Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Nice in Provence

So many visitors love Nice and a fraction of them come to stay permanently. Nice is the fifth most populous city in France, after Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse, and it is the capital of the Alpes Maritimes département. It's bustling, cultural, slightly italian in architecture. Nice (Nicaea) was probably founded around 350 BC by the Greeks.  It got handed around but eventually was given to France as thanks for helping Italy in their war against Austria in 1860.
Tourism really got going by the
 English upper classes in the second half of the 18th century, when an increasing number of aristocratic families took to spending their winter there. Nice is the second most popular French city after Paris. It's easy to see why. The climate is delightful year round, there are many schools and institutes of higher learning, there are always cultural events and conferences throughout the year, tourism is big business. There is easy access to agricultural areas for wine-making, olives, vegetables and fruit, flowers for perfume-making, and the leisure activities of the rich or famous keep things ticking along.

 Place Massena is the main city square. The tram runs through it so you can travel from the northern end of Nice right through to the beach for around 1.35€. I did that and found myself the object of a stereotypical Nicois trying to 'pick me up' - in the nicest possible way.

He admitted he was being indiscrete in asking me questions about myself. I wasn't bothered as I was getting off just a few stops down. He introduced himself as Danny, around my age (old, he said), with his long wavy salt and pepper hair, craggy face, shorts and charming smile. He wanted to give me his phone number but I said visits to Nice would be extremely rare and I had a boyfriend. No problem about the boyfriend it seemed, but he was disappointed he wouldn't be able to show me around on my next trip to the city. Much as I would love to live nearby, I think it's very unlikely, the way things stand.

As I explored the city by day I noticed the city provided cooling relief to residents and tourists in one of its squares. Mists of water sprayed up and everyone took advantage of this pleasant sensation in the heat. It looked a bit otherworldly. It looks a different sort of other-worldly at night.

No stroll is complete without walking along the waterfront and connecting to the Promenade des Anglais. The tourism office is located there and they'll give you detailed maps of Nice. You'll admire the happy water skiers, swimmers and sunbathers, artists, restaurants.

Talk about eating, the old flower market in Vieux Nice doesn't sell flowers at night but instead offers hundreds and hundreds of seats for dining outside under cover. There must be a hundred restaurants all connected in this way. They are interspersed by night markets, working artisans, and souvenir shops open every evening until very late (not at all like most French cities).

Exploring Place Massena at night, you'll come across a Place that never sleeps. The summer evenings are so warm you just want to get out and about and see what's happening. Youths were putting on a concert, or rather some sort of hip-hop theatre. They had great personalities, knew how to work the crowd, were very fit and had imaginative choreographies. Naturally donations were welcomed - they deserved it.

I came across a man making giant bubbles to amuse children, They really were huge (the bubbles) and I tried to capture them with my camera but tracking them in the night breeze wasn't easy. This time around at Nice I did NOT meet up with President Clinton or anyone else famous, to my disappointment, but wandering about is still a most enjoyable and interesting experience.
There's very good shopping to be had in Nice, whether you're a millionaire or barely subsistence. Get in early with your accommodation bookings though. The TGV goes as far as Nice  and there's an international airport, full of private jets. You can also be peddled around in a bicycle cab.

There's a horrid little restaurant/ karaoke place still there, called Le Maori. What an insult. There's nothing Maori about it, a ripoff of the term. I'd say something if I thought they cared.

I photographed many buildings at night, such as the cathedral, the opera, and the Chemin de Fer building. The only thing that sent me back to our rented apartment was my aching feet.

I'd like to go back, for a third time, one day. It's probably too expensive to live there (other than in a tiny apartment without a lift), but working there would be so interesting and lively. One never knows.
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