The cote d’Azur is one of the most splendid and sumptuous places in France. The crystal clear water reflecting the almost always clear but always magical blue sky has strange powers over one’s psyche. That combined with the sweet sea air, spectacular beaches which make your bare feet smile, and a plethora of splendid villages and towns that offer everything from the ambiance of a small fishing village to the exuberance of cobblestone streets lined with belle-epoque mansions, hotel, and casinos, keeps you energized and eager to find that special nirvana that seems to pervade everything.
Perched right in the center of the French Riviera, between Marseille to the west and Monaco on the east, the beautiful and energetic town of Nice serendipitously hugs the blue coast along a long, gently curving bay. With a population of nearly 350,000, Nice is France’s 5th largest city and the 2nd largest on the Mediterranean Sea. It is a large city, but the manner in which it spreads itself lasciviously along the oceanfront makes it feel much smaller. Originally founded by the Greeks, it later flourished as a Roman colony, and after centuries of bouncing between Italy and France and as an independent state, Nice officially became a city of France, as it has remained so ever since, in 1860 as part of a treaty with Italy. Later, in the early 20th Century, Nice would become one of the most popular resort towns of the cote d’Azur, as many northern European city dwellers sought relief from dreary weather and life especially the rich and famous who made Nice and many other towns along the coast their personal playgrounds.
With a fantastic collection of quality museums (the Chagall Museum is a favorite), world-class cafes and restaurants and bistros and shops, a colorful and lively old town adjacent to a large and picturesque port stuffed full of luxury yachts as well as every size of sailing boats and even a collection o small colorful fishing boats, a wonderfully restored old central train station with easy train connections to the rest of the coast and France, and an international airport, this is a town that has everything. Getting around town is easy and pleasant. Many streets have been converted to pedestrian-only, and, in combination with an excellent system of trams and buses, there is no need for a car here. In fact, having a car here would be more of a problem than a convenience. And with the excellent and pleasant Mediterranean climate, who would want not to spend a lot of time walking? No wonder everyone wants to live here.
I had a great fifth floor apartment with a large balcony overlooking Avenue Jean Medecin, which is the long and lively main street connecting the train station to the oceanfront. Closed to traffic except for a convenient tram line, this avenue, lined with mid-rise apartments, department stores, offices, cafes and restaurants is truly the heart of the city as it finds its way down to the huge Place Massena, a large and active circular plaza lined glowing human figures up on tall poles—they glow at night in multiple bright colors, and, off to one side, a giant flat fountain plaza where the children and a few adults can be found frolicking amongst the water streams and vapor clouds on top of a thin layer of mirror-like water. So much fun! A short distance away is one of the longest and most beautiful beaches and promenades that I have seen. It’s a great place to walk and just hang out and people watch. I was watching in particular for Cary Grant and Grace Kelly to saunter by (from “To Catch a Thief”). And that is just what I did every evening during my stay.