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Rugby World Cup in Nice is boost for South African foodie tour guide

After a life changing move to the south of France, Nadia Farmer is ready to delight rugby fans with a taste of Nice

Nadia Farmer, originally from Johannesburg, started her tour business 11 years ago; La baie des Anges, Nice; Cours Saleya, Nice, has a vibrant food market Pic: Nadia Farmer / Sergii Zinko / lindasky76

Nice tour guide Nadia Farmer is looking forward to a bumper season as four Rugby World Cup matches come to the city in September.

After running a successful business in South Africa, Ms Farmer set up a French firm 11 years ago, nicefoodandwinetours.com 

“It took off and this promises to be my best year ever,” she says. “The arrival of so many rugby fans will be a great late summer boost. 

“Here in Nice, we will host visitors from England, Wales, Portugal, Tonga, Scotland, Italy, Japan and Uruguay for four matches. It’s exciting.”                 

As she steers visitors around the historic cobbled streets of Old Nice, her love for the city shines through: “I feel grateful to live here. It’s beautiful, sophisticated, proud of its heritage, yet always evolving.”

Read more: Scrummy half: a tasty tour before the rugby in France’s foodie Nice

She took stock of her life after her second divorce

When she was a school student in Johannesburg, Ms Farmer never imagined that, at 53, she might launch a business in France.           

The life-changing journey has been complex. When she left school, she helped set up and run a business delivering movies to apartment blocks in Johannesburg and, a self-taught filmmaker, also freelanced for TV stations.

She married twice. In her late 30s, after her second divorce, she took stock of her life.

“I did some hard thinking,” she says.

“I had always loved visiting France, so I decided my ‘forever home’ would be here, if I could make a success of it.”  

Read more: Common visa options for visiting and moving to France

A French passport through her mother

Ms Farmer has a French passport through her mother, who was originally from Normandy, so was able to sort out her paperwork and apply for auto-entrepreneur status.

“I looked at business ideas and thought that, as I’m a good communicator, I could be a tour guide. I wanted to expand on the usual itinerary and include my own passions: food, wine, art, people, culture.

“I talked to local people, especially traders, the lifeblood of the town, and realised it could work.”

22 different tastings in four hours

Every morning from Tuesday to Sunday, Ms Farmer walks from her flat to the Neuf Lignes Obliques, the 30m steel sculpture facing the Mediterranean on the Promenade des Anglais, with her ‘travelling office’ – an orange suitcase packed with pamphlets, travel timetables, snacks and drinks. 

Her four-hour tour of Old Nice includes lunch at a local restaurant and takes in 22 different tastings, including her own snacks.

“I pack my commentary with history, quirky details and spice it up with a bit of gossip about local celebrities. I also give clients a chance to meet shop-owners and market traders who have raised families here and nurtured businesses over many years.  

“The locals have seen Nice through war and turmoil, prosperity and hardship. Tourists are charmed by the warm and hardworking Niçois people, many with Italian heritage plus French savoir-faire.”

Read more: What has been voted France’s favourite regional dish?

‘What a cast of characters!’

The Old Town was, until the 18th century, the entire city, Ms Farmer explains.

“It resonates with echoes of the past and has been compared to a theatre: multiple layers of scenes, and fascinating, exotic players.”

The Romans were early inhabitants. By the 14th century, feudal lords were in power until, in 1543, the troops of François I laid siege and seized the city.

“If you fast forward to the 19th and early 20th centuries, you reach the era of carnival, entertainment and excess.

“Nice formed a backdrop for the ‘performances’ of the British aristocracy during autumn and winter, who paraded on the Promenade des Anglais, showed off their finery at the opera or conducted their business and romantic affairs. What a cast of characters!”

Stade de Nice plays host to four Rugby World Cup matches: 

September 16: Wales v. Portugal

September 17: England v. Japan

September 20: Italy v Uruguay

September 24: Scotland v. Tonga

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