The French Art of Living — interesting routes in Nice

The French Art of Living

Nice, France

13 places
The French Art of Living

Ирина Мацанова

You can understand the French “art de vivre” in just one day. Wait until the morning sun starts seeping through the incisions of the shutters, catch the first batch of croissants at the boulangerie and go to greet the sea. Then stroll along the shore of the Bay of Angels, climb the Castle Hill to take in "that view." Start the evening enjoying the sunset on a bar terrace on the waterfront and fall in love with your own life.
This simple recipe of happiness was suggested to us by Alyona, the author of the @niceislove project. Many years ago, she saw Nice in her own special way and, in order to shift its perception, four years ago she started sharing photos of her favorite city and has been doing so every day. We have developed this route together.

It seems that in France, bakers, not roosters, wake up before everyone else. How else would you explain the fact that by seven in the morning, along with the sunlight, the city is filled with the smell of freshly baked baguettes and croissants? You too should get up early and get in line behind monsieurs and madames. Yes, do not be surprised that you were not the only one who came before the opening hours — there are quite a few people wishing to grab a soft "crescent" from the first (or at least from the second) pan. Just the line itself is enough to understand that the baked goods at Boulangerie Blanc are outstanding. A tender flan, an apple tart or an apricot pie with chocolate will help to get this point across. If you'd like something more substantial — get a tart with salmon and cheese, a sandwich with tuna, Parma ham or chicken. By the way, you don't need to wait in line — technology has changed even the century-old traditions of French bakeries. Now, you can order some of the meals on the bakery website and pick them up at any time you'd like.

The main promenade of Nice must be seen at different times of the day. First, early in the morning: come with a warm fragrant package from the bakery, make yourself comfortable on one of the blue chairs, have breakfast and watch the sun wake up lazily behind the rocks. You will probably be surprised but the French think about sports even this early. Don't be uncomfortable because everyone is running around while you are eating — everybody greets the day in their own way. When you come to the Promenade des Anglais in the afternoon, you will be surprised by the number of people, bicycles, skateboards and roller skates as well as the lack of free spots where you sat in the morning. No need to get upset — go down and sit on the warm rocks. If it is summer and the water is already warm, join the fun groups racing to the waves. Or relax in a striped sun lounger, exposing your tan-longing body to the sun. And finally, here are three scenarios for the evening: catch the perfect shot in the sunset, enjoy a picnic with a crispy baguette, fresh camembert, and fragrant strawberries or go for a walk when it is already dark and the promenade is filled with romantic couples of all ages. No need to choose — try all these variants or come up with your own scenario.

Walking on the Promenade des Anglais, you won't even notice how curiosity will lead you first to the Promenade aux Etats-Unis, and then to the foot of the Castle Hill. You will find yourself at the Quai Rauba Capeu, which is situated between the city and the port. From here, there is a stunning view of the Bay of Angels and the constantly flying airplanes over it. In 1928, the artist Raoul Dufy captured this view from his room in the “Open Window” painting. Only 75 years later, the Nice authorities decided to make it accessible not only to the guests of the Suisse hotel, but also to the general public, and they built out the promenade under the Castle Hill. Go to the very edge and imagine that you are the captain on the bow of a large ship. Keep in mind that it's best to hold your cap (or your hat — for ladies), with your hand or, even better, leave it at home — it is often windy here. That is the reason this place is jokingly called “the captor of hats.”

French markets are a special attraction. In any city, it is not just a market, but an exhibition of the achievements of the national economy. If you want to feel the true spirit of France, come early in the morning, before the arrival of curious tourists — the locals are already pondering the main question of the day: “What are we going to have for dinner today?” Marché aux Fleurs and the market on the street called Cours Saleya are the most iconic markets in Nice. They were even included in the list of the “Exceptional Markets of the Country”, compiled by the National Council of Culinary Arts (yes, this country has one). If you are not a fan of flowers, no need to be disappointed — peonies, tulips, roses, and anemones occupy only half of the market. If you want to see how sellers put artichokes and asparagus in neat rows, take a look at the second half of the market, just behind the Palace of the Dukes of Savoy. Everything on display has been grown by the sellers themselves. If you don't believe this, you'll be convinced by the abundance of flavors and the splash of colors. As the evening approaches, the market turns into an open-air restaurant within half an hour. The cafes on Cours Saleya set up tables where there were flowers and sacks of spices. On Mondays, this place turns into a flea market with vintage ornaments and other antiques.

Getting to the highest point to explore the terrain is the right decision. You can immediately see the entire city and start orienting in it. Practical travelers will appreciate the compass map on Castle Hill. If topography is not your cup of tea and your soul is craving for beauty, you should go further up. Here you will find "that" view of the Promenade des Anglais on the one side and the snow-white yachts in the port of Nice on the other side. Once upon a time, there really was a castle and a fortress on top of this hill, which protected the city from invaders. But its bastions did not withstand the 54-day assault during the siege of Nice in 1706, and all the structures were demolished to the ground. Thus, today archeology fans will only find ruins of an XI century cathedral here. There is no need to climb the mountain on foot — to the left of the stairs, next to the Hotel Suisse, you will find a passage to the elevator. However, it does not work around the clock, so do not forget to check the schedule.

Taking the elevator to the top of the Castle Hill, you will save some time and energy but will miss a part of the park with winding paths, waterfalls and exotic plants. It had been slightly over a century since the destruction of the castle by Louis XIV, when the enterprising dukes of Savoy decided to build out the picturesque hill. This is how the Chateau park was created in the 1830s, immediately becoming the most popular vacation spot for inhabitants of the city. If you have time and are willing to go uphill, it's best to make the trip on foot. The delight from what you see will grow in proportion to your height above sea level. It will reach its apogee at the moment when you reach the top and make yourself comfortable on the bench with a view of the bay and red roofs. We'd like to warn the sentimental ones: if you find yourself in this blooming and fragrant park with such panoramas in the spring, the beauty of the place will make it hard for you to hold back your tears.

If you are interested in cubism, primitivism, and expressionism, combine a walk in the Chateau Park with a visit to the Marc Chagall Museum. Go down the winding paths to another part of the city, one that is less crowded but no less picturesque. This walk will take you to Cimiez, a prestigious district of Nice with private mansions. Continue walking along the boulevard with the same name until you hit the intersection with Dokter-Menard. There you will find a white-stone house, which in 1973 was turned into the museum, with the participation of the artist himself. The main exhibition features 17 pieces of art on biblical themes. This is why the museum is called “Marc Chagall's Biblical Message." In the first room, you will see 12 paintings on the plots from the books of Genesis and Exodus. They are painted with blue colors, typical for Chagall's Christian art, symbolizing the Mother of God and the Kingdom of Heaven. In the second hall, the gamma changes to bright red — here you will find paintings created under the influence of the Song of Songs and dedicated to love in all of its manifestations. Just outside, there is a cozy park with cypresses, olives, oaks, and cafes. After enjoying the collection, relax in the park with a cup of coffee and reflect on the eternal. There will be no interruptions here — there are usually not a lot of people in the park and in the museum itself. The price of a ticket with an audio guide: 8 euros for adults, 6 euros for visitors up to 25 years old, free for children under 18. On the first Sunday of the month, entry is free for everyone.

You can easily find classic French cuisine yourself — all you have to do is ask a neighbor or the owner of your rented apartment. However, the spot to enjoy a fresh lobster will only be shared with you in confidence. Here's how to find it: turn from the Promenade des Anglais behind the garden of Albert, walk along the right side of Alevi street and look out for a sign with a lobster. The sun-lit cafe in blue and beige colors with large windows is your destination and probably one of the best gastronomic locations in Nice. Tender lobster meat met a soft French baguette a couple of years ago when Fabien Bonno had the idea to bring the traditional American dish to Cote d'Azur. The French lobster roll and other items on the menu were developed by chef Arnaud Cardinals. In addition to the original sandwich (lobster, baguette, salad and some spices), you will find variations with tarragon sauce, aioli or melted Norman cheese. The novelty of the 2019 season is “Lobster Roll with Truffles,” which is a triumph of hedonism. If you want light dinner, order a salad with or without a lobster. Average bill: 18-22 euros

This is an architectural ensemble with black and white tiles, palm trees, a fountain, and terracotta houses. You must have seen this image on postcards and photographs. And now you can take a picture yourself from the angle you like. The most interesting one is from the balcony of a room at the hotel nearby. When looking at this immense chessboard from above, you subconsciously develop game combinations with the tourists gathered in the square. The main square of Nice is named after Andre Massena, a great commander-in-chief, thanks to whom the French army won quite a few battles. Visually, the square is divided into 2 parts: the northern rectangular part and the southern part shaped like a semicircle. You will see catchy houses in the Genoese style along the perimeter of the northern part, with seven statues on high metal masts that symbolize the continents, in the center. At night, they glow in different colors. In the center of the second part of the square, you will see the fountain of the Sun with the ancient mythology gods cast in bronze: Mars, Venus, Saturn, Mercury, Earth, and the marble Apollo.

If you have already climbed the Castle Hill and walked in the Chateau Park, you have probably seen the port from above. In the evening, it is a good idea to go down — greet the colored boats returning from fishing trips, and multi-storey liners stopping in Nice for the night. Take a walk to the lighthouse — you will be able to enjoy a double panorama from there: to the Promenade des Anglais and the city on the one side and the port with a paling of masts on the other side. Keep in mind that it's best to get there before the sun hides behind the rocks, otherwise the landscape will quickly disappear in the twilight. You can also come here in the afternoon to see the workers in the boat workshops and to observe the creation or repair of les pointus — wooden fishing boats of the early twentieth century (yes, they are still used today). You could even choose an apartment or a hotel overlooking the masts — there are fewer tourists here and housing is quite affordable.

In 2013, the owners of L’Uzine Romain Vandini and Gaetan Lonkle chose the site between the port and Garibaldi Square for their restaurant. They created a place with their signature Mediterranean cuisine, where live communication is appreciated. Here you can hardly see anyone who is more interested in what is going on in their smartphone than talking to friends or enjoying the food on their plate. Thanks to the proximity to the harbor, fresh seafood immediately finds its way from the deck and into the hands of the talented chef, becoming something like a work of art, but in gastronomy. The menu is updated regularly. Some of the best recent additions include fried mini beets with goat cheese, honey and ricotta cream, octopus baked in red wine with grilled potatoes, swordfish with cucumber, corn and mint jelly, and lemon marinade from sardines with spicy guacamole. These menu items will sound even more pleasant if they are enjoyed with wine — L'Uzine has an extensive and carefully selected wine menu. After your meal, try the most delicate tiramisu or chef's special dessert (its ingredients will remain secret). In contrast to the eye-catching menu, the owners preferred simplicity and restraint in the interior. Dim light, dark gray walls and careful accents in the form of paintings and posters, which look industrial, fresh and unobtrusive. And this is a good approach — nothing should distract guests from enjoying their meals and talking with friends. On Fridays and Saturdays, you can hear the best local musicians here playing your favorite English covers from Beatles and Rolling Stones to Ed Sheeran. It's so fun that it's impossible to sit still —some guests even dance on their chairs! Average bill: 25-30 euros per person

If you still have energy left after a walk in the city or a drive through the neighborhood, you can go dancing. If you ask the locals for fun places to go in the evenings, they will point you to Wayne’s. When you pass by this place, you will recognize it right away — by the loud music and dancers on the street, and sometimes even on the tables. This is the way Wayne’s looks almost all the time, except for the hour and a half when the bar explodes with exclamations at the moment of a goal, a disappointing miss, or a violation on the field. But after the soccer match, everything returns to normal: the music, fun, and dancing. The visitors are mostly international, although locals also enjoy hanging out at the oldest pub in Nice — there have always been parties here since 1991. Traditionally, every evening after 10 pm, there are musicians playing at the bar. Later, they are replaced by trendy DJs. As for drinks, Wayne’s offers dozens of draft beer options, as should be the case at any classic pub. It also features a full set of cocktails for a good party: Cosmopolitan, Long Island Iced Tea, Margarita, Whiskey Sour, Sex on the Beach and other famous names. Mono variations, such as champagne, wine, rum or whiskey are also available so that every guest can choose the perfect drink for himself or herself. The cuisine here is for those who have decided to switch from French gastronomy to American fast food: burgers, barbecue wings, fish and chips, nachos with guacamole, etc. The average bill: cocktails and beer starting from 6 euros, the average bill with a meal: 13-18 euros.

When you are out of energy after a walk in Nice and the surrounding areas, choose a nice place for an aperitif and a relaxing evening. Come to the terrace of the Waka Bar to watch the sunset and landing planes, while enjoying delicious cocktails. Just do not forget to reserve a table in advance — there are a lot of people interested in taking these scenic spots. The closer to the night, the more people there are here and the higher the volume. The lounge is gradually replaced with a more rhythmic beat, and DJs well known in Nice and beyond take charge. The owners of the bar (she is from Ireland and he is from New Zealand) used a cosmopolitan approach when developing the cocktail menu and included variations from around the world. If you prefer the classics, do not worry that the usual combinations are not on the menu — the bartenders can make anything you ask for. By the way, they speak English quite well here, so you will definitely be understood. Average bill: cocktails starting from 9.5 euros

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