Tuesday, February 05, 2008

mr. nice guy

I booked my ticket at 2am on Wednesday morning. By Thursday, I was on a Swiss Air Lines flight to Nice, the capital of France's Côte d'Azur, or the French Riviera, as it is otherwise known.

Situated on the renowned seaside Promenade des Anglais, the pink-domed, pastel-coloured Hôtel Negresco has been a Nice landmark for almost 100 years.

Mired somewhere in the muddled middle of my European hitlist, Nice isn't exactly a priority destination. Call this travel on a whim, which I suppose is the type of unplanned journeying that I've somehow become accustomed to over the years.

"Maybe it's better not to have any expectations," Katja had said, "that way, you can enjoy whatever happens and not be disappointed."

She's right. I don't have any expectations and my prior knowledge of the French Riviera is sketchy at best. What little I know:

* Nice. I first took notice of Nice on the tattered National Geographic world map my dad had Scotch-taped to the basement wall as a geographically-nerdy six-year-old. I recall being amused by its nice name.

* Monaco. Besides the Grand Prix, I think I remember MuchMusic reporting a few years ago that Monaco's Prince Albert had angered Australian pop diva Kylie Minogue by getting a little too frisky for comfort at a music awards show. (Vroom, vroom).

* Cannes. Hollywood movie stars, paparazzi flashbulbs, and the topless rich congregate here each May for the world-famous, Cannes Film Festival.

* St. Tropez. I think my mom still has this old, white St. Tropez sweatshirt, which features a fluorescent green palm tree and neon pink sunglasses - colours that were all the rage in 1988.

* Antibes. Martin, my Austrian former roommate, told me Antibes was, and I quote, "really nice."

So happens, I won't even make it to the last three places in the above list, though I don't know it at the time. But that's flash travel for you: things don't always go according to plan. For ultra-organized travelers, I would imagine this to be incredibly irritating.

But I don't mind. The unexpected is just real life and, for me, travel is exactly that - real life - and not merely just an escape from it.

The Swiss Air jet circles and makes its final approach to Aéroport Nice Côte d'Azur, situated on ridiculously good real estate right on the coast. Outside the airplane window, I can see from the snowy Alps all the way down to the waters of the Mediterranean, which are a shade of stunning blue that Crayola hasn't yet labelled on a crayon.

The plane taxis and stops. As I walk down the steps to the tarmac, the golden rays of the sun warm my face while I peer out over the Mediterranean. For just a moment, I'm without a care in the world, before I get on with figuring out what's next.

The blue waters of the Mediterranean, the smooth pebble beaches of Nice.

Sunset over the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels) and Nice, capital of the Côte d'Azur.

Nighttime in Place Masséna, the electric heart of central Nice.


  1. You've got some gorgeous – I mean really NICE – writing there, DB. My compliments!

  2. Thanks Amanda - that's high praise coming from one of my favourite writers.


  3. Nice. I like it. My escape in the day. :)

    Sounds like all is well. Awesome!


  4. Thanks for stopping in, Zoe. Hope things are well in your corner of the world, also.

  5. Beautiful, beautiful. Brings back memoires.

  6. Thanks, Soho. When were you in Nice?