After a couple of busy days in Lyon, it was on to Nice. We decided to bite the bullet and take the toll roads (and thus save us 2-3 hours of driving), which ended up costing us about 40 euro. (Seriously, French toll roads…!!) Immediately upon arriving in the French Riviera, we noticed a different vibe. The weather was hot, the streets were crowded, and the people were infinitely less patient. Mopeds and scooters cluttered the roads, and traffic made each short trip an eternity. Just before getting to our rental car office, we got stuck behind two motorists engaged in a heated argument. The driver in front (a macho-looking dude with a shaved head) stopped his vehicle and walked back to the car behind him and started attacking the driver while he was sitting in his car! Fortunately, the guy in the car was also pretty big himself and seemed to be able to defend himself until the bald guy gave up. I had never seen anything like that in person – but it seemed to characterize the hot-blooded personality of Nice.
Much of the county that Nice resides in belonged to Italy until 1860, and the Italian influence is unmistakable. The architecture is characteristic of the Italian style, there are more Italian restaurants (and espresso) in Nice, and, well, the driving is a lot more chaotic. I could not drop that rental car off fast enough!
Nice features a combination of Italian and French architecture
The night we arrived, we decided to escape the hot tempers and crowded streets and go to a meeting at the local Kingdom Hall. We were warmly greeted by the local brothers and sisters, many of whom had only been “local” for a couple of years, having moved from other areas of Europe. We had the pleasure of going out for a meal with a local brother in the Arabic group, Perry. He had graduated from Ministerial Training School in England years back and was given the assignment by his circuit overseer to start a foreign language group. Perry, unsure of what language to start his group in, prayed about the situation. He decided he would start a group in the language of the first person he met who spoke a different language. He met a man who spoke Arabic, and the rest is history. (Jolyn likened him to a modern-day John the Baptizer, and wouldn’t be surprised to see him eating wild honey and going through the land baptizing people left and right.) We also met Blake, a brother visiting from Washington D.C., on the way back from the international convention in Bulgaria. The local brothers made us feel right at home, and we enjoyed a great meal at one of Nice’s many Irish pubs.
Oh, and why are there so many Irish pubs in Nice, you may ask? Perry explained it this way: Visitors who speak English want to go to a place where English is spoken and familiar food and drinks are served. However, the French and British have somewhat of a rivalry (some people just can’t let go of that pesky Hundred Years’ War), so someone could never open an English pub in France. So instead, they open Irish pubs to attract the English speakers and keep the French satisfied.
The town of Nice, despite being quite crowded and hot, is picturesque. The Italian influence is especially evident in the old town, where we stayed.
By our second day in the city, however, we were ready for some peace and quiet. And most of all, we were ready for the beach! So we headed to a nearby town called Villefranche-sur-Mer to enjoy some sun and sea. Next time, on 2ofus…