Not until I arrived in Nice, France did I realize how much emphasis is put on the sense of sight. The Côte d’Azur looks just as beautiful as the photos: unreal water, palm trees galore, yellow tinted buildings, proud French people showing their stuff on the rocky beaches. I was expecting all of this so I was quite surprised with the other charming aspects of Southern France. I welcomed the sensory overload even if it was like getting punched by the sun.
I’ve become rather accustomed to the quietness of Switzerland so even the smaller things stood out to my in France. The French people in Nice were very colorful with loud phone conversations, friendly market vendors, bustling restaurants open late into the night and the rhythmic sound of the sea. Not a place where you should get lost in the abyss of your iPod. My other senses were in for quite a greater shock…
Most European food has been to die for, but the food here was exceptionally delicious. The first thing I ate in Nice was some gelato and sorbetto and a famous gelateria. The sorbetto was mojito flavored and was mediocre but the lavender gelato was like heaven. Southern France is known for its lavender so it seemed appropriate. We wandered around Nice while simultaneous searching for somewhere to eat dinner. We kept seeing restaurants advertising something called “socca.” The restaurant we finally chose had outdoor seating and a decent-sized vegetarian menu. Socca was quite underwhelming since it just looked like a crêpe but it more less sweet and more spongy. For dinner, I had a salad with warm goat cheese and honey. We cooked the rest of our meals in Nice, but a taste that I had forgotten about was salt…iness of the sea. When romping in the Mediterranean, I accidentally got some small gulps of the water, reminding me that large bodies of salt water exist. (It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the ocean–last August and it was the Oregon Coast and it had rained earlier in the day.) It seemed like the taste of salt water only stayed in my mouth while I was in the water. Emerging from the surf seemed to strip me of the overwhelming saltiness coating my mouth. So worth it though.
This one is a little less fond to look back on. My only goal of this trip was to go to the beach but it came at a bit of a cost. Our beach-time started with a few light raindrops but we were determined to will the sun out. After not too long sun bathing, we all frolicked in the water. Never have my feet been so pained walking on a beach since this beach had rocks instead of sand. Once in the water though, it was fantastic. I’ve never been anywhere tropical (the closet being San Diego, CA) so the Mediterranean was like paradise. After romping in the comfortably warm water, we all went to lay out for a bit. And here comes the sensory overload. For about an hour, we all just lounged and napped out in the sun. I felt the heat of the sun on my skin and welcomed it like an old friend I hadn’t seen in seven months. Unfortunately, my old friend was not very welcoming because I awoke with beet-red back. Although it was a rather painful downside to an otherwise wonderful trip, it allowed us to try different methods of easing pain: aloe, lotion, argon oil, yogurt…
We got quite an overload of scents while in Nice. First was the market we stumbled across on our way to the beach. Soap is very popular in Southern France meaning there were several different vendors at this market. We stopped at one stand that had soap in the raw. We then continued to smell all of the prepared soaps, and I bought a turquoise colored one called “Sieste à l’hombre” or “Nap in the Shadow.” Meandering further through the market we found stalls and stalls of fresh flowers and had their smell wash over us like a big wave. After going to the beach, we kept the “girls’ weekend” going by heading to Èze to visit the perfume factory of Fragonard. The tour of the factory is free, but at the end of it they try to convince the visitors to buy their products after getting free samples. I ended up buying a 6 euro solid perfume that I later realized just smells that Lip Smackers chapstick. We smelled about 12 different types of perfumes and cremes, every one seemingly becoming more and more similar. On Saturday, we only had the morning in Nice before we hopped on a train to Aix-en-Provence. Gracie suggested we try to find the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Nice. (The Cathedral was built by the last tsar of Russia, Nicolas II, to serve the Russian communities living in Nice.) As luck would have it, we decided to visit the Cathedral during some sort of ceremony. The distinct smell of incense consumed the elaborate but small structure as we arrived towards the end of the indoor portion of the service.
All in all, I’d give the Côte d’Azur two thumbs up. Just bring extra sunscreen.