Sometimes, the travel bug is quite satiable by exploring new places close to home, like I did this summer.
But sometimes, you feel like stretching your legs a little more.
This October, Nice had all the advantages for an easy, spontaneous getaway.
For one, I felt an aching longing for Europe, especially Europe in the fall, which was my favorite season when I lived there. Nice was also inviting because it felt so accessible -- a direct flight, one tram-ride away from the airport, lots of accommodation options. It also has my favorite type of "city formula", namely: seafront + port + old town + new town, and it makes a great hub for exploring nearby coastal towns and villages.
And, something that was particularly tempting: I had never been there. You know I love to return to places, but this time, I was in the mood for something new.
Essentially, Nice called and I went running.
Back in Italian possession in the 19th century, Nice was ceded to France as a thank you for France's assistance in Italy's war against Austria. A second referendum then confirmed the decision. Soldier and politician Giuseppe Garibaldi, who was born in Nice, opposed the result and argued that the vote had been rigged by the French. At the time, many Italians left Nice and moved down the Ligurian coast, giving rise to the movement of Italian irredentists who campaigned for the reacquisition of their beloved Nissa la Bella.
In the 18th century, the English aristocracy began spending their winters in Nice, lured by the gentler weather. Before the seafront promenade was built, the waterfront areas were home to dockworkers and fishermen, rather than to fancy hotels and residences as we know it today.
The "Camin dei Inglès" (Promenade des Anglais) walkway is said to have been proposed by the English as a useful urban project for beggars who came looking for shelter from the north during a particularly harsh winter. The wide waterfront promenade dotted with palm trees, beach umbrellas and blue chairs has now become the icon of Nice and its Baie des Anges.
In the mornings, I would step out onto my AirBnB's balcony one block up from the Promenade, and try to peak between buildings to see what the Sea looked like, knowing full well that her color would change with every hour of the day. I would walk the pebbly beach after breakfast, taking long pauses between pictures to make sure I would remember the way the light and maritime air felt on my skin. I'd stop to notice the heavy scent of sea salt hanging in the air, and the deafening sound the tide made when it pulled out of the shore with millions of pebbles tumbling like coins in its grasp.
In the afternoon, I would plop myself down in front of the vast horizon, either on the shore or in one of the "chaises bleues", just watching, and being. A couple of times, I ventured into the water at high tide, amazed at how warm it still was in October.
In the evenings, the Sea would summon me again and accompany me on my stroll back to the apartment.
Just for the sea (but for many other reasons), I could have stayed in Nice.
I can't say whether it feels like that for the locals, or at busier times of the year, but it definitely felt as though careful planning and restoration had paid off. Everything just made sense, from an urban planning perspective.
Place Masséna is a sort of converging point between Old Nice and the new town. Walking up from the Promenade, you are blessed with this charming view of Apollo and the four horses on his head.
The daily Marché aux Fleurs in the Cours Saleya square is primarily a flower market, but there are also many produce, food and art vendors. Off the Promenade, the Cours Saleya is behind the Quai des Etats-Unis (where you can see a mini Statue of Liberty).
Then you can have more ice cream.
I hope my photos and words have convinced you to visit (or revisit) this precious place!
Thank you, Nissa bella, for renewing my energy and spirit this fall. Our story's not done, I can tell.