach café. We choose a table on the rocks near the water and I immediately kick off my shoes so as to feel the ridiculously smooth pebbles on my toes. It couldn’t possibly be a more gorgeous day. It is so blue – both sky and sea – and the temperature is pristine. We’re content to read and sunbathe for a couple hours.

We hit up Häagen-Dazs – which Sean was ecstatic upon spotting – before going back to change for din-din. We have our sights set on a bar/restaurant in Old Town called “Le Blast” which our tourist book reviewed as “the friendliest American bar in Nice.” We’re both curious to see what and “American bar” looks like in France. But we get hopelessly lost on the way to Old Town and actually end up at the Port, where the millionaires have their yachts and sailboats, and where cruise ships come to port. Though we do want to explore the Port at some point, this isn’t the time because we’re hungry and my foot kills, so we press on to Vielle Ville.

We eventually find Blast – and man is it crowded! It’s got a cool lounge-y feel and an outdoor bar and is blasting Tom Petty, but that’s the extent of the Americana. 

wicker chairs. so American.

Our waiter doesn’t seem to speak English very well, and the pancakes that were advertised as being served all day are apparently not served past 6. As its Friday in Lent and we can’t have meat, the cheeseburgers and sandwiches that monopolize the rest of the menu hold no appeal for us, so Sean pays for his beer and we move on.

We end up back at Nexus Caffe, where we’d had coffee at a couple days before. We get a bottle of white wine so I can have my taste and Sean can have his fill. I’m feeling adventurous, so I choose a fish from the menu that I’ve never heard of: a John Dory filet. Sean is feeling Sean so he chooses fettucine alfredo.

The family next to us, a mom and dad with two beautiful blond girls about 3 and 5, are volleying back and forth between English and French seamlessly. When my fish comes – head, eyeballs, tail, skeleton and all – the dad leans over and asks me if I’d gotten “the bream”, which is I guess what the French call it. This opens up an hour-long conversation we share with the parents. It turns out the dad is a native New Yorker, but we gather his wife is French from her accent. They packed up and left America with their kids, first to London, then to Nice, since his job is computer programming and therefore portable. We learned tons about the local scene and got recommendations from them. Sean and the dad talked computers; we juxtaposed American and French life; we even talked politics and current events! They were a very nice family and we spent most of our meal chatting with them. When they finally said they had to get their girls to bed (around ten, at this point) we closed out shortly thereafter and walked the streets a bit before heading back to the Regence.

I'm sure there's no one left reading all the way down here.... I am so wordy and it's embarrassing to admit that this is in fact an edited version of my original journal. As in, I've cut stuff out.

Sean and I leave for our Hawaiian babymoon on FRIDAY and I'm ever so excited. Except, I really really really feel guilty for leaving/am really really really going to miss Jordan. A lot. She's currently strewing a deck of cards across the living room and using the computer charger cord as a necklace, and I can't think of how I'm going to be without this type of entertainment for six days. I'm not even being sarcastic.

Only one more French babymoon installment, promise.You don't have to read them though. I understand.

au revoir.


  1. You don't even want to touch my travel journals...talk about wordy! I'm loving these, though, and reliving my own French adventures! Carry on.

  2. What a fabulous sounding trip and the pics are incredible.