Thanks DSK: The end of Mademoiselle

It’s an ironic byproduct of the sordid DSK affair: the title Mademoiselle is being quietly phased out.

DSK unwittingly unleashed a major feminist “click” moment:  The debacle with the hotel maid was bad enough, but watching the French male establishment circle the wagons to insist that that the 7-minute encounter was a ‘seduction’  (“… and even if it wasn’t, what’s the big deal?”) gave French women pause.

Serious introspection ensued, and not only was it admitted that the “vive la difference” attitude in the French workplace was maybe not so great, but also the quaint tradition of  addressing women according to their marital status (but not men, who are all Monsieur, regardless) came under the microscope.   Several women’s groups put forward that marital status was really nobody’s business…especially considering that the French find it impolite to inquire even about one’s profession or family status, deeming these questions overly personal.

Cleverly avoiding the hullabaloo that surrounded the creation of ‘Ms’ (the 1970’s American solution), last week the French government just quietly announced that Mademoiselle will be removed from all government forms, leaving the choice only between Madame and Monsieur.  The old forms will be used up, but when it’s time to be reprinted: bye bye Mademoiselle… or shall we say, adieu?

Merci DSK.  …Ironic, isn’t it, as it seems that DSK has such a penchant for the Mademoiselles!

Click here for Henri Salvador’s tribute.

La Point: Ne m’appelez plus Mademoiselle  and  Herald Tribune: Mademoiselle exits official France


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Don’t tell the Academy: Jean Dujardin was Brice de Nice

UPDATE:  Brice de Nice WON the Oscar for Best Actor!  Hard to believe that in just 6 years he went from Brice… to the first Frenchman to win the Oscar… wow.

Oscar nominated for Best Actor for The Artist,  Jean Dujardin is being called the French George Clooney… but did you know that he is also the French Keanu Reeves… as in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Point Break?   And that the closet where this delicious cinematic skeleton resides in is… no less than Nice?

Yes it’s true, in 2005, suave Oscar-nominated Jean Dujardin played Brice de Nice, a blond surfer-dude living in our fair city… where, actually, there are no waves.

The synopsis from IMDB:   Brice, a motherless super rich 30-year-old teenager fancies himself a trendy surfer. Only he never stepped out of Nice where the sea remains desperately calm and flat. Brice awaits a giant wave like the one he knows happened in 1979. In the meantime, what he lacks in technique he compensates in style. Yellow T-shirt, yellow hair, yellow parties, he created his own little world. One morning, his father is sent to jail and “Brice from Nice” is left penniless. He first decides to find out about that thing called “work” at a local restaurant, but then decides robbing a bank is way easier. While escaping after a failed attempt, he meets Marius. His new best buddy has an idea: all it takes is for Brice to win the $100,000 prize at the “world underground surf cup”.   It would help if Brice had surfed a big wave at least once in his life…

Check this out…  Jean Dujardin in Old Nice and Coco Beach…  Ca farte!

For more on the Jean Dujardin phenom (he is not only the French George Clooney and Keanu Reeves, but also the French Brangelina… who knew?), here’s Why the French Adore Jean Dujardin from the Guardian, The New Yorker’s take on Brice,  and this great interview clip with Jimmy Fallon from The Late Show, where he makes up for his lack of English by throwing out random impressions.

Buy Brice de Nice with English Subtitles for $20 from Amazon US:  Brice de Nice (Region 1 DVD) (Original French Version with English Subtitles)

and from Amazon France (but still with English subtitles) for 5.50€: Brice de Nice – Édition Collector 2 DVD

Photos licensed under Creative Commons, Wikipedia.

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Cannes Kebab Vendor Saves President Obama

Bilal Herche. Photo by Serge Haouzi, Nice-Matin

You won’t hear this on Fox News…

It happened the day before the G-20 Summit last November, when tensions were high and Cannes was zipped up tight as a drum: barricades, badge-only entry, missile protection systems, bomb squads, sniper teams, and spy satellites.   It seems that a hungry FBI agent popped into to Al Charq, a Middle-Eastern take-away joint, but in his rush to get a sandwich to-go, left a file on the counter…  Not just any file mind you, it was an Ultra-Classified-Top-Secret dossier with every detail of President Obama’s trip to the G-20 Summit.  

The file folder didn’t look like anything special, so when snack shop manager Bilal Herche innocently opened it up… merde!   First page: detailed map of the 5th floor of the Hotel Carlton with President Obama’s room and evacuation plans.  Second page:  President Obama’s minute-by-minute schedule.  Pages on the exact routes to be taken by the convoys, lists and info on the agents on the Presidential security detail.  Everything.

What would you do?  And if you were Lebanese?  Muslim?  With a passport on the U.S. No-Fly List because you were from a country considered a Terrorist State?  After 2 hours of nerve-wracking indecision, Bilal called the main FBI number that he found on the internet.  A surrealist conversation ensued as Bilal tried to explain what he had in broken Arabic-accented English to a skeptical agent at desk somewhere in Washington, no doubt rolling his eyes.  Finally the agent asked him to read the first page of the document…  Silence.   Then: “Don’t move: we’re on our way!”  No address needed, the cellphone had been geolocalized and in minutes two men-in-black burst through the door.   Even these jaded top-level FBI agents could not suppress gasping “Oh my god…” upon opening the dossier.

An hour later, the original hungry FBI agent was on a plane back to Washington, while poor Bilal was undergoing full interrogation:  Who gave him this file?  Whom did he show it to?  Who knows about it?  Where are the copies?   The FBI team acknowledged that, obviously, all Lebanese are not terrorrists, but they still kept a close eye on him by eating kebabs and falafels for lunch and dinner for the next 4 days.

The G-20 having passed without a hitch, Bilal was sent an official FBI medal of honor in recognition that without him, a sandwich could have cost the life of the President.

Nice-Matin: Le G20 d’Obama sauvé par un restaurateur Cannois

Related Posts with more tales of the G20 Summit in Cannes…

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Anti G20 Protests in Nice

Photo: Best of Nice Blog

Whew – the first Anti-G20 protest was far from the feared free-for-all, with only about half the expected number of protesters showing up …and thankfully, not a peep from the Black Bloc.  The massive police presence along the route (1,200!) coupled with the wan attendance (5,000 max) worked out to around one officer for every 4 militants… who were a benign lot to begin with, with grey hairs outnumbering dreadlocks by 10 to 1.

The city thought of everything:  there was a total absence of tempting cars and trash bins to torch, all capitalist symbols (read: banks) were boarded up beyond recognition, and at every intersection there was a police barricade with water tanks in case a cold hosedown was needed.

Despite the heavy-handed precautions, the ambiance was light-hearted, even fun, and a healthy expression of opposition.  Some of the highlights were the Tax Robin Hoods who did a mass strip tease down to their feathered green hats, and pink haired clowns dancing in front of the police barricades.  The one lowlight was an arrest of a guy on a balcony that yelled threats to ‘smoke’ the police, and when the police entered his apartment they found arms and homemade bombs.   The only other arrests so far were a group from Spain sporting Black Bloc related t-shirts and arm bands that were stopped near the airport, and sure enough, had a trunk full of violent paraphernalia and ski masks.

All of Nice seemed to breathe a sigh of relief last night …but don’t let your guard down yet:  surprise flashmob-style protests have been promised over the next few days, and at the 2000 Summit, the first day also went peacefully before violence broke out the following afternoon when radicals attacked a bank on rue Barla.

In the meantime, while drums were beating in Nice, Cannes was being locked down tight as a drum…

Nice-Matin: Des milliers d’altermondialists defile a Nice

See related posts:  

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Presidential Caprices of the G-20 Summit in Cannes

Obama’s tank-limo, ‘The Beast’

Tomorrow I’ll be reporting from the big anti-G20 demonstrations in Nice, but today, here is a little bit on the arrangements taking place in Cannes and a few things to watch for.

If you are stuck at the airport while security clears a presidential entourage, take a moment to check out the impressive array of 25 Boeing 747’s that will be lined up on the tarmac, including Air Force One. (…and don’t forget ‘plane spotting’… see comment below)

The police escorts from the airport to Cannes for the 25 entourages (the G-20 actually has 25 members) will cause major freeway tie-ups on Wednesday, but one cortege to watch for is Obama’s, who will be transported in Cadillac One, also known as ‘The Beast’, the armor-plated sci-fi limo that thinks it’s a tank, and goes with him everywhere.  This specially designed rolling command center is sealed against bio-chemical attacks, has thicker armor than a Boeing 747, night laser vision, tiny tear gas launchers below the bumpers, special tires that can roll at high speed even if blasted away, an iron-plated gas tank surrounded by foam to prevent an explosion even with a direct hit, pump-action shot guns in the doors, fire fighting equipment, an oxygen supply, bottles of the President’s blood in case he needs an emergency transfusion, and a Navy Seal for a driver.  Price: $300,000.

As for hotels, Obama’s first choice was to take over the Eden Roc with his 800-person entourage (…yes, 800: basically a mobile White House including a 150 person security detail and 6 doctors), the Chinese president wanted to take over his favorite Riviera hotel, Le Negresco in Nice, with his 200-person delegation, and Russia’s Dmitri Medvedev (presumably with a much smaller entourage) just wanted to crash at the villa of his billionaire buddy, Roman Abramovich …but the powers-that-be quashed these presidential caprices, and all Heads of State must stay in the ultra-secure Cannes perimeter: at the Carlton (Obama, Italy’s Berlusconi, Canada, the Saudis, India, Mexico, Spain, Brazil), The Majestic (Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, Russia’s Medvedev, Argentina, Japan), The Marriott (David Cameron, Australia, South Korea, Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey, and Ban-Ki Moon of the UN), and the Grey d’Albion, which will be taken in its entirety by the Chinese delegation.

It won’t be just Heads of State in Cannes; among the speakers will be Bill Gates who will present a report on innovations and partnerships in health and agriculture on behalf of his foundation.

Tomorrow I’ll report on the flip side of the G-20, in Nice.

Nice-Matin: Dans les coulisses du G20 de Cannes 

Photo credit Connect2Canada licensed under Creative Commons

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Nice goes from 12 to #1 on Gay Friendly

With Apollo, the gayest statue on the Riviera, now reigning over Place Massena (…and looking out on to plastic statues of nude men glowing in pastel colors!), is it any wonder that in just two years, Nice has rocketed from 12th place to #1 on the French magazine Tetu’s list of France’s most gay-friendly cities outside of Paris?

A new politic in the Mayor’s office has been a major influence: Just a few years ago, outgoing mayor Peyrat was against a Gay and Lesbian center opening in Nice, but the new Mayor Christian Estrosi not only made it happen, but presided over last May’s inauguration himself.

Certain streets and districts have started to adopt the trend, like rue Old Nice and especially rue Bonaparte in the Port, known as the ‘Petit Marais’ after the chic legendary quarter in Paris.  Nice has even started a ‘Gay Welcoming’ program to sensitize businesses to the advantages of this discerning clientele, and has promoted a list of gay-friendly hotels and restaurants.

There are still occasional instances of gay targeted vandalism and violence, the latest being last April when a public kiss incited a beating, but these types of crimes are not only happening with less frequency, but they are also less tolerated:  After that last incident, the gay community came out in force for a 200-person “kiss in” to protest the violence.

Actually, when you think of it, Nice has had a gay vibe for years: Nice’s most famous hotel, Le Negresco, has displayed a giant Niki de Saint Phalle statue rotating in the middle of its ballroom, for over a decade!

Nice-Matin: Quand Nice fait son Coming Out

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It’s Catching: Another Victim Whomps Attacker

It must be catching:  Wednesday night a couple of Italian tourists gave a lesson in vigilante justice to a couple of local punks.  The Italians were driving through the Port around midnight, when two punks on a scooter attempted a vol à la portière:  the Nice specialty where they yank open the passenger side car door, violently grab the purse, and flee before the victims even know what happened.

Well this passenger was not letting go of that purse!   The attacker, faced with a furious Italian hellcat, let go of the purse and the chagrined scooter duo sped off around the Port towards Villefranche-sur-mer.

Then the Italians did something extraordinary:  the driver hit the gas and the rental Fiat Panda flew into turbo-mode in hot pursuit of their attackers!   The punks freaked out and sped up but the Fiat was hot on their tail and when it got close enough… rammed them!   The scooter spun out and the terrified but unhurt delinquents escaped on foot, but the police now have their wheels so an arrest cannot be far behind.    Victims 1, Criminals 0!

Nice-Matin: ‘Port : les victimes mettent àterre les voleurs a la portière’

Related posts: Celebrity Victim of  Vol à la Portière’ Attempt, which includes a video so you can see this maneuver in action, and Local Thug Beaten by Angry Granny

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Crime in Nice: Local Thug Beaten by Angry Granny

Two stories on crime in Nice caught my eye in this morning’s Nice-Matin, one funny, one not:

After trading insults, a local man was surrounded by a couple of neighborhood thugs who started to give him a beating… in front of his mother.  Rather than stand by and watch her grown son get pummelled, the furious 86-year-old  jumped into the melee and started viciously beating the aggressors with her cane!   She cracked one over the head so hard his scalp split wide open, and when the police finally arrived, he got sent to the hospital along with the son.    How humiliating!   Go granny!

The other story is more disheartening.  A thief was nabbed Saturday, when police saw him jump off a downtown bus near Galleries Lafayette and run with a passenger’s purse.   Turns out, he’s a ‘serial pickpocket’ that is known to the police for 50… yes, fifty… similar complaints.    So they threw him in the clink, right?

Wrong:  inexplicably, they let him back out on the street to continue his chosen profession on unsuspecting tourists and the elderly…   Oh, but don’t worry, he will face the judge… in March.   (…And in the meantime he’ll be able to steal enough to hire a good lawyer!)     What happened to Mayor Estrosi’s big crime crackdown on repeat offenders?

Nice-Matin: Un coup de bequille sur l’agresseur de son fils, Un “serial pickpocket” arreté… puis libéré

Related Post: It’s Catching: Another Victim Whomps Attacker

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Nissa Rebela wishes Muslims a happy Ramadan

Rue de la Lapidation, or ‘Stoning Street’

After the first night of Ramadan, Nice’s Muslim community woke up to find their street signs stickered over:  rue d’Italie now read ‘Burqa Boulevard’, rue d’Angleterre had become ‘Stoning Street’, and rue de Suisse, the site of the controversial overflowing Islamic prayer center, had become ‘Islamic Brotherhood Road’.   The culprits were the far-right group Nissa Rebela, known for their “France for the French” mobile soup kitchen… that feeds the homeless, but only if they eat pork: the serve pork-infused ‘Identitaire Soup’ to exclude any hungry Muslims or Jews.

The City immediately scraped the offending stickers off the street signs, under the watchful eye of the police, and the Mayor’s office issued a statement strongly condemning the vandalism; but the City is also fully aware of its part in inflaming the tensions.   For 11 years, rue de Suisse has been the site of a makeshift basement prayer room, which has become so crowded in recent years that the prayers often spread out to the street, bringing the quarter to a standstill and infuriating non-Muslim residents.  The owner of the building wants to sell, but 2 days before a religious association was to buy it, the City preempted the purchase, as they have the right to do, and is buying it themselves under the guise of a redevelopement project… which will not include an Islamic prayer center.

Between the tensions caused from loss of their prayer center and the new Burqa ban, the last thing we need is taunts and vandalism from the far right on Ramadan.  It may be the heat of August, but let’s hope cooler heads prevail…

Nice-Matin:  Notre-Dame rues debaptisees plainte deposee,   La salle de priere de la rue Suisse preemptee par la ville

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Monaco Driver Causes Million Dollar Fender Bender

…And you think you’re having a bad day!    This was the scene last Friday, at Place du Casino, Monte Carlo:

…Oops. I guess I shouldn’t have been texting…




Only in Monaco would you find a Bentley Azure T that’s managed to plow into a Ferrari F430, damaging an Aston Martin Rapide, a Porsche 911 Carrera S and a Mercedes S-Class in the process.    A million dollar fender bender… oops.

For more photos, click here

Reprinted from, by Justin Hyde; Photo credit:

Posted in Life Imitates Comedy, Monaco | Tagged | 2 Comments

Nerves of Steel: Estrosi talks bomber down in Vieux Nice

It was a scene straight out of Dog Day Afternoon:  A desperate lunatic, who for years has filled the windows of his Vieux Nice shoe store with slogans insulting the Mayor, calls the Mayor’s office and yells ominously, “…You’ve WON!”   He then barricades himself in his shoe store with several cans of gasoline, intending to blow himself up …and the building with him.

The freaked out employees call the police, and sirens blare as the SWAT team arrives in force.  Twenty police in full bomb-squad gear surround the building and cordon off the area, while the elite snipers in black take position.  The chief negotiator tries to make contact, but the raving, pacing madman just yanks the ringing phone off the wall and smashes it, yelling, “…Leave me in PEACE!”

“I’m going in! Hold your fire!” Photo: Francois Vignola, Nice-Matin

Next his cellphone rings and this time he answers, but before he can yell, he realizes it’s Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi, who, known for his silver tongue, amazingly talks the crazed would-be human torch down from the brink, all the while racing to the scene.  Once there, the police warn Estrosi not to go in alone, but Estrosi orders the police to lower their guns and goes in anyway, saying, “I take the responibility!”

After 45 minutes, the unfortunate unlocks the grille and emerges from his store arm in arm with “his Mayor” as he now calls him, and willingly allows himself to be tranquilized by his waiting doctor and taken to the hospital.

The next day, a transformed Eric Melloul was looking forward to the future and assured the Nice-Matin that he is not mentally ill or on meds.    He said that Christian Estrosi spoke to him “super bien” and Melloul was so impressed by the Mayor that he apologised for the 5 years of venimous anti-Estrosi slogans in his shop windows and promised to take them down the next day.   Melloul explained that his anger started with the tramway construction work outside his store, which he felt that he was not adequetly compensated for, and that now his shoe store only makes 50€ a day (hmmm… could the storefront being filled with crazed rants have had anything to do with that?)   He was behind on his rent and about to lose his lease …and all he really wanted was to open a restaurant.   His new buddy Estrosi promised to approve his Change of Use Permit, so look for the discount shoe store to become Lou Cabanon Nissart, coming soon… Just don’t order the crepes flambé.

Click here for a photo slide show

Nice-Matin: Desespere, il menace de s’immoler par le feuLe forcene nicois veut tourner la page


Photo credit: Nice-Matin, Francois Vignola

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Monaco Royal Wedding Gossip Round Up

Monaco Wedding Royal Stamp

To get the most out of the upcoming Royal Wedding, one should be up-to-speed on the latest news.   In the interest of enriching your Royal Wedding experience, here is a sampling of the royal scoop:

Last week, the New York Times examined what it’s been like for Charlene during her four years of probation, I mean limbo, while she anxiously waited for Albert to pop the question, …and everyone else anxiously waited to see if she would trip up and be disqualified. Even in this interview, when she has the prize in the bag, she still defers to Albert for even the simplest question, revealing the pressure she is under to never deviate from the script (…and imagine the added stress when she must speak in the linguistic minefield that is French!)

It’s almost Hitchcockian, this role that she is taking on, where she is both encouraged and vilified for taking on the look of Princess Grace.  The Rivera Reporter did an interesting story titled “Charlene: But Will She Be Happy?” that contrasts Charlene’s old life (tracksuits)  with the new one of designer clothes and paparazzi… check out this photo spread for some interesting portraits of the future princess in her former work clothes (a bathing suit) as well as her new ones.

But more pressing is the speculation currently lighting the web on fire (and vigorously denied by the Palace) that Charlene might have tried to bolt the Principality upon hearing of new Albert hijinks…  Others wonder whether the relatively young and scandal-free Charlene will be stepping into to the Princess Diana trap…    Will Caroline’s  conspicuously absent husband be the ‘Fergie’ of the Monaco Royal Wedding?   And is Nicole Coste Monaco’s “Camilla”?

Prince Albert in a Can

Okay so now you’re up-to-date on the current events, but what about boning up on a little Monaco history?   Here’s an article that will fill you in on the family that has “more scandals per kilometer than any other royal family in Europe.”

So study up: the big Royal Wedding weekend is just days away!

Update June 29: the latest developments from the Daily Mail on the big wedding scandal: did Charlene try to flee just days before the wedding?   True, false, …or a publicity stunt to generate interest for what seems to be a rather wooden marriage? 

Update July 3:  Prince Albert faces paternity test after wedding… what a way to put a damper on the honeymoon!

Update July 21:  Prince Albert is so mad at all the spurious rumors about his marriage that he held a 12-minute no-questions press conference to quell all doubts, with his silent bride looking on.  He castigated irresponsible journalists for “printing rumors without verifying the facts,”  but when one journalist tried to verify a fact, the Prince snapped, “I’m not answering any questions!”  He said the rumors were so outrageous that he and Charlene just had to laugh, like the one that cast doubts on the marriage just because they slept in separate hotels 10 miles apart on the first night of their honeymoon… “It was for practical reasons, obviously!”   Oh, well that explains it! Nice-Matin:  Rumeurs a Monaco: Albert n’en peut plus

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Port Restaurant Attacked by Corsicans in Crazy Football Violence

UPDATE:  Check out the comments for an eye-witness account by one of the restaurant’s clients…

The irony is that it wasn’t even a Nice match!  Yesterday, the Corsica-Nice ferry brought over four busloads of Corsican football fans on their way to a match in Frejus.   Having been warned by the boat about its rowdy load, the police were already present at the dock when the boat came in at 1:30pm and were immediately pelted with projectiles from the boat.   To calm things down, the police held the buses from disembarking the ferry for an hour, but when they finally gave the go-ahead, the buses  went about a block before getting stuck in traffic in front of the restaurant La Goelette.

Having a Coke on the terrace were a handful of rival Nice football fans that couldn’t resist hooting and insulting the Bastia team.   Note to self: don’t mess with Corsicans.  The bus doors opened and the Corsicans streamed out… and all hell broke loose:  rocks, bottles, cans rained down on the bus and restaurant terrace… then the hammers, smoke bombs, cement-filled pipes came out… a molotov cocktail lit the restaurant curtains on fire…tables and chairs and metal construction barriers went flying, smashing all cars and scooters unlucky enough to be in the vicinity.  It was all-out saloon brawl straight out of an old Western, completely destroying the restaurant La Goelette, whose traumatized staff and clients were cowering behind the bar and hiding upstairs.

The police ran up the quai but it had all happened in a flash and they were too late.  The best they could do was corral the Corsicans and search them one-by-one, confiscating an impressive array of bombs, clubs and brass knuckles (called poings Americains in French, or American fists!)    At 5pm the buses left for Frejus under police escort…  to go to the 8pm match.   …Really?  The police let the hooligans go to the football match after that?  Maybe even the Nice police don’t mess with Corsicans.

Source: Corse-Matin

Posted in Life Imitates Comedy, Social Unrest | Tagged | 4 Comments

No Fig Leaf for Apollo Statue

Banned from Place Massena in the ‘70’s for being overly well-endowed, the giant marble statue of Apollo is coming back.  The fountain that currently crowns Place Massena has lived a long and twisted story:  At its inauguration in 1956 there were the current five bronze statues, but also its crowning glory: a 7-meter high, 7-ton white marble statue of Apollo standing in the center.

Apollo’s ample attributes created controversy right away:  it’s not that they were exactly out of proportion, but as the statue is nearly 4 times the size of a man …his accouterments are extra-large as well, giving him an impressive package that… let’s just say, tends to catch the eye.   So in 1979, after being frequently vandalized with paint (I’ll leave the details to your imagination), a The League of Feminine Virtue finally succeeded in having our man exiled to a spot where he would be less likely to offend women’s delicate sensibilities, to the football stadium in Nice Nord, where he has lived in obscurity all these years.

In the meantime, what was left of the fountain, seemed incomplete, and when it started leaking in the early ‘90’s, it was entirely dismantled and replaced with a very under-whelming grass-covered mound with 3 scrawny palm trees.

Fast-forward 15 years, when Place Massena was in the midst of tramway-hell, a local reporter spied the bronze statues stored near the airport.  He did a small nostalgic “where are they now” piece in the Nice-Matin, and suddenly there was a groundswell of support to bring back the magnificent fountain!   And so it was: with much fanfare the Greco-Roman fountain was restored.  …But wait, there was one very large missing member!  (I’m referring to Apollo.)  More grassroots agitation ensued… culminating in last week’s announcement:  The big guy, in all his glory, will finally be re-erected (so to speak) to his rightful place to reign over Place Massena on June 21, just in time for the Fete de la Musique.  Ta da!

UPDATE:  In an bizarre twist, history repeats itself as Apollo gets censored again!   This post sparked a story in the mainstream American press last week, but then the editors, not seeing any irony, censored the photo themselves, blurring out the statue’s package until he resembled a Ken doll.   How funny that 30 years later, our delicate sensibilities must still be protected from his marble mojo… but this time by the Americans?   The more things change…     AOL News: “Well-Endowed Apollo Statue to Be Re-Erected in France” by Dana Kennedy

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WWII Spy Makes Her Final Escape

Last August, a story in the Nice-Matin about an 86-year-old woman who miraculously survived 3 nights after falling into a ravine near her Levens home, caught the eye of Lord Ashdown.   He had been searching for Suzanne Leglise, the only surviving member of an illustrious French-British WWII spy ring, for over 30 years, and in discovering her revealed her incredible story.

In 1940, Suzanne was a 16-year-old schoolteacher in Bordeaux when she discovered that her hotelier father was secretly running a large resistance network.  She begged to join and he reluctantly agreed, starting her as a courier, working up to spy missions, and finally sabotage missions.  In 1942, on one such mission, she fell in love with Charles the Demolisher, an explosives expert.  Their love grew and their missions multiplied, culminating in ‘Operation Frankton’ which blew up enemy ships anchored in the Port of Bordeaux.   Then in 1943 Suzanne’s father discovered that a member of their network was actually a double agent, but it was too late: the family home was surrounded by 80 members of the Gestapo and although the 4 held out all night, by morning they were forced to surrender. Her mother was wounded but then escaped from the hospital, her father was sent to Buchenwald but survived, and Charles was never heard of again.  Suzanne was sent to the Ravensbruk concentration camp, where she managed to stay alive, and then escaped from the camp just 1 week before the liberation.

Flash forward a lifetime later, last August, when the frail elderly Suzanne was trapped for 3 days and nights in a ravine.  At 86 years old, it was her natural instincts that saved her life: without water or food, she lived by licking the dew off of leaves surrounding her.  In spite of the abrasions covering her body, she escaped uninjured – physically, that is.  Concerning her physiological state, the recovery has been much more complicated.  “She thought that she was again at war”, explained her son, Yves.  “When she heard the gendarmes, she thought they were the Gestapo.  That was the reason it took us so long to find her.  Since the accident she has been very weak.  When the Lord Ashdown showed her the photo of Charles the Demolisher, she told him that she did not know him.  Yet, when we weren’t looking, she told one of my daughters, ‘Above all, we must not say anything’.”   Her emotional state has been further complicated by the 5-year anniversary of the suicide of her son, who ended his life a short walk from her house, with Suzanne’s old pistol from the war.  Since then, when she wanders, she usually wanders down around that spot.

After the ravine incident, her son provided her a GPS transmitter, arranged for a nurse to provide constant surveillance, and kept the doors locked to prevent her from wandering out, but she escaped anyway by picking the lock.  Placing her in a rest home for war veterans near Vence, she vowed to escape, and then did so by hiding in the trunk of a plumber’s car that had come to work on a pipe.

This week she made her final escape: after leaving the GPS transmitter at the door, she left the house and has not come back.   A massive search with helicopters, heat sensors and dogs, has come up with nothing.

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Chagall Museum Free on First Sunday



Nice has an abundance of great museums, and the Chagall Museum is one of the best.  And even better: on the first Sunday of each month, the Musee Chagall is free, so if you haven’t been in a while, now’s the time.  The Chagall Museum is a little gem:  intimate, inspirational, and the only art museum in Nice with audio guides.

While you’re up on Cimiez, why not make it a double header and check out the nearby Matisse Museum or tour the impressive Roman ruins at the Archaeology Museum, built on the site of the Roman baths?  Other options include a picnic in the ancient olive grove, and a stroll through the Italian gardens of the Franciscan Monastery.

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Living it Up in Cannes

You’ve got to hand it to Pascal: for a homeless guy, he really thinks big!    A deluxe 4-star Cannes hotel, just off the Croisette and closed for the off-season, became the private VIP digs for Pascal and his friends after breaking into reception and finding the master key.   Large suites with comfy overstuffed furniture, cable movies on HD flat screens, mini-bars, Jacuzzis, terry cloth robes, cocktails on the rooftop terrace… everything but room service!   They graciously invited their friends to share their new found fortune,  “Let’s go to a hotel tonight; I’ve reserved a room!”

When the mini-bars were emptied they raided the kitchen and wine stockroom… all the while discretely creeping out just before dawn to avoid detection by office and maintenance staff that were still coming in to work.  After two weeks of living the life, yesterday they were finally tripped up: some of their guests left the party with a few too many ‘souvenirs’ (read: flat screen TVs) and eventually one of the maintenance men noticed and called the police.

It would seem that this two-week impromptu lifestyle switch imparted a taste for the good life because, as he was lead away by police, Pascal made a final request, couldn’t he just keep the electric shoe shiner?

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Nice Bus Station Closed: Buses Scattered

Update:  click on my Buses in Nice page for current updated info, much more detail, and links.

The Nice Gare Routiere is finito: closed as of today, January 5 2011, a date with the wrecking ball is set for next week, and it will re-emerge a few years down the road as a lovely park.   Oh, but did I mention that the modern new Nice Bus Station near the airport (along with the new tramway line to service it) has not actually been built yet?

The interim solution (that is, for the next 5 years or so…) is to spread the bus stations out all over the place… that won’t be a problem, will it?   So starting today, take a compass, your cellphone, this summary, and a map when you forge out to go look for your bus:

Popular buses such as and Monaco/Menton, Antibes/Cannes, the Sophia Express, and Cimiez have all been dispersed within a few blocks of the old bus station, so whereas you won’t have to go far, it will still be a trick to find where your particular ride is hiding…

The Airport Express bus now leaves from… Riquier!   But don’t despair; it will make stops at the Port, Place Garibaldi, and Lycee Massena (just across from the old bus station) on its way.

The ski and mountain buses now leave from the train station.

The tram stop Vauban (Saint-Jean d’Angély) is the new home of Phocéen Cars (Nice-Marseille-Aix), the bus to Grenoble, as well as the bus to Eze, Peille, and all towns along the Paillon.

International buses, including Eurolines, can be found in the Arenas area at the Lindburgh stop, which is a 10 minute walk from both the Airport and the Nice St-Augustin train station.

UPDATE: for bus stop maps, routes and times click here:  Buses and Trams in Nice

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Ariane Vandals Wish their Neighbors a Happy New Year… By Burning their Cars

On New Year’s Eve, while corks were a-popping up and down the Cote d’Azur, a very different tradition was being played out in low-income suburbs all over France… the annual lighting of your neighbor’s car on fire.  It’s customary in the banlieues, that on New Year’s Eve, bands of vandals run wild and burn cars as an expression of their anger against the establishment.  Nice has three of these crime-ridden, so called ‘hot zones’, on the far outskirts of city, and a New Year’s Day drive through the Ariane saw enough burned-out hulks to testify to a wild night.  The government maintains that the number of burnt cars is sharply down from last year’s ‘festivities’, but they have curiously refused to release the figures.

It would be a tragedy for anyone to find their car burned up, but even more tragic for the car owners in the Ariane, who usually work for low wages, scrimped for years to buy that car, and many don’t have the money for insurance.

This uniquely French ‘tradition’ started in the Strasbourg suburbs in the ’90’s and quickly became ‘de rigueur’ in ghettos all over France.  The ‘lighting of the cars’ is not limited to just New Year’s Eve but is practiced on other ‘special’ days throughout the year as well.  In 2010, a staggering 42,000 cars were torched in France, but the Cote d’Azur is just a small portion of that, so not to worry.  …That is, unless you are spending a holiday with friends in the low-income suburbs!

Sources:  Nice-Matin, L’Express

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Crime in Nice: Really Bad Karma

As if the ordinary juvenile delinquents on the Cote d’Azur were not enough, during the holidays we also get the big-city kind that come here for their vacation.   One such 17-year-old Parisian, here for the holidays to visit his girlfriend, decided the night after Christmas to hang out at the St-Laurent train station to find someone to rob.   When the last train pulled in, he jumped on board and spotted his prey, maced him, grabbed his bag, and jumped off the train just as it started to leave.   But unbeknownst to the young Parisian, under the victim’s coat and scarf… were a collar and priest robes:  he had just maced and robbed a priest on a Sunday, stole money from a mass, and all of this on the day after Christmas.   It’s unclear whether it was luck or divine intervention, but the vacationing thief was arrested the next day, the stolen goods including the mass money were recovered, and the priest was unharmed.  I’d say a few Hail Mary’s if I was that kid!

Source: Nice-Matin

Photo credit: Rubies Co. Haunted House Collection

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