By Antonio Malara
As I wrote in my post "Cannes", the visit to Nice was a stop of a couple of hours on the way back from Cannes. I was on vacation in Monte-Carlo with my travel partner and to overcome the boredom of that city, we also started exploring other places on the French coast. To be honest, I wanted to see Nice especially to exorcise the place after the horrific story of the massacre on the Promenade in 2016. I don't like to tie my memory of a certain place to bad events and being able to see a place where something unpleasant has happened helps me to process the negative events that have happened. Clearly my nature as an explorer takes over and once I'm in a new city, I still manage to grasp the many nuances of the place. The trip to Nice then leaves from Cannes where after lunch we took a train that in about forty minutes took us to the other popular city of the Côte d'Azur.
We arrived at Nice station around 4:30 PM and the first thing that immediately struck me was the roof above the platforms. A large arch in iron and glass covered the entire internal area and the thing that fascinated me most was the retro beauty of the structure. I don't know when it was built but the yellow color of the iron that was darkening and the style reminded me of the stations seen in old movies. The outside of the station was also very nice with a wide pavement in front of the entrance. However, as soon as we walked the streets adjacent to the station, we began to see mostly neglected-looking immigrants wandering in search of an unspecified destination. It must be said that the area was probably undergoing redevelopment as could be seen from large construction sites present there, probably already now that area have a different appearance. In other words, after leaving the station, we perceived that Nice was a much larger and more populous city than Cannes, therefore more difficult to manage.
We headed to "Avenue Jean Médecin" a large and long central street and after a few steps we found the "Basilique Notre-Dame de L’Assomption" on our right. The basilica was light gray in color and extended along the street parallel to the main street to which it showed itself with the facade. Unfortunately, the position of this cathedral was not optimal to admire it, in fact to have a better view you had to position yourself in the street in front of it which was however slightly offset from the church. I must say that out of laziness we limited ourselves to looking at it closely from a less than optimal perspective, probably because its beauty was not noticed up close. After about ten minutes of walking we arrived at "Place Masséna", a very large and articulated square, crossed by the tram tracks and by a main artery that actually cut it in two. Beyond this road, in fact, the square ended in the shape of a semicircle. The rectangular part of the square was very beautiful both for the chess-like flooring in black and white tones and for the buildings all around. These buildings were all on two floors and with arcades but above all they were striking for their very bright colors and for their impeccable conditions. That architecture vaguely reminded me of Venice and some cities in northern Italy. The beauty of the square was remarkable and increased even more near the “Fountain of the Sun” which was positioned in the center of the semicircle. The fountain had a white statue of Apollo in the center and at the foot of it there was the sign with the words "I LOVE NICE" preceded by the hashtag. The writing was in white, blue and red to represent France colors. That part of the square with the fountain was very beautiful and harmonious, I don't know if the sign was temporary but I must say that despite being nice it created more confusion than anything else. In fact, people flocked to take photos attracted by the sign rather than enjoying the wonder of the square itself.
Leaving the square we entered a very narrow alley and walking we passed in front of the courthouse, a building that looked like a neoclassical but had windows. Still through narrow streets, we arrived at "Place Rossetti" the square that housed the cathedral of Nice or "Sainte-Réparate de Niece". The square was the strangest place I had ever seen of those that housed a cathedral. Although it was very small and rather dark, it was full of people due to the many bars there. The cathedral was not only small but literally gave the impression of being wedged with the houses on the left side. In baroque style, it had the bell tower which was standing on the right side, it did not give the feeling of being imposing but certainly its position did not help in the observation. Even this church like the previous one was not valued by the position.
The next destination was the "Promenade des Anglais" and we arrived there first passing through "Place Gautier" where that day there was an antiques market. If I had had more time I would have liked to stop and explore those stalls full of antiques that belonged to who knows who. Browsing and buying antiques is something that has always relaxed and fascinated me, unfortunately in addition to the tight time, my travel partner did not like that kind of things. Leaving the square we crossed an arched structure and found ourselves facing the Promenade and the turquoise sea. We were at the east end and from there looking to the left, we saw the "Du Château" hill. The Promenade was a long and even deep waterfront with a reddish pavement, we began to walk it towards the west, noting the characteristics. The cycle path was separated from both the pedestrian area and the road by green flower beds, there were also bollards that I honestly can't say if they had been placed there as a result of the terrorist attack. To be honest at first I tried to understand by looking at the place of what the dynamics of the tragedy had been. Later I realized that it made no sense, it was just an unhealthy curiosity. Just walking around and enjoying the place was enough to exorcise the tragedy that had happened there. After a few steps we found ourselves in front of the “Neuf Lignes Obliques”, a very high obelisk in brown iron. It was made up of three separate blocks that joined at the top as if to kiss. Although a little in tone with the color of the pavement, the statue gave me the impression as if they were the remains of a city from the past. A bit like the World Trade Center or like the statue of liberty in the finale of the first "Planet of the Apes".
Much more interesting was the statue called “La Chaise de Sab”, it depicted the famous blue chair that I had seen for the first time in Cannes. The chair was placed on a block of white concrete and was positioned at an angle on both feet and leaning to the right. There I realized that the blue chairs present in both Cannes and Nice had to have a deeper meaning if even an artist had bothered to dedicate a statue to those chairs, however I never investigated about it. Walking on the Promenade was a pleasure, a bit like in Cannes, there were the beautiful buildings on one side and the sea with the beach bars. In fact, not only the signs of the bathing facilities were permanently fixed to the ground and some of them were open with people drinking at the tables despite the strong sea. In Nice there were even whole blocks of blue chairs positioned towards the sea, however we stopped under a white structure, a sort of mega gazebo, enjoying the landscape from there.
The buildings along the Promenade were all in perfect condition and very beautiful, but one most of all caught my attention; was the "Le Negresco" hotel. This large palace consisted of a block that included four streets. From my perspective it extended from a corner where the palace had a semicircular structure with a dome above it. This dome together with the top floor was pink in color which broke harmoniously with the rest of the structure which was totally white. I paused for a while to take pictures trying to find the right shot that could describe its true beauty. The time dedicated to "Le Negresco" was also the last on the Promenade, in fact immediately afterwards we walked towards the station but along internal roads in order to explore the city more thoroughly.
The visit to Nice, born partly to escape the boredom of Monte-Carlo and partly to exorcise a bad memory, proved to be a relaxing and engaging experience. The points of interest that I had put on my list did not thrill me too much, at the same time I discovered shades of the city that I did not imagine. I do not know if these characteristics of the city really exist or I only perceived them, but the discovery of a statue dedicated to a blue chair or the colors and design of some buildings that I did not know gave me more stimuli and inspired more than visiting for example a popular cathedral. Nice also taught me that being too curious about a place where tragic episodes have happened doesn't always work as a mechanism to exorcise them.
Pictures: Antonio Malara