We arrived at 10 a.m., after a long overnight flight, excited about our seafood experience and adventure in the French Mediterranean, based out of Nice, France. Traveling with me, I had my daughter, Kyle, who just finished with her sophomore year at college, and we were both incredibly excited to spend time together on a culinary and exploratory adventure. The long journey from Boston behind us, I drove our cute, small rental car from the airport, hugging the beach and the long stretch of promenade until we reached our hotel, Hotel La Perouse. With our room not yet ready, we decided to venture forth into the adjourning city.
We headed into the vieille ville (old town), the oldest and most scenic area of the now-bustling urban city. The buildings all sport colorful pastel hues and classic European wooden shutters, often with flowers hanging off the porches, or clothes drying outside high windows. We wandered to an open square with a beautiful fountain and view of the dramatic Mediterranean hillside.
The winding cobblestone and narrow streets of Nice start right off the ocean-adjacent Promenade des Anglais — where the English and French upper class flocked during the 19th century to stroll, while taking in the sights of the azure ocean, fresh salt air, and majestic Palm trees.
The old town meanders for about six blocks in all directions — spilling forth a mélange of bistros, bakeries, and merchants offering Provençal goods from scented soaps to exotic spices. Every corner we turned brought surprises, including rich smells and endless temptations — from the caramelized onions on the popular, Nice pizza-like tart called Pissaladière that comes topped with white anchovies and Niçoise olives to socca, Nice’s version of street crêpes, featuring a chickpea flour base and served hot from large, iron, baking rounds.
Patisseries, French bakeries, serve up dozens of pastry variations, along with crusty, long baguettes with delicate, soft bread inside and an assortment of butter cookies, containing fruits, nuts, or spices.
Salt, pepper, and dried herbs from basil to chervil lie nestled in open wicker baskets, waiting to be combined with the Provençal olive oil and fresh lemon juice base that dominates much of Mediterranean cooking.
Cheeses form another core part of the Southern France cuisine and storefronts offer carefully selected varieties to choose from for the after-dinner cheese course. The selections run from rounds of soft, creamy cheese to slices of sharp blue and Roquefort.
Soaps, scents, and sachets are also popular in the area. Lavender buds picked in season from the heart of Provence form much of the tourist offerings — from tapestry-wrapped sachets to light fragrances. Scented soaps are another regional specialty, with dozens of alluring scents to choose from.
We followed the narrow winding streets of the old city until we located Café de Turin, recommended to us as the best seafood lunch spot in the area.