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. 🙂