When I think back to my very first French classes in ninth grade, a few things I learned stand out in particular. One is that even if your pet cat is a female, always use the masculine form of the word when talking about it in French. Another is that you shouldn’t wear short shorts and lean against walls in certain areas of Paris, or a jealous prostitute might have you arrested for taking her spot. A third is that young people love to go roller-blading on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. Of course, I learned all those things thanks to my high school French teacher. She’s the one who inspired me to keep studying the language more than casually, and I wouldn’t be where I am now without her (literally, since I’m in Paris).
Well, plenty of years have passed since then, and I’ve collected a handful of my own anecdotes about France. For example, don’t walk over the harmless-looking metro grates when wearing a skirt, unless your dream is to actually be Marilyn Monroe. Or unless you happen to be wearing very cute underwear that you don’t mind showing to the whole of Paris.
Anyway, after all those years and all those French classes and all the plan-making and money-saving and doing of other things, I finally got to go roller blading on the Promenade des Anglais!
People, you have to understand. I’ve been waiting for this since I was in ninth grade. Ninth grade! Now, I may not be old yet or anything but that’s still a pretty long time. I mean, the top three things I dreamed of doing when I finally went to France were to visit the catacombs in Paris (check!), have breakfast on a street corner café (check!) and roller blade the Promenade des Anglais (check!) Of course, getting to snorkel in the blocked off part of the catacombs and attend an actual Paris Fashion Week show are still on the list, but less likely to happen.
Sorry everyone, I’ll just tell you now, I got so excited about roller blading that I completely forgot to ask anyone to take a picture of me doing it. Oops! One of my friends keeps reminding me to include more photos with myself in them, so from now on I’ll do better, I promise.
The Promenade des Anglais is a long paved boardwalk that runs the length of the beach in Nice from the old castle grounds to the airport. Both locals and tourists alike love it for walking, jogging, biking, reading, staring at smartphones and of course, roller blading.
The beach isn’t sandy, but covered in stones. It kind of reminded me of the beaches around Lake Superior back home, though the water was much warmer! Because of the waves and the motion of the water, the stones are naturally polished and are perfectly smooth.
I rented roller blades from Roller Station (by the castle end of the promenade) for one day (10 am to 6 pm) for 9 euros. I had no trouble using them thanks to all those years I spent training as a figure skater, but if you’ve never skated before you might want to go with a friend who knows what they’re doing or practice next to a wall for a bit.
Even though it was already late October, the weather was absolutely gorgeous! It was sunny, clear, and warm enough to go swimming. I didn’t because I didn’t have a swimsuit, but after roller blading for a couple of hours in the sun, a refreshing dip in the Mediterranean would have been nice. Because the weather was so good, it seemed like the whole town had decided to walk the Promenade that day. It was crowded. There were even plenty of people on the beach, sunbathing and playing in the water.
Speaking of the water, I couldn’t get over just how clear and blue it was! I used to look at pictures like the one at the beginning of this post and think to myself, “what a great job they did enhancing the colors.” Now that I’ve actually been there, I realize no enhancing was necessary. The water really is a perfect beautiful shade of azure blue, which explains why this region of France is called the Côte d’Azur.
The roller-blading itself was every bit as fantastic as I imagined it would be. In fact, I was having so much fun that I went a little too fast and suddenly found myself zipping towards a wall of oblivious people. There was no room to go around them, and I couldn’t just crash into them, so I veered off to the side and hit the railing instead. Nobody was hurt, but I went a bit more slowly after that.
Apparently, it really is a great place to catch up on end-of-summer reading. The Promenade is lined with benches and chairs to sit on, and most of them were full. Some people were on their phones of course, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the majority had disconnected from technology. They chose books, magazines or newspapers instead. Print is not dead! There were also plenty of people conversing with friends. Some people were doing nothing but enjoying the view, either watching the water or the people passing by.
Dreams do come true. It might take eight years of French classes and a lot of hard work, but they do come true.