Nice ‘The Beautiful’, Nice ‘The Queen of the Riviera’, ‘Nice ‘A Glorious Holiday Destination’ – superlatives galore literally flow whenever the resort is mentioned.
And, in addition to being the ‘Capital’ of the French Riviera, Nice is also the fifth largest city in the whole of France.
Everyone everywhere has heard of Nice. And the very mention of its name evokes a vision of sunlight and seascapes, a majestic promenade, a profusion of year-round blossoms, and a guaranteed aura of luxury and opulence.
Nice and France seem to be inextricably associated together. It is therefore strange to reflect that it was not until the year 1860 that the City of Nice voted to join France – for previously it had been part of the Kingdom of Savoy.
It is, in fact, hard to imagine Nice as being anything but French. Yet it’s claimed that Nice has continued to retain its ‘Nicois’ dialect, cuisine, and tradition. And it’s maintained that it’s the combination of these two different cultures that has resulted in Nice’s undeniable fascination.
Nice’s ‘Promenade des Anglais’ is described as ‘the world’s best known seafront boulevard’. And its name is derived from those who funded its construction in 1822 – namely the English community. And it’s said that the project was spearheaded by an Anglican Vicar, known as Lewis Way, in a bid to provide work for the poor of the area.
And the ‘Promenade des Anglais’, flanked by palatial hotels and a casino, continues to sweep majestically round the curve of the bay that is known as Baie des Anges – the Bay of the Angels.
One of the hotels that flanks the promenade is the legendary ‘Le Negresco’ – described as the ‘flagship’ of the whole Riviera, and referred to as ‘the grandest of grand hotels’. In fact, it’s even been referred to as ‘one of the world’s most opulent hotels’. Another hotel that is a firm favourite with tourists visiting Nice is ‘La Perouse’, which is described as a ‘luxury retreat that has the most outstanding views of Nice’s promenade’.
Nice also has a number of museums. And these include Musee Matisse, which was founded in 1963, nine years following the painter’s death in 1954. Matisse had lived in Nice for 37 years, and he donated a collection of his paintings to the city in which he had resided for so long, and where he claimed his earlier works were inspired by the vivid light and colours of his environment. The Musee Matisse is located in the 17th century Italiante Villa des Arenes on Nice’s Cimiez hill, which overlooks the city centre. And the collection on display includes sketches, paintings and bronze sculptures as well as some of his personal effects.
Another well known Nice museum is Musee d’art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, a building that’s described as ‘a dazzling work of contemporary architecture in its own right – with marble-faced towers and glass corridors’. It’s considered to be an exceptional setting for collections of some of the 20th century’s most ‘avant-garde artists’, which include the work of Nice’s Yves Klein.
Nice’ Musee des Beaux-Arts is described as ‘having one of southern France’s best collections of art from the 17th to the early 20th centuries
Nice’s Musee Chagall, likewise, is referred to as ‘one of the jewels of the area’ for it’s claimed to contain the largest collection of works by the Russian artist Marc Chagall. In fact, the museum was purpose built and stands amidst some beautiful gardens.
A large floral park, known as Parc Floral Phenix, and situated on the Promenade des Anglais, is described as ‘a themed wonderland of world horticulture, with, at its centre, Europe’s biggest greenhouse’. The park is also the setting for the Musee des Arts Asiatiques – the Asian Arts Museum – which is said to be ‘a marble and glass construction built over an artificial lake that contains classical and contemporary creations from the principal Asian civilizations’.
From the early 19th century onwards Nice proved exceptionally popular with members of both the British and European nobility, who flocked to the city’s warm climate during the winter months. And it’s claimed that the Russian community became almost as prominent as the British within the city’s confines.
And it was in 1912 that Tsar NicholasII of Russia sanctioned the building of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral known as Cathedrale St. Nicholas, which still remains a prominent Nice landmark.
Likewise, when the European nobility decided to ‘winter’ in Nice they also ‘colonized’ an area known as Cimiez Hill, where they built many mansions and other grand buildings. The impressive Boulevard de Cimiez thus came into being. And considered to be the most impressive building in the area is the Excelsior Regina Palace, described as ‘a belle époque masterpiece’, where Queen Victoria stayed on one occasion.
Nice’s Port Lympia is considered a charming place to visit. The port came into being in the mid-18th century, but failed to make any commercial impact. As a result it’s quieter than most city harbours, and is described as being a ‘haven of pleasure boats and cruise ships, surrounded by splendid Italiante buildings’. And the Russian playwright Chekhov is quoted as having called it ‘the most pleasing part of Nice’.
Most travel books claim that there are ‘two Nices’ – the Nice that has been ‘colonized by foreign aristocrats, and the rich and the famous’, and the Nice that’s referred to as ‘Vieux Nice’, namely ‘Old Nice’, which lies to the east of the thriving metropolis of the modern city.
It’s claimed that the ‘Old City’ retains a quieter and more authentic character than its modern counterpart.
‘Vieux Nice’ lies just below Castle Hill, known as Colline du Chateau. Until medieval times the castle was considered to be Nice’s stronghold, but it was destroyed in the year 1706. However, the surviving Castle Hill itself continues to afford some ‘breathtaking views’.
‘Vieux Nice’ is a ‘pedestrian only’ zone, and its focal point is considered to be ‘Cours Saleya’, which is also described as being a colourful and vigorous square. Here every week from Tuesday to Sunday it is the daytime venue for the world famous flower market.
Each Monday morning, however, the flower market is transformed into an antiques market. And every evening sees the square alive with bar and restaurant activities.
Not far from the ‘Cours Saleya’ stands ‘Rue St-Francois-de-Paul’, a busy thoroughfare and the site of two well known Nice institutions, namely the Rococo Patisserie Auer and the Alziari – which specialises in olives and olive oil.
Likewise, the Place St-Francois, which is overlooked by an 18th century clock-tower and a Baroque palace, is the square where the daily fish and herb market is held – on a site that encircles a dolphin fountain.
Street commerce is said to have ‘reached its zenith’ in the Rue Pairoliere, where it is claimed there are food shops, clothes shops and jewellery stores virtually vying for supremacy.
And an area known as Quartier du Malonat, comprising numerous tiny streets and squares is regarded as being ‘the most authentic sector of Vieux Nice’.
Veux Nice is known for its many Basque Churches, which number more than half a dozen. But considered to be one of its most remarkable churches is ‘Chapelle de la Misericorde’ which, it is said, should be accorded first priority on any tourist’s sightseeing itinerary list. In fact, the spleandour of its decoration is considered to ‘make it one of the world’s best examples of the style’.
Well worth viewing too is the 17th century Cathedrale Ste-Reparate, which has a majestic dome and a magnificent Baroque décor. In fact, when the Dukes of Savoy ruled Nice, this was the church that they used to attend.
The Basque Palace known as Palais Lascaris is also regarded as a remarkable edifice. With its beautiful façade, its grand staircase, and the scale and décor of its interior, it is referred to as being positively ‘sumptuous’.
Vieux Nice also has a museum which is known as Musee de la Marine, Tour Bellanda. Situated at the foot of The Castle Hill – Colline du Chateau, it contains a maritime collection of weapons, model boats, instruments and paintings.
Certainly ‘Old Nice’ and ‘New Nice’ would seem to present two totally different images. Yet it’s claimed that the diversity of the two regions enhance the city’s appeal as a favourite holiday resort.
Not only is Nice popular as a summer holiday resort, but its warm climate seems to attract tourists even in the winter months. And be it day or be it night, there’s never a dull moment in ‘Nice’! While the blue sea entices the swimmers, and the sparkling skies entice the sun bathers, the city’s opulent surroundings hold everyone spellbound. And its restaurants and nightspots are in a league of their own………
1,496 Words ROBERTA CROOKES
entice the sun bathers, the city’s opulent surroundings hold everyone spellbound. And its restaurants and nightspots