It seems, after just a few months, I've already adopted the French habit of leaving Paris for the weekend and heading to somewhere hotter and sunnier. The Ile de Ré - an island off the west coast - is, as I understand, a Parisian favourite, as is Deauville on the Normandy coastline once the summer kicks off a little more.
My personal favourite is Nice. Situated on the south coast of France, virtually touching Italy and very close to the little Principality of Monaco, this gorgeous town is blessed with great weather - nearly all year round.
|The Promenade des Anglais, taken January 2010.|
The nearby city of Cannes is better-known, in the UK and US at least, largely because of the film festival that's happening at the moment. However, comparing the two, Nice is a little bit like the big sister of Cannes. Nice is less flashy, slightly more sensible and definitely more laid-back. The architecture of the colonial-style buildings, I find, are like wrinkles, reminding the passer-by of a time gone by and my, there is a lot of history to uncover and stories to be told.
|A fisherman on the beach in Nice. January 2010|
Whereas Cannes gets so caught up in the excitement of the multitude of festivals that are held throughout the year, Nice sticks to its own way of doing things. It has its own dialect ("Nicard") as well as its own cuisine ("Salade Niçoise" anyone..?) and I find the pace of life a great step down from Paris. Blessed with such a mild climate, Nice has for centuries been a retreat for aristocrats, artists and even beggars. Hardly surprising therefore that nowadays, Nice is the second most visited city in France, after Paris.
|Rue Massena - a snapshot.|
|Avenue Jean Medecin - the main shopping street. |
The city of Nice, as you can see, has stunning natural beauty. Even if you are in the centre of town, wherever you look, you can see the mountains in the background. The buildings are distinctly Italian in style - gorgeous. The people are tanned, happy and relaxed. In fact, the atmosphere is so laid back that even the dogs take themselves for a walk!
In short: beautiful place, beautiful people.
I'm lucky enough to have two wonderful friends who live there so not only do I have a second reason to visit often, but I also get the down-low on what to do and where to go from locals.
|The beach on a Friday afternoon in May 2011.|
As you can probably imagine, the beach in Nice gets very busy, especially at weekends, so one of the perks of having local knowledge is that on Saturday, we went to a more remote beach - the kind that you can't just stumble across, you have to know it is there.
So, just a few minutes drive away from the centre of town, we went to this beach, and as you can see, there were far fewer people on it.
We practically had the beach to ourselves for the whole day... so we skipped stones, sunbathed and relaxed in the hot sun. It was idyllic and I was sad to leave that evening and come back to Paris! Still, it won't be long til I go back!