As I’m sure you can tell (by my meticulous planning here and here) I was so excited about this trip! I have wanted to go to the Côte d’Azur, and Nice in particular, for absolutely ages… There’s always been something about this place that attracts me and draws me in, a je ne sais quoi…Is this the place to make my dreams come true?

 

Nice is the fifth most populous city in France with a population of ~1 million. It was named after Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, around 350 BC and only became a permanent part of France in 1860. Since the late 18th century the city has attracted many visitors beginning with English aristocratic families and is now a major tourist destination.

 

I didn’t love Nice at first though. I was disappointed by the beach and the weather and the promenade but mostly by my own reaction – the city just didn’t awe me the way I had been expecting…

 

So I climbed the Colline du Château -214 steps to the panoramic view in the picture below. From here everything looked better – the light was brighter, making me forget that there was no sun… the rocky shoreline, the dilapidated beachfront buildings and the cracks in the promenade were obscured by the distance, instead a smooth veneer was held over the whole crescent of the Baie des Anges… the tourists, the strollers of the promenade and the hardy bathers were now only minuscule dots… the whole city was visible, rising into the hills from the beach, the promise of real people living real lives emanating from the red roofs.

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So Nice is a town that did grow on me. I fell in love with the Rue Massena – the bars, restaurants, shops and so many people creating a fantastic atmosphere on the narrow, cobbled thoroughfare crammed with restaurant tables, eager waiters and a variety of buskers…I found Vieux Nice (the old town) with its narrow streets, pubs, restaurants and souvenir shops… a morning market on the Cours Saleya, resplendent with fruit, veg and lavender… a chickpea pancake called socca at René – a salty, wholesome, almost sweet snack that’s really a meal, crisp from a wood-burning oven, soft on the inside, eaten with my hands on long benches on the side of the street… Place Garibaldi, somewhat the opposite, a huge open square with restaurants and the Chapelle du Saint-Sépulcre, an amazing spot for watching the world go by… Place Masséna with its red ochre Italian architecture and human statues on poles, very strange but somehow fitting to this revamped space… Palais Lascaris, a 17th century palace restored and full of musical instruments and classic art… amareno gelato, just one of like a million flavours at Fenocchio…

old town

place massena

nice icecream

 

Another day, I discovered the charms of Cimiez, a rich residential district with gorgeous examples of Belle Époque architecture and its Chagall and Matisse museums, worth a look just for the colours if nothing else… I found the neo-Palatine Monastère de Cimiez with a cemetery so unlike anything I’ve seen before, the graves seemingly on top of each other, the grave stones rising higher into the sky than I expected… the olive-filled Parc des Arènes de Cimiez – full of kids and families and elderly gents playing pétanque while the ladies painted…

 

matisse exterior

marc chagall

 

cimiez cemetery

cimiez gardens

On yet another day I stumbled into a newer part of town… I went to MAMAC (Musée d’art moderne et d’art contemporain) – actually quite stunning, some pieces really caught my interest -Yves Klein, Ben and more…. the Nice Étoile shopping centre… I found the real people of Nice, the people that really live and animate and adore this city…

 

mamac

 

mamac ben

 

The end of my time in Nice had to come…but on my last day there were endings that felt more like beginnings as I got to know more and more about the city… last times that were actually first times – a camembert and ficelle picnic on the grass, mingling with local shoppers at Galeries Lafayette, cycling the Promenade… and goodbyes that I never wanted to say…

 

Nice has been a beautiful dream come true. A dream that I cannot wait to have again and again and again…

 

Nice is not called Nissa la bella (Nice the beautiful in the local Niçard language) without good reason!

 

nice azure

 

nice yacht from villa massena

vieux port

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