Good Eating

The moon over Nice as we entered the restaurant for dinner

The moon over Nice as we entered the restaurant for dinner

After the first long day of the conference in Monaco, a group of us made our way back to Nice for the evening. One of our group was familiar with a restaurant in Nice where he had had his anniversary dinner a few weeks earlier.

He was an interesting guy.  An American fluent in several languages in and of itself makes him an anomaly.  Reminds me of the old joke:  What do you call someone who speaks 3 languages?  Trilingual.  What do you call someone who speaks 2 languages?  Bilingual.  What do you call someone who speaks 1 language?  American.

He was living in Europe for about the third or fourth time and moved from groups of people from Italy to groups of people from Germany to groups of people from France with an ease that I envied.  Going to dinner with him was an experience.  He was able to understand food in another language.

An old church just outside the restaurant in Nice

An old church just outside the restaurant in Nice

Translating a menu is one of life’s biggest challenges.  Unless the exact same dish exists in one’s native country and the person who translates knows the correct name in both languages, most translation is lost.

Even when I hadn’t forgotten 90% of the French I once knew, I couldn’t understand a French menu.  I knew if it was fish or chicken or beef, but not what they did to it.  When I started learning Italian, I didn’t even get far enough to determine whether I was ordering tomato soup or tomato sauce (that led to some interesting surprises).

Sitting with someone who could actually understand and describe what a dish was was quite refreshing.  Although, in the end, after much discussion about the menu, we decided to order a 5-course chef’s pick dinner.

Waiting on the train the next morning in Nice Ville train station

Waiting on the train the next morning in Nice Ville train station

This turned out to be a great decision.  If I were a food critic, I could probably describe the meal in terms that would make your mouth water.  Since I am only a food enjoyer, I can only say that each course seemed to get better.  However, 5 courses is a lot, even in France (where the portions are smaller than in the US).  By the time we were done eating, I felt like the easiest way back to my hotel would have been to have someone tip over my chair so I could just roll my way down the street.

As it turned out, I might have been right.  There were no taxis to be had and we had 4 people going to 3 different destinations.  In the end, the two colleagues going to the same place were driven by the owner of the restaurant while the 3rd colleague walked me back to my hotel where a taxi had been ordered to meet him when available.  We sat in the lobby a long time waiting for that taxi–it was after 1AM by the time it came.

I was very happy I’d planned to take the train to Monaco the next morning–it gave me 2 extra hours of sleep.

The sun setting behind office buildings at the end of the day in Monaco

The sun setting behind office buildings at the end of the day in Monaco

 

Nice Dinner

Almost a view of the beach from a cafe in the afternoon

Almost a view of the beach from a cafe in the afternoon

Are you tired of my Nice-as-in-pleasant vs Nice-as-in-France puns yet?  I’ve got a few more up my sleeve . . . 🙂

My first day in Nice, the name of the game was to stay awake.  Unfortunately, on my walk around town in the afternoon sun, I got hot.  This led to stopping in a sea-side cafe and having a beer.  Even more unfortunately, the only food I could get mid-afternoon was a bowl of olives.  While beer and olives are actually tasty together, olives are not very filling.

City street - lots of pedestrians

City street – lots of pedestrians

I sipped my no-longer-cold-beer for nearly an hour as I slumped gradually lower and lower in my cafe-style chair.  Eventually, I decided I needed to walk or I would be sound asleep on the cafe floor.  But once I started walking, I didn’t know where to go.  I decided it was a good time to return to my hotel room to check email now that the US was getting into work.

Courtyard on way back to hotel

Courtyard on way back to hotel

I sat down on my bed, logged in, and made it through the emails that had arrived.  The next thing I knew, I was startled awake by a sunbeam that had found its way through a crack in the curtains.  The sunbeam had managed to make its way into my eyes in part because the sun was now low in the sky.  I discovered I’d nodded off for a couple unexpected hours.

Views as the sun sets

Views as the sun sets

Concerned I wouldn’t be able to sleep through the night if I didn’t get up and get some dinner, I splashed some water on my face and made my way back down to the seaside.  With the wind blowing across the French Riviera, the evening called for outdoor dining.

Back at the seaside area, I stopped and read menus at each restaurant across from the beach, hoping to find something appealing, but even more, hoping to run into one of my colleagues so I wouldn’t have to eat dinner alone.

Courtyard at sunset

Courtyard at sunset

In the US, I don’t mind eating dinner alone.  If I want company, I sit at the bar and usually end up in conversations with interesting people before the meal is over.  If I want to be alone, I sit at a table.  In Spain, France, and Italy, there don’t seem to be restaurant bars to eat at.  Eating alone at a table seems to be the equivalent of painting a sign on your face that says something like, “I am lonely and desperate and will be amazingly receptive to even the tiniest bit of attention.”  (To put it in G-rated terms.)

Dramatic dinner preparation at a nearby table

Dramatic dinner preparation at a nearby table

On this evening, it was my waiter who was overly attentive.  He was actually quite sweet, but it got awkward when I wanted to leave and he kept delaying bringing me my check.  Once I was safely on my way, I was glad I’d made it out regardless–it was a lovely night to be out walking and I did sleep through the night.

Night lights.  Notice the purple glowing man on top of the pole

Night lights. Notice the purple glowing man on top of the pole

Nice Views

The lovely "beach" in Nice

The lovely “beach” in Nice

If yesterday I attempted to make you feel sorry for me for having to travel to Nice and Monaco, today I might make you jealous.

I arrived in Nice around 9AM on Monday morning.  When I arrived at my hotel, my room wasn’t ready yet, but after only a few minutes in the lobby, I was given a key and sent upstairs.  This was a good thing because having not slept a wink on the flight over, I was about to nod off in the lobby.

Interesting building on my round-about way to the shore.  Using HDR created ghost of a pedestrian in my shot.

Interesting building on my round-about way to the shore. Using HDR created ghost of a pedestrian in my shot.

I climbed into bed and set my alarm so that I’d get in a nice 2 hour nap.  Or should I say a Nice  2 hour nap?  In either case, I have found that it’s best not to sleep more than 2 hours when I arrive in a new time zone, especially when traveling in an Eastward direction.

I woke up before my alarm went off.  I jumped out of bed feeling panicked that perhaps I had missed a meeting.  I logged in immediately to see what emails I’d gotten since falling asleep.  Given that it was only 7AM back in the Eastern US, I hadn’t received much of anything.

The fake peninsula (created by shooting panoramic with iPhone default camera app)

The fake peninsula (created by shooting panoramic with iPhone default camera app)

After convincing myself I hadn’t missed anything, I jumped in the shower to discover it was one of those weird adaptations of a tub with a curtain on hooks shooting out from the post the shower head was installed on like a star.  I pulled the curtain around me, but it only went about ½ way around.  I did my best not to spray the entire bathroom.  This might explain why the toilet (and toilet paper) were in another room–it could be the only way they stay dry when someone showers.

Fake inlet (also created by shooting panoramic with default iPhone camera app)

Fake inlet (also created by shooting panoramic with default iPhone camera app)

Feeling wide awake and fresh, I threw on some casual clothes and went out to take a walk along the shore.  Unfortunately, I was somewhat disoriented and walked the wrong direction.  By the time I found the shore, I wasn’t feeling so fresh anymore.

But, the beach was lovely.  The wind was blowing and the air was fresh.  What more could an American on a business trip ask for?

A plaza along the way to the beach

A plaza along the way to the beach

I experimented with panoramic shots on the shore with my iPhone.  I ended up creating a peninsula out of the rocks I was standing on and turning the shoreline into an inlet because of the effect of shooting panoramic.  It was kind of fun.

A more realistic view of the beach

A more realistic view of the beach

Nice Hotel

My view

My view

My recent business trip took me to Nice, France and Monte Carlo, Monaco.  I know it’s hard to feel bad for someone who just went to the French Riviera, but I’d like to point out a few facts that make me sympathy worthy:

  1. I arrived Monday morning and departed Thursday morning after 2 hard days of work,
  2. I stayed in Nice, but the conference was in Monaco, resulting in a 1 ½ hour bus ride from hell during rush hour traffic on Tuesday morning,
  3. Pat couldn’t come with me
  4. Tisen couldn’t come with me
  5. I spent 40 hours traveling in exchange for 72 hours on the French Riviera.
OK, so it's a King-sized bed, but check out the carpet

OK, so it’s a King-sized bed, but check out the carpet

If that’s not enough, let’s talk about my hotel room.  First, I had a sense of deja-vu when I arrived at my hotel.  I didn’t remember where I stayed the last time I was in Nice (in May of 2006), but when I walked into the lobby, I was pretty sure it was the same hotel with an updated decor.

These chairs were "updated" with orange slip covers looking like they're in desperate need of a cleaning

These chairs were “updated” with orange slip covers looking like they’re in desperate need of a cleaning

Unfortunately, the updated decor stopped at the lobby.  I had to chuckle at the orange shag carpet and matching accessories in my room.  I did not, however, chuckle at the tiny little room with a toilet, and only a toilet, in it.  Fortunately, I discovered a bath tub and sink in a separate room opposite the toilet room.

I tried hard to remember whether the toilet was separate from the bath and sink the last time I was in France.  I never did manage to come up with that memory, but everyone I talked to had the same arrangement no matter what hotel they were in, so I guess it’s a French thing.

Now I understand why some people call it a "water closet"

Now I understand why some people call it a “water closet”

The view from my room left something to be desired.  From the window, I could see the back of 3 surrounding buildings and the shed for the trash bins for my hotel.  This is not the kind of view one hopes for when staying on the French Riviera.  Especially not when one read that the hotel in question was a 4-star hotel.  I suspect the person who awarded the 4 stars was the owner’s mother.

I don’t mean to complain.  After all, it was a trip to the French Riviera that I didn’t have to pay for.  But no matter how glamorous it sounds to say “I’m going to the French Riviera,” the reality was far from glamorous.

One last look at the view from my window

One last look at the view from my window