Le Petit Tour de France: Cote d’Azur (Nice is nice)

I stayed in Nice for six nights, exploring the city and taking day trips to other towns along the Côte d’Azur throughout the week. My time on the Riviera was absolutely amazing – when I think of it now, I mostly remember myself walking around wide-eyed, with my mouth stretched in a giddy grin or simply hanging open in wonder. I ran myself ragged in those five days, trying to see as much as possible. What a wonderful corner of the world – it is truly one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been! I’ll start with pictures of Nice itself, and cover the other towns I visited in subsequent posts.


(And a note of clarification for those of you who may not know: Côte d’Azure = The Blue Coast = The French Riviera… All different names for the same thing!)

 

I’ve often heard Nice described by like-minded travelers as just too “touristy” and “unauthentic.” And I agree that it is, indeed, “touristy,” but as I see it, there’s good reason for that. It’s a beautiful city with near-perfect weather, set in a gorgeous landscape… of course people want to go there! And yes, one has to work a little harder to avoid the throngs of tourists, but it’s worth it. I stayed in the heart of the historic Vieille Ville (“Old City”), with its tiny (mostly pedestrian) streets and brightly colored buildings. I soaked up the sun and warm temperatures (and yes, even a bit of rain), and explored what this lovely city has to offer…

 

I rented a room through a website called www.airbnb.com, where people offer their apartments or extra rooms to travelers at reasonable rates (if you are traveling on a budget, I highly recommend it!)…  I stayed with a lovely woman named Marie-Claude, an artist with a warm smile and a cat named Madonna.  Her place was small, colorful, cozy, and reflected her artistic spirit…

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The view from my bedroom window…

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The first night I was there, a couple was renting the second spare room in Marie-Claude’s apartment.  Greg and Katie, also Americans, live in Switzerland, and were on a short holiday in Nice.  We got along right away and went out for dinner where we discovered that we have a lot in common: Greg is from the same small town in Maryland as my boyfriend, he has family in Charleston, SC like me, and most importantly, they lived in Philadelphia for two years in the same neighborhood as the preschool where I teach!  Like meeting a woman who was from West Philadelphia in Kathmandu, it was another one of those experiences that makes you realize just how tiny the world can be… What are the odds that we would end up in this random apartment in Nice together on the very same night?  These little coincidences seem to happen so much when you’re traveling…

It was Halloween, and although it’s not a very big holiday in France, we were lucky to have a large group of sugar-happy trick-or-treaters burst into our restaurant and demand candy from the owners behind the bar during dinner.  They were so adorable – full of energy and excitement…

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But I digress!  Back to Nice!  Images from la Vieille Ville (also called Vieux Nice), where I stayed…

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The fish market where seagulls circle above like vultures…

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Cathédrale Sainte Reparate and Place Rossetti…

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Cours Saleya, where an incredible open-air market is open every day.  Everything was displayed beautifully…

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A long block of buildings separates this market from the Quai des États-Unis and the Promenade des Anglais, a long pedestrian and bike path that runs along the coast – in this part of town, it’s accessed via tunnels like this…

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I loved watching the waves crash against the craggy cliffs from the Promenade…

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Check out this VIDEO to see the crashing waves in action…

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I was lucky to catch several gorgeous sunsets along the Promenade while staying in Nice.  It’s hard to believe that in one year, I saw the sun rise over the Himalayas and set over the Mediterranean – I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to top that!

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And of course, beautiful sunsets were followed by beautiful evenings…

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Peeking in on an evening service at the Cathedral…

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If you walk east along the Promenade, you’ll find Nice’s port and lighthouse…

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They don’t lack for yachts here…

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The port from a rocky hill that separates this area from la Vieille Ville…

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Walking out to the lighthouse to enjoy the sunset…

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The aforementioned hill, where a fortified castle used to sit, but is now in ruins…

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You can climb the hill along a wooded path…

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During the climb and at the top, you’ll catch some incredible views of the city and the sea…

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The shadow of an airplane on the water as it comes in for landing at Nice’s airport (which is surprisingly close to the city)…

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If you look closely, you can see some snow-covered peaks of the Alps in the distance…

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Check out this VIDEO of the view (near the end, I zoom in on the area where I was staying)…

At the top of the hill, you’ll also find the lovely Parc du Château, with its incredible stone and tile mosaic art…

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There’s also a cemetery on the backside of the hill…

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There was a stark difference between the graves that had and had not been visited during the recent “Fête des Morts” (a national holiday in France where people honor deceased friends and family members)…

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I loved the small photographs I found on many of the graves here…

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Back down the hill, walking around other various parts of town… Place Garibaldi…

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And Espace Masséna…

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The tram running over ‘greened’ tracks… What a clever way to increase the green space in your city!

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And in other parts of town…

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The amazing Russian orthodox cathedral of St. Nicholas…

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Unfortunately, photography was not allowed inside the building.  I managed to sneak this (not very good) picture…  It’s too bad because there were some really incredible works of religious art in this cathedral that I’d love to share.  Oh well…Suffice it to say that just about every surface was carved, gilded, painted, etc.  Truly amazing…

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The window-shopping is great in Nice (or “lèche-vitrine” as they say in French – the literal translation is “licking windows!”). I found many strange and wonderful things as I walked around the city…

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(The French have a relationship to pork I’ll never entirely understand)…

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And so passed my lovely week in Nice… more about other travels around the Riviera coming soon!  À bientôt!

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