Borgers with No Borders.

our lives, our loves — through our earthly adventures.

Archive for the category “Beyond Paris”

Snippets of Nice (Part 3)

We head into the town center, park our car, walk up the dark stairway … and voila!  You are greeted with a buzzling, terra-cotta-colored town center, palm-trees and all.  I could live here, I thought.  Surely less crowded than Paris, a permanent view of the seaside, probably more friendly people, and lower-stress levels I assume.

And when I feel I am beginning to look pale and sick … what couldn’t be more inviting than this?

Well, a bit rocky and probably painful, if you ask me — but heck, beggars can’t be choosers, right?  Or … if you don’t have the license or the right to bare it, perhaps we could settle for a walk.

And when you’re tired and worn out, go slow and visit the brocante (flea market) — which will surely do more than just arouse your curiosity.  It has everything — from clothes, to jewelry, to silver cutlery, to vintage Louis Vuitton bags.  And while you’re shopping, errrr — resting your feet, there’s even enough groove to cheer you on.

Just a warning to would-be tourists to Nice or anywhere else in Paris:  When you want a photo taken near  a performer, a statue-look-alike, or any of such artists along the streets — it is common courtesy to drop a coin in their hat.  If you don’t … be ready to take the screaming that will follow after you press your camera’s shutter!

We enjoyed a whole afternoon just walking along the narrow streets with laundry lines criss-crossing old homes that seemed to each have their own stories to tell.  The shops were homey and quaint … and these items were the ones that blew me away.  Salt … and soap.  In every conceivable flavor, aroma, and color.

On this day, I knew, that if one day my life should flash before me — it would surely be worth watching.


Sinking in the South of France: Nice, Part 2

As if our 4-hour lunch followed by a 2-hour nap was not enough … life kicked in once again at cocktail time!  Whoa!  Isn’t this just the perfect vacation ever?

Hubby woke me up and literally pulled me out of bed to make sure I do not miss a beat with the action in the kitchen.  Starting with this:

… and this:

Yep.  That’s my dream kitchen in the background — with my dream stainless steel drawers, stainless steel cupboards, and that massive industrial stove!  If that kind of equipment doesn’t make you a great chef, I don’t know what will!  I could easily see myself setting up camp in that kitchen anytime!

And you know what else was shining in this stainless steel splendor?  This thingamajig, which was roasting a cuchon. Indoors.  Wooooooooooooow, right?

So, the indispensable champagne glasses started to clink while le cuchon was cooking.  (Wait.  Do you see that uber long nail-looking thing on the left side of the awesome grill — just waiting for a kebab to happen???)  Wooooooooooow again, right?

A roquette salad (picked from their garden!) with freshly carved pata negra (in case you missed it, check out picture #1 again!), artichokes, and those crunchy flower-shaped tomatoes from Italy called “Merenda’s.”  Some very baby carrots on the side of le cuchon … and roasted potatoes drizzled with garlic.  One bite and again, I thought I had died and went to heaven.  🙂

How can such simple cooking result in a meal that is one you will remember forever?  Someone once said that along with a Chef’s ability to put flavors and textures together, is his successful choice of using only the best quality ingredients.  I couldn’t agree more.  When you have the best quality of pork, carrots, potatoes, … down to the best grain of salt, butter, and olive oil — there will be very little reason to fail.

Truly, simple home cooking … at its best!

Sinking in the South of France: Nice

It was 4AM when we said goodbye to the still-rather-chilly weather of Paris.  We packed hubby’s SUV with our suitcases, a load of munchies, crepes, sandwiches, and fully-charged ipods.  We were driving 900 kilometers, estimated to take about 8 hours, and end up in the South of France:  Nice, Provence for the most part, with side-trips to the Gorges du Verdon (the Grand Canyon of France), Grasse, and Avignon on the way back.  St. Tropez was also on our list of places to go to — but we did not manage this, as you will find out in my later posts.

I was never an outdoorsy camping-lover, give-me-my-tent kinda girl.  I need my proper toilette, standing mirrors, electricity, and a crisp and fluffy duvet on a clean bed.  Accommodations is one of the three most critical ingredients for a sure-fire vacation.  Then comes the food — and the company — not necessarily in that order.

Nice had all three of these ever-present.  Especially the Food part.  For our first night, we stayed at the beautiful home of an old friend of my hubby, who used to be a 2-star michelin chef at one of Nice’s most prestigious hotels.  I love his story, but I will try to keep him out of my ramblings to protect his privacy — and hopefully, he will not mind my showing off a bit of his treasures:  his home, his kitchen (now, my dream-kitchen!), and his beautiful garden with his stone/brick pizza oven.  It was during these first 2 days that I witnessed the great chef at work, and ate the most amazing meals.

We had our lunch in his garden — and for the first time, I tasted “socca”  which is a specialty of southeastern French cuisine, particularly in Nice.  In northern Italy, it is called “farinata.”  Basically, it is a thin flat cake made from chickpea flour baked in an oven, generously seasoned with black pepper, and eaten hot with your fingers.  Ours were of course made a la minute — using his garden stone oven.  One bite of this and I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  My soul was longing to just stay in Nice — grow old, get fat, and die eating soccas.

The Master at work. Note the wooden stool -- at the perfect height to watch the miracle that happens in that oven.

Slicing the socca while I watch with my mouth agape, in total awe.

The French treasure their meal times.  Which is probably another reason why they don’t get fat.  They eat very slowly — savoring every dish, taking good breaks in between, and sipping all sorts of wines that go perfectly with each dish.  Our lunch took something like four hours — and indeed, it was an event in itself.  From the soccas, to the fresh pizzas with Provençal olives, Poilâne bread drizzled with only the best olive oil, a very fresh Daurade (which is “sea bream” en anglais) served with baby flowering courgettes — which again, I had never seen or taste before.  It was stupendous!  🙂  Here’s a picture of my half-eaten plate — photographed after I realized I had jumped into it even before taking a proper picture!

Daurade with Flowering Provençal Courgettes

By the time we had finished our fish — it was time to move to another part of the house because it was getting a bit too chilly.  So off we went to the poolside for our dessert:  a simple (but tres delicieux)  Fresh Strawberries (seasoned with lime zest) served with the best Ginger Ice Cream ever, freshly whipped cream, and strawberry purée.  Can you taste the lovely combination of flavors amidst an ambience like this?

After lunch, we were all too full and half-asleep … so we retired into our cozy “apartment” (still at their home!) for the much needed nappy-nappy.  And if you don’t believe how beautiful our surroundings were, all the way up to our bedrooms, here’s how our room’s terrace looked:

Cozy little garden by our room for afternoon nappy-nappies.

How can you go wrong with a 4-hour lunch with amazing food, great company, and extraordinary accommodations?  Life could not get any better.

Oh the good life ... a glimpse from my daughter's shoes. 🙂

My best part of Nice: Off the beaten, crowded, seaside rush.

Cuddling great company.

Stay tuned for more on our Southern France expedition.  🙂

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