Early in the morning last Sunday it was already decided I'd be visiting the Christmas Market in Nice. I remembered they were setting up everything when I was there last week, so they should be all set by now. This is new to me because it's very different in Canada. I live in France since 2010 and the Christmas markets are something very popular in lots of towns and villages. It amazes me how much efforts the put into this. And while snow and coldness are not part of it (on Côte d'Azur), they do everything possible to recreate the ambiance. And to be honest, it's pretty astonishing. The market in Monaco is very special too because it's in the port and makes a wonderful contrast with the Mediterranean sea and boats. I already had an article of this (Saint-Sylvestre) and you can find it here.
But this week-end I decided to visit the market in Nice because they recently opened the new park Promenade du Paillon and it's right there. I knew it would be special, I spent a lot of time on Promenade du Paillon and having the market there is special.
The Big Wheel Reflection
When leaving home I expected to shoot quite a bit of photos over there, but for some reasons, the only photo I took during the day is this one above. I made three frames of the same scene within a few seconds, adjusting the camera for the available light. My position with the sun setting in front of me made the operation a little bit complicated, but it turned out to be fine. It was a very spontaneous shot. I was walking around the corner of the "fountain" when I saw the big wheel in the back and its reflection on the water. The yellow light from the sun made everything even better. The fountain had certainly been off for a couple minutes because the water was completely still and acted like a mirror.
It's all about the light.. and the clouds
Sometimes only a few things can make a shot stand out. I could have shot a load of photos but this one would certainly be the one standing out. What got my attention right away is the colorful sky reflecting on the water. Hopefully the place was not crowded with people and what was offered to me is a wide area for reflection and a huge subject. The guy in front standing in the water was trying to get a shot of the wheel and I decided to keep it like that and include him in the frame. It reminded me of a previous post in Saint-Paul where I photographed a painter painting a scene at Café de la Place.
But what about the market?
Oh well.. for those who don't know what a Christmas market is all about on the Côte d'Azur, imagine a wide place where they install wood sheds where merchants sell their stuff: jewellery, decorations, cookies, sculpture, paintings, hot red wine with cinnamon and other goodies, socca and much much more. But one thing that's really really popular and, indeed, very very delicious, is churros, a kind of fried-dough pastry with white sugar and/or melting Nutella as an option (I prefer without). It's a classic. It's a must. I don't think they get any different between towns and villages, churros are all pretty much the same. Served very warm it's a real treat for everybody, any age. Needless to say I had some for myself. Taking pictures is a though job, feeding yourself in the cold is very important.. :-)
After spending a little while there, and as you can see on the picture, the sun was almost set and I had to leave for a meeting scheduled with someone elsewhere. But the first thing that came to mind right before leaving is how beautiful this place must be at night when all the lights are on, the big wheel flashing and the fountain illuminated. Place Massena is such a living area, it's the hearth of Old Nice and there is always something happening there. Quite normal it made me wondering how beautiful it would be only one or two hours later. Definitely something I'll have to schedule for another time.
What about Promenade des Anglais
On my way to the market I was driving on Promenade des Anglais and noticed there was not much of a crowd over there. It's usually a very busy spot, lots of people walking, lots of bikes and rollers, lots of cars too. It's was fairly quiet for a sunny Sunday afternoon. A segment of the Promenade is closed to circulation because there are major road works. I noticed they had Christmas trees for sale in there, using the sidewalk and cycle lane in a good way. Not a bad idea. Then I realized the big crowd was actually walking on Promenade du Paillon instead. I think the mayor of Nice had a lot on his plate for the past couple years, but we have to admit he brought in some big projects with Coulée Verte and the new stadium. There will always be pros and cons to big projects for a city like Nice (i.e. budget, priorities, etc.) but it's obvious these new infrastructures will be appreciated by a lot of people, locals and tourists. I say Bravo for that, Mr. Estrosi!
The Leica Experience
I came back home feeling I had a great time at the market in Nice. I remember everybody was having fun, walking, talking together and enjoying the place. Nice is a special place and I love wandering there regularly. I always have the Leica (Leica M (Typ 240)) with me and it's the perfect camera for what I'm doing. I really appreciate the form factor, the subtle shutter and it feels so natural for me shooting with it. Street photography with the Leica is great because you don't bother about equipment and accessories. Just you and the camera. Just you and the scene. It's an immense pleasure and it brings a lot of satisfaction. I would never go back to a huge DSLR like my Canon 1DsMark 3, certainly not for street at least. And I realise having just one prime lens with me (I rarely bring a second lens with me) forces me to "think" and "see" with it. For now it's mostly the Summilux-M 50mm, f1.4 ASPH, but I'm playing around with the 18mm, 28mm, 35mm & 75mm on my other Leica (M8.2) that might serve as a B&W second body. These days the 75mm is the one getting more of my attention on the M8.2.
I hope you can visit a Christmas market in the region soon. Make sure you grab some churros and a coffee, and take it easy admiring the beauty of this awesome region. Expect more infos and pictures on that topic soon as I will probably be visiting the market in Monaco this or next week-end.
© Normand Primeau