Aug. 20th – Arrivederci Italia! Bonjour France! On the recommendation of a French friend, we decided to sleep in nearby Antibes rather than the focal city, Nice. But first, we stopped in Monaco because Amber wanted to step foot in a new country. So we did. We walked from the train to the famed casino and back to the train. It was hot and expensive looking. I sat on a park bench with the luggage in the artificial-looking park while Amber attempted to get into the casino for a photograph. Unfortunately it didn’t open until the afternoon, so we left. Been there, done that.
We got off an earlier train stop to walk through Nice on our way to the recommended lunch stop. Some parts were shady-looking, but the weather was good. Around this point, I realized how much easier it had been getting around because I knew a bit more Italian than French. My only French learning had been one year in high school, while I had been trying Italian in my free time for the past three years, supplemented by numerous Italian trips. French was also more slippery to speak and harder to be understood in (plus French people spoke much less English than the Italians we met did). Around now I could appreciate how German and Italian are pronounced just the way they are written — so much more straightforward! We sampled the cuisine in Nice for lunch, at one of the longest lines we had encountered.
Amber was unimpressed with Nice, so we continued on to Antibes, which she liked much much better. It was a small town, but had a pebble beach, and old walls, and lots and lots of naked male art on metal poles. And I do mean lots. We dropped off our luggage in the second hostel of our trip (the four other beds were taken so we couldn’t even bunk together in the same bunk bed), which had an automatic air conditioner that stayed on as long as any lights in the room/bathroom were on (ugh, right?). Naturally, Amber wanted to do an intensive explore of the little city, as usual. Unfortunately, I had developed a sore throat from the A/C, so Amber conceded and we relaxed with a pot of herbal infusion (mint tea for me, green for Amber) rather than walk endlessly and swim at the beach and photograph a thousand things… Then we picked a simply lovely little restaurant for early dinner (7pm) after checking out half a dozen of them, and prepared to be astounded by our first amazing French meal. The chef let us have a table despite not having made reservations, but she turned down other, later parties after that. Rule for France: make reservations; they love it. But oh what a meal!
Nicoise lunch: René Socca (2 Rue Miralheti, 06300 Nice). Socca is a flat crepe-like food made of chickpea flour and common in Nice. The line for this outdoor takeaway place was so long, Amber didn’t even think the food worth it in the end. We had fried fish and fried vegetables and socca and more. We were so tired walking there, carrying all of our luggage, that it probably diminished our meal a little bit. But Amber ordered use two local beers (also made from chickpeas!) and I couldn’t have been happier. I almost made friends with the local pigeons, furtively feeding them fried batter when the waiters weren’t looking.
best dinner: Le Carnet de Bord (1 Rue James Close, 06600 Antibes). We had an amazing foie gras to share at the start. Then I ordered the chicken (I missed non-seafood) while Amber went with grilled fish. She loved hers. We were fortunately too full for dessert, as dining would prove to be considerably more expensive in France than Italy.