May 1: Fire!

FIremen going to upper floors


But NOT, thank goodness, at our restaurant! Joel was expecting a busy day because it promised to be perfect weather, as well as being a national holiday and a Sunday AND the last day of the Easter hols. I knew that lamb shanks were on the menu and was planning to go down for lunch. Just as I noticed I had reached 70,008 words (wahoooooooo!), Joel called. I thought he was phoning to say come down quick berfore the lamb shanks go, but in fact he rang to say quick, come down with your camera, FIRE!

Deserted tables


There are three places on the Place General de Gaulle: us, Tintin (a sandwich/salad place, which is on the same side as us) and Le Gambetta, on the other side. Le Gambetta is quite a landmark, it’s been there for decades. They have a great seafood bar, as well as a Tabac, which sells cigarettes and lottery tickets, so often has a long queue outside. They also are on the ground floor of a belle epoque building similar to ours (in which Michele has an amazing old apartment on the second floor). Tintin was closed today because of May Day, which is pretty important here. The trams and buses weren’t running, lots of museums were closed, and even the gym was shut. Le Gambetta was doing great business when its deep-fat fryer blew up. Because their extraction goes up several floors to the roof, there was smoke pouring out and general mayhem, according to Joel. Lots of Le Gambetta’s customers legged it in fear.

By the time I got there, there were sapeurs-pompiers (firemen) everywhere, red trucks, police, red and white tape cutting off the area… Le Gambetta’s table were deserted in mid-meal, which was very sad to see. Their staff was all at Homys, having a beer, while our customers were all regaling themselves (eating, of course and) watching the firemen’s superladders. I raced around snapping pix like mad (Let me through! I’m a blogger!).

Firemen waiting around

Street cleaner undeterred by mayhem

I have to say, a fire in Nice isn’t quite as regulated as a fire in London. The red tape just seemed to be for decoration, as far as I could see. I felt like the only sucker who didn’t stroll on through the cut-off zone to get a closer look. I could’ve climbed up the fire ladder if I’d really wanted! I also noticed that the firemen perked up a little everytime I pointed a camera at them. The street cleaners who were cleaning up after the morning market seemed to ignore the whole shebang altogether: one of them even cleaned under a fire engine – nothing would stop him from carrying out his duties…

S\murai firemen

Fire ladder

I LOVE the fire helmets here – they remind me of those ancient Japanese samurai helments. I kept trying to get a shot of me reflected in one of them, but I was too timid to ask one of the firemen to pose. They were working, after all. That didn’t seem to stop a bunch of girls who were selling lily of the valley, whcih is the traditional flower of May Day.( It smells so incredible, like jasmine, and it’s everywhere here now, in gardens and for sale) They went straight in and flirted madly with the firemen, though I don’t think they bought any.

Our customers had a ringside seat

Meanwhile all was well on our side.

Promenade des Anglais, May 1, about 4.30pm


After it all had calmed down, I jumped on a bike just to see what was going on around town. Down at the beach the lifeguards are out, and it feels like summer.

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About Suellen Grealy

In 2011, a series of coincidences led my husband Joel, our cat Ted and me away from London, where we lived quite happily for 30 years, to Nice, where Joel grew up. While he and his sister ran their restaurant, I wrote a novel. Family being family, Joel and his sister no longer work together. Writing being writing, the novel lingers on... Meanwhile, we've found ways of living a completely different life from the one we had in London, including running our own restaurant together, 7 Villermont. The only constants are our Ted, our now-battered Peugeot, and each other. Everything else is a complete surprise
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