Living on Nice time.

This post was written in the summer of 2011. It has been updated.

Greetings from la Côte d’Azur [the French Riviera, to non French speakers] les amis!
I landed in Nice on Saturday around lunchtime after a long, but uneventful trip. My bags arrived on time too because I traveled with a carry-on. I was not going to give the airline a chance to lose my toothbrush, Nice guidebook, and favorite t-shirts!
 
I saw the French coastline from my window seat on the airplane and that’s when I realized for the first time where I was headed. From up there, I could see sailboats, blue sky, beaches, and red and orange rooftops. I was tired (this French Girl never, ever sleeps on an airplane, however hard she tries,) but I felt excited and could not wait for my adventure to start.

La Méditerranée!
Nice airport is welcoming and easy to maneuver, a good sign. I found the bus I had to ride to my Old Town pied-à-terre in less than ten minutes. I looked through the window during the bus ride and tried to take everything in. As soon as we reached the famous Promenade des Anglais (once financed by Nice’s English colony in the 1820s,) the trip really started feeling like a vacation. Everywhere I looked, from the beautiful Mediterranean and the tall palm trees, to the tanned sun-worshippers on the beach and the sidewalk, the place screamed: “Bienvenue. Time to relax and have fun!”

La Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels) from Castle Hill
Nice: The Old Town, from Castle Hill
I dragged my suitcase through the narrow streets of the Old Town, all the way to la rue de Jésus (Jesus street,) where my studio was waiting. I got a good workout carrying my bags all the way to the 5th floor (no elevator, folks!) The place is small, even smaller than my old studio in downtown Paris. The best part about it is that I can leave the windows open day and night. So far, local temperatures have been ideal: around 80-83F during the day, 70F at night. No humidity. No bugs. In short, I may very well have found my [European] paradise!

Welcome to my ‘hood: Rue de Jésus (Jesus street)
Not all streets in the Old Town are as narrow as rue de Jésus.
View from the studio window
The studio overlooks Nice’s first baroque church, 17th century St Jacques
The only drawback about the studio is that the WiFi connection I was promised does not seem to work very well. This will definitely slow down the blogging process. Since the connection only seems to work at night and after 10:00pm, I am afraid I might fall asleep on my keyboard. I promised to take you along, and I will, come what may.

So far, I have explored downtown Nice, mostly. What a great walking city this is! I do not feel guilty about enjoying my daily glass of rosé wine or some delicious hand-dipped gelato for dinner.

Now is the time to answer an important question:

Pourquoi Nice?
I will tell you why.

Not quite Italian, not quite French, but decidedly Mediterranean, Nice is the Riviera’s undisputed Queen. This vibrant and cosmopolitan city (who once welcomed European and Russian royalty,) has it all: art, architecture, fine dining, sightseeing, pebbled-beaches (nobody seems to mind,) warm water and a mild Mediterranean climate. I would add to that list some of my personal favorites: some of the best people-watching I have enjoyed since Paris, walking and hiking opportunities galore, and one of the cheapest, most efficient public transportation systems in France.

Now you know why I chose Nice. You can’t go wrong here.

Since my blogging time is limited, let’s jump right in. Voilà a few shots of the city I will be calling home this week… 

 

First, let’s go to La place Masséna (Massena square.) It was named after Jean-André Masséna, the French military leader, considered one of the greatest commanders in history for his role during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. La Place Masséna sits majestically at the heart of the city and is a major transportation hub (several bus lines and the new state-of-the art tramway have stations here,) so I know I will end up there often. With its brightly colored buildings, la Place Masséna feels very Italian. It is spectacular and at its most elegant at night.

La Place Masséna

From Masséna, one can follow la rue Jean Médecin, the main shopping street in Nice. The local branch of the Galeries Lafayette department store and a fancy mall are located there, as well as many other boutiques.

 

Rue Jean-Médecin: August crowds? What August crowds?
10am on a Sunday. They are all sleeping or headed for the beach!
 

Rue Jean-Jaurès in the 1830s (when Italian Nice became French Nice!)
Rue Jean-Jaurès today. 
I also explored a neighborhood north of downtown Nice named Cimiez. It sits on a hill and I had to catch a bus to get there. There was enough to do on that hill to keep me busy for several hours…

 

The Chagall Museum was my first stop. I have always loved the colorful ceiling he painted inside the Paris Opéra House (Opéra Garnier.) I am also interested in anyone the Nazis called “degenerate,” as they did with Chagall in 1935. Chagall, like many other artists, lived in Southern France for many years and was inspired by the French Riviera and Provence. 

 

Entrance of the Chagall Museum, Nice
Chagall’s stained glass work. Impressive!
Chagall was inspired by the Old Testament:
This is his version of Paradise (before Eve offers Adam the dang apple!)
When I left the museum, I walked uphill for about a mile to reach my next stop: a cluster of historical buildings, including a world-famous museum, le musée Matisse. On the way up – and les amis, let me tell you, it was hot this morning – I passed elegant buildings. I pictured the European royalty who favored Nice once and wondered if they had lived in some of them.

 


My favorite building was the former Regina hotel, masterpiece of the Belle-Epoque, where England’s Queen Victoria used to stay while visiting the French Riviera. The hotel was converted into private residences a long time ago. Who are these lucky bougres (people) I wonder?

Le Régina
Finally, I reached my destination: the 15th century church Notre Dame de l’Assomption (I did not visit it, as a wedding was taking place there,) next to the Franciscan monastery and museum. I enjoyed my walk in the monastery’s rose gardens. They offer amazing views of downtown Nice, and of the neighboring Matisse Museum and Roman archeological site. 

 

The Monastery’s rose garden
The Church and Monastery from the gardens
One walks through an olive grove to get to the Matisse museum
The Matisse museum sits in a 17th century Mediterranean mansion
Loved the colorful walls, old shutters and trompe-l’oeil windows

After visiting the Matisse museum (Matisse lived in Nice for many years and is buried in the small cemetery next to the Franciscan monastery,) I took a quick stroll through the Archaelogical site of Cemenelum. Founded in the 1st century BC, the Roman city once competed with Nice. Very powerful, it became the capital of the province and, because of its strategic location, was the permanent home of several Roman cohorts. The ruins were excavated after 1954. All that remains today are the amphitheater and the extensive Roman bath complex. 

The Matisse museum is in good company and sits next to
 the former Roman baths
Roman Baths (aka: Roman sports club and spa)

Voilà, you have it. Two very busy days, and it is only the beginning. I will be strolling around Nice and the Old Town some more tomorrow, then off on an out-of-town excursion on Tuesday. I will post some photos when I can and I hope this story keeps you entertained until I return. I am off to bed! From Nice, Côte d’Azur, over and out.

A bientôt, les amis. 

Dear readers:

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What did you think about this article? Let me know in the comment section below, (I love reading your messages and reply to most.) Don’t be selfish and share with a friend! Merci. Véronique (French Girl in Seattle)

17 Comments

  • Clearly I need to put Nice on my list of places that I must visit as it is beautiful! I can imagine sitting in the studio and listening to the nightlife below, or enjoying my meals outdoors. Oh la la!

    Enjoy every minute!
    xx

  • Beautiful photos of a beautiful city. I enjoy your historical facts which make your blogs so interesting. Il fait beau – I hope it stays that way. I will vicariously travel along with you in Nice. By the way, our plans are set: Paris, Aix-en Provence and Frejus. I didn’t realize the strong Italian, Roman influence in the riviera. We will have the car in Aix and Frejus. We are getting so excited! Onward…

  • OMG Veronique-could you make me any more jealous? Have you seen the view from the exotic garden in Eze? That is one of my top Aww moments…anyway enjoy the heck out of Nice will ya! And another favorite quote from French Girl in Seattle” (before Eve offers Adam the dang apple!)”ha!

  • — Kimberly — Oui, you have to come here as well. Lots of fantastic places along the French Riviera, of course, but only the best will do for this French Girl 😉
    — Cherie — Merci. You can’t ignore Nice’s Italian heritage. It’s everywhere you look, and Italy is only a short drive away. In fact, there is a cute square near the studio, name Place Rossetti, that feels just like an Italian piazza.
    — Sandy — Ha! ha! Did you notice that in Chagall’s painting, Adam is “celibately” practicing yoga and doing his best to ignore Eve? Too bad he could not resist, in the end! 😉

  • It looks amazing Veronique. I love Nice too and I’m very jealous! I haven’t been to the Chagall museum so thanks for the tip… it looks great.
    Have a great time (as I know you will)!

  • — Bonjour Craig — Thank you for stopping by. I can’t believe how many good museums there are in Nice. The Chagall building was the exception as I had to pay 9 Euros to get in. Most of the other museums (including Matisse) are free! I’ll never say it enough: Awesome city! 😉

  • Nice is on our itinerary for next April and I hope to visit with blog friends there as well as enjoy the exquisite beauty of this region of France. I have been as far south as Arles and have been as far west in Italy as Milan and the lakes, but I am excited to see your post and have marked it for our trip.

    I am going to make a general apology for the uneducated Americans (as a group) that bash cultures and places they have never been. As an American, I try to represent the “good tourist” as I travel (and always defend the French in the USA)!

    Bises,
    Genie

  • — Genie — Welcome chez French Girl and thank you for leaving a comment. You and your blogger friends will love this area. There will be no crowds in April and with a bit of luck, you should enjoy mild and sunny weather. Love your blog by the way, and have just started following it. Come back anytime. V.

  • v -i am ABSOLUTLY having the VERY BEST SUMMER OF MY LIFE….traveling along with you on this journey as well as the previous one….i waited till monday to check in thinking you landed on sunday….i am so glad the trip has been good to you and for you so far– knowing it shall remain as such the remainder too!!…and as always am so grateful for your time- writing and photographing each step along the way…when we, my sister and i, were young, a chagall exhibit passed through philadelphia and my mom took us. it made such an impression and although typically not my favorite type of artisitic expression color and medium i really do like chagall’s work.impressionism-pre and early post are my favorites. are you going to log any beach time? hoping the wifi gives enough of a signal to keep all of us in the know…BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY ENJOY THE BEAUTY OF THE SURROUNDINGS AND THE TIME TO JUST BE YOU!!be well and STAY SAFE. looking forward to part deux!!-g

  • Veronique,
    What a delightful blog you have! I regret that I”ve never been able to travel to the south of France but dream of it nonetheless. Your photographs make me want to pack my bags this morning!

    Like Genie, I try to be the “good tourist” when in Paris. J’adore!
    V

  • This is why I love blogging – when I’m busy, I still have the opportunity to travel around the world through blogs 🙂 To you, I can only say “More posts, and more photos, please!” 🙂

  • — Virginia — Welcome chez French Girl! I am sure you, too, are a “perfect” tourist in Paris and I hope you make it soon to Southern France. C’est incroyable! Come back soon!
    — Olga — Merci Olga. You got it. I will be taking pics just for you (they won’t be as pretty as yours!) A bientôt!

  • Hi Veronique, I am comfortably seated with a glass of Bordeaux in hand, enjoying reading the posts I have missed. It’s amazing to think that all the years I have been visiting PACA, I still have not been to Nice, we drove all the way along the front on our recent trip, starting with the airport, Belle Mere informed me that it’s the second largest airport in France and that often when you land, you think your going to end up in the Med! I see what she meant I had no idea it was literally right on the waters edge. I loved driving through and spotted The Regina and The Negresco etc, I particularly love the East side of Nice, the old archways that lead to the old town and the market and all those magnificent Italianate style buildings that curve round the port on the way out of Nice, the colours of the buildings are wonderful and I noticed a lot of turquoise blue ceramic glazed bulastrading, roof-tiles and other features which must be a local characteristic. After reading your post and driving through, I am determined to visit for a couple of days, maybe in October.

  • — Dash– I see you kept your promise and returned to visit my travelogue. Welcome back. Yes, there is a lot to fall in love with in Nice and I, for one, intend to go back as often as I can 😉 I am glad you are planning to visit in the fall. The weather should still be lovely then and the summer crowds will be long gone. I will certainly be looking forward to your post about the area if you find inspiration there 😉 Veronique

  • We are going to Nice in August but we are only there for 24 hours. before we head to our river cruise up the Rhone. I can not wait and will hit the ground running as soon as we get there.

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