Saturday, September 25, 2010

September 4 & 5, 2010 - Nice

Our arrival in Nice was disastrous.

Despite my months of obsessive planning nothing could prepare us for the absolute hell of the AVIS car rental counter. A 90 minute wait to get our vehicle turned both Chris and I into ugly, shouting, f-bomb dropping tourists. Though in my case, I more or less put my head on the counter and sobbed quietly in English while the AVIS employee tried to find the vehicle I had reserved six months ago.

I do not recommend starting your vacation this way. More importantly I do not recommend driving a rental car in a foreign country, in the dark and when you are soaked through with sweat and tears and haven’t eaten in over eight hours. Just get a taxi.

I was clever though. I had printed off the Google map directions from home and I handed them confidently to Chris as we pulled out of the rental parking lot. The problem was, even before I had flicked the signal indicator that the right turn Google had mapped did not exist. Neither did any of the other right or left turns, merges, slight rights, etc. The Google map showed a 7 km drive from the airport to the hotel but we drove around in circles for over an hour before reaching our hotel.

At one point, I seriously considered abandoning both the car and Chris in the middle of Nice. It finally made me understand those hysterical couples on “The Amazing Race” who have complete meltdowns at what seems like the simplest task. Exhausted, hungry, sweaty, disorientated and seemingly trapped in a futile exercise. As in driving a French rental car 7 km from airport to hotel.

Further complications awaited us at the hotel. Though I had read the small print on the web site - “no valet” - I assumed that parking would not involve another set of directions, an elevator ride and a short walk. I was wrong. And as we pulled away from the hotel with our final set of directions, I glanced in the rear view mirror and noticed a sky full of fireworks erupting over Baie des Anges. It shook me out of my bad mood and made me realize that we had made it to Nice, to France and that we were now officially on holiday in France!

We woke up this morning (Sunday) to a glorious day. Nice is experiencing record hot temperatures for the first week of September. I should also confess that the airport can be clearly seen from the balcony of our hotel room and why we couldn't find it last night will likely remain a mystery for the rest of my life.

Today, not quite yet in vacation mode, we found ourselves marching around Nice, as if under military order, blankly touring Nice’s sights: Cours Saleya, Colline du Chateau, Place Massena, Opera and even breakfast at the famous Hotel Negresco ( on Promenade des Anglais. By mid-afternoon, Chris had enough and I spent the afternoon strolling through Nice’s old town alone.

Despite not really wanting to be on my own, especially on our first day of vacation, I feel comforted by how familiar France feels. How I feel so instantly at ease and how I want nothing more than to spend more time in this beautiful country.

I return to the hotel with ham and cheese baguettesand we drink beer on our deck before heading out for our obligatory first-night-dinner-in-a-tourist-trap-restaurant. The food is not even bad (seafood and steak on silver platters) and it has ample ambience being right in the heart of Cours Saleya but dinner feels forced and not our style. Yes we know we are tourists but we also feel we aren’t tourists and we want experiences closer to our hearts.

From when we started planning this trip, we meant it to be more than a holiday. We wanted to integrate ourselves more into France and try to feel what it might be to live here one day. For me, I want to try and understand what makes me love France so much and to try and understand what makes sometimes living at home feel impossible and frustrating. I have written more than once that I hope France somehow disappoints me this trip because it will make my life at home much easier and much less complicated.

It’s time for bed; best to sleep on these things and look forward to another day in France tomorrow.

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