The bus is moving quickly through traffic, down the Promenade des Anglais, which runs parallel to the Mediterranean, before it stops at a red light. I look out the window and see three different shades of blue water. Photos didn’t prepare me for how gorgeous it would be. I look back towards Travis just as the bus lurches forward and hits the car in front of him.
The little girl sitting across from me unwillingly flies into my lap. Her mother falls onto Travis. He catches her, as well as himself. The girl climbs back into her seat and gives me the evil eye. I don’t have the words to ask her if she’s okay in French, so I ask in English. She continues to stare me down. Her mother is apologizing to Travis, who is telling her it’s fine. She turns her attention to her daughter and assures me that everyone is fine. The bus driver is out on the street talking to the car owner. The car owner isn’t happy, but there’s no damage and no one is hurt. The bus driver climbs back on board and we continue on our route.
Over the next week, there will be a handful of weird incidents. In each one we will encounter a helpful, smiling, caring Nicoise native. It’s cliche to say that Nice is nice. But it is. And the Nicoise are. A (volunteer, unpaid) tour guide lets us know that if we run into any problems during our stay to give him a call. “If you need a doctor, or the police, or anything, I can help you,” he assures. A bus driver and a bus full of tired soccer fans will carefully attend to a man who passes out on the way home. The Nicoise will choose to appreciate the unscheduled smoke break, rather than be annoyed as we wait for the ambulance to arrive. Everyone wants to be sure the man is okay. Our horrible French won’t incite looks of disgust from the people we try to speak to, but will instead be met with a confused smile and “Un peu d’anglais.” We stumble our way through the conversations and our participants are always nice, always smiling, always helpful.
Over the week we will learn that Nice is easy to navigate and supported well by a fantastic public transportation system. We’ll learn that they’re serious (really serious) about taking lunch at noon and drinking wine all day. But over and over we will be shown this place that is both European and tropical, proper and relaxed, is beyond anything else, nice.