Thursday, July 4, 2013

Day 2: Nice diary - You're turning lavender, Lavender!

Today, I had a mission. In spite of the full conference schedule, I vowed to explore Vieux Nice (Old Nice). But first, off to work. 

The science talks today did not disappoint. Top notch research on drug discovery kept me not only awake, but inspired. Perhaps moreso, I enjoyed hobnobbing with the researchers. This group has a very laid-back attitude that it's turned this conference into such a pleasant work travel for me.  Topics of conversation easily shifted from the lack of research funds to neglected diseases to multiple rejections (yikes!) to awkward questions such as: "Are you Japanese or Chinese?" and "How do I get a job out of research?"  

Chickpea crepe?  I can hear my sister laughing right now.
I generally dislike chewing food while engaged in a stimulating discussion, so I passed on the lunch. We just had pastries for the morning break anyway. As expected, I got hungry by mid-afternoon, so I took the tram to Cours Saleya, considered the heart of Old Nice, and went anywhere my feet led me. Henri Matisse lived in Cours Saleya and painted many of his arts here.  The name derived from "soleil" or sun, as the flower market is pretty exposed. A lot of tourists flock Cours Saleya for its vibrant shops selling food, antiques, local arts,  and souvenirs. I had lunch at a crepe place, ordering the savory vegetarian socca, the chickpea crepe specialty here in Nice. Uh, to be honest, it was just ok. It doesn't hold a candle to the crepe carts in Paris.

In Cours Saleya, Lavender is pretty ubiquitous. Apart from the flower stalls, it also adorns restaurant tables and shops. As I continued to explore, I happened upon Fenocchio, the famous gelato place, which has 86 different flavors. Although I wasn't exactly in the mood, I had to try a boule since even my French friend had suggested this place. The flavors included unexpected ones such as cactus, verbena, olive, rose, jasmine, and... lavender. Guess which one I had? FYI, the boule is about 1/2 or 1/3 of American scoop, which is just about what I could handle. Verdict: the lavender gelato smelled good, and it is delicious too. I had to fight the urge to dab my wrists with it.

'Twas a tough choice between the lavender and violet.
I started heading back to the conference, but stopped at the herb shop to pick up a particular herb. Guess what you'll be trying in the coming days, sweetie?

After the conference, I went back to Old Nice for dinner. I am so happy that I made a reservation at Oliviera. This family-owned and run restaurant is the perfect place to end the day. When I told Nidim, the owner, how much I've heard of his restaurant.  He said "Don't believe it.  We are a simple place." And yet, I knew he was lying. Mind you, you should not be in a rush if you want to eat here. Nidim takes pride in his oils, and the oil tasting is such an experience. He is also very gracious. The place was fully booked, and he was apologetic to the people who walked in without reservation. I looked at the menu, which was in French, and picked the first one that appealed to me. Nidim said "No... ask me, ask me." So, I confessed that I forgot my French dictionary, and I couldn't understand half of the items on the menu. He described everything in detail and with great patience. While I am slowly giving up meat again, I decided that I will have the beef canneloni; the beef was simmered for 8 hours. They really are a patient bunch! I also had my first red wine after a long time, and I'm glad I waited to try it here. The Corbière is earthy and not tannic. The best part of this dinner, however, is the array of olive oils I tasted - one tasted like unripe banana, while one is a late harvest black olive Nidim drizzled on Tiramisu. In the end, I bought an oil that tasted like a combination of almond and artichoke, the Olive Oil Nicois. Mind you, this is not an infusion. It's just the type of olive that they make here - apparently harvested just 10 km away. I cannot wait to use it. I'm sure it will go perfectly with the lavender-scented salad I'll be making next week.

Big metal jars of Olive oil harvest

The second oil smelled like rainforest.
The canneloni I'll remember.

Nidim and Mr. Toutou parted as friends.


  1. Mr Toutou is so awesome! I love all your blogs. You make me feel as if I am there.