Nice Emerges from its Covid Coma!

After one crazy year Nice is finally shaking off its confinement blues!  Today is the long awaited moment when Nice’s restaurant terraces, sidewalk cafes and outdoor bars can open back up again (albeit at 50% capacity) …and the ville is buzzing.  Add to that the reopening of all shops, boutiques, museums, movie theaters… and life in Nice might actually start to resemble something close to normal again! 

The mask mandate is still in full force, and we still have our curfew… but as of today the curfew is pushed back to 9pm, a big improvement!   There is live music on the terraces, and the street musicians have burst out of their forced hibernation!

This is only the start… in three weeks, on June 9th, the curfew will be pushed to 11pm, restaurant interiors will reopen, and we’ll finally see the end of all travel restrictions for vaccinated visitors.  And then, on June 30th, no more curfew! 

BestofNiceBlog has been in a Covid coma as well, so in the coming weeks every single page will get updated and madeover with the full scoop on what survived, what changed, and what’s new.  As all printed guidebooks are now hopelessly out of date, so BestofNiceBlog will be your most up-to-date source for post-pandemic life in Nice.

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Nice Jazz Festival How To Guide

The Nice Jazz Festival 2017, photo by Alain Morana

Here are my insider tips on making the most of  The Nice Jazz Festival, July 16-20, 2019.

Arrival:  Tight security causes a bit of an entry bottleneck at the start of the concerts, with the line sometimes wrapping around the block, but once the first concert gets underway the lines quickly abate. I recommend arriving around 8:15pm – you will miss a little of the first concert, but you will get right in, plus avoid the heat as that’s just when the sun dips behind the palms… perfect!

What to bring: To stay hydrated, bring an empty plastic bottle that you can refill in the water filling stations.  Wear comfortable shoes or flip-flops; one stage has seats but the other main stage is standing room only.  Between the two stages, you’ll find plenty of picnic tables and grassy space to relax.  Bring a wrap to spread on the grass, which will also soften your seat if you are seated on the steps at the Verdure stage.

What to eat: Best food trucks are chez Pipo for socca, and Mother Trucker for artisanal cheeseburgers.  The food truck lines are slow, but the music is great, so nobody seems to mind.  At the drink stands you have to buy a reusable Nice Jazz Festival cup, so if you kept yours from last year, bring it.

Fan fun: After each set, the headliners on the Massena stage often pop out the side entrance behind the right side of the main stage to meet the fans, so that is where to hang out if you want to get an autograph or a quick selfie.

Free concerts:  On Tuesday night the concerts on the Verdure stage are free, but space is limited to line up early at the entrance across from the sea.

Passes and discounts:  The Nice Jazz Festival is one of the best music bargains on the Riviera, with 5-6 concerts a night for a ticket price of just 39€, and only 29€ if you are 16-25, over 65, a student of any age (bring proof!), or coming with a large family. Teens 10-16 are 17€, and kids under 10 are free.   A festival pass for all 5 nights is just 130€, or get a 2-night pass for 60€.  The ticket booth is on the other side of Place Massena, or buy online here.

Best parking deal:   The best deal is to leave your car in one of the three free Parc Azur park-and-ride lots along the tram line,where parking is free upon presentation of your round trip tram ticket (3€, or 2€ if you have a 10-trip card).  The tramway will be reinforced with extra trams, running every 10 minutes from 9pm to the end of the night.

Click here for the stellar line up

See Related Pages: Nice Jazz Festival,  Jazz Clubs in Nice,  What do do in Nice in July,  Summer in Nice: how to Beat the Heat in Nice

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It’s Snowing in Nice!

Snow in Place Rossetti

Old Nice in the snow, 2009

The Siberian cold snap has descended on Nice, and with it, a rare snow storm!  Okay, it’s not exactly a storm, but it still feels quite dramatic to see the normally sun-drenched French Riviera coated in a layer of white fluff…!

Aside from a light dusting in 2010 and in 2009 (photo, left), the last serious snow was in 2005, when there was enough of a dump to build snowmen on the beach!  By cosmic coincidence, the Carnaval theme that year happened to be King of Crazy Climate Change, and there was one carnaval parade which started off sunny, went to rain, full sun again, and then finished with snow, as if to make its point.

Here are a few other historic photos of snow in Nice from this morning’s Nice-Matin, including one from 1944, during the German occupation of Nice in WWII, where it must have seemed like divine confirmation that the world was truly turning upside down.

Photos of snow on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice

Nice-Matin 1/26/18:  ‘Every Time it has Snowed on the Prom’

See Related Pages:

Photo credits: Old Nice in the snow by Best of Nice, historic photos courtesy of the Nice-Matin

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Burkini Ban in Nice

Burkini Catholic-Style

…Not in Nice, you won’t!

I was travelling most of August, so imagine my surprise upon returning home to find Nice splashed all over the news yet again… but this time for the completely ridiculous and reactionary burkini ban!  …And the viral video of armed Nice police passing their time making women disrobe on the beach for ‘good morals’?! Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

The burkini ban sprouted from an extremely misguided knee-jerk reaction against radical Islamic terrorism… which the attack in Nice wasn’t, by the way! News stories keep co-mingling the Paris and Nice attacks as if they were the same thing, but they were absolutely not.

It is normal that people want someone or something to blame for an act so incomprehensible, but to turn their fury on women’s swimwear, seems very strange indeed.

Photo credit Nuns Having Fun Calendar by Maureen Kelly and Jeffry Stone

Update: The Nice Burkini ban was suspended by the courts last Thursday, with the ruling that the terror attack in July was ‘insufficient grounds’ to justify it.  Ya think?

Posted in Social Unrest | 3 Comments

Nice after the Attack

I’ve Truck attack in Nicetried to write something each day since the horrendous truck attack in Nice, but my words seemed so inadequate I couldn’t bring myself to post them.
Today marks a week since a deranged psychopath purposely drove a truck into the Bastille Day crowds, intentionally killing as many innocent people as possible.

Truck attack in Nice memorialsIn the space of a week, the Promenade des Anglais has gone from one of the most beautiful spots in the world, to a horrific body-strewn massacre, to a sequestered crime scene, to a spontaneous memorial with shocked and silent mourners covering each and every blood stain with flowers, candles, notes, photos, and stuffed animals.  Half the Prom remained closed most of the week as these early piles of flowers grew into mountains…

Every day I walked the trace of the carnage, passing so, so many piles of flowers… and every day, the final stack sent cold shivers: a circle of people silently staring at a pile of dirt and rocks in the middle of the road, the spot where the killer was finally shot dead.  People spit on it as they passed, or violently flung another handful of dirt.  Many of the stones contained anguished messages like “Assassin!” “Burn in Hell!” and “Why, why, why??”

A ceremony was held on the Prom which attracted 40,000 mourners, all still in shock but with some lashing out, searching for someone, anyone, to blame for this unimaginably senseless act.

Truck attack in Nice flowers on the Promenade des AnglaisThat night, knowing that the Prom had to eventually reopen, hundreds of people gathered in the moonlight to create a mile-long human chain, passing all the flowers, notes and toys, one-by-one, from the spot where each victim was felled, to a memorial at the gazebo, and when that was full, they lined the seaside.

One week later, the Promenade des Anglais is open, and if you lived in a cave and had no knowledge of what transpired, you would not know that anything was out of whack until passing the stretch that is lined with flowers.  The Old Town is less crowed than a normal high-season, but in a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, plus an unwillingness to be cowed by fear, it is absolutely full of life.  The beaches are full of sunbathers, the beach volleyball court is active day and night, the street musicians are out in force, the restaurants and full, and there was even an open air salsa dance in the Place Palais de Justice last night.

The funerals are just starting and the full list of victims has only just now been released.  A third of the victims were Muslim, including the first woman that the killer veered onto the sidewalk to hit, a mother of 7 who was wearing a traditional headscarf.  This is not about religion, or politics, just immense sadness.

For more details about what happened that day, click The Bastille Day Truck Attack

Photos 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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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

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_Maldonado_2009_GP2_Monaco_Grand_Prix

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.

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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, The Seamy Underbelly | 1 Comment

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

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.  

See Related Post: 

Posted in Life Imitates Comedy, Social Unrest, The Seamy Underbelly | 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!

Posted in Social Unrest | 4 Comments

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.

 

Posted in Life Imitates Comedy | Comments Off on Madonna and Elton John Patch up Feud in Nice Eatery

A Guantanamo Detainee Starts Over in Nice

Lakhdar Boumediene in Nice; Photo by Ed Alcock for the New York Times

After 7 horrific years in Guantanamo, how do you start over?

After his questionable arrest in Bosnia in 2002 and subsequent transfer to Guantanamo, his wife and daughters fled to Nice to be with her family;  7 years later, when Lakhdar Boumediene was released after years of hunger strikes, he too came to Nice to see if there was any shred of his former life to be salvaged.

After his release he could barely walk, his wrists are still scared from years of handcuffs, he can’t be in crowds and has difficulty in closed rooms.

Nowadays he rarely talks about his past and lives a quiet life with his family, but you can’t help but wonder how the marriage could stay intact, as he is surely a vastly different man after what he experienced.  It’s a testament to the strength of the human spirit that they are still together and now even have a new son.

Mr Boumediene doggedly looks for work, but of course that missing 7 years from his CV needs an explanation, which tanks any hope of a job.   The French government is providing subsidized housing but he does not have French residency or asylum, and as the American authorities lost his Bosnian and Algerian passports which have yet to be reissued, so after three years he is still effectively sans papiers.

All of this from a fascinating profile published last weekend in the New York Times, which details the questionable circumstances that landed Mr Boumediene in Guantanamo, what he experienced while there, how he was ultimately released, along with more on his life here in Nice as well as his thoughts about America and Americans… which are not what you would expect.  Click here to read the full story from the New York Times by Scott Sayare.

Posted in The Seamy Underbelly | 1 Comment

Man Dead for 4 Years in His Nice Apartment

Photo by Richard Ray, Nice-Matin

To the horror of the neighbors, it turns out that Henri has been sitting in his apartment, dead, for the last 4 years.

Granted, nobody had seen him for awhile; he didn’t go out much anyway and largely kept to himself, as did his neighbors…  In fact, other than some funny smells in 2008 and his strangely overflowing mailbox, nothing struck anyone as amiss.  His bills were even up-to-date thanks to his direct deposited pension and his rent and utilities paid each month by direct debit.

Henri was discovered sitting on his bed, completely mummified, with his dinner dishes to the side, the remote control in his hand, the TV guide open to the night’s shows, and a sports journal on his lap.   If an old friend hadn’t investigated a letter returned-to-sender thanks to the overstuffed mailbox, the 66-year-old retired bus driver could have stayed there like that for another… 10? 20 years?

It brings to mind a similar story in Paris last year when an elderly woman was trapped in her bathroom and banged on the pipes day and night for 3 weeks trying to get help. Instead of going up to inquire as to the cause of the strange sounds, the neighbors preferred to start an anonymous petition to stop the noise.  Finally, after walking past a letter at her door that had been sitting there for 10 days, someone called the authorities and the woman was found on the floor, starving and in shock, but alive.

In France, this non-engagement is actually normal: neighbors usually stick to themselves, a tradition stemming from a general distrust of those outside the family circle.  This wariness was exacerbated during the war when citizens were encouraged to spy on and denounce each other, which was often used as a way to retaliate for perceived slights and lingering grudges.

In an attempt to break this tradition of isolation, in 1999 a Parisian association created the Fete des Voisins (The Neighborhood Party!):  a springtime apartment-dweller pot-luck, which, predictably, met with rather tepid response.   It took the heatwave of 2003, when thousands of elderly French died alone, to get the government to really back the Fete des Voisins …but still the idea of snacks and forced gaiety among people with an ingrained distrust of one another has not exactly taken off…

As one of Henri’s neighbors confided in a masterful understatement: “Here in this building, we don’t really do the ‘Fete des Voisins’.”   Hmmm… I wonder if they will decide to do it this year?   June 1st, mark your calendar.

Photo credit:  Photo by Richard Ray, courtesy of the Nice-Matin

Nice-Matin:  Un homme decouvert mort chez lui depuis 4 ans a Nice, Comment Henri a-t-il pu etre decouvert 4 ans apres sa mort?

 

Posted in The Seamy Underbelly | 4 Comments