Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Nissa Bella

This is it. Our last night in Nice. Julie and I have each taken a walk tonight through the old streets, along the sea, and by Place Massena, the main square. Our time here has come and gone. Tomorrow morning we head home.

When Chloe, Emily and I went for breakfast this morning (Julie needed a little extra sleep), the lady at "our bakery" said, "Bonjour Chloe, comment ca va ce matin?" Each time she does this, Chloe smiles and gives a little wave. It's taken nearly the entire time we've been here for the various people working at the "Grumpy Baker," as we've come to call the place, to acknowledge us a regulars. It started last week. Strangely, our butcher started to recognize us as regulars around the same time. In France, relationships between shop owners and customers begin very much as they do at home, but over time they grow and deepen. You see, it's not simply about commerce, it's about artisan pride and customer loyalty. When I return time and again to the same butcher, to the same baker, we're forming a bond, an understanding, a trust. Now the butcher shakes my hand when I come in, tells me about his day, his latest vacation, whatever is on his mind. I'm a regular. And here we thought, with the children and their needs, we weren't really getting to live in the place. As it turns out, it takes three months for that to start to happen, regardless, and it started to happen right under our noses.

Saleya Flower Market
When I think of Nice, I think I will most often relive my walk through the Saleya Flower Market, along the Promenade des Anglais,  and past the Old Port. It was one of my favourite walks, because it shows Nice in all it's beauty and colour.

Today Chloe was trying to adjust to the idea that she's leaving Nice tomorrow. She said to us, "but we'll be coming back to Nice soon, right?" Mommy told her, "honey, I don't know how soon we'll be back. Nice is a long ways away and involves a time change. You can't go for a short time because it's hard on your sleep." Later, when Chloe and Mommy were walking along the Promenade, Chloe said goodbye to the ocean: "Goodbye Ocean. I won't see you for a while, because if I come to visit I won't be able to sleep."

Nice is a noisy, hopping, busy, and crowded city. It's no simple seaside resort. It takes some getting used to. But the longer we've been here, the more it has grown on us for the same reason. This is a place with its own people, its own culture, its own language, for heaven sakes. So on that note, I'll leave off with a section of Nice's anthem, Nissa Bella. We heard it sung by a group of school students to end Carnaval this year. It seems to be known by a good portion of Nice residents, and in its original dialect. For you, dear readers, and for me, I provide a translation:

O my beautiful Nice
Queen of all the flowers
Of your old rooftops
Will I always sing.
Sing of the mountains
The landscape so fine 
Your green countryside
Your golden sunshine 
Always will I sing
Underneath your arbours
Your sea of azure
and your skies pure
And always I'll proclaim
In my refrain,
Viva, viva, Nissa Bella!
Ciao, Nice
Au revoir, la France


  1. How beautiful, Sean. Tell Chloe, she can always see photos of the Ocean, and that she can dream of it whenever she wants.

  2. Thanks Kim. We're back in Canada now, and it's going to take a little time to digest the change (jet setting across the ocean in one day sure contributes to culture shock). But our trip will slowly settle in to its proper place in our memories and hearts.

  3. It sounds like you had a wonderful time which will leave you with some wonderful memories! I have so enjoyed reading your blog Sean (and Julie)! -- Heather

  4. Welcome home! I've thoroughly enjoyed living vicariously through your adventures in France. You had so many great experiences - and what a privilege for Chloe to have this opportunity. Did she pick up much French while you were there? Looking forward to continuing to read your blog.

  5. Hi Heather. I didn't know you were reading! I hope all is going well for you and family. Are you still living in Newmarket? I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. I plan to keep it up. It's cheaper than therapy!

    Rebecca, we had many great experiences and yes, Chloe picked up lots of French. She's also in a French daycare here at home, so we're hopeful that she'll speak French much better than her parents eventually.