Welcome to Nice
If colour and light could create a city, it would be Nice. The light of the Riviera has always drawn painters – Picasso, Matisse, Chagall and their acolytes came to capture the deep azure blues, the dawn-rose pinks, the stinging citrus yellows and the damp, jungle greens of this Romanesque city and its breezy coast. Gently warmed by Mediterranean sun, the town slopes down to the pebbled shore, a cascade of rose-pink 19th century buildings and quirky, elegant shops and restaurants. Author Willa Cather genteelly recoiled at 'the glare and blaze of Nice,' but alongside the drama of its sweeping bay and alluring, fairy-lit nightlife, the city offers wonderful museums, food and green spaces, lush with tropical plants.
Nice is the capital of the Riviera, but where Paris is proud and formal, Nice is a soft seduction. Bordered by the Promenade des Anglais, with its instantly recognisable Belle Epoque Negresco hotel, Nicoise locals cycle, rollerblade and walk their dogs- Nice is very much an outdoor city, and life is mostly lived under café sunshades, on the beach, or in the vibrant streets.
It may rain occasionally- but then the fresh scents of greenery and lavender are released, and the pebbled beaches shine like polished jet. Driving is unnecessary- walking the main areas that lie between the Negresco and the port is easy. Sitting outside a harbour café in Nice, with a chilled bottle of rose, watching the boats and the artists painting them, is one of life’s true joys.
The Colline du Chateau
Le Bistro du Fromager
La Civette du Cours
Hôtel Le Negresco
Palais de la Mediterranée
IN THE MOOD
Night Without Stars- Winston Graham
My Father’s Glory - Marcel Pagnol
Jean De Florette
To Catch A Thief
Chansons Francaises - Henri Salvador
Dizzy on The French Riviera- Dizzy Gillespie
In July, the city hosts the Festival du Jazz in Cimiez- over the fortnight, all types of musicians arrive in the city, and the atmosphere is lively. Nice has plenty of festivals throughout the year, which add an extra edge of fun to a trip, but be sure to book accommodation in advance.
The Promenade des Anglais is very long- don’t assume you can walk to any address along the bay from your hotel. Equally, the beach begins at the airport- so don’t assume ‘close to the beach’ also means close to the city centre.
To visit coastal towns such as Juan les Pins or Antibes, with their beautiful beaches and elegant old towns, take the train- much of the centres are pedestrianised, and parking is a nightmare- walking from the station, however, is easy. The Train des Pignes offers a picturesque ride toward the mountains - Entrevaux is a lovely place to stop to discover the Medieval city.
To find the port in Nice, walk right round the Chateau de Colline- from the centre, it appears that beyond the hill is the sea; but the port is tucked behind it. From here, there are ferry trips to Corsica, St Tropez, Monaco and San Remo- scuba diving is also available.
There are plenty of patisseries and alimentaires in the old town, where you can assemble a picnic to take to the beach- eating out can be expensive, and this is a lovely way to save money. At sunset, the beach attracts groups with guitars and bottles of wine- feel free to join the party.
Driving in Nice isn't always easy, and you have to keep your wits about you as drivers often cut in at speed or overtake in seemingly odd places.
Apart from that, it's not too difficult and sauntering along the coast road, or driving up into the hills behind Nice can offer great rewards because of the views.
Take particular care on the Corniches. They offer spectacular views, so be careful not to become distracted. Also, drivers will sometimes attempt death defying overtaking maneouvres on bends.