We’ve had a few days to explore town, so here’s a bit of a recap before the holiday craziness takes over.
First, a few shots around Saint Jean where we are staying. It’s a small village full of a lot of money, but the mansions tend to be secluded and the residents of them are pretty private so the atmosphere remains rather charming. I’ve had some lovely chats with the butcher (who told me to just call him up in the morning when I want a rotisserie chicken and he’ll get it started for me) and some other shopkeepers, and am feeling very welcomed and at home here. Jared feels that way too, but only after I translate for him. My French is improving and it’s been really rewarding to talk to locals and not feel like a total idiot!
The Côte d’Azur is dotted with small villages like ours, and each one is decorated to the nines for Christmas. They all have their own Nativity scenes (called a crèche which is French for nursery) and Saint Jean even has Christmas music playing on speakers in the village center.
We are about a 20 minute bus ride (and two towns over) from Nice but it’s an easy commute with a beautiful view, and the bus stop is just around the corner from our house so it’s simple to get into see Molly and her family. We met up with her a few times last week and checked out the flower market (which is an antiques market on Mondays – more on that tomorrow), the Vieille Ville (Old Town), and the beautiful waterfront promenade. Thursday was a really windy day so I took a video of the waves. You can see from the photos and video why this is called the Côte d’Azur (Azure Coast).
We also walked through the Christmas village in Place Masséna in the center of Nice. The area is full of booths of crafts and treats, an ice skating rink, an enormous Ferris Wheel (more on that tomorrow) and all kinds of games and entertainment. We strolled around for a while checking out the wares, and then gorged ourselves on socca and mulled wine. Socca is a local food made from chickpea flour, olive oil and salt and is cooked in a huge cast iron pan in a wood burning oven. Then you put pepper on it and if you are us, eat it as fast as you can without burning your mouth. It’s so good. Traditionally it’s what the poor residents ate, but now it’s part of the culture of Nice (a delicious part!).
As much fun as we are having seeing the city, the best part has been spending time with Molly and her family. They have been awesome at getting us set up, giving us directions, suggesting activities and taking us around to fun places in Nice. We really feel like we are on vacation here!
It’s sad to be so far away from family at Christmas, but we feel very fortunate to be spending Christmas here with good friends and beautiful surroundings.