When I dropped off my rental car at the train station in Nice, I was looking forward to one night in that warm, Mediterranean metropolis of blue waters, beautiful bodies and seaside clubs. Coming down from the mountains of the Var region, I was a bit taken back by the heat, which approached 40 Celsius, or 100 Fahrenheit.
Being the nostalgic sort of person I am, I’d located the only hotel in Old Town, several blocks from the beach (Hotel Villa la Tour). Once an 18th century convent, it sported long, steep stairs, no elevator and no air-conditioning. But the ambiance! The ambiance couldn’t be beat. Because I’d asked for a room with the view, I was given the honeymoon suite on the top floor.
Besides a shower big enough to fit all of your BMFs, there were cloth roses on the wallpaper, a tiny wrought iron balcony, and, as mentioned before, no air conditioning. After lugging my souvenir stuffed suitcase up five flights (a charming maid helped me on the last two flights), sweat dripped from my every pore. Undeterred, I took advantage of that vast shower and readied myself for a night on the town. On the last day of a three-week jaunt, I’d run out of warm weather things to wear except for a clingy silk dress I’d purchased from a market vendor in Fayence.
When I wriggled my still damp, overheated body into it, I found it clinging indeed. And I didn’t have an appropriate bra for a strappy dress. The affect was not pleasing. When I stepped out onto the crowded pulsing cobblestoned streets of old town, I alone seemed to feel more like hiding than strutting. Not one to linger on my perceived imperfections, I soon basked in the near tropical delights of this fascinating city where Art Deco meets the renaissance meets medieval towers. The markets and narrow streets are an overwhelming cornucopia of colors, scents and sounds, almost enough to make me forget my lack of personal allure.
On the Promenade des Anglais, the long walkway that lines the oceanfront, a host of glistening tanned bodies from every corner of Europe and beyond strolled, frolicked and danced. Bikini clad urchins mixed with wing-sporting models. In my own sticky funk, I grew ever more aware of my pale, Slavic skin, still unthawed after a long winter under wraps in northern realms; the sweat that washed away all attempts at cosmetic refinement; the sun blocking floppy hat that trammeled my locks to a flattened mass, and the unflattering way my panty lines and bra straps were highlighted by the clingy silk. Not the lovely image I like to present to my public.
Nonetheless, as I passed from the markets of old town to the promenade, a dark-haired, dark-eyed gentleman in a white apron, smoking a cigarette, called out to me, “Bonjour, beautiful lady!”
“Bonjour!” I said, waving my hand.
And for the rest of the evening, I was beautiful. As was everyone in that most beautiful of cities.