Raw Beef, Sunburn, Wine & Good Times – Nice 2016
Last week, friends and I set off for a trip to the south of France to soak up the sun, culture, food & drink – which we managed to in excess. We met, bleary eyed, in the beautiful surroundings of Luton airport. Some of us had managed a few hours sleep, whilst others were arriving with none. Grunting greetings to one another we set off to join the cattle market of the security check, eager for our well earned trip to begin. As the plane left a cold UK, my better half Jess, turned to my friend Jo & I with the best suggestion that could have been raised – “Cider?” So we set off on our April holiday, starting as we meant to go on.
I had been to Nice 2 years prior, meaning I knew the excitement I had for a holiday in this enchanting part of the world was not based on hope, but on the knowledge that I would be finishing the trip with a smile ear to ear, sun kissed and a few pounds heavier. Most importantly, taking away memories of an amazing time spent with 5 of my closest friends.
Nice – based in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in the south-east of France, is an unbelievable place to explore. With quaint streets lined with boutique shops and market stalls, breathtaking lookouts across the city and ridiculously good food, we wasted little time once we arrived and headed out to see what we could find. Within minutes we were basking in the sun and reminding ourselves how good the wine is in this part of the world, getting carried away with glass after glass and our first tastes of the local cuisine. All of this indulgence had lead me to forget one very important thing – I am the son of an Irish woman and a red-headed man and direct sunlight and I are not close friends. But the stinging & redness was nothing that another glass of Rose (which I never usually drink but is amazing in these parts) couldn’t mask.
When in Rome. Watching Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean being served this classically French dish as a kid, I vowed never to eat this uncooked beef burger. But nowadays I love opportunities to eat local delicacies such as the Steak Tartare. This meal was accompanied with a jaw dropping view of the port in Nice and a hilarious owner, who raised his eyebrows as we butchered his language and let us know his what he thought with some hysterical French banter. I especially enjoyed his reaction when I ordered my lunch, a look of familiarity as an Englishman ordered the Tartare, his pen never hit his pad, as the mistake was assumed and with the single line spoken “it’s raw…”. Not sure what to expect from this meal, I knew I was going to be just fine as a bottle of Tobasco sauce came out with my plate of meaty goodness bound by a raw egg and chopped gherkins and capers, I gladly inhaled every mouthful.
‘Chez Freddy’ screamed seafood or ‘fruits de mer’ to the locals, with locally caught fish, lobsters and sea shells on display. Here I got to tick off something I had always wanted to try – Spaghetti Vongole, and It. Was. Good. Covered in pesto and garlic butter, served in a portion big enough for two, it was a mission I gladly excepted. Everyone else’s meal matched this quality, with Megan having an amazing seafood pasta and the chicken that Sandy & Mark had, which we have even discussed since being back – making me almost regret my decision, but giving me something to have next time!
Our final meal in Nice was in a little restaurant called ‘Le Romarin’ (translating to Rosemary). I had read before leaving that Nice loves an Italian staple – Gnocchi, so this was on my culinary bucket list for the holiday. Many of the others had taken up the opportunity of having this dish in previous days and those that I had tried were amazing. Le Romarin’s offering was no exception – cloud like balls of potato and flour, coated in a Roquefort cheese sauce with a Parmesan crisp that went down so well with several glasses of the local ‘blanc’.
Nice’s location lends itself to opportunities of days out in nearby cities, one of which was to the Principality of Monaco where the tax haven of Monaco City lies. Boasting a port that contains luxury liners big enough to put any home to shame and flats worth quarter of a Billion Pounds, Monaco oozes money. It is the kind of place where you feel yourself spending money with every breath and step you take – which makes for some interesting people watching. The other thing you can’t help but get lost in is the cars, we must have seen 100 Lamborghini’s during the day and those driving a lesser supercar such as a Porsche could be seen hiding their shame in their inadequate automobiles. It is a strange and magical place – the highlight of my day was the 20something year old getting pulled over in his Ferrari after speeding his way through the famous tunnel of the Monaco Grand Prix – wasn’t due to jealousy at all.
Eze gave some of the best views I have ever witnessed. Only half an hour Uber ride from Nice, we scaled the cobblestone streets of this ancient city, stopping half way up where I had an amazing Calzone and a soft drink (the previous few days were taking their toll!) Once replenished we carried our walk to the exotic gardens that top this ‘eagle’s nest’, where we were able to look over Nice and the nearby towns and cities that line the coast.
THE ICE CREAM, good God the ice cream… There was a place that served this frozen treat on nearly every street of Nice with enough varieties to taste a new flavour every day for several months. I think Mark had replaced his blood with the stuff by the end of the trip. Tying this post nicely into the name of this blog – once I found there was Chilli Chocolate, it was game on. Oh, there was Beer flavour too!
I was slightly apprehensive of the beer flavour, after tasting the after effect of leaving a beer in the freezer for too long at Uni. However, I was happily surprised at the sweetened beer flavour (that weirdly tasted like melon). The Chilli Chocolate flavour was the shiznit though – rich chocolate with a spicy kick off the back of it meant I was quickly jotting down a reminder to play with some spicy ice cream recipes when I was back home.
As the holiday closed to the end, Jess and I found ourselves ending the trip as it had begun – cider. Sitting by the famous flower market, we watched locals and tourists walk by, discussing the experiences we had shared with some incredible people and planning what we would do again upon our return to this captivating city.
It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t finish this post on the people that made this trip what it was. Sandy, Mark, Jo Megan & Jess – love all you guys and thank you for making our Nice trip of 2016 one to remember and cherish. On to the next adventure!!