65 24 Hours
79 Urban Life
143 Essential Info
NICE – THE CALIFORNIA OF EUROPE
Dealing cards the Provençal way means throwing them down on the table to mix them up as much as possible. Nice, the noisy and vibrant, city-by-the-sea, takes some getting used to. The crime rate is horrific; the Mardi Gras carnival is a commercial fraud; the traffic is a nightmare; miniature poodles seem to be mandatory; the phone booths are always vandalized and the beach isn’t even sand. You don’t come to France’s fifth-largest city for a quiet time or a seaside holiday. You come for business — not pleasure. Nice is the nucleus of a dynamic southern economy, dubbed the California of Europe, and yet the city manages to be delightful. The sun, sea, and laid-back Niçois, cover up a multitude of sins.
Seafaring Greeks founded this undisputed queen and capital of the French Riviera around 350 BC, and named it Nikaia to commemorate their victory (Nike is the Greek goddess of victory) over the neighboring Ligures. The Romans followed in 154 BC, settling in Cemenelum (now Cimiez). Italian nobility ruled until 1860, when they handed the city over to France, and their ‘Nizza’ became France’s Nice. Down by the sea you’ll notice that the Promenade is English, or at least its name, the Promenade des Anglais, says so. This is where the grandest hotels sprung up, built on the initiative of early English tourists who discovered the benefits of the delightfully mild climate. This mix of influences is most apparent in the city center, where you will find the convincingly Italian Place Masséna, Belle Époque architecture, and the extravagant Bar Sorel.
For many years, Nice was the personal fiefdom of the Médecin family. That is until Jacques Médecin, the city’s then right-wing mayor, got imprisoned for corruption: he died in exile in 1998. Now that Nice has escaped the clutches of the Médecins, the city’s way of life is once again attracting a huge number of visitors. Its most prominent characteristic is the affable attitude towards life — and Nice works hard to ensure that its guests remain relaxed and entertained. There are plenty of spacious gardens, kept lush by thousands of sprinklers, and fountains ease the harsh reality of new prestige housing developments. Every park is full of flowers, and all along the seafront, frayed but sturdy palms survive the fumes of speeding cars.