On a Beach in Nice—Against My Will

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Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

I’m sitting under a flawless sky on a rocky beach in Nice on the French Riviera looking out at a clear aqua sea. The waves are slapping hard against the stones sending a gentle, refreshing mist on those of us sitting at the oceanfront cafe sipping our rosés. This moment is completely carefree and peaceful—only the sound of the sea, the call of the seagulls, and the gentle chatter of fellow beachgoers at the nearby tables.

I didn’t want to come here.

My friend's beautiful place in Nice. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

My friend’s beautiful place in Nice. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

This trip was planned with a friend who has an apartment in the south of France. At the time we booked our flights, I was excited; I’d never been to the region. My friend, who knows the area well, planned a full schedule of must-dos: social commitments in Nice; the Grand Prix in Monaco; the market in Ventimiglia, Italy. But two days before we were supposed to leave, while we were sitting in a café chatting about our plans, my friend received a call that her mother passed away suddenly. Of all people to be sitting next to her at a time like this, there was someone who was still mourning her own mother, someone who knew how hard this was hitting. Of course Nice would have to wait; there were more important things right now.

Later, at my friend’s apartment helping her tie up loose ends before she left for the U.S. in the morning, we also attempted to cancel our flights, but the penalty was steep. “You should go,” my friend said, when we realized we’d lose most of our money. “You should still go to Nice.”

Go to Nice? By myself?

The iconic Negresco Hotel. And to think I would have missed this. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

The iconic Negresco Hotel. And to think I would have missed this. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

My mouth said, “I’ll think about it,” but my gut screamed No way! Having never been, not knowing the lay of the land? Nuh-uh. Nope. And alone for days on end? Not fun. In fact, four days alone in the south of France was the closest thing to hell imaginable.

But my friend wouldn’t take no for an answer. Even back in the States, she was making arrangements for me to meet up with her friends in Nice. “Go! You’ll have a great time!” she insisted.

These people don’t want to hang out with me; they don’t know me. Why would they care? No, going to Nice was a crazy idea. It wasn’t going to happen.

Still, a part of me—the part that has learned to ignore the fearful child inside—reached out to those strangers in Nice. And they reached back. Sure, they’d meet me. “Great!” they all said. “See you then!”

Colder than normal for Nice, beach chairs sit empty. More room for me. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

Colder than normal for Nice, beach chairs sit empty. More room for me. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

Before I could stop myself, I was on a plane. Now, here I am on the Riviera—for the first time in my life. And I almost didn’t come.

You who have been following me may think I’m some sort of bold thinker, a fearless adventurer. But I’m not. Not even close. I’m the one who has an anxiety attack when I have to go to the post office to mail a package. There, I’ve said it. And now you know. If I could live my whole life in my apartment, I would. That’s who I really am, the demon I fight every day. The fact that I bought an apartment in Paris, left a cushy job for a new life with an uncertain outcome, is nothing short of a miracle.

Fear is a powerful force in our lives. To overcome the fear paralyzing me, I worked with life coach Laura Berman Fortgang. Even so, fear still drives me—although, not in the way it once did. Yes, it’s still informing my actions, but instead of getting in my way, it pushes me onward. Like my new compass, when fear tugs on my gut, I know I’m walking in the right direction.

Incredible confection of façades throughout the city. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

Incredible confection of façades throughout the city. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

There’s a greater version of oneself yet to be lived, so even when you feel the fear—panic to the point of nausea—you still must do that thing. I was afraid of Nice, of being alone here, but I got my ass on the plane. You make these things happen for you because there is something more important than fear: you.

Had fear taken over, all the beauty of Nice would have been missed, from the sea and the glorious candy-colored architecture, to a chance to meet new people in a new city. It has been unforgettable exploring the sights—and tastes—of Nice: shopping in Old Town (La Vieille Ville); photographing the boats in the port; strolling on the Promenade des Anglais along the beach, eating a real salade niçoise at Le Safari. And I even took a bus to Monaco, for lunch. Me. All on my own.

When you risk your security, when you jump into the gaping maw of the unknown with faith and promise, only good can come of it. Part of me knew that—even in the face of fear and insecurity—and that’s why I came to Nice against my will.

Here’s what would have been missed if Nice hadn’t happened:

The Promenade des Anglais. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

The Promenade des Anglais. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

Idyllic beaches. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

Idyllic beaches. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

The view from Castle Hill. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

The view from Castle Hill. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

The colors of Old Town, La Vielle Ville. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

Old Town—La Vieille Ville. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

Old Town views. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

Old Town views. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

Quaint Old Town streets. ©Lisa Anselmo

Quaint streets and Umbrella Pines. ©Lisa Anselmo

The quiet, narrow alleys that remind me of Italy. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

The quiet, narrow alleys that remind me of Italy. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

The old port of Nice. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

The old port of Nice. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

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Place Massena at sunset. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

The glass ceiling at the Negresco Hotel designed by Gustave Eiffel. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

The glass ceiling of the Negresco Hotel designed by Gustave Eiffel. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

My friend's beautiful place in Nice. An incredible place to stay! Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

My friend’s beautiful place in downtown Nice. An incredible place to stay. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

The bright, cheery bedroom in my friend's wonderful place. An incredible place to stay! Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

The bright, cheery bedroom in my friend’s wonderful place. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

The balcony where I'd have a little apero each night. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

The balcony of the apartment where I’d have an apero. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

View from the balcony. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

The view from the balcony. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

 

28 responses to “On a Beach in Nice—Against My Will

  1. Nice piece; the best travel writers always travel alone. One meets people and notices things that would be missed entirely when traveling with a companion.

  2. Lisa…I hear you..it’s the things that we are afraid to do ..that end up being sometimes the best things…I’ve never been afraid of doing things on my own…it’s the worry about new people..or like you…”they don’t want to have to deal with me, they don’t know me”…but sometimes you just need to get out of your own head.

    another beautiful apartment….who says you are homeless?LOL

    ps saw your interview on CTV here in Canada…very well spoken, you did great!

  3. I’m sorry for the reason you ended up doing this alone, but how wonderful that you went anyway. Were you there just after the Cannes Film Festival finished? If so, that was a stroke of genius. Your photographs are lovely, showing off the city and the surf (a great surf for that part of the Mediterranean). I feel much like you do about leaving my cocoon, only my anxiety would best be described as a pervasive sense of dread and enervation. And yes, it is almost always best, but certainly not easy, to force myself out. (This from a former world traveler who never missed a chance to roam and preferred to do it alone!) Bravo to you, Lisa!!

    • “Pervasive sense of dread” is such a good way to describe it. But some of this is easing in the years since my Ma died. I’m definitely growing stronger and buying my place in Paris started the transformation! One bold step begets others.

  4. Oh my…I’ve been doing exactly what you have written about…the panic, the fear, the sweats, and then the let down because I didn’t do it. I’m so glad you took the leap of faith. I don’t know how old you are, but I am now past 65 and still haven’t found the courage. I am obsessed with France and love reading your. Blogs and viewing those pics. I think I know who your friend is…I read hers also. Enjoy! Sorry I missed your interview…I’m a Canadian also!

  5. When my daughter was a teenager, she had a leather wristband with the following message: Feel the fear, but do it anyway.

    Exactly.

    PS. Saw your CBC interview. Well done!

  6. Lisa, your article rang a bell. Two years ago I left a great job as a C-level officer because I’d had enough of having to go on vacation in Europe and check email everyday of the pitiful 7-10 days I could take (never mind what vacation I had that never was used). My husband, originally from France, is self-employed and could stay for weeks in France after I left. Enough! I quit (without a package!) and we went to France for three months-as long as we could without a visa. I’d figure out what to do after we got back. I took off a year and now do many things: hospital board, some legal practice (I am a lawyer), consulting and training…and taking cooking and French lessons and traveling to Europe; getting ready to start taking friends, which may turn into a business. I’m happy and don’t regret my decision for a millisecond. So many things happened that told me it was the right decision – that’s another story but the universe DOES respond!

  7. Wow, as I read this, I’m the lucky one sitting on the orange sofa in Le Matisse in Nice. I wanted a T-shirt that said “Nice is Nice”, but Nice is GREAT. The apartment is well situated to enjoy all Nice has to offer. Lisa, keep traveling!

    • Thanks! We’ve won the battle but we’ve not yet won the war. Only when we have the ban will it be close to being over. Tourists will not get the message otherwise. And there are still several bridges and landmarks inundated with locks. But it’s a great first step!

      • How do you feel about the removal of the metal grilles dating back to 1804 and their replacement by transparent panels? As I recall, the grills were beautiful. Couldn’t they be retained and covered with the panels to prevent the attachment of the padlocks (at least until that selfish craze is over)?

      • Hi Leslie—fear not! Those grilles are modern and have already been replaced many times over, because they have collapsed under the weight of the locks. The grilles were originally put on the bridge in the 1980s and they are just plain old chain link style, not beautiful. Also, the only thing left of the bridge from Napolean’s time is the foundation. Sadly, a barge hit the bridge in the 1980s and it had to be rebuilt! Thank you for caring as much as we do!

  8. Leaving for Paris from NYC in a few hours – and I’m anxious, I totally relate to your post. But I read something that keeps me moving forward “Be more curious than afraid.” I love that idea, and I don’t want my fear to squelch my curiosity to see the world. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  9. Pingback: Peace in Provence | My (Parttime) Paris Life·

  10. I know this post is one year old but last year in June we rented an apartment in Nice on the same street with the same view and the same balcony. Must have been in the building next door to yours. I love Nice so much!

    • Never too late to read and comment! I like Nice a lot, too. It’s really been beautified. I wonder if you were in the apartment next to the one I was in. Was the entrance to the apartment behind a large green door that led to a small vestibule with 2 doors?

  11. I don’t think it’s the same building. I looked at my pictures again and the balcony had a lot of swirls and yours had hearts. And when you walked in you immediately went up some wide stairs to access the elevator. The first day we were there we washed the black throw from the couch (black makes me nervous) and went to the Spar,and came back to find water running down the common hall from our apt. and the apt almost flooded. We felt sick and spent all night on our knees with towels and moving furniture. Thought we had ruined the apts. next door and under. Had to hand wash all the towels. When my daughter who lives in London arrived at 1 a.m.she looked at the washing machine and said the hose was not attached. The owner’s caretaker next day said they had the washing machine repaired and they forgot to reattach the hose. It took me days to stop shaking. Never a word of apology from the owner who lives in London. Still had a wonderful time. Also spent a week in Villefranche sur Mer.

    • Oh, no. I personally would have demanded a refund and moved out. That’s not the way you should have spent a vacation. You also shouldn’t have to feel the throw needs washing. (Ew.) Horrible story. This is one reason I never use sites like AirBnB, for example. I’ve only rented from agencies who take responsibility for these things and have a local property manager. For what these apartments cost, they should come with the level of service you’d find at a small hotel, so you can relax, not feel like you’re house-sitting. Villefranche sur Mer is lovely, though I don’t know if I could spend a whole week there. (Unless I’m writing. Then I’d like a place with a view of the boats, please!)

      • The apartment was lovely and it was spotless. I just didn’t like the black throw. One week was a bit long at Villefranche but I always promised myself I would stay there and have time to explore up to Monaco. My daughter is going to Nice next month with two friends and was asking about Adrian’s apartment but I don’t think there is room for three is there? She trains reporters for Reuters in developing countries.

      • There is room for 4 in Adrian’s apartment, actually. There is a convertible bed in the living room for 2 people, and the bed in the bedroom can become 2 twins.

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