Such startlingly true words. With each vacation post, I managed to relive so many holiday memories.
The last leg of our vacation was spent at Nice and Monaco.
After our adventures in Paris and 1 hour flight, we found ourselves in the warm and bustling Nice (South of France). Paris was fast paced while Nice was laid-back.
NICE– Narrow streets and busy sidewalks flanked by quaint -looking apartment buildings were the first sights to greet us. Shops with colourful wares from fruits to vegetables to crockery and fresh blooms; lavender, peonies, tulips and lilies. Pet shops with naughty puppies and mad hamsters scurrying about in their cages, set the mood for the rest of the day. Nice is like a place out of a children’s story book. Misty mountains on one side and the azure sea on the other. The tourist season was just setting in. The first week of May isn’t considered warm enough but for us it was quite warm. By the time it was afternoon, the sun was blazing down on us. It was then we stopped loafing around and settled ourselves on the pebble -laden beach.
Icy waves crashing against the pebbles drawing them back into the sea, seagulls racing against the winds and my little imp tip toeing on the pebbled shore are the moments in time I will forever treasure. Nice is beautiful. Beautiful is an understatement. I would say Nice is pleasant where pleasant is a superlative of all things beautiful and lovely.
Travelling with a toddler is made easy by service apartments and we got a service apartment that was comfortable. It gave us the flexibility of cooking our meals when eating out seemed like a hassle. I enjoyed cooking simple meals for us in an apartment overlooking stunning sights. Soon, I will post about one of the easier meals I had cooked while in Nice which was as filling as it was tasty. We had a super market right below our service apartment which made it easy to buy milk, butter, bread, oil, fruits, vegetables and condiments in small quantities. I was quite ready to settle down because in our 4 day trip we had practically made it our home.
Sight seeing around Nice is made easy by a mini trains that leave from Promenade des Anglais every 30 minutes or so. The mini train took us around the city and around the outskirts, up until the top of the Castle Hill. There it stops for 15 minutes for the visitors to tour around. I bought lovely water colour paintings of lavender fields, sun flower fields and many more captivating sights on paper.
Night time at Nice is even more exciting with people rushing to go clubbing or drinking. There were pubs and bars where salsa classes were being conducted and there were groups of boys performing their b-boying stunts for a visitors at Place Masséna. My daughter stood fascinated looking at the boys performing their stunts. She then coyly, asked me if she could go. I pushed her forward and imagined that she would shy away. But she wasn’t the one to be deterred by the 50-odd spectators. One of the b-boyers noticed her and took her to the forefront and introduced her to the crowd. Then they blared the music and urged her to perform. I was shocked to see my baby performing effortlessly whatever she picked up from observing those boys in front of all those people. She wasn’t in the least bit intimidated by all the crowd or the new dance form. For a 3 year old, she did well. I was a proud mum. All the people clapped and cheered for Mimi as she pirouetted and swirled around. It shall remain a treasured memory for time to come.
If you take a quick look on the right hand panel of my blog, you’d find a culinary bucket list that I had prepared at the start of the year. One of them involves me sampling some oysters. Inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s quote I had read sometime back –
“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
Books and great writers have always influenced me a great deal and hence this decision of tasting some oysters just to see if there was any metal in what Ernest Hemingway felt on tasting oysters.
We tracked down the best place in Nice through internet research. Cafe Turin, our research pointed, served the best platter. Off we went with brave hearts to see what oysters might taste like. Cafe Turin is very homely and far from being posh but the people serving definitely came across as being extremely pretentious. This includes the cafe’s Maitre D’hotel who seated us without a smile on his face. It was as if he was being made to do it against his free will. The servers were of little help and we felt discouraged. I looked around helplessly once the platter of oysters was placed before us to see if I could just observe how others in the restaurant were eating/swallowing theirs. A friendly French lady saw me looking nervously around and smiled at me. So I approached her and asked her if she knew how to have oysters. She was having some herself, so she taught me. Here it goes:
1. Pick the oyster in your hands and you will see a molluscan-looking stuff in some liquid.
2. Loosen the oyster meat from the shell with the help of the knife and squeeze some lemon juice on it. Do this liberally.
3. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath and think of how much Ernest Hemingway liked this thing. Obviously there must be some merit.
4. Suck the oyster meat in your mouth and give a single, shallow bite and swallow it.
5. And keep it in. Yes, its a bit of struggle where your brain is figuring out whether to eject this lemony- squishy thing stuck in your throat or to swallow it and be a part of the world that adores oysters.
6. I swallowed one and then 4 more after that. It isn’t all that bad. But it isn’t all that good either. It is, well, like nothing. Neutral. I don’t know whether I like it or dislike it. I am yet to make up my mind over whether I would ever try oysters again. So my verdict is: Oysters taste neutral.
I proudly strike the oyster eating adventure off my culinary bucket list!
Out of the 4 day trip in Nice, we took a day trip to Monaco. It was a 20 minute train ride from Nice to Monaco.
Monaco – Principality of Monaco is the second smallest independent state in the world, after the Vatican. Stepping out of the railway station, we were greeted with an air of affluence and elitism. Herds of Rolls Royce and Bentley parked in a row is a common sight all over.
Stellar yachts bobbing in the horizon created a picturesque view. It is easy to take stock of the state in the mini train that cruises around the city introducing us, visitors to the prominent sights in Monaco. Known world over for the Grand Prix races, visitors surround the race tracks to get a closer view of the stadium. Apart from that, the principality is adorned with perfectly manicured lawns and exotic gardens all over.
The food as far as my taste bud memories tell me was the best of the trip. I can still recall the taste of the delicious goat cheese and honey salad and the fantastic cup of hot chocolate that I had at one of the road side restaurants in Monaco.
If Amsterdam was amazing, Paris was perfect. If Paris whet our wanderlust appetite, Nice only aggravated it. If Nice was like the best chocolate cake ever, then Monaco was like the chocolate icing on the cake. That pretty much sums up my vacation. Phew!
With this I complete my series of Vacation Post #. Writing about my vacation adventure has been absolutely exhilarating. I can’t wait to plan my next vacation and celebrate my birthday in some interesting part of the world. Inshallah.
RAMADAN KAREEM TO ALL WHO ARE FASTING.
Photos courtesy : – Namit Bhatia (@namit93)