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