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'Nice' to meet you, Hangzhou

chinadaily.com.cn| Updated: May 6, 2024 L M S

Rich cultural exchanges strengthen bond between Sino-French sister cities

Olivier Ruelle starts his day with a steaming cup of tea, a ritual he cherishes both at his office and in his cozy Hangzhou home.

"A good cup of tea sets the tone for a good day. Hangzhou has really good tea," he said.

Although Ruelle introduces himself as "a French who loves to drink tea" on video-sharing platforms, the 55-year-old readily admits he has limited knowledge of the subject.

Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, hailed as China's tea capital, is renowned for its verdant tea plantations, particularly the revered Longjing variety.

In one of his videos, Ruelle promotes a local Hangzhou tea to Europeans, including in his hometown of Nice, the jewel on Cote d'Azur, or the French Riviera.

"They truly appreciate the authenticity of the tea leaves, unlike the accustomed tea bags," he said.

He found love in Hangzhou, where he met his wife.

"I chose to stay here, all because of her," said Ruelle, who obtained permanent residency in 2022.

Now a vlogger with more than 1 million followers, he captures a diverse array of content, from tea stalls on Hangzhou's streets to the sun-drenched beaches of Nice.

"Nice holds a position somewhat akin to that of Hangzhou in China. The Nice metropolitan area stands as the second-most vital economic and cultural region in France, trailing only Paris," he said.

"These days, I spend much more time here in Hangzhou than in Nice," he said, while sipping tea.

"Rather, I'd say Hangzhou is my first hometown and Nice the second."

Ruelle said he admires the locals' way of life, as they "savor the taste of life and indulge themselves in refined delicacies".

In this aspect, he noted a similarity between his two beloved cities — people enjoy life.

Hangzhou and Nice forged sister-city ties in 1998, bridging the gap between two vibrant cultures separated by thousands of kilometers.

"We were very impressed by Hangzhou," said Rudy Salles, deputy chairman of the Nice Cote d'Azur Metropolitan Tourist Office.

"Chinese people say Hangzhou is a paradise on Earth. And here (in Nice), we have the Angels Bay.

"The Angels Bay and the paradise, of course, they had to be married."

Salles has visited Hangzhou many times, along with several other Chinese cities.

He speaks highly of the special bond between Hangzhou and Nice, now in its 26th year.

"West Lake is gorgeous. I'm in love with this city," he said.

The sister cities have been involved in many cultural events, such as the Hangzhou-Nice Twin Cities Photography Exhibition and the Nice-Hangzhou Film Week.

"We've been making many things together because it is necessary to develop links," Salles said.

"We are the second city welcoming Chinese tourists in France after Paris."

Nice has established itself as one of the pillars of tourism and diplomatic relations between China and France.