Monday, 3 October 2016

Beautiful Nice - Nissa La Bella

Nice seafront at sunset.
Every time I fly into France, I am caught by the beauty of the Cote d’Azur – the high mountains, sometimes snow-capped, fading into the pale blue distance, the apricot roofs strung out along the coastline and the buzz of the Baie des Anges (Bay of the Angels) when we touch down on reclaimed land by the River Var.
Overlooking Nice Old Town from the Colline de Chateau.
Nice is our nearest ‘big city’, just an hour from Les Arcs by car along the ‘Provenҫale’ (Autoroute 8) that sweeps across southern Provence from Aix en Provence.

It is a strong and proud place – once part of Piedmont-Sardinia – and much of their food has an Italian flavour to it.

There are also historic Greek and Roman influences - it was named by the ancient Greeks after Nike, the Goddess of Victory. The North Africans brought even more delicious dishes and a wonderful multi-cultural feel.

Not to leave out the benign invasion from the north – meaning of course the English, who not only holidayed here, but many took up residence – like Queen Victoria who stayed at the Régina during the summer months.
Nice Port on the other side of the Colline de Chateau.
And after the Russian revolution, there was an influx of ‘white’ Russians, who built opulent palaces and churches in their distinctive style.

If you only take in the Promenade des Anglais and the seafront, Nice will feel lightweight and hedonistic.

People pack the stony beach soaking up the sun, while others make use of the promenade itself for cycling, skateboarding, roller-blading or just ‘balade’ -ing (strolling).

Vieux Nice (Nice Old Town) is a real treat – a maze of winding streets where it is fun to allow yourself to get lost and explore.

Getting lost in the narrow streets of Nice Old Town.
The restaurant-lined  Cours Saleya – where they hold daily flower markets (and sell everything else besides) must not be missed for the sheer abundance of colour, variety of goods and delicious scents wafting from the nearby restaurant kitchens.

I particularly love the elegant boulevards and ornate apartment buildings that line them, as you move north into Nice 'proper'.

The enormous Place Masséna where you can enjoy the ever-changing colour of the 'pole sitters' each evening. There is always something happening here - whether it is hip hop dancing, jazz bands, the Nice Carnival in February or the annual Jazz Festival  in July.
Catch a bus to Cimiez where you can enjoy the gardens in the Parc des Arénes, the deliciously pink Musée Matisse – not to mention the Musée Marc Chagall, located a little lower down the hill.

Then of course, there is the promontory high above the town, the Colline du Chateau, where a  12th century castle is slowly being uncovered by archaeologists. This hill separates Nice's Port Lympia from the town and Baie des Anges, providing the best views over both.

It is impossible to go into depth in this overall description of Nice, but suffice it to say that it is well worth spending some time here, getting to know its distinctively southern personality. I will explore parts of it more closely in future blogs.
People quickly returned to the beach to enjoy the delights Nice offers.
But sadly, Nice, as ‘our’ gateway to France, with its casual glamour and joie de vivre, was sorely tried this year with the terrorist attack during the Fête Nationale on July 14. Such a despicable act left both horror and outrage in its wake.

Yet the people of Nice were determined not to allow it to affect the way they live their lives.

Yes, there are armed soldiers on the streets, as in other major centres, and certainly there were fewer tourists roaming freely in the weeks after the attack.

The back page of Var Matin the day after the attack on Nice.
But at the same time, the people sunning themselves on the beaches were still there, others were wandering the old town, dining under the stars, splashing in the water jets in the Place Masséna. It’s just that it was all done with a consciousness of people looking out for each other.
In fact, I felt like saying – in true Nissart style – ‘Sieu Nissa’ .

And for anyone who loves France and would like to visit my favourite parts of Provence, why not think about renting Maison Les Arcs in 2017?

Note: I will be publishing my blog fortnightly for a while, as I have a number of other projects demanding my attention.




1 comment:

  1. Hi Jan, Thank you for this lovely introduction to Nice. We've not been there yet, but it is definitely on the list. Best of luck with the projects! Janelle