Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lune de Miel - Part II

After a quick freshen up, D. and I headed out for a walk around Nice beginning with the seaside "boardwalk" the Promenade des Anglaise. Although Rick Steves promised us a quick stroll through the lobby of the promenade's gem, the Hotel Negresco, we caught little more than a glimpse before being turned away as non-hotel guests. Turns out they must have been flooded by Steves-reading-tourists and as a result have stationed stern security guards at each entrance. Pity because it did look divine.

We shook off our hurt feelings with a walk down Rue Jean Mendecin - pedestrianized and totally commercialized on our way to Place Massena, named as most things in Nice are after Napoleonic war hero, Andre Massena. 

The buildings are pink and yellow with vibrant shutters and chalky finishes that are all Italian - pl. Massena itself is broad and open with fountains at one end and odd fiberglass men kneeling on elevated platforms throughout. We only later discovered that they glow changing colors at night.

Beyond pl. Massena, we descended the steps into old Nice, a treasure trove of narrow streets, more Tuscan architecture and distinctively Italian piazzas.

The famous flower market, Cours Saleya was in the process of turning over to cafes for dinner and the streets were fairly quiet as we ducked into the church of St. Retable for a quick look around.

Although baroque in style and iconography, St. Retable lacked the heaviness of its Italian counterparts. Chalky frescoes had all but worn away from the domed ceilings and the overall impression was distinctly coastal as if a persistent sea breeze had worn down the walls over the years.

Honeymoon - Day 1 Exploring NiceHoneymoon - Day 1 Exploring NiceHoneymoon - Day 1 Exploring Nice

D. energized after the cool church and a quick coca from the corner suggested we climb Castle Hill for the vistas certain to be heightened by the approaching sunset.

The views as we climbed were remarkable from the initial city panoramas to the man - made waterfall ("the cascade") to the port-side terraces and balconies that felt suspended over the ocean.

Honeymoon - Day 1 Exploring Nice

Honeymoon - Day 1 Exploring Nice

Unfortunately, sunset was not quite as impending as imagined, so although the light was warming and tinged with pink as we descended, there was still plenty of sunshine while we enjoyed dinner at Festival de la Moule beneath Matisse's apartment back in the Cours Saleya.

Festival de la Moule's unlimited offering of mussles and frites for 13,90€ seemed too good to pass up. Although they were probably not the very best moules of our lives, they were far from the worst. Our unlimited selections included the classic mariniere, moutarde, creole (curry) and roquefort (for D.) - all washed down with a pichet of house wine and some crispy fries dredged in their sauces.

Post-dinner, we sought out famed gelateria, Fenocchio for a dessert to be consumed along the promenade. With an eye-popping array of flavors trumping even the most extensive in Florence, we had a hard time choosing. I settled on all-time favorite, noisette paired with new offering: caramel beurre sale - something about caramel and butter (how could you go wrong?) D. chose chocolat-menthe which he aptly likened to a peppermint patty (intense) and another flavor he'll have to recall. 

Honeymoon - Day 1 Exploring Nice

We strolled back down the promenade, snapping pictures of the now lit-up Castle Hill and patting ourselves on the backs for managing to stay up until 10:30 on our first day. As we returned to the hotel we were greeted by the ultimate congratulatory prize; our luggage, fresh from Amsterdam. I wonder if it had as lovely of a first day as we did.