I mean Nice Nice Shopping - oh, you get it ...
I love to shop. There is something invigorating about discovering a beautiful boutique, where everything is creatively displayed, and each item is unique and interesting. Fortunately, Nice is a city filled with enticing shops and quaint boutiques, and finding them is half the fun! The Old Town (Vieux Nice) is a maze of narrow, windy streets that drop you into squares filled with fountains and churches. Parallel to the famous "Promenade des Anglais" are streets filled with shops and cafés, some conveniently blocked off to traffic. (Check out rue de France)
As shopping is a favorite pastime of mine, and there is much to talk about, we will return to this topic again to discuss the various shopping districts, but here are 3 of my local favorites that you probably won't find in guidebooks. I'm sure you can find Galeries Lafayette on your own, but we love hidden treasures, n'est-ce pas?
95 rue de France (France/Gambetta quartier)
+33 (0)4 93 97 69 11
The cheerful red and yellow catch your eye immediately, then the cleverly decorated front window, which changes quite regularly. Suddenly you find yourself inside, warmly greeted by owner Marielle. She has had her little ray of sunshine for over 25 years, opening her doors in 1996 with a boutique half the current size. Over the years she has been carefully selecting items that surprise and delight. She fills her shop with things she loves - her "coups de coeur" - rather than with what is trendy at the moment. I am absolutely in love with all of the tins, for sugar, chocolate, tea ... just about anything you can think of! I seem to purchase another each time I wander in. There is art de la table, home decor, gifts of all kinds, and a dreamy "coin bébé" in the back. Of course there is a splash of her native Provence, but not the cheesy-souvenir-shop kind, more like the embroidered linen tea towels that are too precious to ever use, but lovely as gifts. I have found practical things for our home, such as pretty grocery carts, trays for apéro, and aprons with French expressions that are proudly Made in France. Although a rather small shop, plan to spend some time here as there is a lot to see!
I asked Marielle about the name, which I love. Native from Provence, she said she wanted something with the word "sun". She was considering "Plein Soleil" when her mom suggested 1,2,3 Soleil, after the kids' game (the French version of "Red light, green light"). Génial! I am taking this as a green light to come back often! (Shhh.... I told my husband I was going out for stamps...)
Girofle et Cannelle
Ciro Forte may just have the best smelling boutique in Nice. But it isn't a perfume shop. "Girofle et Cannelle" (Clove and Cinnamon) is a specialty shop featuring dry seasonings, teas and balsamic vinegar. We stumbled upon this store last fall as we wandered the labyrinth of streets that make up Vieux Nice. The intoxicating aroma emanating from the bowl of brightly colored dried fruits stopped us in our tracks. "What is that?" This was no ordinary infusion, but a blend called "Soleil à Nice", made up of pineapple, mango, clementine, slices of orange, strawberry, safflower flowers and marigold flowers. It is indeed, sunshine in a cup! We had to have some!
We were looking for a small package of herbes de Provence, and Ciro invited us in for a tour of flavors. Old-fashioned and classy, the spice blends are all displayed in large, domed glass decanters. When I told Ciro we only needed a small amount, he told us we needed to stay longer (did he know we would be buying a place before we did?). We carefully lifted dome after dome to smell the unique blends.
Then he asked if we would like to do a balsamic vinegar tasting. Avec plaisir! We started with the 5-year old, and worked our way up, each one getting thicker and more complex in taste. Ciro explained the lengthy process - each year the vinegar is moved into a smaller barrel made from a different kind of wood to absorb new aromas and enrich the flavor. Then he told us about the family tradition of Modena, which completely warmed my heart. ( I'll let you watch the video, but for those who need the English translation, it can be found below.
Ciro: The balsamic vinegar offered by Girofle et Canelle, the major interest is that we offer a balsamic which is without coloring, without caramel, without added sugar. Following the Modena tradition, there are different protocols of the Modena tradition, in particular that at the birth of a child in a family of producers, we will offer a battery of 5 vintages of different types of wood. This battery will belong to the child when he leaves the house to make his own home, it is part of his dowry. (Ciro further explained to us that this "battery" is started with a portion of his father's vintage, and that this child will start his child's vintage with some of his own, so the balsamic is really passed down through the generations)
Traci: That's a beautiful story. Can you explain to us why it costs so much?
Ciro: There is a ground work that is very lengthy. Today when industries make vinegars, they will add caramel and sugar. The traditional producer is going to refine his balsamic vinegar over many years, changing each year the size of the barrel as well as the type of wood, which is going to enrich the color, the aroma and the flavor of the balsamic.
We selected a modest 10-year balsamic (the 150-year old one was a tad bit over budget, at 1500 euros!) and also a 5-year white balsamic spray to put on salads. Loaded up with tea, spices and balsamic vinegars, we then discovered the pepper mills. There were elegant, rustic wooden ones, as well as painted ones, in both matte and shiny finishes. What they all had in common was the Peugeot mechanism, known to be the crème de la crème of mills. We got a set for ourselves, and some to give as gifts. This had already become our favorite store, and there were still the infused rums to sample! Yes, they have an exquisite array of rum infused with their exotic tea flavors - Peach Riviera, Magic Ginger and Banana Cacao, to name a few. And of course, Soleil à Nice (which is delicious!)
When we got back to our rental property, we set the pretty bag of tea on the dining room table. We were so delighted with its sunny aroma that filled the room that we didn't dare drink the tea for several weeks! We also didn't have a container for loose tea, but we learned that it didn't matter - the rehydrated fruit was completely edible! If you can't wait to try it, you are in luck! Ciro has agreed to ship some for our Christmas Market, November 14-15.
We have been back to his beautiful shop more times than I can remember, always finding something new and special. My son's favorite infusion is the new "Les Collines de Nice" that came out last spring. Apparently it is a favorite of the Princess of Monaco as well, according to her chef that shops there. This hidden gem is not to be missed. Put the address in your GPS and plan on a journey of discovery for all of the senses. Tell Ciro that Traci sent you!
4 Rue Pairolière
+33 (0)4 93 54 43 13
French Riviera Girls
While arriving in Nice is always a pleasure, parting is quite difficult! The sun, the sea, the true enjoyment of living ... I want to keep it all with me. Fortunately, I have found the prettiest little reminders that I carry with me back at home. Far from gadgets bought at a souvenir shop, these are practical items I use daily, with a touch of elegance and sophistication. The microfiber to wipe my sunglasses ... the small pouch tucked inside my purse for lipsticks ... even my scarf, with just a pop of color - they all have delicate yet intricate scenes from the Côte d'Azur. Once glimpse and the memories come rushing back.
Un grand merci to Véronique Mialhe who combines her various passions: textiles, drawing and her native Provence, in a whimsical, elegant collection called "French Riviera Girls". Feminine, fresh and fun, her pieces display the iconic heritage of the Côte d'Azur. "Each pochette tells a story of the richness of the region". First, the vibrant designs and rich colors catch your eye, then you notice familiar sites: la chaise bleue - the Negresco Hotel - even the galets that line the beach, to name a few. Véronique captures the essence of the French Riviera and weaves their tales into an assortment of bags made from the finest fabrics. She adds subtle details in contrasting fabrics and trim pieces. Nothing is overlooked.
Hers is a family story, where four generations of women in the clothing industry have inspired these beautifully crafted designs. She created this brand as a link between art and textiles, and is constantly adding new pieces. Currently her collection contains scarves, an assortment of bags (even iPad covers), jewelry, microfibers (for glasses and screens), decorative pillows, postcards and the most adorable paper vases.
I first discovered these beautiful products at Galeries Lafayette in Nice last year. I wanted one of each! When I met with Véronique to find out more, she was just as lovely as her brand. Kind and creative, passionate about both her work and her region, Véronique is expanding her brand every year. In addition to her collection at Galeries Lafayette (4th floor between the escalator and the checkout) and Maison de Nice (Nice Etoile - basement level) she is also in the Nice airport shops (So Nice). And, in case you are not able to make it to the Riviera, I am extremely lucky to have a few of her products for sale in our online boutique.
6 Av. Jean Médecin, 06000 Nice
30 Av. Jean Médecin, 06000 Nice
So there you have it - my 3 best kept secrets, which I gladly share with you!