Translated into English, the words Côte d’Azur mean “coast of a blue-ish color”. This being said, there is nothing “ish” about the color of the Mediterranean Sea in Nice, France.
The Côte d’Azur, or the French Riviera, is a region of the southernmost coast of France, stretching along the Mediterranean Sea from Mentón in the east to La Camargue in the west, populated in between by destinations such as St. Tropez, Monaco, and Nice. The water here is a cyan so fluorescent you might believe it to be dyed and chlorinated. Such is the general atmosphere here—with its gambling, palm trees, polished marble plazas, luxury shopping, lip fillers, pretty cars, clubbing, and fine dining—you could mistake Nice with a slew of semi-tropical resorts in far reaches of the world from California to the Caribbean to Spain. Nice attracts the sort of wealth which knows no boundary between France and the Bahamas, the sort of wealth to whom the implications of international travel never occurs due to baffling quantities of disposable funds.
Across the street from the AirBnB my friends and I reserved, at 8:26 a.m. Sunday, September 18th, a woman stands in a long t-shirt on her balcony, a dog lies in a green lawn chair, and a tomcat perches on the iron railing. Through the glass of her french doors I can see clearly into the airy apartment, where dim morning light suffuses the space behind her. She lights a cigarette. Her daughter slips out onto the balcony with a squirt bottle and sprays the cat until it jumps from the railing and onto the floor. It was forecasted to rain all day, but there they are, my French neighbors, basking in horizontal slews of early morning sun.
I sit on my own balcony, drinking a cup of tea. After traveling in a bus for eight hours and arriving in Nice around 2 a.m., this is the only appropriate way to begin my day. Slowly.
Nice is quiet only for a moment: quickly life picks up where it was left just hours ago. Out from corners, where the streets were recently alive with women wearing small dresses walking home from the club, now emerge locals lining up for coffee and grabbing produce for their breakfasts.
My friends and I spend the morning sitting on the boardwalk, drinking coffee, reading, writing, and sightseeing. When it comes time to eat, we settle on a small local joint called Zeni Coffee. A secret of mine (which has not been well kept) is that I am not a big fan of Italian food. It comes as no surprise that the brunch I had at Zeni Coffee remains to be the best food I’ve had during my time abroad. I order an avocado toast with roasted tomatoes, egg, smoked salmon, garlic and chive cream cheese, arugula, and a condiment smeared along the charred bread of some savory umami flavor. The espresso is also fantastic.
Then the shopping ensues—of which there is an abundance. I buy a sweater in anticipation of the changing seasons; my friends buy shoes and sunglasses. Not only are there Zara’s and sneaker stores, however. Nice seems to have an open market every day of the week. We head east away from the central part of town and discover a stretch of local vendors selling produce, flowers, dried lavender, soaps, woven tote bags (embroidered with phrases such as Nice! and Côte D’Azur) and on and on.
Evening creeps up. We make a pit stop at the apartment to change into our bikinis and head towards the beach. If you’ve not been to Nice before, it's worth knowing that these beaches don't have a grain of sand on them. The shoreline is entirely composed of large, smooth, gray rocks—which makes getting in and out of the water difficult. None of us venture into the sea. This being said, the temperature was unbelievable.
It is legal for women to beach shirtless in Nice, an opportunity which I do in fact seize. The feeling is liberating.
The time I spent in Nice had little to do with Nice itself, and everything to do with the places I wasn't. I wasn’t in Siena, where it had presently been pouring. I wasn’t home in New York, where my family lives. I wasn’t at college in Boston, where there aren’t beaches. I was eating breakfast at noon. I was sunbathing on the beach. I was shopping for flowers.
Returning to Siena, I brought with me an altered perspective.
Where you live isn’t nearly as important as how you live.
I am privileged in saying that I have the capacity to choose to live a beautiful life during my time abroad. Whether or not I do so is a matter of reminding myself every morning of the choices I have to make. I will carry my camera with me everywhere. I will shop at the local markets. I will get to know the baristas at my favorite coffee shops. And when I return to New York, I will carry with me my altered perspective. I will choose.
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My name is Olivia Bozuhoski, and I am a Boston-based Arts Administration student. I love painting, reading, journaling, hiking, wine, and learning about art history. I am thrilled to be in Italy this semester, and even more thrilled to be sharing the experience with students like myself.