Video by Robin Scott
Text and photos by Emily Benson Scott
Although staying mostly in Roquebrune -Cap-Martin, we couldn’t resist the occasional side trip to Nice. These umbrellas seem a paean to the pleasures of summer.
Instead of sand, the beaches consist of pebbles, smooth and polished, as if the sea had digested each one and expelled them all back onto the shore. People complain about the pebbly beaches, but I try to think of it as a free hot stone massage. Besides, the “rock flour” from the stones creates this improbable turquoise color, especially pronounced after windy days when the waves have stirred up the sediment.
The other thing I Iove about Nice is the old town, Vieille Ville, where I shop for vegetables at the daily market. Artichokes are my favorite. For vegetarians, artichokes are heavenly, the only way to experience the buttery, time-consuming orgies that seafood eaters are privy to.
The heirloom tomatoes are the pinnacle of summer’s bounty, the sirloin steak of the vegetable kingdom.
Goat cheese was a bit pricey at the markets, so we hunted elsewhere for one of our favorite staples. Our supplier for goat cheese was a discount German grocery store in Nice called Lidl. When we first went to Nice, we’d seen people come out of this store with giant suitcases full of provisions. We thought it a bit curious since the French were known for their habits of buying fresh groceries on a daily basis, and toting around fresh baguettes like a badge of honor that shouted out “I am the living embodiment of joie de vivre!” “I know how to live life one day at a time.”
But not so when it came to Lidl. This was the French answer to Costco. We caught plenty of French families surreptitiously hauling groceries away from this discount mecca–massive amounts of toilet paper, wine, goat cheese, and gasp, frozen French fries! The thought of a French family consuming frozen food shattered our fantasies of the flawless French culinary existence.
But as big box discount store loving Americans, we quickly followed suit and hauled our biggest suitcases to Lidl, which we proceeded to fill with cheap household goods, one euro bottles of Bordeaux and Cote du Rhone, and one euro logs of goat cheese, the kind that costs a walloping 9 dollars in New York.
After a day of crowded beaches and food shopping in Nice, I’m generally ready to jump in one of the numerous secluded private coves along the Mediterranean. Due to the clarity of the water, I always want to go in with my snorkel mask. This is typically disappointing as there are almost no fish in the Mediterranean. Every now and then, I discover the odd school of yellowtail fish oscillating in unison, like autumn leaves in the breeze.
After descending countless stairs from our house down to the beach in the afternoon heat, there was nothing more appealing than the thought of our bodies drinking in the total refreshment of the sea. Having grown up in the Northeast, my exposure to oceans was mostly limited to the Jersey shore and Coney Island. The Mediterranean seems less like an ocean, and more like an Alpine lake. Crystal clear, with a healthy greenish-blue tint, the water looks as if it has run directly down from Alpine glaciers, except that it’s warm enough to swim in.