January 11, 2013

Have a Nice Birthday!

Oh, I will, thank you!

My actual "day of" found us in Paris, searching for an elusive sushi restaurant we had gone to Marc's first day in Europe - in 2011. All we both remembered was how the inside looked and the general 20 streets nearby.

We did miraculously find it, but it was closed until evening, so we decided to stop in at a boulangerie (bakery) that had a small tea room attached to its side. The tea room was PERFECT. It had a deal on the menu where you could get a hot drink, two mini-cakes, and two macarons, whatever flavors you like! It worked out very nicely in our favor, and we will be going back.

When we finally did get into the Japanese restaurant, it ended up being ours alone for the entire meal! This does not mean it's a bad place to eat; we were simply eating way earlier (6pm) than the French crowd (8pm or later). My eclectic plate had shrimp avocado rolls, tempura zucchini and carrot, salmon sashimi, and KIWI. Yes, please!

But the real birthday investment this year came in the form of our spontaneous trip to Nice, France, on the French Riviera. We were sitting around on Thursday night, and somehow we all of a sudden decided to try to find a sunny place to go for the weekend, since it would be one of our last known free weekends together and the weather in Paris is terrible right now.

So we scoured the internet, found the deals we wanted, and hopped on the southbound train at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning! We are getting really good at finding European sunshine in the middle of winter.

Bay of Angels view from Castle Hill
Nice had awesome weather for us! It was 60 degrees and sunny, which may seem cold to some of you Californians, but after 40 degrees and rainy, it was fantastic! One of the coolest things about the bay/beach area was the sun rose on the left side of the coast, then set on the right side - making all daylight hours shine on the shore! Nice is definitely one of the greatest weather places to live in the world.

St. Nicholas Russian Cathedral
It also has a great mix of culture embedded in the community. It has always been either French or Italian, but in the 1800s the British and Russians figured out it would be a more ideal location for winter than their native lands. This made the restaurant scene excellent and interesting, with every nation's version of pizza and seafood!

The Promenade des Anglais (the English Promenade is a lattice-covered walkway that spans most of the pebbly beach) sets the tone for the coastline and the city: everyone in town strolls everywhere. In Paris, we march to get out of the weather usually. It was cool to see how good weather can change the speed of a town. We also happened upon the weekend of a 10k run, which helped us blend in with our athletic apparel, and ensured all stores and restaurants would be staying open for the extra population.

The evenings showed off the great lighting in the city of Nice, and also gave us the last weekend of Christmas markets and attractions in the main square. People from every walk of life were out on the town; from sweatpants to fur coats. Nearly every street in the district had special lighted decorations; we saw over-sized ribbons and bows, curtains, chandeliers, and even zebra print spotlights.

Waterfall on Castle Hill
Daytime gave us the opportunity to meander through antique and book markets, and see the variety of international items that have come to call Nice home. We enjoyed the elevator and climb up Castle Hill for the city views, and loved even more the adventure downhill through the back streets of houses and lives.

We had wanted to come back to Nice ever since the one night we spent there before our Christmas cruise last year. We were not disappointed! It was relaxing, warm, intriguing, and beautiful.

Thank you to my wonderful husband, Marc, for spending the time to come up with the nicest plan for the perfect start to another year!