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Naked Swimming … and Cake!

Today’s my 30th birthday. That’s a milestone, right? Right! And milestones mean you get to indulge. Since I’m traveling in Europe, the word “indulge” is taking on a whole new meaning. Last night, when the clock in the central part of Nice, France, struck midnight, I announced that we were going to do something to fête the arrival of a new decade. But what would we do?

Night swimming, of course! Everybody thought it the grandest idea, until we were standing at the Mediterranean, shivering and staring at some rather ominous waves crashing in the dark. After some fussing, the boys accompanied me into the surf—for all of two minutes…

Today’s my 30th birthday. That’s a milestone, right? Right! And milestones mean you get to indulge. Since I’m traveling in Europe, the word “indulge” is taking on a whole new meaning. Last night, when the clock in the central part of Nice, France, struck midnight, I announced that we were going to do something to fête the arrival of a new decade. But what would we do?

Night swimming, of course! Everybody thought it the grandest idea, until we were standing at the Mediterranean, shivering and staring at some rather ominous waves crashing in the dark. After some fussing, the boys accompanied me into the surf—for all of two minutes. The water wasn’t so bad, but the wind was cold! We shivered all the way back to our open bottle of wine.

Which brings me to indulgence number two: rosé. The American men I’m traveling with don’t like pink wine, but it is my birthday. Rosé for lunch, rosé for dinner. Everyone in France is drinking it right now; you see it on tables particularly during lunch and in the early evening. We ate lunch today at a Lebanese restaurant near the harbor in Nice (I had thinly sliced veal that had been on a rotisserie; it was fabulous), and even the two gentlemanly sailors at the table next to us had a big ol’ pink carafe.

Indulgence number three: cake. I’ve been on a culinary tour of Nice this morning in search of the perfect gâteau. A friend of a friend who lives here recommended Multari, a traditional French patisserie at the busiest part of the pedestrian walkway known as the Piétone.

When we got there at nine this morning, the line was almost out of the door. Not to worry, the place was stocked with fresh breads, quiches, and lots of tiny cakes and tarts. We picked up a lemon tart, an apple tart, a super stacked Paris-Brest (an almond-topped pastry ring filled with praline buttercream), and a slice of a chocolate cake. All told, we spent less than 10 Euros on some of the most perfect desserts imaginable.

But, no, that wasn’t enough, and later today I found an artisanal chocolate house known as LAC (named after the proprietor). I’ve never seen anything exactly like it. The women inside wear lab coats (no kidding), and they serve up the most architectural chocolate desserts and macaroons that I have ever seen. We picked up a towering praline-and-dark-chocolate torte for 3.20 Euros. I wish I could bottle up this place and bring it back to Chicago.

The final indulgence will be dinner tonight, at a little French restaurant known as La Merenda, I hope. They don’t take reservations, they don’t have a phone, and the chef/owner opens it when he wants. We’ve been told by some Niçoise that this is the place to try, so we’re crossing our fingers that it will be open tonight. So many places here are tourist traps; I don’t want to ring in my third decade over wimpy steak frites.

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