Thursday September 24
In the morning we had a tour to and through Nice’s Old Town led by a local guide, Agnès. Nick asked many questions, so I knew that his congestion was fully cleared and luckily, I had escaped the germ.
At various times in Nice’s history, the city was part of Spain or of Piedmont-Sardinia, a region that later became part of Italy. The influences of Spanish, Italian and French cultures are evident there. There’s a daily flower market on the main street, surrounded by narrow streets filled with shops and restaurants. I remembered being in the Old Town in 1976, and climbing Castle Hill on foot. Now there is an elevator to the top, where we enjoyed spectacular views of the port, the Alps, and the Mediterranean.
We had gelato for lunch. Gelato wasn’t our dessert. It was our entire meal. In Europe, people typically choose two flavors, so I chose pistachio and strawberry, while Nick had lime and raspberry. He couldn’t even have considered tasting such strong flavors while he was undergoing treatments a year ago.
Later in the afternoon, we decided to go to the Chagall Museum, because it is one of the town’s highlights. We walked past fountains and tramways to get to the bus stop that Toni had pointed out to us the previous evening. Once on the bus, I asked the driver, “Chagall Museum?” “Non,” he replied, “Fermé.” I tried to ask in French if it was closed for lunch, or closed all day. Hearing me, others on the bus explained that the museum was closed for renovations, but we could go to the Matisse Museum instead simply by staying on the bus for a few more stops. Why not? Another adventure!
The bus took us through residential areas, passing homes of many types of architecture in which the locals live. Eventually the helpful folks on the bus told us we had reached our destination. We walked past a boules tournament. That’s bocce in Italian, a game my mom’s relatives enjoyed at so many of the family gatherings of my youth. Once in the museum, we came upon Ruth, Jane, and Anne Marie. They, too, tried to visit the Chagall Museum and came here instead. The Matisse Museum’s collection was just the right size for me: small enough to cover the basics, yet with enough content to be enjoyable. After taking in all of the art, we found the bus stop for the ride home.
Back at our hotel, we crossed the street to get to the sea. Although I didn’t want to swim, I was determined to put my feet in the water. The seashore in Nice has no sand. Instead, the ground is covered with rocks that have been smoothed by the action of the waves. The water, a lovely shade of aqua, was soothing and comforting. Local women go topless at the beach, and from what we observed, there was no age limit to that practice.
Our tour was almost over. We had our final group dinner that evening at a restaurant called Marcel. Our group filled the small restaurant, watching the chefs create their magic. We had a choice of three first courses, three main courses, and three desserts. Nick ordered a shaved artichoke salad followed by steak and fries. This was the first time we had seen fries in France! I selected two of my favorites: a first course of salmon that was enough for an entire meal, followed by mushroom risotto. Each mouthful of my dinner was beyond delicious! We both selected the same dessert: profiteroles, or in English, cream puffs, a dessert I used to make. There is a standard recipe for the puff, and another standard recipe for the pastry cream, but here they were filled with vanilla ice cream. My description is not doing this dessert justice. The puffs were balanced against a dark chocolate center that held them upright, and the whole thing was topped lightly with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. I felt sad for those who had ordered either of the other two less spectacular desserts.
After dinner, we all walked slowly back to the promenade across from our hotel. There, we gazed upon the Mediterranean as it sparkled in the moonlight. Toni had a surprise for us: champagne! We toasted Nice, each other, and our entire trip.
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