A Riviera Christmas

It seems like I had barely arrived back home from Maastricht when I was back at the airport again boarding another flight to another European airport. With another joyous layover at Heathrow Terminal 5. My parents have rented an apartment in Nice for the festive season and we’re all going over to see if the French are any good at doing Christmas. I have high hopes.

Even though I moved out 5 years ago, this will be my first Christmas where I won’t be waking up in my childhood home, and I was slightly concerned that my festive mojo would take a hit from being so far away from my beloved Christmas tree, and very concerned that Santa wouldn’t be able to find me in this strange land. However, first impressions of Festive Nice are good. The sky is blue, it’s a damn sight warmer and dryer than Edinburgh is right now, and there are Christmas trees on the promenade.

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There’s also a German market, a Ferris wheel, and nice ice rink in the main square, which is really all you need to feel festive. Nice has already passed the Christmas test and we’ve only been here for 15 hours.

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Night arrives and the lights come on, further enhancing the holiday cheer. All along the promenade, the fancy hotels are decked out in lights and fir branches, and it looks marvellous. Palais de la Méditerrané looks classy as usual. One day I WILL have enough money to stay here, and it will be glorious, but for now I’ll just take pictures of their Christmas decorations.

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The street lighting is also a classy affair, with blue and gold ribbons spangling every thoroughfare –  plus there’s still time to take advantage of the weak Euro and do a spot of Christmas shopping. Who said it was a silly idea to go abroad for Christmas? Ok, it was me, but I take it back now, I promise.

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There’s even a giant Christmas tree made of smaller Christmas trees, which scores the city extra points for innovation.

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Our apartment is in the heart of Vieux Nice, the oldest and quaintest part of the city, and it’s a pretty cute wee place. We decorated it with poinsettias and tinsel (I don’t think the lights would have travelled well) and spent the best part of a day running around the streets trying to find all the right components for Christmas lunch. We congratulated ourselves for managing to find what must have been the only turkey in the whole of the city that didn’t still have feathers attached. Thankfully the trimmings were more straightforward to come by. We brought our own Paxo because I am what is referred to as a reverse snob when it comes to stuffing. I like it to be bog-standard sage and onion, out of a packet stuff. None of this fresh, meaty, cranberry and orange with a hint of rosemary and myrrh, shoved-up-the-arse-of-the-bird crap please.

As we were in France, it was decided that, instead of smoked salmon and Christmas pudding, we would have foie gras and crème brûlée, but the main course was pretty standard traditional British Christmas stuff, and we had crackers and hats, and Christmas music just like we normally do at home. The €7 bottles of excellent quality French wine were a nice bonus.

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After lunch, my sister and I put our swimming costumes on under our clothes, and we all went for a walk along the beach to burn off some calories and make room for leftovers.

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There were only a couple of other people on the beach, probably because it was December, and not exactly tropical. There was definitely nobody anywhere near the water, and the locals looked on in utter amazement as we stripped off and ran in to the sea with our Santa hats on. Nice is situated at the foot of the Alps, and this is December, so even though it’s the normally-quite-pleasant Mediterranean, the water is COLD. So bizarre was the act of getting in the sea in December, that locals started taking pictures of us. No doubt they were sending them to their friends with the caption “weird British people” or something.

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It was so cold in the water that treading water for about 3 minutes felt like running half a marathon. We’d also turned a nice shade of lobster, so figured it was probably time to get out of the water before hypothermia set in and ruined our holiday somewhat. We dried off, got dressed and continued our walk along the promenade before going back to the flat and vegging out in front of some classic movies with obnoxious amounts of chocolate… and that was the end of a pretty perfect Christmas day.

Oh, and Santa did manage to find me!

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