Culture Shock on the Côte d’Azur

From the cramped collectivos and corn tortillas of Mexico to the cruise ships and caviar of the Côte d’Azur, we have arrived in the south of France, braced for a healthy jolt of culture shock. After three months in Mexico, we have landed in Europe for the month of May, first to visit our eldest daughter Claire in the city of Nice, and then to have a peek at Portugal and sample southern Spain as possible future month-at-a-time travel destinations.

Claire and Lycee

Claire on Castle Hill overlooking her school Lycée Masséna

In fewer than 24 years of life, Claire has already traveled to 34 countries. After graduating college with degrees in English and French, she has been teaching English at Lycée Masséna, a large public high school in the heart of Nice, France.

Apt balcony

We spent a lot of time relaxing on the balcony of our rental apartment

Hanging out in Nice, we caught up with Claire and explored some of her favorite places around town. We stayed together in a rental apartment, overlooking a neighborhood park where children squealed, women gossiped in their outdoor voices, and old men played with their shiny metal pétanque balls.

Nice small boats

Some of the smaller boats in the Nice marina

The apartment was in the city’s Port neighborhood, near a marina full of colorful sailing vessels, markets selling appealing produce, and small restaurants serving traditional Socca flatbread and local rose wine. Truthfully, we mostly did our own cooking, because the ingredients in France are so fresh and delicious that great meals literally prepare themselves.

Place Massena

Place Masséna, Nice

For our visit, Claire graciously acted as our local tour guide and French language translator, as she showed us around the seaside city of Nice, and the surrounding towns and principalities of the French Riviera. Nice is a large city of soft-hued buildings and manicured parks, and fringed by a sun-splashed promenade, cobblestone beach, and tranquil azure sea.

Cap Ferrat

Cap Ferrat and the town of Villefranche-sur-Mer

Just one train station outside Nice, we stepped off in Villefranche-sur-Mer for a hike around Cap Ferrat, an enclave of large seaside villas with multi-million Euro views. Along the narrow coastal trail, where light gray limestone cliffs plunged into the transparent sapphire depths, Mexico seemed more than a world away.

Monaco Bliss

Some of the smaller boats in the Monaco marina

We really knew we weren’t in Mexico anymore when we paid a visit to the nearby posh Principality of Monaco. As one of the world’s tiniest and wealthiest countries prepared for the upcoming Monaco Grand Prix, we wandered around its super-sized yacht harbor and loitered on the front steps of its famous James Bond “Casino Royale”.

Beers at Waka

Waka Bar and La Promenade des Anglais, Nice

Whether we were dodging Maseratis on Monaco’s winding city streets, or strolling the marble checkerboard plaza of Nice’s Place Masséna, coming from Mexico to the French Riviera has been enough to make our hair stand on end. Fortunately, with the fun times we are having with our lovely and adventuresome daughter Claire, we are happily convalescing from our culture shock on the Côte d’Azur.

Port evening

Port de Nice

 

Featured Image: The beach and train station at Villefranche-sur-Mer

 

8 thoughts on “Culture Shock on the Côte d’Azur

  1. Wow, 34 countries! You must be very proud to have raised such an adventuresome and worldly daughter! I wish I had paid more attention in my foreign language classes. We Americans can be so lazy learning other languages, but having that skill is really a passport to richer experiences. Have a great time, that part of the world looks lovely!

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    • Thank you, Janis. It is so interesting to talk to Claire about the linguistics of different countries, especially while we are traveling together. For example, now that we are in Portugal, I seem to recognize a lot of their vocabulary. Claire says that is because Portuguese and Spanish are mutually intelligible languages. Unfortunately, the Portuguese are difficult to understand because their pronunciation sounds a lot like Russian. Thank goodness most people here speak excellent English.

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    • A visit to the French Riviera after our long stay in southern Mexico proved to me how strikingly different the people and places of these two countries are. Of course, hanging out with Claire was the unequivocal highlight. She even showed us the bar where she and her friends dance on the tables. Ahh…to be young again.

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  2. This post brought back so many good memories! We were lucky enough to spend a little time in Nice several years ago, complete with a side trip to Monaco. We loved it, and really wish we could have stayed longer. How lucky that your daughter lives there and can show you around! And I am really impressed with how much traveling she has done…clearly her parents’ love for travel was passed on to her.

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    • Hi Ann, I am so happy to have sparked a few fond memories for you. Claire considers herself very lucky to have had the chance to live in Nice, and we were very lucky to visit her and spend a little time there too. She says it is her favorite place in France, and was so excited to have the opportunity to teach in the high school there. When it comes to traveling, she always has some new place that she wants to go. I suppose in that way, she is just a chip off the old block.

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    • Hi Sue & Dave, Yes, the differences between Mexico and France are striking. As we walk around, we are constantly comparing the two places. We are very proud of Claire, and so happy that she is traveling and learning about the world while she is young. Most of all, we are pleased that she is happy and enjoying her life. All the best to you guys!

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