Sunday, May 17, 2015

Beaches of the Côte d'Azur

Plage Mala, Cap d'Ail

It's official. The first swim of the season on the Côte d'Azur. Or rather, I dived into the exquisite turquoise-blue water and almost immediately ran out. Yes the water was really that cold, but the sun was hot and the day has been perfect.

Although I have lived here for many years I have never been to the mythical Plage Mala, Cap d'Ail,  near Monaco. So it was about time I took a trip. It is often mooted as the most beautiful beach on the Côte, the most unspoilt and so on. In reality it is very nice, but not as unspoilt as I had hoped. (But then, I'm from New Zealand so unspoilt beaches for me are another thing altogether.)

The thing about Plage Mala that keeps it relatively low-key is the difficulty of getting there. There are 120 steps or so down to the beach. Going down, not so bad. Coming up, just a bit harder. You can also walk along the coastal path from Monaco, but this takes time. The extremely stylish alternative is to arrive by yacht and be ferried ashore. I think I am going to go for that option next time. 

There are two restaurant-clubs on the beach. Both very cool and very expensive (the young Monaco crowd obviously likes to hang here). But we took home-made sandwiches like real Niçois locals do and sat on the pebbles. You get use to them, honest you do. Anyway, sun loungers are for sissies.

So that's Plage Mala for you. Stunningly beautiful, difficult to get to, but not as remote and unspoilt as I would have hoped. 

I'll  carry on my swims of the summer around the Côte's different beaches and report back.

This post also features on the excellent #AllAboutFrance Lou Messugo blog; Check it out here

Friday, May 1, 2015

how to blend in like a local


Holiday season has started on the Côte d'Azur and I've been thinking about tourists and how so often they would like to blend in but don't. So here are a few tips to get you looking and behaving like a local on the French Riviera

It is mandatory at all times to wear sunglasses - indoors and out; day and night. They must be designer and the bigger the better if you are a woman. We don't take them off as not only do they protect our eyes from the sunshine, but after several hours of wearing them they leave rather unattractive marks on our cheeks. So it's better just to keep them on.

Go to a boulangerie and buy a baguette and carry it around with you. People will think you are a local going home with your bread. It really works.

Nice Matin, what can we say? The daily newspaper of the Côte that swings between a double-page spread on a boule competition in Grasse to the latest murder in a Nice neighbourhood. It appears  to be written in old French and has footnotes. Yes footnotes in a daily rag! For that alone we love it. Pretend to read it in the café. Perhaps you will not understand a word. But neither do most locals.

I can't stress this one enough. Sunglasses good. Hats bad. It is tempting to go all 50s Audrey Hepburn-Riviera-straw-hat but the local women would not be seen dead in one. As for the Panama hat for men. Please don't go there. The most you will see is an 'ado' (teenager) with a baseball cap trying to look cool and American, and failing. Locals do not wear hats.

I promise that this will guarantee you local street (market) creed. I know that your dream is to go to the market with that cute Provençal straw basket. I had that dream, too, once upon a time. Reality is this says 'tourist'. Most of us carry around scrunched-up plastic recyclable supermarket bags (if you want to be trendy, an Italian supermarket bag says something extra). But to go the whole way, then the shopping trolley - the more battered the better - really shouts 'local'. Make sure you bang in to a few people as you march through the market muttering to yourself.

Drink only rosé and ask for ice with it to be served in a separate glass with a spoon. It is one of life's mysteries that rosé can range from €2.50 a bottle to €20 and it all tastes exactly the same. So order the cheapest and pile on the ice cubes like the locals do.

If all else fails, get a dog. The smaller the better is the rule and they must go with you everywhere, especially to restaurants where they can be given a seat at the table. There is nothing like a dog to signal that you have stopped playing at being a local and can now be taken seriously.

Ciao!, as they say here (this will also help if you speak like a local)

This is a link to a blog we like at Côte Abode - All about France