I suppose you are looking at the title of this travelogue and groaning loudly. There's a little story behind this. While Veronica and I were dating long distance, we did a lot of text messaging to keep in contact. When I traveled on the weekend, I kept my destination a secret from her in order to make it a surprise. If it was a well-known place, I texted her a hint to see if she could guess where I was. She was pretty good, actually.
But on this particular occasion in February of 2002, I included in the text message, "Gee, I'm in a really Nice place!" Nope, she didn't figure it out.
Well, I wasn't kidding about Nice. Nice was definitely nice, even in the cold of winter. In fact, the weather in that part of the Mediterranean was so mild that they held their annual Carnival in February! It was a pleasant destination to escape the cold February rains of the Heidelberg area.
If Nice was known for anything, it was for her beautiful beach wrapping around the half-moon shaped Baie des Anges, or English Bay. This massive beach, shown in the first photograph, extended from the Nice Airport (barely visible at the left background) to the Colline du Château (the waterfront hilltop upon which I stood). The red strand lining the beach was the "Promenade des Anglais", the main promenade that attracted tens of thousands of sun-worshipping tourists and locals during the hot Niçoise summer. Though empty at the time of my photo shoot, once the thermometer pushed 70 degrees Fahrenheit at midday and the sun stayed out, the strip became plenty crowded.
The Colline was a rocky outcropping that separated the touristic promenade section from the old port, shown in the second photo. This Port was quite different from the old port in Marseille, where the port and the center of town were one and the same. Nice's port was much more exclusive, so it was comparatively clean and orderly. Yet, it still offered a wide range of seafood restaurants and outdoor markets that filled the air with the aroma of fresh fish. I found the prices at the restaurants and markets at that end of town were quite favorable (at least in February).
That was probably because the old port really wasn't as much as a tourist draw as other parts of the town, like the Promenade. Nice boasted a massive pedestrian district that not only included the Promenade but several blocks inland from it. It was shaped as a triangular zone bounded by the Sea and a series of boulevards that hosts Nice's main fine arts attractions -- the Palais des Exposition in the northeast, the Acropolis, Palais des Congrès, and so on. These buildings were interesting to walk by, especially the very picturesque Acropolis and the rather bizarre Bibiliothèque Louis Nucéra. (Imagine a three-story building that looks like a Rubik's Cube on top of a human neck... ok, perhaps you have to see it to believe it. The square in shown in the third photograph was in the older part of the city near Nice's Opera House. This was just a small example of the market squares and strands that drew large numbers of people.
One of Nice's key historic buildings was the Place Garibaldi, that of the family associated with the nearby Principality of Monaco. The Place Garibaldi is shown in the fourth photograph. This palace sat pretty much at the northern end of Nice's 'Old City', a particularly narrow set of streets that clearly had that Old World flavor one might expect from a Mediterranean locale. As claustrophobic as it was charming, I spent quite a bit of time negotiating the Old City maze. It had a number of very unique and classy shops worth visiting.
Of course, in finer weather, visitors might spend more time on the Promenade, which is itself lined with interesting places to see on one side, and overlooking the crystal blue sea on the other. Among the sights not to miss was the Negresco Hotel, pictured in the fifth photograph. Like many hotels on the Promenade, the Negresco had a very chic restaurant and casino. Of course, the casinos there paled in comparison with those in Monaco, yet I was sure they still pulled in their fair share of Euros.
Visitors not familiar with this part of southern France may be surprised at the number of Italian pizzerias present, but it was easy to forget that Italy was only a twenty minute drive away. Nice had several authentic brick oven pizzerias with the ovens at the front of the establishment so people could watch them make their pizza. The smell of fresh pizza wafting through the streets didn't hurt business either.
As for the Festival, it was huge, but unfortunately it's main parade was rained upon heavily. The parade grounds and city park were not far from the Colline and Old Port, and they were beautifully decorated for the festival. It was a very nice event.
I just couldn't seem to avoid the 'n' word... but hey, Nice was 'nice'. More than that, it was fantastic, a must for anyone wanting to visit a quality port city with beautiful beaches.
Trip taken 15-17 February 2002 -- Page Last Updated 04 October 2006 -- (C) 2002 Tom Galvin