11 Dec Southern France: Nice Christmas Markets
Giant ornament sculpture in Grimaldi Square
The Nice Christmas Markets were in full force last weekend as I made my way through the carnival atmosphere in Grimaldi Square to the shopping area. Along the way to the markets I encountered such magnificent sights as the new pavilion which is a vast open green space with playgrounds for the children, gardens for the horticulturists and benches for the aged and the young in love.
In Grimaldi Square itself, music blared as young school kids from various dance studios performed routines to the beat of popular American tunes. Onlookers sang along and clapped for the brave souls who danced on stage to the vast crowds.
Younger children engaged in games of chance, took rides on the ferris wheel and even attempted to get to the top of the rock climbing wall. A skinny, but adorable Santa appeared, much to the delight of the little ones.
Public works got into the act by taking up a corner of the square to amaze the crowds with a car hooked up to fire hoses that created a force so strong that the water lifted the car into the air for at least 30 seconds. When it came down precisely as planned, the excess water came rushing towards the crowds’ feet, but no one seemed to care. A rousing round of applause ensued and people queued for the next demonstration.
French favorites, such as giant slices of Nougatine and mini Bouche de Nöel cakes were sold at the market booths. Of course, jewelry and leather handbags were also big hits, but the best of the market were the mini Christmas villages and creche’s made by local Provence artisans. The craftsmanship was par none and the lines were knee-deep as people were carefully taking their time to choose this year’s latest pieces to add to their collections.
Seasonal gourmet delights such as Gingerbread men, Christmas cookies, Gingerbread houses, candied apples and fruit cakes were popular foodie items found in the markets.
The colors and designs of the treats were spectacular! Cherry reds and Granny Smith greens were flanked by chocolate dreams dotted with gold or white accents or gum drops with sugary coatings. I was tempted to buy some, but was reluctant to carry them back on the plane as most seemed to delicate to transport. What a pity, because they looked so yummy!
Ice skating was a popular activity next door to the markets where a pop-up rink was assembled. It reminded me of my youth, when skating was part of our normal winter activities. There were quite a lot of children who brought their own skates, so I imagine this is an annual tradition that many families look forward to participating in yearly. Hot chocolate or chocolat chaud as the French call it, was sold nearby for those who felt it a bit chilly being on the ice for too long and for the parents not skating, but keeping a close watchful eye on their children.
Dusk approached and the lights from the ferris wheel could be seen from the other side of the city. As the day came to a close and the night cold settled in, I watched in delight as tired children rested atop of their father’s shoulders or were fast asleep in their strollers – signs of a successful family day at the Christmas Markets in Nice. As for moi, I headed next to my favorite café, Côte de Lounge for an appetizer and a glass of red wine to warm me up. It was a tough job today for this journalist, but you’ll hear no complaints from me. It was an incredible day in Nice and one I won’t soon forget.