Since arriving in Nice, without the benefit of the language (why did I not concentrate on this!?*#!!), I have found that patience, a willingness to try to communicate, however, incorrect you are, is the beginning of feeling at home.
Politeness, and done correctly, goes a long way. The difference between beginning with Bonjour M. or Mdm. and Merci when you leave or just starting with excuse me and what you want, is night and day. And truly, shouldn’t we do this everywhere, and acknowledge the person who is serving us.
I am very lucky to find a wonderful patisserie and boulangerie, a wine shop, and a grocery within a block of my apartment.
My exchanges at the patisserie in the morning for my croissant or baguette or an afternoon tarte or sweet were relatively easy. I learned the difference in the baguettes from the owner (my favorite is the Nicoise), and am greeted warmly in the mornings by him or one of the ladies.
The wine, or vins, shop is easy in that I a) drink very little and b) the proprietor speaks some English. There are varieties from the region and France, and prices to fit all budget.
The grocery store is memorable. Nanou is able to go there and has become a fixure in the minds of the manager and staff. While a bit more expensive than the larger Monoprix some blocks away—and not welcoming to Nanou—I do most of my shopping there or at the Farmers Market in Vieux (Old Town) Nice. My first confusion was when I attempted to buy cream for my coffee. While I understood and could see the cartons marked “lait” with a cow’s face, my first purchases was skim milk – there was a -0- on the carton that was the clue. Thinking, I could resolve this myself, I next bought a small plastic bottle of “creme” which turned out to be what one uses in soups—and it promptly did not mix in the coffee. However, the third try is the charm and my lait 1/2 ecreme was perfect! The skim milk was used in my muesli with a banana, and the creme still waits my motivation to make fresh celery soup.
I finally broke down and visited La Grand Bazaar (think Dollar store expanded to more items and some larger $$, although I believe almost everything must come from China). While my apartment is well located, has wonderful sunlight, it lacks a few necessities in the kitchen. Small things, but how does one ladle soup without a ladle, or measure ingredients (particlarly not in pounds and ounces) without a measuring cup, and how about a spatula for swipping out the last of a particularly tasty confiture (jam), and of course more clothes pins to hang out sheets, and a tin for coffee—all less than 15E.
While exploring the shops close by I found a bricolage or a city center Home Depot, and they carry Nanou’s kibble at less than the beautiful, but expensive pet shop at my corner. We have also found a vet clinic on the street to the parc and Old Town, and all three vets and the assistant speak English.
And my English speaking banque account manager treats me as though I were one of the baque’s privee or private clients.
So I learn and enjoy every day, and wish this could last forever.