27 December 2007

a nice sort of holiday

Shopping in Nice is an adventure if it's done properly, which has to include the Saleya street market. It's the kind of place where a smile will bring a special discount on your onions, where the barrel-chested North Africans selling celery sing songs as they stack their wares, where the bread ladies kiss half their clients in holiday greeting. It's where going to the furthest end of the market yields the best discounts, a whole aluminum pail of sweet, bright carrots for one euro fifty.

Stacks of radishes fan out like a modern art sculpture, and stalls selling nothing but dried fruits are a bonanza of slicked colors. Pass the spice stall and pause to allow the harissa, the coriander, and the dozens of different pepper varieties soak through your nostrils. It's like all the markets I love so much in Paris, but here the people speak with the similarly squashed a's of French Canadians. They're happy to offer advice on how to cook the locally produced handmade ravioli, which kind of stinky cheese is the best, and pass your bag of baby spinach to you with a flourish.

The wine shop is another adventure altogether, with a whole wall lined in vats. Bring your own bottle and they'll fill it from the spout with local wine for less than three euros. Sounds like a recipe for a headache but it goes down smooth and leaves just enough mellowness to really feel like you're on holiday.

My family's been staying in a flat in an ancient building in the center of the oldest part of town for the past week. It's got massively high ceilings and is in transition out of a series of unfortunate modifications, one of which involved fuzzy hallway wallpaper. Our flat is cozy and loft-y, making it difficult at times to decide whether the delights are greater inside or outside.

Outside the door though, is a whole medieval neighborhood full of wind-y streets, frigid and beautiful churches, and the sweeping Baie Des Anges (bay of angels) a few blocks over, so appropriately named. I climbed to the top of the bluff near the sea yesterday, marveling at how exactly right everything there looked- the scrubby pine trees arcing gracefully towards the water, the hillsides encrusted with sorbet-colored buildings, the impossible blue of the Mediterranean stretching south towards Africa. Even the light here is how it should be, saturated with gold and as warm as a wood stove. It's a pleasant change from the darkness of Iceland.


cK said...

One of the gifts we gave my sister this Christmas: the Elizabeth Arden green tea honey drop lotion you recommended in a September post!

I printed out the text of that entry and put a copy in the box with the lotion. She had a laugh over that.

It was a nice Christmas.

Northern musings said...

sounds idyllic. Happy 2008