Nice-told Tales

After a 7-day cruise in the Mediterranean what I needed was two days in Nice, that is rapidly becoming my second favorite city in France.

 

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After a 7-day cruise in the Mediterranean what I needed was two days in Nice, that is rapidly becoming my second favorite city in France.

Prior to our final disembarkation we were joined by our new Australian friends Edwin & Estelle for a quick shopping jaunt at the Sunday market at the Cours Saleya, a  cornucopia of flavors and colors.

After checking into the Hotel Windsor and grabbing a siesta we had a light pasta dinner at a local trattoria-remember Nice has only been French for less than 200 years. And then a short walk to the Promenade des Anglais where music was being played on 3 stages-a jazz combo featuring an excellent soprano saxophonist, a rock stage and finally a white-jacketed, white-haired Italiano belting out songs that the crowd knew.

Monday night’s dinner was an unexpected treat at the Hotel Windsor.

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Built in 1892 and in the hands of the Payen family since 1942 this lovely property was recently awarded a justifiable 4th star.

Just a short walk from the Promenade des Anglais  and the beach, the Windsor is a soothing, quiet antidote to the fast pace of the Promenade. Each year, la directrice, Odile Payen, selects an artist to decorate the lobby with paintings and sculpture-it makes for a most auspicious entrance.

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Thirty of the 57 rooms are decorated in the style of a contemporary artist. Each morning we were awakened by a pair of turtledoves who settled on our terrace and provided a sweet wake up call.

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 After unpacking I suggest you go down into the garden dining area or more appropriately the jungle, for an apéritif. Built around a giant rubber tree and anchored by a palm tree of equal height, surrounded by lush tropical vegetation you might think you are in the Indian Ocean in one of the former French colonies.

A small swimming pool is situated just off the dining area amid an explosion of green plants.pool

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And to add a finishing touch, four parakeets sing and fly around at liberty before going back into their cage for food and water-don’t fret, this is not a Hitchcock flick and they won’t bite.

While having a pastis we met a charming retired Parisienne, veuveof un certain age who was spending a week at the hotel and being treated like a queen by the very welcoming staff. She advised us to try the hotel restaurant that pleased her parisenne palate enormously. Properly counseled I assumed it would be good but not this good.

M ordered from the set menu at 29 euros and I the 35 euro menu.

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Her taboulé Libanais aux herbes fraiches bore no resemblance to those prepared products we find at a Carrefour and FranPrix but rather a light, refreshing blend of finely minced cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, parsley and cilantro with the flavor of each item exploding in your mouth.

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My millefeuille de tuiles de parmesan croquant –thin, crunchy, fried wafers of parmesan with smoked salmon and lumpfish roe was superb.

We chose a 2010 Rouge de Provence-syrah, cabernet and mourvedre-from Chateau Vereze that was light, very fruity and very pleasing to my wallet at 23 euros the bottle.

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For a main course M selected roasted free-range chicken with cèpes that was moist on the inside, slightly crunchy on the outside and ever so slightly sweet with the mix of chicken and cèpe juices.

My seafood trilogy consisted of grilled sea bream, salmon and grilled gambas served with provençal potatoes-no gilding of the lily-just fresh and tasty.

For dessert we shared the cheese plate of Comté, chèvre and Roquefort washed down with the final drops of pour easy-drinking red. A very smooth grappa at just 8 euros was the finishing touch on a meal that at a fancy/schmancy address might have earned a Michelin star.

 

Our final day began with another big breakfast in the Windsor’s jungle dining area and then off to the public beach between The Sporting Club and Blue Beach private beaches. We carefully plopped down on the pebbly surface and off to my left Mike, The Mad Russian was entertaining at his usual post with a medley of accordion-accompanied Russian folk songs. Don’t ask-of course I joined in.

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Our next stop was the Tuesday antique market where after a fun negotiation with Jacqueline I couldn’t resist gifting M a bakelite necklace.

the necklace

All of that negotiating made me hungry and grilled sardines and rosé hit the spot.

Our final touristy activity was to climb the stairs to the chateau overlooking the Baie des Anges.

And so back to Paris to await la rentrée.

  

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