Sunday, April 29, 2012


My initial impression of Nice was that those people who talk about the magic Mediterranean light have never been to the Maldives. But the bottom line is that we arrived on the French Riviera in mid-April. Although we got plenty of sunshine, there were some showers lurking and the sky was not pure blue until our very last day. But on that last day, the Côte d'Azur earned its name all right - sparkly turquoise sea and pure blue sky. Though not quite the same emerald-turquoise as the Maldives - a colder blue. Very pretty all the same.

A different kind of holiday from the Maldives - this was a city break - Nice, Fréjus, La Garde Freinet, Nice. And we moved around a lot, seeing (sometimes just fleetingly from a train or a bus, but that was enough for me) almost all the major towns of the Côte d'Azur, except for St Tropez, Ste Maxime and Antibes. Not bad in 8 days!

There is a lot to see and do in Nice -here is what we covered on our first afternoon and first day:

  • La Promenade des Anglais is a lovely place for an easy walk and plenty of people watching - French women were still wearing their winter clothes and colours - black and beige, short trench coats, boots, scarves.
  • The hill up from the old town - make sure to find the free elevator to get to the top. Great views of the city. And a cooling cascade on a hot day.
  • The Matisse museum - it's free, and for me, probably the best of the museums we saw. Lots of paintings, sculptures, drawings, collages, a photographic exhibition by Brassai. I found it fascinating to discover that Matisse did not develop his characteristic style until quite late in life - there is hope for me yet! We got there early, before the crowds, so that probably influenced my impression. Nice is a busy town, and I think it would be unbearable in the heat of the summer with the hordes of tourists descending upon it. Take the bus, 15, 17 or 22 to get there. We took the bus from rue Sacha Guitry at the back of the Galeries Lafayette. It would be a long walk up a very steep hill. We're glad we took the bus!
  • From the Matisse Museum, it's an easy walk down the hill to the Chagall Museum, where it was mostly biblical paintings on show, big paintings, and the smaller preparation works done before he tackled the large canvases. Beautiful colours, a lot of detail, and a strange way to mark "holy" people - in my, Catholic, iconography, they have a circular aura over their heads. In Chagall's, it's shiny horns. You learn something every day
It's a good shopping town too, with the Galeries Lafayette, fnac and plenty of boutiques. But I'm not a big shopper, so you'll have to go to another blog for that perspective.

For me, the great thing about Nice is that it is a good base to explore the whole coast, by bus or by train. Will tell you about that some other time. Laundry duty calls.

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