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JUL-AUG 2016

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20 J U L Y / A U G U S T 2 0 1 6 A week can last a A uthenticity makes for great travel. By that measure, my trip to the French Riviera could not have gotten off to a better start. On the night of our arrival for a Collette Spotlight tour in Nice, several of us had drinks in the Hotel Ellington af- ter our dinner at Restaurant Barracuda. A young Frenchman came over and invited us to join his group. They were outside in the hotel courtyard, so we cleared our tab and joined them. Becky Regan, our tour director; Yumi Kim, a traveler from New Jer- sey; and I sat with them and had lengthy conversations about France and America. Two of our French companions, both young profession- als, had been to the United States and loved it. They said America represents freedom to them. They associate our country with the open road and independence. One was concerned about the recent incidents in Paris and the re- sulting need for visible security in the form of strolling soldiers or po- lice. He felt the country's "joie de vivre" had taken a hit. The three of us assured him that the bohemian beauty and laissez- faire charm of his country was still apparent to us. Truthfully, the oc- casional appearance of uniformed security at the airport or in a busy square was reassuring to me. NICE UP CLOSE I was thrilled to be doing this Spotlight tour because I had been wanting to try an immersion trip that offered lots of free time and fo- cused on a single city. The leisurely pace meant we had breakfast on our own in the hotel each morning and didn't depart as a group until 9:30 or so. Anyone who wanted to go for a run or workout had plenty of time to do so. Our fi rst full day, Becky walked us through the heart of this sea- side city, the fourth largest in France. The Cote d'Azur (Blue Coast) stretches along the southeastern coast of France and includes other resort destinations like St. Tropez, Cannes and Monaco. The Mediter- ranean's sparkling blue waters illuminate every aspect of life here. Our point of reference for navigating Nice was Avenue Jean Medi- cin, the retail artery that leads through town to the Promenade des Anglais, a bustling beachfront thoroughfare that follows the Mediter- ranean coast. Along the Promenade, sunbathers gather on the rocky beach and enjoy drinks in open-air bars. We strolled through Old Town Nice, where shops and cafes crowd narrow streets. We visited its heralded fl ower market and fi nished up on the Promenade, where Becky turned us loose for the afternoon. "Remember," she said. "Sometimes in Old Town the shops close between noon and 2 so the owners can have a nice lunch." Just then, a cannon went off from high above us on Castle Hill, the city's fortifi - cation landmark that dates to the third century. "That's the midday cannon shot," said Becky. "That's been a daily tradition since 1861 — ever since a Scottish lord fi red a cannon at noon to remind his wife he wanted his lunch." Yumi wanted oysters for lunch and one of the Frenchmen the night before had recommended Café de Turin near Garibaldi Square. We made our way back through Old Town and over to that century-old streetside eatery. The oysters were superb. They originated from Brit- tany on the northwest coast of France and were meaty and delicious. Afterward, I found a city bus and spent the rest of the day around the Matisse Museum. Henri Matisse lived and worked in Nice from 1817 until 1854 and personally donated many of the museum's pieces, which include paintings, drawings, tapestries and sculptures. It rests high atop a hill in the neighborhood of Cimiez, where a large public park draws picnickers and old men play bocce. Matisse is buried near- by at the Cimiez Monastery. That evening, I found a busy outdoor café on Rue Massena, a dining nexus off Avenue Jean Medicin, and ordered an ink squid risotto with Artwork by Donia Simmons Opposite page: Pastel hues and open-air cafés highlight a walk through Old Town Nice. BY MAC LACY uthenticity makes for great travel. By that measure, my trip to the French Riviera could not have gotten off to a better start. O h i h f i l f C ll S li h I was t wantin g t cused on our own 9:30 or s of time Our side cit stretch resort ranea Ou cin, t An gl ra ne bea na on b a c BY M AC L AC Y Carefree in NICE

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