My French may suck, but it’s definitely better than my Italian. It was such a relief to step off the train in Nice and be able to communicate things like “We’d like to go to Paris on the next train please” or “If that’s not possible, can we go to any other northern town?” or “So you’re saying we’re stuck here?” The very frustrating thing was that we had used our eurail passes and basically wasted a day of travel, worth a lot of euros to get not very far. We could not get to Paris until the next night at five and our train would not arrive there until eleven-thirty. Worried those tickets would sell out too, we reserved our seats for the next day’s train. I was doing an inner happy dance though because I could finally say more than “Hello” “thank you” and “I want _____ coffee” which they’d correct me on 80% of the time anyway.
So we stepped out of the train station as it was getting dark, needing to find a hotel for the night, a bathroom for now and eventually some food. I pulled out the guide book and started to try to orient myself and read through Rick Steve’s recommendations and get to the meat of what I needed: what is close to where we are right now and where is that? We were very lucky. We found a great little hotel, La Belle Meuniere, two blocks from the train station that had just had a cancelation for one of their cheaper rooms that included breakfast (for me, a big bonus because I get my coffee.) The lady at the front desk was nice and spoke French with me until she could she that I had missed something, then switched to English, then back to French, which was nice because I could practice.
Too late for any supermarkets, we found a restaurant she recommended, La Saeten, a big splurge for us, but our night had been a bust so far for saving money. On the way there we were offered hashish, cocaine and ganja in hushed tones. There were Chinese restaurants everywhere with elaborate fish tanks in the windows and interiors that looked like draped opium dens. At La Saeten we had a Salade Niciose and a pizza from their brick oven and a half litre of wine. I made sure we had cheese for dessert too, just because it was a plateau du fromage, not fromaggi anymore. It was worth it.
The next day, it was raining of course. We checked out the market on Course Saleya that was full of flowers, orange trees, fresh produce, seafood, cheeses and other goodies like honey, jams and baked goods. Then we went to Esipuno’s bakery, once named best bakery in France and bought some treats for lunch. Still in the rain, we walked up to the Colline du Chateau (Castle Hill) from where you can see the whole city, the coastline and enjoy a killer park. We also looked at the Hotel Negresco from the outside and the Russian Cathedral. After all that we started to get ready for our trip to Paris where we could do some real walking. “Smart travelers take the bus” is what Rick Steve’s wrote and we kept laughing about all day as we walked along stone and marble streets. Out of stubbornness I keep laughing at that passage, but I think my feet are over it.