Today we are on a mission! Well, Julia is on a mission, and I just follow on behind faithfully as usual. Today we are on a mission! Well, several missions to be exact. Julia has a plan! Well, several plans actually. We are going to explore the historic old town of Nice, buy a new hat for Julia, visit the restaurant area to see if we can find the right restaurant for Julia’s 55th birthday celebration dinner, and find a nice bar on the beach because Julia fancies a cocktail prior to her birthday dinner. Her birthday is not until the 15th May but plans have to be made! We recall the last cocktail we had down here in the south of France about two years ago. It was called ‘Sex on the Beach’ and we chose it because it sounded ‘naughty’ and because we thought we would tease some of our more ‘holy’ Christian friends back home if we casually slipped it into a conversation without an initial explanation?! We wonder if it is still on the cocktail ‘menu’ here in Nice?
After breakfast, and we have said our prayers, Julia prepares a packed lunch for us and we step out into the beautifully warm Nice sunshine. Yesterday was a public holiday in France in celebration of Victory in Europe Day, so most people were off work and enjoying the beautiful beach and the gardens here. And … typical French … they have all taken today off as well! The crowds of people just add to the fun atmosphere of the place, however, and we enjoy simply walking through the streets admiring the amazing architecture and shop windows. I too am on a mission … to find a café and have a coffee! We find a nice sunny spot in the square by the Town Hall and order our coffees. There is an American couple at the next table and we fall into conversation with them. They have not been to Nice before – although they appear to have been everywhere else – and they ask us lots of questions about what to see and where to go. Having been here for almost two whole days Julia has an expert knowledge of Nice and its environs and is a fund of information for them. It soon becomes clear that they think we are French? They even congratulate us on our excellent English? It must be down to my Gallic gestures and Julia’s Parisian elegance?!
We have a marvellous time wandering around seeing all the historic sites – the squares and fountains, churches and palaces, opera house and markets. There are numerous restaurants and obviously we will be spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding where to celebrate Julia’s birthday. Julia is dead set on finding a new hat for the summer sunshine so we have to stop at every shop selling hats that we pass. She is so set on getting a new hat that we even manage to bypass all the shops and stalls selling bags or scarves?! Eventually we find ‘just the right hat’ … well after Julia has tried on every hat in the shop. The shop owner and I have an interesting conversation about football while we are both waiting for Julia. He supports Marseille and so we discuss Joey Barton – the QPR player currently on loan at Olympique de Marseille – his ability and philosophy?! Julia returns to the till area with said hat. ‘J’ai choisi!’ she tells the owner. ‘I have chosen!’ translates the shop owner. ‘How is my English accent?’ he asks. ‘Very good!’ replies Julia, ‘How was my French?’ ‘Dreadful!’ he replies!
We walk through the old town to Place Garibaldi, a large open square with lots of restaurants and cafes, and a huge statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi in the centre of an impressive fountain. We sit by the fountain and enjoy our picnic lunch. Across the other side of the square is a large yellow bus, with coffee tables set up outside, and a big notice on the side saying ‘Café On Tour’. There is an equally large Christian ‘fish badge’ on the side of the bus with the Greek word for ‘fish’ ‘icthus’ in the centre – the various letters of the word signifying (in Greek) ‘Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Saviour’. Julia immediately marches over, boards the bus, and asks the startled inhabitants who they are and what they are doing? They tell us that they are Pentecostal Christians, drawn from five churches in the surrounding area, and that they are engaged in a summer long evangelistic outreach and youth training programme. The Mayor of Nice, no less, had given them permission to be there and hold an evangelistic event that evening. This is quite something because France is a very secular nation in which Roman Catholicism is tolerated and Pentecostal Christians are considered to be a ‘sect’!? We have a really nice conversation with them and promise to pray for them.
After a few more churches and palaces we wander back to the sea front and the Promenade des Anglais. We fancy an ice cream so go and look at the menus of the beach restaurants. Ice creams cost 10€ each, so we give up that idea straight away. We do discover, however, that all these beach restaurants do still sell ‘Sex on the Beach’ cocktails, and these are only 5€ each?! We make a mental note of this (for Julia’s birthday) and go and find a seat further on down the Promenade des Anglais. I sit on the seat while Julia ventures inland in search of cheaper ice creams. When she returns with the said ice creams, we sit there enjoying the warmth and the sunshine. Suddenly we find ourselves surrounded by Jehovah’s Witnesses?! We know they are Jehovah’s Witnesses because – even though the weather is really hot – they are all wearing jackets and ties, are all red in the face and looking as though they are about to expire, and are all carrying bible cases and copies of the Jehovah’s Witness magazine. Here then is a real ‘sect on the beach’?!
We make our escape and return home to our lovely studio apartment. We sit on our balcony, enjoying some ‘nibbles’ and a glass or two of chilled rose wine. Julia eventually wanders into the kitchen to prepare our dinner … and the power supply to the flat fails! Where are those Pentecostals when you need them!?