Transport in Nice: Strike Strategies

French strike signStrike-a-thon!  It’s a sad fact that French transport workers will strike at the drop of a hat …and combine that with an international sporting event, the EURO16 with all eyes on France… it’s strike cat-nip: irresistible!  The coming weeks will include bus strikes, train strikes, striking pilots and air-traffic controllers, protest marches, striking taxis, and who-knows-what-else.  Here’s a few work-arounds for dealing with the strikes in Nice:

If the Airport Express Bus is on strike you still have many choices:

  • You can take an overpriced taxi but it’s not recommended, as they overcharge tourists even more than usual during a strike.  The taxis are one of the main unions behind almost every strike, so try not to reward them…
  • Get on the free airport wifi and order an Uber-X for half the price of a taxi (20-25€)… it will be there in 10 minutes.
  • Order a private transfer ahead of time (35€) and breathe easy.
  • …Or you can always walk out to the Promenade and try to catch a city bus for 1.50€ (if they are not on strike as well!) but know that if a bus is already full, it won’t even stop, so you could be there for a while… (then just call an Uber for plan B).
  • For your return flight, leave for the airport really early, as bus/train strikes tend to snarl up traffic, and if the taxis are striking, they usually block the entrance to the airport to try to make everyone miss their flight!  Sympa.

Around Town During a Bus Strike
Overall, the best solution to bus strikes is just to use Uber to replace a bus trip, even a short one: Uber is 6€ for around 5 kilometers, so if you are 4 people going to the Matisse museum, that’s the same price as 4 bus tickets, and infinitely more comfortable and friendly.

Bus strikes are a great time to break out of your routine and try something new: why not rent a Velo Blue share bike for 1€, jump in one of those Pedicab bike taxis for short hops, or if you have a lot of museums to see,  break down and get the French Riviera Pass which includes the Hop-on Hop-off bus plus all museum admissions.

Getting Around a Train Strike

During a train strike, you can easily replace that train trip by either booking a private transfer (not too expensive if you are 3-4 people), or if you are 1 or 2, simply book a ride-share with BlaBla Car (very cheap!) to replace that striking train!

See original imageBy the way, these current transport strikes are due to a tiny reform to the French labor law that hardly affects anything: it makes businesses more likely to hire new workers by making it slightly less impossible to lay off unproductive workers with jobs-for-life if the business is losing money.  Even though this tiny law is sure to pass in June, it is guaranteed that the unions will strike to the max all the way through the EURO16 Football/Soccer Championships, just to make their point by inconveniencing as many innocent people as possible.   Merci!

Photo Credit: Striking Students by Papillus. licensed under GNU Free Documentation License

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Latest ‘Hot Spots’: New Ways to Stay Web Connected in Nice

Our need to stay connected has become insatiable… especially on vacation. Good news: after years in the digital dark-ages, Nice is finally catching up to the modern world! 

I heart Nice iphone coverAfter years of false starts, we finally have free 4G high-speed wifi all along the Promenade du Paillon, in Place Massena, Place Garibaldi, Cours Saleya, Palais du Justice, and at the train station.  Just choose Spot Wifi Nice, then open your browser and sign on with one click.  You will be automatically logged off after an hour, but you can sign back in for another hour as many times as you want. Unlimited.

And the Nice airport has massively augmented its wifi capacity and simplified its sign on, and is now the only airport in France with free unlimited wifi.

Pocket hot spot for unlimited wifi while travelling in FranceThe Nice Tourist Office has just introduced a pocket mobile wifi hot spot: for less than 8€ a day, you can rent a tiny wifi hot spot that gives you and your entourage full unlimited 4G wifi anywhere in France, and you can connect up to 10 devices.

You book it on-line in English, pick it up at the nearest tourist office when you arrive, it’s ready to go – just turn it on, and then at the end of your trip just pop it in the prepaid envelope and drop it in any French mailbox including at the airport.

Especially for a family with lots of devices, this gives the maximum web access with the least hassle.

And finally, a different kind of ‘hot spot’ has opened in Old Nice, this time the social kind for connected millennials.  A sort of e-Sports bar for video gamers filled with game consoles and flatscreens, Meltdown Bar streams world-wide competitions nightly like League of Legends, Mortal Kombat, Pokemon, FIFA16… including team competition with cash prizes every Wednesday.  4 rue Centrale (Tram stop Cathedrale).  Calling all Geeks!

See related page: Best  iPhone Apps for Nice

Photo credit: I heart Nice smartphone coques by, Mobile wifi hot spot by Best of Nice

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Discover France: 5 Bloggers Share Their Insider Tips

biking on the promTravel website GoEuro hand-picked a diverse group of travel bloggers to share their insider tips on the Cote d’Azur, and the result is Discover France: Insider Tips to Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur, a great overview for anyone planning a trip to the French Riviera.

The selected local bloggers included veteran travel writer Jeanne Oliver with French Riviera Traveller and Riviera Beaches, Monaco resident Kevin Hin who writes French Riviera Blog, and of course, yours truly, Best of Nice.

For a visitor’s perspective, travel aficionados Jenny and Arun were asked to weigh in, both of whom having detailed their trips to the Cote d’Azur on their travel blogs Lady Relocated and MyTravelpedia.

This latest entry into the Discover France series includes advice spanning the Cote d’Azur from Saint Tropez to Monaco with nods to Marseille and Provence; and covers favorite places, suggested day-trips, best things to see and do, and, bien sur, favorite food tips, …not to mention the gorgeous photos.  Check it out!

Photo Credit: Almost Paridise in Nice France by Chris de Rham – Flickr – licensed under Creative Commons

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Bowie-themed Nice Jazz Fest Line Up Announced

Nice Jazz Festival logo 2016 with Melody Gardot

Melody Gardot, godmother of 2016 Nice Jazz Festival. Photo by Alain Morana

The Nice Jazz Festival 2016 line up has just been unveiled, and headliners run the musical gamut from the sultry Melody Gardot (pictured) to Snarky Puppy; George Clinton to Massive Attack; and Avishai Cohen to Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters (?!)

Speaking of shifting, the dates of the Nice Jazz Fest have been pushed forward to mid-July to follow on the tail of the Euro16 fan-zone frenzy.

As a tribute to David Bowie, the ultimate shape-shifter, not only are the nightly themes all named after iconic Bowie albums, but several of the New York jazz musicians that collaborated with Bowie on his final and most jazz-oriented album, Blackstar, will be present and playing:

  • Saturday July 16 – Changes (Jason Linder with Daniel Freedman Quintet)
  • Sunday July 17 – Let’s Dance
  • Monday July 18 – Space Oddity (Donny McCaslin playing with Steps Ahead)
  • Tuesday July 19 – Blackstar
  • Wednesday July 20 – Heroes (Mark Guiliana playing with John Scofield)

Click here to go to the official Nice Jazz Festival site for the complete program.

Although ticket prices are up a bit from last year, the Nice Jazz Festival still remains the most affordable bang-for-the-buck jazz fest on the Riviera, with 6 concerts a night for 35€ (if you buy before May 15) or just 29€ if you fall into one of the numerous reduced ticket categories (25 and under, 65 and over, students of any age, etc.) Click here for ticket and discount info.

As always, Sunday will feature a free Gospel Mass at 11am with the London Community Gospel Choir.  

Click here for all the details of the Nice Jazz Festival in Englishand click on the video below for a little taste of what’s to come…!

Photo credits: Melody Gardot and Nice Jazz Festival Grid by Alain Morana, Best of Nice.

See Related Pages on other main July Riviera Jazz Fests: Jazz à Juan, Vence Nuits du Sud, and Beaulieu Guitar Festival.   And of course,  Jazz Clubs in Nice

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The Golden Ring of Vintage Shopping in Old Nice

Caprice mannequin holding 'open' signIf you like vintage glamour, second-hand chic, discount designer duds and unique fashion finds, put on your shopping shoes and head to Old Nice.  Here is a circuit over just a couple of blocks where bargain hunters will find their bonheur in boutiques ranging from vintage to retro thrift stores.

Start at 12 rue Droite, at Caprice, the number one vintage shopping address in all of Nice, with two floors of glamour and eclectic selections from the 1920’s through the 80’s.

Just across the street you’ll find Emmaus, a tiny store with a giant heart. Amongst the bric-a-brac there is one rack of retro clothing near the back, but it’s worth a quick peek for the occasional treasure at rock-bottom prices.

Continue on rue Droite until you get to the church, then look right: La Belle Epoque Vintage consignment store is tucked into the square, Place du Gesu, with a nice balance between stylish modern and vintage fashion finds.

Back to the church, continue on rue Droite and take the next right, cross rue Benoit Bunico, and you’ll find yourself in Old Nice’s tiniest fountained square, Place Veille, in front of Brok Antikart.  Woven throughout the antiques you’ll find wearable vintage wows, plus lots of glamor hats, sumptuous purses and unique accessories.

Backtrack to rue Benoit Bunico and take a left.  This is a good time for a coffee, so as you cross rue Rossetti, look up the street and under the tasseled white umbrella you’ll find Delit Delice a tiny antique-filled tea room that is half unique-boutique and half grandma’s living room.  Everything is served on vintage china plates and tea cups, and there is a nice assortment of pastries as well as fashion magazines to flip through.

Back to Benoit Bunico, where you’ll see the sidewalk sales racks beckoning you in to O’Chineur, the bargain hunter’ in French: a quality consignment boutique that lives up to its name!

Continue down the street and you’ll come across the brand new Bubulle Cafe, a Kid Cafe that doubles (triples) as a organic restaurant and a thrift store for kids clothes.  Moms take note: this place is awesome!

And finally, the finish line at the trippy Hippy Market which is one big flashback from the 60’s and 70’s, with music and clothes that are a blast from the past.  And poof, you’re back where you started.

Click here for my new Vintage Shopping in Nice page, with more info and links on each of the above, plus even more boutiques in the Port and Downtown Nice, and even a little-known but fabulous second-hand store in Monaco!

See Related Pages: 

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Nice, After the Paris Attacks

paris attacks peace signIn a state of shock after the attacks in Paris, the city of Nice has predictably doubled down on police and military presence, and cancelled all major city-sponsored events and shows over the weekend.  But even though public gatherings this weekend were strictly forbidden by the Mayor’s office, this didn’t stop at least 200 people from spontaneously gathering Saturday evening at Place Garibaldi for a candle-lit homage to mourn the victims of the Paris attacks.  Unfortunately, however, they weren’t the only ones to show up, as a well-known and rather vocal group of thirty barged on the scene, singing a loud and aggressive version of the French national anthem and brandishing signs with anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant slogans like ‘France for the French’.

It is worth noting the local Muslim community’s reaction to the Paris tragedy: immediate and unanimous condemnation, responding to the senseless spilling of innocent blood by a massive turnout to donate their own blood to the local blood bank, joining other Nicois of all faiths, in a most personal show of solidarity to help the hundreds of injured.  The line at the blood bank went around the block with many waiting up to 3 hours to donate.  The influx was so overwhelming that over a 120 were asked to come back Monday.

Posted in Social Unrest | 3 Comments

Good-bye Uber-Pop. Hello Uber-X…!

Taxi signThe taxi union’s intimidation tactics succeeded in killing off the wildly popular bargain ride-sharing service Uber-Pop this week.  …But from the ashes has emerged… Uber-X!

Before we had Uber-Pop, which was staffed with moonlighting non-professional drivers, and Uber Black Car which are legal VTC’s in luxury sedans driven by chauffeurs in suits and ties.   Now, with Uber-Pop gone, another category of Uber has emerged on the app: Uber-X.  These cars are also VTC’s driven by professionally licensed and insured drivers, but as the vehicles are normal model cars (as opposed to the luxury sedans) they are very moderately priced, around half the price of a taxi, especially on short trips. Uber-pop was about 1/4 the price of a taxi, so Uber-X is a bit more, but still a super bargain in comparison to taking a taxi, with better service, no rip-offs, and perfectly legal.

After all the bad blood generated by the taxis in the last few months, most locals will never take a taxi again.  The taxi union, instead of realizing that they need to offer non-abusively priced tarifs, and a friendly efficient service, have dug their heels in to fight for their right to give the same surly overpriced service that they have fed us for the last 20 years.

In fact, last week within an hour of the end of the taxi strike that paralyzed traffic in Nice for a week, some friends of mine took a taxi from the airport.  Not only did he drop them off 3 blocks from their destination (so that he could turn around easier to hurry back to the airport), but he overcharged them 40€ when it should have been 30€ or 35€ max, knowing they would be too intimidated to protest (Uber X would be 20€ by the way). After paying 40€, they arrived panting and sweating from dragging their heavy luggage 3 blocks in full sun.  Sympa.

Au revoir Uber-pop, you will be missed, but in the meantime, helloooo Uber-X!

To get 10€ off your first Uber ride on any Uber service, enter promo code uber-get-ten when you sign up.

See Related Pages: Taxis in Nice, Using Uber in Nice

Posted in Bargain Hunting, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | 1 Comment

Fete du Chateau

Saturday and Sunday, June 27 and 28, is the one weekend a year when you can go up to the majestic Chateau du Nice at night …although admittedly it looks a little less than majestic filled with hippies and sausage stands…!  It’s the annual Fete du Chateau, a funky free local music festival sponsored by the French Communist Party that attracts a colorful crowd and a musical hodgepodge, and is very family friendly with lots of food stands and picnicking.
Photo: www.naviquan.comThe scene itself should absolutely be experienced even if you don’t stay long, and since the elevator to the Chateau is free, and the festival is free, there is no
reason not to pop up for a rare summer night hilltop stroll. Check out the music, enjoy a little vin d’orange, and marvel at a sunset/moonlight view over Nice that you rarely get to see.   …And how often can you say you partied with Communists?

So don your hippie duds and then rock, reggae, or swing amidst the aromas of beer and barbecue.  Click here for the official Fete du Chateau page for the bands, schedule and a little preview.  To make it even better, before you go check out a little quick Chateau history and find out what all went on up there, and what happened to the actual chateau that gave this hill its name.

Chateau du Nice







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How to see the Monaco Grand Prix for Free

In my last post I gave you the scoop on how to do the Cannes Film Festival without a badge, …well here’s how to see the Monaco Grand Prix without a ticket…!

The most glamorous and prestigious racing event in the world, the Monaco Grand Prix… has a free day. It’s not publicized and most locals don’t even know about it, but the Friday before the big race is always free:  It’s hard to believe that you can just walk right in to the most exclusive racing event in the world without a ticket… but it’s true.


Pastor Maldonaldo racing a GP2 in the Monaco Grand Prix

Okay, you won’t see any Formula One‘s on the free day, but you will see the Porsche Supercup as well as GP2‘s (pictured).  You’ll experience the whole crazy scene, with all of the same deafening engine noise, burnt tire smells, bone-rattling vibrations, sensations, crashes, and excitement… but no ticket required.

Make like a millionaire and try out different grand stands and vantage points, worth hundreds of euros on the other days, so that if you ever do buy a ticket, you’ll know where you want to be.

Click here for more detail on the free day, including the free day race schedule (usually both in the morning) and insider tips for what to do after the races, options for how to get there, and a link to the official race schedule and ticket information… but note that there are no tickets showing for Friday… because it’s free!

If nothing else, it’s worth it for the world-class selfie.

See Related Page: What’s happening in May in and around Nice

Photo credit: Pastor Maldonado racing a GP2 in the 2009 Monaco Grand Prix by Pat Guiney, licensed under Creative Commons.

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How YOU can see Films at the Cannes Film Festival

Cannes 2013They deliberately don’t publicize it, but there are lots of ways to see films at the Cannes Film Festival, even without a badge.   …You just need to have the inside scoop on where to go and how to do it… and that’s just what Best of Nice Blog is here for!

  • There are nightly free beach screenings of classic films (but not necessarily subtitled in English, so pick your night carefully…) and, with a nice Cannes touch, blankets and beach chairs are provided free as well!
  • Line up early and get free tickets to the avant garde Critic’s Week Section at the Hotel Miramar.
  • You don’t need a badge to buy tickets for the Director’s Fortnight Section at the ticket booth in front of the Marriott Hotel.
  • If you have a car, you can go to the free ‘Off” screenings in theaters around Cannes.
  • If your French is up to it, go watch Les Guingols and La Grande Journal broadcast live each night, across from the Hotel Martinez.
  • And if you just want to star-gaze, the nightly red carpet scene is the place to be…

For more details on these options and more, see related page How to do the Cannes Film Festival without a Badge

“Yes, you Cannes!”

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The Picasso Affair: How it Ended

UPDATE on the Picasso Affair:  Guilty!  The Le Guennecs must not only forfeit the €50 million worth of original Picassos to the Fondation Picasso, and each get a two year (suspended) prison sentence, but they also each have to pay punitive damages of… 1€.  So in other words, it was a crazy couple of years for the elderly couple, but now life goes on more or less just as before.   I just hope ol’ cousin Teddy Bear takes pity on them and cuts them in on a little of his Picasso action!

Photo Credit: Picasso from 1947 art poster owned by Best of Nice Blog.

Posted in Life Imitates Comedy | 2 Comments

The Picasso Affair: Is he Guilty?

The judgement on the most curious Picasso Affair is due this week… here’s the story of €50 million worth of previously unknown Picassos that sat for years in a cardboard box in the garage.

Danielle and Pierre Le Guennec in front of their Mouans-Sartoux home.  Photo by A.B.-J. courtesy the Nice-Matin

Danielle and Pierre Le Guennec in front of their Mouans-Sartoux home. Photo by A.B.-J. courtesy the Nice-Matin

A treasure trove of Picassos came to light in 2010, when retired local electrician Pierre Le Guennec and his wife decided to pull out the box of little Picasso scribbles, paintings and notebooks that Picasso’s wife Jacqueline had given him 40 years ago after he installed alarm systems in Picasso’s various Riviera homes.

The almost forgotten box in the garage was ‘remembered’ when Le Guennec and his wife started thinking about wanting to leave something for their sons, so they took some photos and sent a letter to Claude Picasso, the artist’s son who manages the estate and represents Picasso’s heirs.  No response.  Another letter, then another… no response from Claude, who dismissed the photos as fakes and the couple as nutters.

Finally, after months with no reply, Le Guennec and his wife, both in their 70’s, stuffed as many of the original Picassos as they could (worth millions) in a shabby old suitcase, and got on the train for a 6 hour ride to Paris…!

Finally getting the attention of the Picasso Administration, the elderly couple opened the scruffy suitcase to reveal 175 of their 271 Picassos from his early years, 1900-1932.  The Picasso heirs were… speechless, first assuming they had to be fakes, but then noticing the intricate numbering system known only to the artist…

How could this be?  What really confounded the heirs, was that that Picasso was notoriously stingy and dedicated every single gift he ever gave…   Oh yeah, except for that one other time that came to light a few years before when another former employee from the early 70’s suddenly produced a huge stash of undedicated drawings that were supposedly a gift from the master.  It was a chauffeur nicknamed ‘Teddy Bear’, and he too, produced his gift of 100+ drawings years after the Picassos had died, whereupon he auctioned the works off and is now rich.

Oh, and did I mention that Teddy Bear was Le Guennec’s cousin, and got him the Picasso job in the first place?  Ah yes, the plot thickens…

The Picasso children were apparently caught off guard with ol’ Teddy Bear and didn’t prosecute, but this time the Picassos promptly had the elderly couple arrested, their modest house in Mouans-Sartoux near Cannes raided, the artworks seized, and charged them with receiving stolen goods.

The Le Guennec’s have vigorously stuck to their story and are indignant at being treated as criminals: If he had stolen the works, would they really have brought them directly to the heirs?  Would they really have kept them in a cardboard box in the garage for 40 years? …While living a quiet life on his modest pension?   They could have slagged them off one-by-one on the black market and lived it up!

You be the judge… until later this week when the actual judge will hand down the verdict.

Photo credits: Le Guennecs by A.B.-J. courtesy of the Nice-Matin, Old Suitcase by Linda Bailey, licensed under Creative Commons.

Posted in Life Imitates Comedy | 1 Comment

Taxi Uber Wars!

Taxi signFist fight!  Nice taxis are expensive and often surly …and Uber cars are cheap and friendly …which makes the taxi drivers really, really mad!   So mad that the President of the Taxi Union and another taxi driver were thrown in jail last week for beating up an Uber driver at the airport!

The taxis are furious at what they see as unfair competition from car services; after all, taxis have to buy a shockingly expensive taxi license …so let’s just take a look as why that is, shall we?

The number of taxi licenses in Nice has not increased since the 1960’s, thanks to pressure from the taxi union.  This keeps the price of a coveted taxi license astronomically high, currently around 300,000€, and it can only be bought from a retiring driver.  Those that have licenses have fought tooth-and-nail not to increase the number of taxis to meet the demand, using every tactic at their disposal.  A couple of years ago it was proposed to simply allow the possibility of a taxi license to be shared by one driver during the day and another at night, which would help relieve some of the pressure.  Result?  The Nice taxi drivers pulled their trademark escargot’, blocking all traffic into the airport for days, causing airport chaos as thousands of innocent travelers missed their flights, until the proposal was finally dropped.

By the way, the Nice taxis are threatening to go all escargot again in May, targeting the period that encompasses the Cannes Film Festival, Mother’s Day and the Monaco Grand Prix.

So what is this Uber, anyway?

With Uber, you sign up online in advance, and then when you want a car you have a choice of:

Uber Black Car, the more expensive (but still less than a taxi) service where you are picked up in an luxury sedan by a professional chauffeur in a suit and tie.

Uber-X, the moderately priced service (roughly 1/2 to 2/3 the cost of a taxi) where you have a professional driver, but the car is a normal model, not a luxury sedan.

Uber Pop, the super-bargain-priced service from moonlighting drivers, kind of like AirBnb.  (Update – the Pop service has been discontinued in France thanks to the taxi union)

In each case you order the car online, and you immediately get a message confirming the car and driver, the estimated price, and in how many minutes.   No cash changes hands, all the driver’s info is on your phone, and you rate the driver at the end of the ride.

Just for comparison, the Nice-Matin did a test of the 15-minute drive from the Meridien Hotel to the airport: an UBER-pop cost around 8-12€, an UBER-X 18-20€, an UBER-Black Car around 26-30€, and taxi 35€.

Wow, no wonder the Nice taxis are so mad!

Deal Alert: Get 10€ off your first UBER ride (which could make your airport transfer free!)… just go to the UBER site and enter this promo code when you sign up: uber-get-ten.

Update July 4:  The taxi union killed Uber-Pop, but the bargain Uber-X and the luxury Uber Black Car are still perfectly legal and going strong.

Sources: Nice-Matin Le president des taxis nicois en garde a vue, and Quel prix pour la meme trajet a Nice?

Photo credit: Taxi sign by Simone Ramella, licenced under creative commons

See related page Taking a Taxi in Nice, Using UBER Cars in Nice

Posted in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Urban Hazards | 3 Comments

Fox News reports Muslim-Only No-Go Zones all over France

foxnews_alert_2002_aLast week, if you watched American news channel Fox News, you might be forgiven for thinking that the Nice neighborhoods of Saint Augustin, Trachel, Pasteur, Bon Voyage, Saint-André and the Ariane were official No-Go Zones: off-limits to non-Muslims, void of police, and ruled by Shariah law.

No joke, this whopper unfolded when a Fox News guest and self-described ‘terrorism expert’ informed Fox’s 2 million viewers that there are 761 No-Go Zones in France alone, and without fact-checking this rather shocking claim, Fox News… just ran with it! Fox News pundits earnestly repeated and discussed the No-Go Zones over and over again in the course of the week, concluding that ‘Europe is finished’.

Once they realized that, oops! they had been merrily reporting something that was complete crap all week long, did they correct this horrendous misinformation?   Heavens no!  They were just going to let it slide, as they have in the past when dubious ‘facts’ have later proven to be dead wrong.

Here’s the hilarious must-see clip from French TV (subtitled in English), that brought Fox News to their knees, and prompted Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox News to issue an extremely rare on-air retraction and apology.  

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Posted in Life Imitates Comedy | 12 Comments

Ouch: Nice Museums go from Free to 10 euros!

Seismic shock on the Nice Museum scene: On January 1st, 2015, and with absolutely no warning, the 14 Nice municipal museums went from being completely free to costing a whopping 10€ a pop!

Locals, don’t despair: it seems that the city is really aiming the hike towards tourists… Locals can get a free 3-year all-access Passe Musee card by bringing a recent utility bill, rent receipt, or property tax bill, plus some ID to any of the museums.  There are also several other categories of free as well:

  • Children under 18
  • Students of any age with valid student ID
  • and, during most of March, anyone under 26-years-old for Mars aux Musees.

So tourists, sorry about this, but you have to admit, at ‘completely free‘ the museums in Nice were rather under-pricing themselves…

There are a couple of ways to soften the blow of the 10€ ticket.  The best deal is the 7-day Museum Pass for 20€, which is worth it if you want to see two or more museums, and will actually encourage you to see some pretty interesting ones that you might not have normally gone to see.  There is also the French Riviera Pass, which includes more museums and extras (like the hop-on hop-off tourist bus), but it is more expensive and has a much shorter time frame, so I say, relax and take the 7-day pass.  (Click the link below for more on the various passes.)

Musée Matisse Nice.JPGAlso, certain museums are grouped together in a theme, so buying a ticket for one museum gets you into a couple of others within 48-hours.  The only problem is, they are cleverly grouped so there is only one real high-interest museum in each category, and the most popular Matisse Museum is not even in a shared group (nor is the tiny Palais Lascaris in the Old Town, oddly).  So really, best just to go for the 20€ one-week pass.

One other thing: the very popular Chagall Museum is not municipal, it’s a national museum, so it is not even covered by this pass!  They charge 8€, but have a free day on the first Sunday of each month (as does the Museum of Asian Art, and also the Picasso Museum in Antibes, by the way).

And there is still one 100% free museum left in Nice, the tiny Franciscan Friar Museum tucked in the Cimiez Monastery …which is starting to sound a lot more interesting…!

See related pages:

Photo credits: Matisse Museum by Tubantia, licensed under creative commons.

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Illegal Wine and Forbidden Cheese

Shhh… Don’t tell!

Tomorrow, being the third Thursday in November, is the official release date and festivities for this year’s  Beaujolais Nouveau, celebrated in every little wine store in France.  Having managed to get my hands on an advance bottle with the idea of doing an early review, I discovered something even more interesting: it turns out that drinking or selling this rather frivolous wine before that date is actually illegal, with the threat of a 150€ fine!  …So I can tell you that it’s light and fruity… and the threat of legal prosecution definitely gives the wine a bit more heft!

It’s all legal after midnight tonight, and tomorrow most wine shops will be offering samples, but one of the best place in Nice to try Beaujolais Nouveau is Cave Caprioglio in the Old Town.

Would you like a little illegal cheese to go with your illegal wine?   According to my favorite cheese restaurant, Le Bistro du Fromager, at one point the very possession of Reblochon cheese was proof of moral turpitude and was cause for arrest. In the 14th century, dairy farmers paid landowners grazing fees based on the milk yield.  The landowners charged abusively high fees, so to get back at them, some farmers would not do a complete milking; once all had been accounted for they would then secretly milk the cows again.  Supplemental milking produces a liquid that is almost all fat, so the resulting cheese was easily identifiable (Reblochon actually means ‘second milking’) and had to be hidden.  Possession of Reblochon cheese was proof of stealing from your landlord and could land you in jail!

See Related Pages:  

November Events: Le Beaujolais Nouveau!

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Royale with Cheese: French McDo Loses its American Marketing Edge

UPDATE:  Good news, Pulp Fiction fans!  Not to overestimate the reach of this web site or anything, but just weeks after this blog post appeared, McDo succumbed and is bringing back the mythic ‘Royale with Cheese’.  Travolta will be so pleased.

When you think of a French McDonald’s what comes to mind?  John Travolta in Pulp Fiction explaining to Samuel L. Jackson that a Quarterpounder in Paris is a Royale with Cheese?  Well, technically, it’s a Royal Cheese… er, that is …was.

In a mystifying marketing move, McDonald’s France has eliminated a sandwich that has achieved cult status around the world thanks to Pulp Fiction: just google ‘Royale with Cheese’ and you get 29 million pages!  It’s a burger that has made McDo Paris an obligatory stop for a certain strata of American tourist, just so they can utter the words.

McDo France has decided to ban this iconic sandwich to make way for, um, newer hamburger creations.

Well today, with great fanfare, McDo released the latest and greatest of these new ways to disguise grey meat…

wait for it…

Le McBaguette.   

What would Tarantino say?


Posted in Life Imitates Comedy | 1 Comment

Big Benefits for Bilingual Brains

Bonne nouvelle, ex-pats!   Those embarrassing gaffes and awkward efforts to master French will ultimately pay off in ways you never expected… with a lean, mean brain that can even ward off the effects of Alzheimer’s!   A raft of new studies are showing that bilingual brains are not only better exercised, but actually wired differently than those that speak only one language, and that the rewiring happens even when the second language is mastered as an adult.

Unfortunately though, just having a few years of high school French won’t do it… it takes using both languages on a quasi daily basis.

Fluency won’t stop you from getting Alzheimer’s, but it will give you an average 5-6 extra years before you show any symptoms at all.  Other benefits include better problem solving, observation, anticipation, and multi-tasking.

It works like this:  You know what you want to say, but since the words and grammar are different in the two languages, the brain comes up with both and then has to make constant snap decisions as to which to use.  It turns out that for bilinguals, both language centers are always active, going through this whole effort even when using only one language, and this constant extra workout strengthens the cerebral muscles.

With neuroimaging, scientists can also see that bilinguals use completely different brain networks than monolinguals to solve problems, even non-verbal problems, as if the bilingual brain is wired differently.  This extra facility gives the brain more problem-solving paths, which is why the difficulties presented with Alzheimer’s can be circumvented through these alternate neuron pathways, effectively hiding the disease for years.  C’est excellent, ca! 

For more on the subject, check out these articles from the New York Times:  The Bilingual Advantage and  Benefits of Bilingualism… or better yet, Google Translate them into French!

Photo credit: Brain in jar by Gaetan Lee, licensed under Creative Commons.

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Madonna and Elton John Patch up Feud in Nice Eatery

When Elton John likened Madonna to a “fairground stripper” on Australian TV, then later followed it up with more catty comments about lip-syncing her Superbowl performance, he probably didn’t count on running into the Material Girl herself last week while dining in Nice.

Elton John owns that large yellow villa on top of Mont Boron, and when in town he and his husband often frequent La Petite Masion… which is coincidentally the same restaurant chosen by Madonna the night before her concert in Nice last week. The Rocket Man was in the middle of dinner with family and friends when in walked the Material Girl with her entourage… Awk-ward!

The two celebrity diners were in separate parts of the restaurant, and although they were very well aware of each other, the two tables did not interact… until Elton John was just about leave and couldn’t ignore her any longer.   Sir Elton finished his dinner by swallowing his pride… and walked over to see her.  A long exchange ensued, full of smiles, and at the end… a big hug.

The next night at her big Nice concert Madonna dedicated a song to Elton John, saying that he is a fan and she forgives him.   So the feud is over… or is it?    The song she chose to dedicate, Masterpiece is the very one that beat out his song Hello, Hello for Best Original Song in last year’s Golden Globe Awards!  Sacre Madonne

Nice-Matin: Madonna and Elton John reconcilies apres un diner Nicoise?

Photos of Madonna and Elton John licensed under Creative Commons, from Wikimedia Commons.


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Hey, Wanna Buy a Used Car… from a Prince?

Prince Rainier’s VW Beetle could be yours!

The late Prince Rainier of Monaco was a man of many passions, and one of these was his love of classic cars.  He collected over 100 during his lifetime, and some of the rarest and most stunning are on display at the Monaco Automobile Museum.   But what to do with the rest of the massive collection which is not on display?   Prince Albert has decided to auction them off!

Among the 38 cars going under the hammer are vintage models (…a 1913 Panhard X19 and a rare 1925 Citroen cabriolet 5HP…), the unique (…a retro Mercedes designed specially for the Prince), and of course the glam (a Bentley, a Porsche…), but the big surprise is that the bulk of the cars to go on the block are rather more… um, regular.    (…Well, except for the fact that they have only had one owner: a legendary Prince!)

But really, who would have guessed that tucked in among the stunners in the Prince’s collection, one would also find…  a ’76 VW Beetle, a ’71 Fiat 500, a Camaro, and even …a Dodge Dart (whaaa…??)    The more mundane models are expected to fetch fittingly mundane prices, and could actually be affordable for regular people; Prince Albert is not setting any minimum bids, so anything could happen!

The auction will be held on the Terrace in front of the Monaco Automobile Museum at 5pm on July 26th; click here for the official Auction site with photos and price estimates of all cars, the viewing times, and contact info to find out the bidding requirements.  Every car comes with its Monegasque papers in HSH the Prince of Monaco’s name… and a great story!    Going… going… gone!

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