Archive for April, 2011

Un aïoli dans le Vieux Nice

Posted in La France, Nice at 19:00

Suggestion du jour, Pilha Leva

Yesterday, rather than sew, I realized I had better go to the mairie (city hall) to request my French ID. At the citizenship ceremony, our cartes de séjour et de résidence, visitor/work/residence permits, were taken by the préfecture since gaining French nationality meant we’d no longer be “visitors”. We were given our new French birth certificates, which are one of the documents needed to request French ID. Rather than go to city hall on a Saturday morning, likely to be crowded, I decided to use one of my weekday vacation mornings and then make the most of my detour in the old town. After une flânerie (a stroll), I had aïoli, a traditional Provençal dish with a garlic, basil, pepper and egg white sauce. In fact, the name aïoli is the name of the sauce, which, theoretically, could be served with anything that goes along well, but as the name of a dish, it usually comes with potatoes, courgette (zucchini), leeks, carrots, boiled egg, and white fish.

When I got home and uploaded photos, I realized that in all my years here, I still hadn’t created a photoset for Nice’s old town. That’s done now: Vieux Nice photoset includes the photos from yesterday and several older ones.

Tomorrow is May Day, so here’s some traditional May Day muguet (lily of the valley)!

Muguet (Lily of the valley)

A styling pair

Posted in Crafts at 20:45

A-line tartan skirt

I’ve been on vacation this week, using it to rest, sew, and write. Our sudden summery weather in Nice, coupled with favorable fashion winds, combined to spark my desire to sew. I’ll also admit… I love the TV series “Mad Men“. It’s been nice to see designers follow the trend; even sewing pattern publishers are linking some of their vintage designs to the show. On Tuesday, while shopping for buttons in a mercerie (crafting notions specialty store), I noticed they had posted a large ad on the side of a counter in the middle of the shop, for this Butterick pattern (B5557), with the woman in the red dress, and a caption along the lines of “Mad for style”. It’s something of a windfall for me, since I don’t get along so well with contemporary styles that seem to be in a race for tightest fit and sheerest fabrics. Conveniently for clothing manufacturers, that means less fabric used, and the fabric itself is often cheaper. Before the advent of fabrics with stretch, clothes were tailored with ease, a sewing term for allowance added to body measurements in order to make a garment wearable. Tight clothes such as sheath dresses, when made of non-stretch fabrics, often require special undergarments, such as corsets and girdles, in order to keep a stable foundation so that seams don’t pull or tear.

As for the Mad Men-like pattern, I had already ordered the same a few days earlier! I also got the two other patterns shown with it in the photo below:

Retro patterns

The wrap dress on the left was Butterick’s most popular pattern in the 1950s: dress 6015. “Sales of the pattern were so great, that at one point manufacturing of all other patterns ceased, and only the ‘walk-away’ dress was produced until all back-orders for this dress could be filled.”

Before those patterns arrived yesterday afternoon, I finished a few Burda magazine (now called “burda style”) patterns, including the simple A-line skirt in the top photo. Kanoko was adorable, as usual, and mimicked my pose for the camera. Others include a purple shirt dress and a flowery seersucker empire dress. I’m working on a pair of pants from the same tartan fabric as the skirt (practical for wearing to the office), and plan to start on one of the retro dresses tomorrow. It will probably be the walk-away dress, so named because you could start it in the morning and “walk away” in it for lunch.

Issa Nissa

Posted in La France, Nice at 18:35


Just a quick post to share the unusual expression of team spirit in Nice this evening. Nice’s football (soccer) team made it to the Coupe de France semifinals, and are playing Lille in Nice tonight. The football stadium is in earshot of my apartment, so I’ve seen plenty of red and black scarves, flags and jerseys in the streets. Much more than for other matches, it’s fun. Even this women’s clothing store got into spirit. The guys below are dressed in Nice team jerseys, I passed them on my walk home, among dozens of others (who were harder to photograph).

Nice fans in team jerseys

Hermes’ cars

Posted in La France at 11:20


As of yesterday, licensed drivers in Nice can now get around with pay-per-use electric cars, dubbed Auto Bleue and decorated with wings. One of the stations is near my apartment; all of us in the area are delighted by the concept. Currently, it costs (“les tarifs” on the website) 25 euros to sign up, for which you have to provide a scan of both your driver’s license and a second form of valid ID, then:
– 8 euros for one hour
– 20 euros for four hours in the morning (if you first take the car between 7am and 9am)
– 20 euros for five hours in the evening (if you first take the car between 7pm and 9pm)
– 50 euros for a full day (if you first take the car between 7am and 9am)
– or, for 50 euros a month, you can use the service for a total of ten hours in the month, beyond which it’s 5 euros an hour. (You have to sign up for a minimum of 6 months for this offer.)

The price includes the electricity, mileage, insurance, and round-the-clock assistance from the car – they come with a GPS – or by telephone. Beyond that, you also save on in-city parking, since you can hook it up at any of the 14 stations in Nice, as well as at a station in Cagnes-sur-Mer and another in Saint Laurent du Var. The drawback being, of course, that you do have to return it to a station, so if you wanted to use one for a daily commute, it would only be practical if you worked near one of the spots. New stations will likely be added, as they’ve done for the Vélo Bleu (pay-per-use bicycles). The Auto Bleue website also points out that “Le coût total moyen d’une voiture particulière est de 5360€/an, pour une petite voiture à essence. (source ADEME.)” Translation: “The average total cost of a personal car is 5360 euros per year, for a small gas-powered car.”

That total cost of ownership, along with parking headaches and crazy Riviera drivers, are why I don’t have a car. I take the bus, tram and train everywhere, for a total monthly cost of 25-35 euros. That’s 15 euros/month for the bus I take to work, plus 10-20 euros/month for city tram and bus usage. It’s hard to be convinced to shell out 5360 euros/year when I only spend 420 euros maximum (35 euros x 12 months) to go practically everywhere I need and want, plus I never have to worry about repairs, accidents, insurance, parking, registration, or gas stations! Indeed, I’ve become so accustomed to getting around by public transportation and my own two feet, whether walking or bicycling, that I can’t yet think of a personal use for these new electric cars, other than taking home large purchases. But I live alone; I can definitely see how practical the Auto Bleue will be for families and even couples, as well as business people who come to the Riviera often enough that it could replace a more-expensive rental car.



Posted in La France, Nice at 17:00


Ma cérémonie d’accueil dans la nationalité française took place on Friday, in the palais préfectoral located in Vieux Nice. The “prefectoral palace” was formerly le palais des ducs de Savoie ; le palais des rois de Sardaigne. Just 150 years ago, Nice was not part of France, but part of the duchy of Savoy, which later became part of the kingdom of Sardinia, thus the dual names for the palace. Although the palace is open to visit a few times a year, I’d never been inside, so it was quite a treat to experience the richly decorated salle des fêtes (festivities hall) firsthand.

About a hundred brand-new French citizens residing in the département des Alpes-Maritimes had been invited to the ceremony, so it was quite large, and long. The sous-préfet began the ceremony with a nice speech, then we stood to sing La Marseillaise. After that, we were shown a short film entitled “Devenir Français”, which gave a very brief history of la République Française, the Déclaration des droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen, some background on the French republic’s values (and official motto) liberté, égalité, fraternité, an additional bit on laïcité, and finally, a rather jarring sequence of ground, air, and naval war scenes with running commentary about how we could be called to defend France.

Once the film had finished, we were each called by name to shake hands with the sous-préfet and our city’s representative, and receive our new papers. There was a verre de l’amitié (“friendship toast”) afterwards, but as we’d all arrived at 8:30am and I was finally called at 11am (they went in alphabetical order), I didn’t hang around to see how it went. Neither did many others – it was kind of a shame that they had invited so many of us at once, since a smaller group would have been more conducive to meeting people. Even the préfecture staff commented on how the group was a bit too large, so I got the sense that they’ll be on a smaller scale in the future.

Poisson chat d’avril

Posted in Cats at 17:17

Kanoko recharging

Kanoko recharges his retinal laser beams with this customized charging station (it also doubles as an ADSL modem).

More seriously, about a month ago he discovered that the modem gets nice and warm, so he decided to use it as a regular napping spot. His preferred napping spot is on my valet stand by the entry, after I’ve taken my coat and purse for the workday. Once I get back home, he’s always laying there with a bleary “just woke up” expression, which soon changes to his usual excited greeting. His second favorite spot is on the back of the couch, looking out the window to the patio. And his third spot, where he doesn’t stay more than an hour, is on top of the modem.

In less fishy news, I had my cérémonie d’accueil dans la nationalité française today. I’ll post about it tomorrow.