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nice is nice

When I was going through security in Amsterdam, the official  asked me where I was going before stamping my passport. I told him Nice. His response with a flawless English accent was “nice!”

Nice is a nice city.

At one end of Vieux Nice is the Parc de la Colline du Château. One can either walk up the steps to the top or take an elevator. From the top one will have a beautiful panoramic view of the Promenade des Anglais and la Vieille Ville. It is a popular destination for that reason.

Sometimes I like to go elsewhere for a view. Two places are favorites: La Terrasse du Plaza and Le Méridien Nice. At La Terrasse du Plaza one goes to the 6th and last floor of the Boscolo Hotel Plaza. The restaurant there is good. For Le Meridien Nice I go to the 9th floor terrace and sometimes to the 1st floor. (That would be second floor in the US.) Be prepared to pay dearly for drinks.

During one recent trip to Nice, I went to the terrace of Le Meridien Nice. I had wanted to see from above the Carnaval de Nice parade as it wound onto La promenade des Anglais and past Le Meridien Nice.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

By chance right below me a sniper and his spotter had placed themselves. Everywhere security was tight. But wait, there’s more!

la passagère, a star on the côte d’azur

“Someone needs to eat in a French Michelin starred restaurant, and it might as well be me.” –Michael Groves

« Une cuisine élégante, qui met en valeur les mille et une pépites du terroir méditerranéen, une finesse et un raffinement de tous les instants, une exécution sans faille . . . On se délecte de ces créations sur la terrasse, en profitant de l’exceptionnelle vue sur la mer et l’Esterel ».

“Elegant cuisine that shows off to advantage the countless gems of the Mediterranean terroir with a consistent sense of refinement and faultless execution. The chef, Yoric Tièche, is absolutely in his element! Diners can delight in his creations on the terrace, which has an exceptional view over the sea and the Esterel.” –Guide MICHELIN 2018

Last week I made a reservation for lunch at La Passagère, a restaurant in the Hôtel Belles Rives in Juan-les-Pins, a town on the coast of the French Riviera. It was given its first Michelin star in 2018.

It was not my first experience in a starred restaurant. The occasions are rare though. The cost (let’s underline that), the recommendation to make reservations, and the need to dress well controls most decisions to eat in one.

Once settled at the table, a decision must be made whether to order an aperitif. That will be the first question posed by a waiter. I ordered une coupe de champagne, knowing that ordering champagne in an ordinary restaurant can be expensive and ordering one in a starred restaurant will be expensive.

I went into La Passagère expecting to eat well and to drink heartily. Damn the cost!

The champagne was superb. It complimented nicely the two servings of amuse-bouches I would receive before the first course. But wait, there’s more!

where will i eat today? or choosing a restaurant while visiting france

Eating well in France is important to me. Sometimes I organize my day around eating in a specific restaurant.

I live in France six months during the year, three months in Antibes, two months in Paris, and one month in Marseille. During those six months, I will eat lunch in a restaurant every day. Most of the time I will not repeat a restaurant. One can do the math. I eat in French restaurants 180 times each year.

If I am going to fly to France twice a year and spend between $1,000 and $1,500 for each ticket, I do not want to eat sandwiches or pizza or other fast foods while I am there. When I leave the apartment or hotel room in the morning, I do not want to carry a sack lunch nor do I want to eat “grab and go” meals. I want a good hot meal and I want to drink some wine. I will not become French when I am in France, but I can certainly pretend.

How does a visitor to France pick a restaurant? After all, eating in France should be an experience in itself. I suspect that most tourists choose a restaurant on the spur of the moment. If they are at Notre Dame, they will look around and choose one nearby, or select one that offers a menu that they understand, or pick a place that seems inviting or does not appear threatening.

That is a mistake. But, what should one do?

What do I NOT do?

Rarely will I rely on Yelp or TripAdvisor. (In fact I have blocked TripAdvisor on the my browser.) I am in France. Why would I take the advice of English speaking tourists, mostly Americans, when choosing a French restaurant in France?

I do sometimes make an exception. On the advice of Annie Sargent from The Join Us in France Travel Podcast, I have begun looking at Yelp reviews written in French by the French. That means typing into the search engines instead of But wait, there’s more!

a pleasant place to live, my neighborhood

“Nowadays when a person lives somewhere, in a neighborhood, the place is not certified for him. More than likely he will live there sadly and the emptiness which is inside him will expand until it evacuates the entire neighborhood. But if he sees a movie which shows his very neighborhood, it becomes possible for him to live, for a time at least, as a person who is Somewhere and not Anywhere.” ― Walker PercyThe Moviegoer

“I came from a real tough neighborhood. I put my hand in some cement and felt another hand.” –Rodney Dangerfield

“I’ve had times where one of my roommates was moving out of the house in college, and because we were the only black people in that neighborhood, the cops got called, and we had guns drawn on us. Came in the house, without knocking, guns drawn on my teammates and roommates. So I have experienced this.” —Colin Kaepernick

NW Portland is my neighborhood. More precisely, it is NW 21st. It is white, mostly. I have lived within two or three blocks of NW 21st for much of my life. Not much has changed during that time. Some businesses made money and others departed, but the structures have remained.

It is sometimes called the Alphabet District. The streets, forming a grid, are named in alphabetical order. Davis, Everett, Flanders, Glisan, Hoyt, Irving, and so on.

Matt Groening, a Portland native and the creator of The Simpsons, named some of his characters after the streets, Ned Flanders, the bully Kearney, Reverend Lovejoy, for example.

One could place NW 21st in a desert, and travelers would call it a small town with NW 21st as its main street. “Artisan” is a favorite descriptive word. Ken’s Artisan Bakery offers bread that can rival anything the French have to offer. Ken was trained in France. Across the street is the Artisan of Hair. Down the street a short distance is Dick’s Kitchen that serves “Dork Burgers” and burgers made from elk, venison, and buffalo, depending on the day. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!