Sailing into Nice is an immersion of blue. Deep Mediterranean blue. Above a soft sky blue that fades into clouds- grey on the left, white above and to the right, more blue. The buildings are white, this is France after all. Low hills gently grow, the further east we travel, into taller more peaked and dominant hills. We glided on top of the water, past Nice and into Villefranche-sur-Mer.
It’s the first sight of France I’ve had in nearly ten years. I’d toured here as a teenager with my choir and the Paris youth orchestra. That few-week-long stent traveling the country started a love affair for me, one that I’ve never been able to get over and I doubt I ever will. So, if you’re one of those “I don’t like France they’re *insert issue here*” you should probably stop reading here. I love France and am shamelessly romantic about it.
That first glimpse of Nice, we thought, would be our only one. On our way back through we planned to take a train through, and stay much further east before entering Andorra. We had taken a train to Milan, and tried to go to Marseille but could not “It’s full” the woman told us.
She was wrong, or her English was wrong, I’m not sure which.
The trains to Marseille weren’t full, they were stopped.
The river Brague, east of Nice had terrible flooding, and a landslide followed. Sixteen people died. We didn’t know this, we just knew we could only get as far as Nice for the night. Trains to Barcelona, and to Paris both went through Marseille; unless you back-tracked and went through the alps.
So, unplanned, we stayed in Nice for two nights.
Grey of the storm still hung over the city, threatening rain, though not delivering it. The rocky shore was cooler now. Beach umbrellas were collapsed and the scape was almost entirely populated by locals. We walked along the shore and the park and found a grocery store.Inside that store was a flurry of culinary delights not least of which was the perfectly stinky sausage that no one makes like the French: Saucisson.
Our Dutch friend had grieved over our not bringing any with us when we first stayed with him. When he found out we didn’t even know what it was, he’d looked at us as if we’d told him we’d never heard of a car or a train. To him it was one of the most necessary, basic and delicious French foods. He was, again, completely right.
From then on, we rarely set out on an extended train trip without saucisson.
What does it taste like? Pig. If you’ve had stinky cheese that simultaneously repels you and draws you in, think of that. If you haven’t, I’m sorry and I hope you will try some. White mold covers the casing, a shriveled length of pork fat and pork meat is embedded with peppercorns and garlic. Sometimes the meat is first drenched with red wine, sometimes it’s not. The casing is probably edible but it’s tough and covered in mold, so I slit the side and cut a slice.
We sit on a bench, cut open our new favorite sausage and watch the gulls fly over the palms. The wind is still cool and the sky still grey. It was one of those quiet moments that sticks with you. Back to the hostel we went and were up early the next day. We did finally get on the train but not to Andorra. Ripples of change expanded and we decided to go straight to Barcelona, instead.