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  • The French Riviera - Travel and Tourism in and around Nice  
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  • The French Riviera - Travel and Tourism in and around Nice  

    by Bianca Tavares

    Nice, with the principality of Monaco and Italy just a stone's throw away to one side, and the ancient port of Antibes and the rest of the Riviera (with miles and miles of tourist-pulling beaches) as far as St Tropez on the other, is a popular tourist destination and also a thriving city with a fascinating history and an abundance of culture.

    For many, visiting Nice outside the summer months is more enjoyable. It is less crowded, less expensive, but there is still more than enough to see and do. Nice is jam-packed full of museums, galleries, concert venues, theatres and a myriad of things to see and do.

    To spend just a few days in this little corner of paradise, it soon becomes obvious why many artists and writers made it their home - from Renoir in the 19th century through to Matisse, Dufy, and Chagall in more recent times. Many artists lived here for lengthy periods, finding inspiration in the city's varied seaside and mountain landscapes. Claude Monet was also a regular visitor.

    But Nice is an ancient city with a history dating back almost 400,000 years. You can uncover some of this ancient history at the Terra Amata Museum. Later on, the Greeks established a trading post here which they called "Nikaia", meaning "victory". Later still came the Romans who established the town known as Cemenelum, the seat of government for the region.

    From the Middle Ages right up until the 18th century, the area comprising Nice became a part of and then separated from many geographic entities and underwent many political upheavals. It was not until 1706 that Nice became a part of France. However just 7 years later, it was handed over to Victor Amedee, King of Sicily, and didn't return to French ownership again until 1860.

    There are many ways to see Nice and public transport is reliable and inexpensive. There is also a new tramway currently under construction and due for opening in 2007. But for those with time available, a walking tour is by far the best option. Stroll along the Promenade des Anglais and step back in time to the Victorian era along the palm tree-lined shore with some of the finest hotels, cafes and restaurants on the Riviera.

    Many of the hotels along this famous five-mile stretch combine modern comfort with the splendor of the Belle Epoque. Typical and perhaps the most splendid is the exquisite Hotel Negresco, which quite nonchalantly houses four centuries of French art - worthy of a museum - for all to see. Go and take a look. Don't be daunted by the doormen and hall porters dressed in traditional 18th century French attire. They will welcome you courteously with a smile as you enter the splendid lobby decorated in Louis XVI style.

    Opposite the Hotel Negresco - being careful as you traverse the sometimes crazy palm-lined dual carriageway - you'll find a beautiful, though rocky, stretch of beach. This extends as far as the eye can see and beyond. But fortunately the stones are smooth, making walking on the pebbles less painful than it might seem.

    From the Promenade des Anglais, you can then make your way along the coast to the port. Here you'll find the beautiful church of Notre Dame du Port, standing guard over the harbor, blessing seafarers as they leave the city. The port is always highly active and welcomes cruise liners from around the world.

    The old town, known as Vieux Nice, delights visitors with its picturesque narrow streets and eclectic mixture of architectural styles. Several parts date back to medieval times.

    One of the most interesting buildings in Vieux Nice is the Opera house. Built in 1885, it is a fine example of Second Empire architecture.

    A few steps away is the Cours Saleya, a little like Paris' Left Bank, with a myriad outdoor cafes welcoming locals and tourists alike. Don't forget to try the local specialty dishes - they are numerous and all delicious. The nearby flower market, which on Mondays becomes an antiques flea market, sweeps up passers by into a symphony of sounds, scents and colors. Here you can also investigate other staples of Nice cuisine, such as figs, goat cheese, olives and even candied fruit. Don't forget to try the local favorite known as "socca", a savory pancake made from chickpea flour. It's inexpensive, great with a beer, and beats a hot dog any day!

    Dining in Nice ranges from the casual to the most elegant, with the city possessing some of France's most renowned restaurants.

    Seeing Nice by night, with the lights from the palatial hotels along the coast reflecting off the moonlit Mediterranean, is an almost surreal experience - a fantasy of light, sounds and savors. The city's nightlife is also legendary, including cafes open to the small hours and nightclubs, discotheques and casinos - including the famous Casino Ruhl and the newly re-opened and sophisticatedly decadent Palais de la Mediterranee.

    There is much more to see in and around Nice. But we hope that this is just enough to whet your appetite. Given a month, you would only just be able to touch the surface of this jewel of the French Riviera.

    About the Author

    You can learn more about hotels in Nice France and find Bianca Tavares' guide to Florida property at Florida Real Estate.

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