It is almost 10 years now that I first saw Nice. I remember my sister and me driving through the city on our way from Monaco, trying to find a place to park and not knowing at all what to expect. We were given an address by her friends where we were supposed to meet them and that’s all. But boy, Nice and me — we were star-crossed lovers without even knowing each other.
I have just arrived from the States. Previous four years, I was stuck in the middle of nowhere, secretly dreaming of walking the streets of Milan, Rome, Paris, London, Monaco… As my sister was telling me about her travels throughout Europe, I kept staring outside of my dorm room window, looking at the nearest tree and the road to the library (which was my Rome for four years), imagining I am with her on all her travels and not stuck 2 hours away from Chicago. No matter how great the school was, coming from being the city girl in the Serbian capital to the hick town of Illinois bordering Iowa, I felt sometimes as if I was demoted from life. All roads end in Rome, right? Well, all my roads ended up in the library!
It was great, state of the art library and I took so many trips in my mind reading all the great novels that I’ve found there, but that was as far as I ventured. While all my friends traveled and partied, my reality was completely different. I worked 3 jobs, running from one class to another hoping to meet all payments at the end of the month so I don’t get kicked out of my apartment and still finish my term with GPA above 3.5 to keep my scholarship. What a party pooper, right? 😉
But then all of a sudden, with my Uni done, I was right there! In Nice, at the place of my dreams, driving with the one person I couldn’t stand to be away from, hoping I could exhibit at least a little bit of that French “je ne sais quoi” vibe and not my adopted Midwest American attitude.
Our drive from Monaco to Nice by the Base Corniche was magical. Beautiful mansions and magnificent azure sea on our left. On our right more beautiful and neatly arranged mansions. Everywhere I looked, everyone was going about their way carrying that aroma of carefree and life-loving attitude.
I thought to myself: this was just like the scene from my imagination — minus the looks of Grace Kelly, her scarf covering her hair, big sunglasses and top-down 60′ Lotus speeding through the road leading up to Nice. Everything else fit right in.
Except me. I felt a bit at odds.
- “My choice of clothes isn’t good”, I thought.
- “I’m not stylish enough for this scene”, I thought.
- “I don’t speak French nor Italian”, I thought.
But then, I scolded myself: “Who cares, I can make my own luck here. At least I speak Spanish. I’ll be fine. Clothes can be improved. I’ll just go steal something for starters from the little sis. And I’ll learn French! I’m good with languages, right?”
This whole internal dialogue with my inner-self carried on while we drove and I couldn’t mutter a word. My eyes were busy with taking everything in. I remember being so excited that at times I forgot to even breathe. I had to pinch myself few times just to remind myself that this was not a dream, but real life. I was finally there :))
I was going to see Nice and walk in the steps of Matisse, Picasso, Queen Victoria… Wow!
We entered Nice through the port. My sister’s car was “shouting directions” to go and park near Acropolis (as if we knew what that was). Just an hour ago, a cop in Monaco stopped my sister and tried to scare her away from coming here. He said it was not safe in Nice and that we should be very careful.
I remember how funny that sounded. I thought: wait a minute, we survived bombing in Serbia, gangs in the streets of Belgrade and he’s telling us this is dangerous! Ha-ha! Even funnier was the fact that I had to live in the ghetto for a year in this hick town in Midwest because my rent was way cheaper there than living on campus. Come on, this was going to be a blast!
So Acropolis, it is!
We parked. No danger just yet. Just smiley people and tourists, and lots and lots of music. I can’t remember now where we sat down for drinks, but I remember Latino music playing, people dancing salsa and my puppy eyes taking it all in. I said to myself — yes, this is EXACTLY what I want and where I want to live.
My next trip to Nice was a year later. My sister was already living in Monaco at a time and I remember taking her car and driving out to Nice by myself and my camera. I had no idea where I was going, but I was excited to explore. I took the same road, but this time I plugged in the only place I knew in the navigation (not that I was ever there) –Promenade des Anglais. Wow, what a sight (try coming to the Promenade from the port and you’ll see what I’m talking about)!
That was it for me! My heart was bought.
10 years later and me living here now, I have the same look of wonder on me. Every time I walk Promenade des Anglais, every time I drive by, sit in one of the cafés or restaurants, I just think how lucky I am to live my dream. Every day!
I know some people will say that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and maybe it is so. But no matter the weather (and you know how rain can just dirty some cities), the time of the year, every moment I am here, my eyes are happy to be seeing the colors of Nice.
Who knows, maybe one day I will decide that I don’t want to live here anymore. Maybe I will find another great place to love and fall in love with over and over again. But I know one thing for sure — Nice was my first love — and you never forget your first love, do you? 😉