It’s virtually impossible to do a blog post on Nice in France without some kind of pun in the title! And in truth I have been getting to know Nice, in spite of the somewhat inclement weather.
My first day was one of those hazy, muggy, dreary, drizzly days. Not with the dramatic kind of rain that suddenly gives way to bright sunshine offset against black skies and maybe even a rainbow for good measure, like a ‘forgive me’ card for having been a bit mean. No, the only pleasure I enjoyed was that lovely essence of damp honeysuckle and roses. Which is great, but unfortunately not something you can photograph! So my late morning traverse up the hillside to look down on the bay – which sounds more interesting than it actually was as it mostly involved just crossing from one side of the windy road to the other, dodging cars careering around the corners – resulted in something so ‘blah’ that I didn’t even bother getting the camera out.
After lunch I decided to give it another shot – at sea level – by walking to the old town and port. My guidebook warned me this would take around an hour, but I had a cunning plan. I would hire one of the ‘Velo Bleu’ bikes from their starting blocks by the sea. This was a bold move by me as I’m a bit nervous about the (so-called) ‘Boris bikes’ back home, but I told myself this would be so easy in comparison – the terrain was flat and I couldn’t possibly get lost when all I had to do was keep the sea to my right. So, I registered my bank card, got my bike and was good to go.
Except now it was raining! But that didn’t matter – a little rain wouldn’t hurt me. Well, actually it could, because I saw not one but two people come a cropper by skidding on the wet surface. I hadn’t realised I was partaking in a dangerous sport….But somehow I made it to the port in one piece and was now ready to lose the bike so that I could explore the old town. I was even feeling very smug because this had all been achieved in less than half an hour, which meant my journey was gratis. Well it would have been, except I couldn’t get the docking screen to switch on to register the bike being returned and lock the bike. I tried every free docking slot but to no avail. So, I had no choice but to get back in the saddle and try another dock – except that didn’t work either. Or the next one. By this point I was practically back to where I started from and wondering just what it was I was getting so terribly wrong. Eventually I swallowed my pride and phoned the help number, and was informed that the docks don’t generally work when it’s raining, only on sunny days! As if I wasn’t being punished enough by the weather, it wouldn’t even let me ride a bleeding bike!
I could see that the woman on the end of the phone was trying to get rid of me because firstly I was a problem she couldn’t resolve and secondly she was tired of trying to give me instructions in her broken English. So, when I saw another person crazy enough to hire one of the bikes I chased him down and asked him how I was supposed to return mine. “Come with me” I’ll take you to a dock that works” he beckoned. And so we peddled together through the old town of Nice and I began thinking how this would be a great start to a romantic novel, until I was rudely interrupted by him swearing upon our arrival at the chosen docking station: “Merde! These aren’t working either!” He then went on to instruct me to just lock it up, note the number and write to them, before disappearing into the drizzle.
So, my bleeding bleu bike was unceremoniously abandoned and my bank card is depleting with every hour because there seems to be no means of writing to them (the form doesn’t work, nor do the texts and there is no email address).
Apart from that hanging over me, things got better the next day when the blue bike was replaced with blue skies. So I promenaded along the sea front, climbed a hill to a park for some great views and revisited the port and the old town on foot. I also had a rendezvous with my French partner who just happened to be passing through Nice on route to the Cannes film festival, where I join him tomorrow. Well you can’t be in France without enjoying a bit of French romance!